Book Review: The Elusive Truth of Lily Temple

About the Book:

Peter Driscoll, an underground investigator to the wealthy, has never met anyone like Lily Temple. The beautiful silent-film actress spins fairy tales and plays frivolous roles in front of the cine-camera, but beneath the costumes and stage makeup is a woman with a quick wit–and a murky past.

Peter has been tasked with locating the legendary Briarwood Teardrop, an exquisite sapphire, which Lily wears beneath her gown. In order to stay close to her and hopefully unravel the mystery of her story–and the sapphire–Peter employs Lily’s help on a case, which leads to a useful partnership. But as they are investigating together, Peter is also investigating Lily. The closer he gets to the truth, the more danger they face. And the closer he gets to Lily, the clearer it is that he needs her even more than she needs him.

Award-winning author Joanna Davidson Politano whisks you away to Edwardian England in 1903 for a whimsical and layered tale that treads the crooked line between real and make-believe.

My Thoughts:

Politano writes beautiful stories and I adored The Elusive Truth of Lily Temple.

The pacing is layered, thoughtful and a little bit slow, while being packed with depth and mystery.

Lily has many identities and a hidden past, but you can’t help but like her. She weave tales on screen as rich as the ones that have brought her comfort and hope in her own life. She teaches and explains life through the medium of story and she has a lot worth saying.

Peter is also an infinitely likable character. He has a rare gift of listening to people and hearing what they don’t say. He is a rescuer, a restorer and his role as private investigator is tied to his belief in God and his hope to help others. He sees beyond the surface and though he is initially resistant to Lily’s fairy stories he listens and he begins to unravel a story that needs to be told.

I loved the complexity of the book. Lily’s story, Peter’s story, the story of the Briarwood Sapphire and the tales of so many other characters come together in adventure, mystery, loss, hope, beauty and restoration. While I read and enjoy many novels that I’d describe as an afternoon snack, this tale is a rich meal that will stay with you long after you turn the last page.

I received a free digital copy of this book to read and in exchange I am giving you my honest opinion in this post. This book is schedule to release on April 9, 2024.

Book Review: The Sleuth of Blackfriars Lane

About The Book:

Wife. Mother. Homemaker. Detective. Kit Forge wears many hats, and if that’s not enough, she’s partnered with her father to open a new detective agency. It’s hard to be all things to all people, but Kit never shies away from the impossible. Despite her hard work and good intentions, some things fall through the cracks.

Namely, her husband.

But Jackson barely notices. He’s too busy putting out his own fires. As the new chief inspector of a busy London station, he must salvage the disaster left behind by the former police chief—an obstacle made all the harder when the superintendent breathes an ultimatum down his neck.

Against her father’s advice, Kit takes on a case involving a missing child, one in which she and Jackson become a little too emotionally involved. . .and end up endangering their own little girl in the process.

Can Kit and Jackson learn that just because they can say yes doesn’t mean they should?

My Thoughts:

First, let me say that overall I liked the book. Second, I need to say that in this third installment of the series Kit began to annoy me. She made so many decisions in book two that put her relationships in jeopardy and I thought she had learned her lesson. But she is infinitely human and, despite her brilliance in solving crimes, she charged right back into the mess of ignoring other people’s advice, wisdom and partnership. I do think she learned some lessons in this book…hopefully.

That said, the story was creative and engaging. As a mystery to unravel it was everything you could hope for. It was a fitting end to a well told tale and my irritation with Kit’s character is entirely my own.

I received a free galley of this book and in exchange I am giving you my honest opinion.

Book Review: A Noble Scheme

About the Book:

In the opulent and perilous world of high society’s most elite–and most dangerous–families, two investigators must set aside their broken hearts to uncover the truth.

Gemma Parks is known to the London elite as G. M. Parker, a columnist renowned for her commentary on the cream of society. Behind the scenes, she uses her talents to aid the Imposters in their investigations by gathering intel at events and providing alibis for the firm’s members through her columns. Yet her clandestine work would be more exhilarating if it weren’t for the constant presence of the gentleman who broke her heart.

Graham Wharton has never had eyes for anyone but Gemma, and she left his heart in tatters when she walked away from him. When the Imposters take on a new job to recover a kidnapped boy mistaken for his aristocratic cousin, Graham is determined to use the time with Gemma to not only restore the missing boy, but to also win back the only woman he’s ever loved. As they trace the clues laid out before them, Graham and Gemma must devise a noble scheme to save the boy’s life and heal their hearts.

My Thoughts:

Roseanna White is an author that I always look forward to reading. Her books never disappoint. Book One in the Imposter’s series (A Beautiful Disguise) was one of my favorite offerings from White. This second book had more layers of sadness and threat than I might prefer and yet there was never a moment that I wanted to set the book aside.

Despite the fact that there was relational tension between Gemma and Graham (the foundation of which was seen in book one) the tension didn’t drive me from the story. I found myself wading into the awkwardness of their relationship with longing.

The theme of the threat to the young boy drove the intensity of the book and made all the stakes seem higher than I might prefer from a novel, but while the threat was real it didn’t make the novel overly dark.

All in all, A Noble Scheme was a skillfully told narrative of finding hope in loss and forgiveness in pain. It also contained a beautiful thread highlighting the awareness of the need for transformation and how revenge and/or vigilante justice can never bring about the light in the darkness that sacrifice can bring.

As always, I give Roseanna White a five star rating and recommend her series.

I received a free digital galley of this book to review. The honest opinions I have shared here are my own.

Book Review: If The Boot Fits

About the Book:

Convinced that his stepmother and half brothers have been wrongfully evicted by cattle king Eli Dearing, Asher Ellis uses the cover of an extravagant ball to break into the Three Cedars’ ranch house to search for proof. On the verge of discovery, he flees, but a boy’s cry compels him to make a daring rescue.

Spunky and independent Samantha Dearing balks when she learns the ball her father is hosting is nothing more than a matrimonial ambush. Taking a break from unwanted suitors, Samantha spots a thief fleeing her home. When the stranger ends up saving her brother’s life, she hides the only clue to his identity left behind–his boot–and resolves to find him herself.

When Samantha encounters the older brother of a student she tutors, all thoughts of the bootless mystery man vanish. Asher values family above wealth, a rare trait that opens her heart. Afraid she will discover his past misconduct, Asher tries to keep his distance, but when a series of suspicious accidents befall her, he vows to protect her, even though saving her life could mean losing her love.

My Thoughts:

I enjoy Karen Witemeyer’s writing. She has layers to her stories, she addresses significant themes and she still manages to keep her novels from feeling overly heavy. In this story we discover the unraveling of assumptions and the brokenness of the past, while finding a beautiful display of not-picture-perfect integrity. I loved that, because it felt real. Even well intentioned people make poor assumptions, but the humility to take responsibility and to do better next time is a powerful illustration of what humility in action looks like.

The characters were engaging and the restoration of relationships pulled a few heart strings for me. It was an easy read that kept my attention while not demanding too much of me in the process. And of course, there was the happily ever after aspect to sweeten the deal.

I received a free galley of this book and in exchange I am giving you my honest opinion.

Book Review: This Homeward Ache

About the Book:

That sudden yearning you feel when you see a sunset. That pang of longing you sense deep in your bones when you attend a funeral or even gaze at a poignant piece of art. Those experiences that sting you to attention in moments of beauty, peace, or sorrow—the ones you can sense are offering you a twinkling, piercing hint of heaven:
 
Are these meant to do more than point you to eternity?
 
What if they could enable you to live more fully on the way there? 
 
Through personal reflections, evocative stories, and profound writing, author Amy Baik Lee offers This Homeward Ache, inviting you to remember the times you’ve been deeply moved by a glimpse, a spark, of something you know is beyond the visible present—moments that other cultures and times have called Sehnsucht, saudade, hiraeth, or galmang. In each spellbinding chapter, Amy traces her own brushes with this longing, unfolding her discovery that it is designed to enrich and alter every area of our lives: our valleys of pain, our relationships with other people, and ultimately our reception of the love of God.
 
If you’ve ever wondered how to keep going in this world while holding on to the hope of the world to come, This Homeward Ache offers you courage, companionship, and a stirring sense of the scope of our journey home to Christ.

My Thoughts:

Here’s yet another book that I’m late reviewing. I’ve had trouble moving through this one and it’s not the book, it’s all me and where I find myself these days. I love Amy’s writing. She’s a master at a beautiful turn of phrase. I’ve been following her online for a few years. I was really looking forward to this book, but it came at a time when I just haven’t had the mental space to be as present to the writing as I think this book requires. At first I thought it was just trying to read it on kindle, but then I bought a hard copy and still struggled. It’s definitely a book that requires something of you in the reading.

The subject matter is good and it’s one I’ve spent quite a bit of time reflecting on over the years. It’s a mix of communicating ideas about how we journey and personal stories from the author’s own journey. I like the fact that you are invited to jump around and not to feel compelled to read it in order, though I wonder if that’s part of what is keeping me from moving on to the next chapter. It seems like each chapter is unto itself in some ways and there is a need to read reflectively so it’s maybe a little easier to put it down that a book where every chapter is urging you on to the next. I do appreciate what I’ve read so far (about 35%) and I’m hoping that sometime soon I’ll be able to give this book the focus that it deserves.

Have you read it? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the book.

I received a free digital copy and purchased a hard copy of this book.

Book Review: The Irish Matchmaker

About the Book:

As daughter of a well-known matchmaker, Catríona Daly is no stranger to the business of love–and sees it as her ticket away from the sleepy village that only comes alive during the annual matchmaking festival. Enter Lord Osborne’s son, Andrew, who has returned to the festival after being disappointed by a rival matchmaker’s failed setup. Catríona seizes the opportunity to make a better match for the handsome man–and for herself!

Cattle farmer Donal Bunratty is in desperate need of a wife after loss left him to handle the farm and raise his daughter on his own. Shy and lacking the finer social graces, he agrees to attend the matchmaking festival to appease his daughter. But when he arrives, it’s not any of the other merrymakers that catch his eye but rather his matchmaker–who clearly has eyes for someone else.

Catríona will have to put all her expertise to work to make a match that could change her life forever. Will her plan succeed? Or will love have its own way?

My Thoughts:

Jennifer Deibel’s is an excellent author, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to read anything as intense as her books can be in this particular season. Christmas break is a time when I would typically reach for a lighter story-line. So I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that this book was a little more lighthearted than her previous novels.

While I would generally say Deibel writes compelling stories, this time I would say that I found The Irish Matchmaker an enjoyable read. The author didn’t shy away from the difficult circumstances of the characters or the overall injustices of the time and place, but those things seemed to stay a bit more on the periphery of the narrative arc.

I’d recommend the book as a beautiful integration of character development and personal discovery among the intriguing setting of an Irish matchmaking festival. (Who knew there even was such a thing?)

I received a free digital galley of this novel and in return I am providing my honest opinion in this review.

Book Review: Rocky Mountain Promise

Amazon US Affiliate: https://amzn.to/3Rnh18s

About the Book:

Lorelei Collins possesses a soft heart for any animal in need, so when she finds a buffalo calf bawling beside its lifeless mother, she can’t help but bring it home to raise on the ranch she and her sisters are building in the Rocky Mountain wilderness. Little does she realize that its white coloring is rare and considered sacred by Native Americans, which makes it highly valuable to them and European trappers alike. Men soon begin to visit their ranch to regard the marvel, with some trying to woo Lorelei into marriage and others trying to steal the calf outright.

When the men’s advances become more sinister, Lorelei approaches Tanner Mason, the quiet and mysterious owner of the new trading post, with an idea: she and the calf will move to his post, along with her family’s trusted Blackfoot friend. This will solve both their problems by bringing customers to his trade room and protecting her family from the trouble brought on by so many strangers. Yet as the danger travels with her, Lorelei and Tanner are faced with a threat greater than anything they’re prepared for–one that will test the limits of their abilities and the love growing between them.

My Thoughts:

This is the second book in the Sisters of the Rockies series. We made only a tiny bit of headway on the mystery woman they are searching for, but we got to journey into a beautifully developed narrative where both Lorelei and Tanner discover their worth.

You could probably figure out the context without reading book one, Rocky Mountain Rendezvous, but I’d recommend you start at the beginning and get to know the sisters and their context. I’m enjoying this series and look forward to the next installment.

I received a pre-release digital galley of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: To Spark A Match

About the Book:

After five unsuccessful Seasons on the marriage mart, Miss Adelaide Duveen has resigned herself to the notion that she’s destined to remain a spinster forever–a rather dismal prospect, but one that will allow her to concentrate on her darling cats and books. However, when she inadvertently stumbles upon Mr. Gideon Abbott engaged in a clandestine activity during a dinner party, Adelaide finds herself thrust into a world of intrigue that resembles the plots in the spy novels she devours.

Former intelligence agent Gideon Abbott feels responsible for Adelaide after society threatens to banish her because of the distraction she caused to save his investigation. Hoping to return the favor, he turns to a good friend–and one of high society’s leaders–to take Adelaide in hand and turn her fashionable. When danger surrounds them and Adelaide finds herself a target of the criminals in Gideon’s case, the spark of love between them threatens to be quenched for good–along with their lives.

My Thoughts:

Jen Turano is an author that I often turn to when I need a light and enjoyable novel. Turano excels at quippy dialogue and outrageous and comical tales. To Spark a Match was entirely delightful. It was so much less of a “romance” and so much more of a tale of friendship becoming something more, something built on the ability to be your own unique self and to pursue who God created you to be.

Adelaide is a bit of chaos with a heart of gold. She’s far “too much” for society to tolerate, even with her background as one of the Knickerbocker set. That is, until a society darling takes Adelaide in hand to convince everyone that rather than just being odd, Adelaide is “an original.”

Gideon’s background in intelligence has convinced him that he will need to remain a bachelor, as he can not bear the thought of those he cares for being targeted by his enemies. His view on this has never been challenged, until he meets Adelaide, a woman whose insight and courage is exceptional.

Romping through bookstores and convincing society that owning cats is fashionable are other delightful aspects of this imaginative and fun novel.

I received a free galley of this book in exchange for my honest opinion and as I thoroughly enjoyed this story I recommend it to you. To Spark A Match follows book one in the series A Match in the Making, but can be easily read as a stand alone if you prefer.

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Book Review: Christmas Forevermore

About the Book:

This holiday season, fall in love with a brand-new collection of swoon-worthy novellas from four of your favorite historical romance authors. From meddling matchmakers to fortuitous fiascos, the holidays have never been more magical!

“A Family Christmas” by Sally Britton

After years abroad, Cyril Grant worries about relating to his highborn relatives at the family’s holiday celebration. But an unexpected connection with a member of the household staff opens his heart—in more ways than one.

“Christmas Forevermore” by Sarah M. Eden

In this re-imagining of the beloved Charles Dickens tale A Christmas Carol, spinster Minna Schofield is inadvertently ensnared by a local matchmaker whose meddling launches Minna on a journey of self-reflection that could lead her to unexpected love.

“Christmas at Cranfield” by Ashtyn Newbold

Though childhood friends Hannah and Samuel secretly adore one another, fate conspires to keep them apart. But after years of shared holidays and missed opportunities, this Christmas brings the hope that their stars will align.

“A Thrill of Hope” by Karen Thornell

After a devastating loss, Christmas holds little appeal for Isabel Reid. But when a snowstorm traps her in the company of a surprising traveling companion, the perpetual winter of Isabel’s heart may just begin to thaw.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this collection of novellas.

A Family Christmas was a sweet story of connection and discovering that sometimes our perspectives keep us from discovering the joy that is right before us.

Christmas Forevermore was a more sober story, with a fair amount of focus on grief and loss. I didn’t see any significant connection to “A Christmas Carol” myself – apart from the fact there were three suitors who caused Minna to think of her past, present and future, but I thought it an honest and moving narrative.

Christmas at Cranfield was one of those stories where you are expecting a happy ending and yet at every turn you wonder if the characters are doing everything in their power to prevent a satisfactory resolution to the tale. I was pleased with the way it ended.

A Thrill of Hope is another story that dives into the impact of grief and loss and insecurity and weaves a tale with a real depth of joy.

All the stories were the type of reading I’d choose for a good holiday read and I recommend the collection to you.

I received a free digital galley in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Book Review: The Juliet Code

About the Book:

Newlyweds Lord and Lady Astley Finally Reach Their Honeymoon Destination Only to Encounter a New Mystery in Need of Solving
 
Frederick and Grace Percy finally make it to Italy to enjoy a delayed honeymoon and explore the beauties of the historic city of Venice. To their surprise, their friend, Detective Jack Miracle, is also in the city, investigating a series of art heists starting at the house of eccentric millionaire, Laraby Covington. Drawn into a world of boat races, mysterious houses, and parties of the rich and unusual in Venice, Frederick and Grace learn of the existence of the Juliet paintings, (Renaissance paintings feature Shakespeare’s tragic heroine) rumored to hold a secret code to an underground vault of similarly treasured artwork assumed lost over the centuries. As Freddie and Grace are pulled deeper into the mystery and their beloved Detective Jack disappears, can they use their wits and work as a team to find the thieves and Jack before it’s too late. 
 
The Juliet Code is a Freddie and Grace Mystery, sequel to The Mistletoe Countess and The Cairo Curse.

My Thoughts:

I’m writing about this book a month before its release because it’s absolutely delightful and if you haven’t read the first two books in the series you have a chance to get them now before book three releases.

If you didn’t gather it from the above, I adored this book. I generally don’t like murder mysteries, but I do like treasure hunts and art and the characters of Grace and Freddie and their friends. Grace and Freddie just keep growing and in this book you really begin to see Grace less through the eyes of naivety and more in the context of the beauty of trusting faith and expectation. There is a solid theme of trusting God that weaves it way through the series, but it particularly comes forward in this novel.

Despite the trauma, and the characters have experienced a fair bit of trauma and near death experiences over the course of the series, the books felt light and hopeful. Grace’s character is radiant and somehow her enthusiasm for life lifts not only the characters, but the reader as well.

The mystery is intriguing and the author is good enough to keep you guessing when it comes to conclusions. And of course, I love Italy and so a Venetian island is an excellent setting for a mystery.

I do hope the author doesn’t stop at a trilogy, but keeps taking us on new adventures with Freddie and Grace.

I received a digital pre-release galley of this book in exchange for my honest opinion…which is go and read this series. It is so fun.