Showing posts with label historical fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label historical fiction. Show all posts

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Mistress of the Ritz-Book Review

 


This book was introduced to me by a friend who read it for her book club.  She said it was a book all the club enjoyed.  After reading it, I can see why.  It has everything I like in a story: history, romance, secrets and true to life characters.  The story is inspired by the true life story of Claude and Blanchette Auzello.  Claude was the French director of the Ritz and Blanche was his American wife.


The Story Line

This compelling novel takes us to the glamor of the Ritz and introduces us to all the wonderful characters who enter its doors.  We see bits with Ernest Hemingway, Coco Chanel, F. Scott Fitzgerald and many more memorable characters from the 1940's.

The story begins in the 1920's when Claude Auzello meets Blanche, an American who has come to Paris in the hopes of becoming an actress.  Claude sweeps Blanche off her feet and they settle into life at the Ritz, where Claude becomes the director.  Life at the Ritz is glamorous and the guests are pampered by Claude and his staff.  Blanche enjoys meeting all of the memorable characters in the Ritz bar.

Life goes along at the Ritz with the glamor of the place and the work of Claude putting a tamper on their marriage.  Blanche and Claude get along but sometimes their differences also draw them apart with each of them living their own lives and keeping secrets.  Everything changes in June 1940 when the Nazi's invade Paris and take over the Ritz as their headquarters.  The Ritz staff is kept but moved to the back of the building and now must cater to the Nazi's every wish, all the while being afraid of every move they make.  

I don't want to spoil more of the plot but the French Resistance plays a big part in the rest of the book and secrets are kept, even from those they are closest to.

The Book on Amazon



My Thoughts on the Book

I really enjoyed the book.  It is the first book I had read by Melanie Benjamin, and I will certainly check out more of her books.  I highly recommend this compelling book.



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Monday, May 16, 2022

Book Review - The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

The Four Winds is a fictional novel based on the events that occurred during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. More specifically, how one woman from Texas - Elsinore (Elsa) Wolcott - made exceedingly difficult decisions to try to keep her children alive during the 1930s. 



Elsa Wolcott lived her childhood in solitude. Defined as medically fragile and as "not nearly pretty as her sisters" the story opens as she is turning 25 and facing a future as a spinster. 

"There was a pain that came with constant disapproval; a sense of having lost something unnamed, unknown. Else had survived it by being quiet, by not demanding or seeking attention, by accepting that she was loved, but unliked" -excerpt from The Four Winds 

Elsa had learned to entertain herself by reading and survived the cruel comments by making herself as invisible as possible while her family carried on in an otherwise tight-knit group. Things started to fall apart when she informed her family that she wanted to attend college in Chicago. Her family was relatively affluent and cultured but the answer from her parents was a resounding no. They continued to define her as ill. She quietly returned to her room upstairs to her reading.

The next morning, while walking through town to the library, Elsa stopped at the mercantile where she was told about a piece of red silk. The store owner wanted Elsa to inform her beautiful sisters of this dress material. Instead, Elsa bought it for herself. 

The resulting red dress, glittery silver headband and an secret attempt to enter a speakeasy during the days of prohibition changed everything. 

Elsa responded to the first attention she received. And Raffaello entered her life. Very quickly, Elsa went from being the daughter of the in-town-living, Christian, daughter of a successful business man who sells tractors to the farmers to the wife of a young, Italian, Catholic son of struggling farmers.

 Elsa became a farmer's wife. A mother. And she became a part of a family.

The years pass. In 1934, the Great Depression had been in full swing. And it was an extraordinarily hot August. Unknown to Elsa and her family, the Dust Bowl is coming.

As the heat and dust settled in for months, and then years, Elsa had to decide whether to remain on the "farm" (now a pile of dust) with her family or escape to California for work. 


How the Story Impacted Me

I had some vague awareness of both the Great Depression and of the Dust Bowl. I knew that both were disasters. And I knew that my grandparents were frugal - saving every little thing in case it would be needed as a result of their experience (or their parent's experiences) during this era. My grandparents have been gone for a long time now. And I wish I knew their stories. But I don't. 

Now I realize how very little I know of that era and what people went through trying to survive the times. I was aware that the Dust Bowl occurred. For some reason, I imagined that nearly the entire US was in drought for a single growing season. I did not realize that it spanned the middle US states, hitting Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, New Mexico the hardest. And that it lasted for years.  I knew that crops were killed. I did not realize the enormous toll it took on all livestock and wildlife. And I did not realize the extent of human lives lost. Of course, the death toll was not accurately recorded during these crises but it is thought that hundreds to thousands died of Dust Pneumonia alone. And several hundred thousands fled the plains area to try to survive. 

This story impacts me now as I consider the current happenings in the US. Wild fires, droughts, and torrential spring rains during planting season is impacting agriculture. As is the current economic situation. Many farmers and ranchers are in a tough situation as I type this. Reading this book now reminds me of the time I read the book Jaws on my first trip to Florida and visit to Cocoa Beach. I was afraid to enter the ocean for fear of what might be lurking. I am currently concerned about food supplies, our farmers and ranchers, and what disaster may be lurking next. 

Do I wish I hadn't read this book. My answer is a resounding NO. I am glad to have read this book and recommend it to others. It is a story of a woman who had not received unconditional love as a child and who not only gave unconditional love to her children but who would die for them to save them. It is the story of navigating parent-child relationships. It is a story of proud, hard-working people who just wanted to be able to take care of themselves. Their tenacity and willingness to work hard despite the odds inspires me. Despite the very tough topic and times, this book was filled with love stories. 


Bits from Author Kristin Hannah

Ms. Hannah wrote her Author's Note in May 2020. In the three years that she was writing this book the pandemic arrived in the US. Imagine that. Writing about the death, famine, and destruction of the dust bowl during the death, near-famine, and destruction of the pandemic. 

The Author notes that the timeline is not completely accurate in her fiction. She includes a suggested reading list on her website for more historically accurate information. Ms. Hannah also mentions having taken a tour of "Weedpatch" camp in Arvin, California. And a novel by Sanora Babb titled Whose Names Are Unknown. I find it interesting that Babb's manuscript was submitted in 1939 and was not published until 2004. Read more about that here. I will be reading Ms. Babb's book.


Other Books of Interest

Reading about the dust bowl reminded me of another famine. The potato famine. Like the Dust Bowl, I had known that a potato famine in Ireland occurred. But I had no idea of the extent of it until I had read Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly.  You can read my review of that historical fiction here. I highly recommend it and have read it more than once.

Apparently, the Review This Reviews! contributors are Kristin Hannah fans. Our previous reviews are listed below:




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Thursday, March 24, 2022

Book Review Smoke on the Whiteadder

 

This thrilling historical novel takes place in Scotland in the 1500's.  It is very well researched and in addition to following the  tale of the Cowan family you will learn about historical figures such as Mary Queen of Scotts, Queen Elizabeth, King James I, Sir Walter Raleigh, and many more memorable people from this time period.  

The Plot Line

     The story follows the lives of the Cowan family who live in Chirnside, Berwickshire, Scotland in the estate called Edington.  They are tenants of Sir Lauder.  Sir Lauder lives in the castle on the  manor and his tenants live on his property in meager housing.  They tend the land around their homes and pay a portion of their income as rent to Sir Lauder.  Sir Lauder has great control over his tenants including what they plant and what animals they have.
      In this book we are first introduced to Paul Cowan, as he is meeting with Sir Lauder for his report of his crops.  In the book we follow the joys and sorrows of the family through three generations.  We rejoice in the marriages and births and are sad when death, famine and home burnings are way too prevalent through the years.  The book shows how the political and religious turmoil of the times effects the family and their lifestyle.

The Book on Amazon

Here is a link to the book which can be purchased through Amazon both as a paperback and in electronic form.  Smoke on the Whiteadder

The Author's Notes

The author's notes are of course at the end of the book, so I didn't realize that the Cowans were a real family until I got to that point.  For me, this made the story even more interesting,  Here is a quote from the author's notes.
     "This family saga is based on the genealogial journey of my maternal ancestors, the Cowans.  It necessarily includes mention of related families as they encoountered the Cowans.  Consequently, you will be introduced to people with many other surnames.
     I like to put my stories in context with the broader social picture, especially as it describes the conditions that resulted in particular actions on the part of the story's charcters.  For this reason, the book includes vignettes about people like Henry VIII, Mary I, known as Bloody Mary, Elizabeth I, Sir Walter Raleigh and many more."

My Recommendation

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I found  it very compelling and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.  I am looking forward to the next book by the author where he continues on with the story of the Cowans.




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Friday, March 11, 2022

The Innkeeper and the Fugitive (Tales from the Highlands Book 3) Book Review

the innkeeper and the fugitive
Every once in a while I come across a series where each book is worthy of a separate review.  That is the case with the "Tales from the Highlands" by Martha Keyes.  All of the books have been captivating and have characters we wish to see succeed and others we wish could be brought to justice.

Angus MacKinnon has been the antagonist throughout the series. He is the self-centered laird of Benleith who stops at nothing to get what he wants, including kidnapping women and shipping them to the colonies for lives of servitude. 

Glenna, who is a maid at Glengour Inn, is another character in all of the books.  She is one of the women that Angus kidnapped previously, but she was rescued before the ship sailed. Needless to say, she abhors Angus. 

Christina and Lachlan Kincade own Glengour Inn, as well as the Dunverlockie castle and surrounding estate.  Because Christina was originally married to Angus' cousin, he believes Dunverlockie rightfully belongs to his clan.

Knowing these characters and the previous interactions with one another allows the reader to fully follow the story-line established in book one and continuing with each subsequent book.  Therefore, I highly recommend starting with The Widow and the Highlander, but this is a great story with or without the previous books.

 

The Innkeeper and the Fugitive
Tales from the Highlands Series - Scotland 1763

 The Innkeeper and the Fugitive
(Tales from the Highlands Book 3)
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In a desperate attempt to escape an unwanted marriage, Ana MacMorran must flee her home.  Her father is determined to see her wed Angus MacKinnon, which would unite their material & monetary holdings.  But, Ana knows Angus is a cruel man and she harbors no illusion that he would be kind to a wife.  She pleads with her father, but he will not relent.  As far as her father is concerned, she is underage, he has pledged her to Angus, and she will marry him.  

Having heard that the tinker and his wife are traveling through town, stopping at the Glengour Inn, Ana runs in the hopes that they will allow her to leave the area with them.  If they will simply take her as far as Fort William, she could get a ride to Glasgow where she can seek refuge with a childhood friend who previously planned to marry her.  Unfortunately, Ana arrives too late and the tinker has already left.  She decides to hide in the inn's stable for the night.

When Hamish, the innkeeper, discovers a woman in the stable, he assumes she is the new cook, Dorcas, they have been expecting.  Ana seizes the opportunity to hide in plain sight under another woman's identity. She hopes that will give her time to send word to her friend to come and get her.  Plus, as a cook, she can hide from the town's people by staying in the kitchen. It is not a perfect plan, but it is the best she has for now. However, Glenna recognizes her and Ana fears it is over for her even before she had any real chance of escape. But, Glenna has great sympathy for her and agrees to help her hide, covering for her when she might be expected to show her face in the inn.

As the days go by, everything seems to slip into a routine.  That is, until the real Dorcas MacGurk arrives.     





You may also be interested in reading my reviews of the first 2 books in the series

the Widow and the HighlanderBook 1 - The Widow and the Highlander Book Review The Widow and the Highlander - excellent book. When Christina's husband dies, she is sole heir. His family is not willing to let her have the estate and are determined to regain control of the estate one way or another.

The Enemy and Miss InnesBook 2 - The Enemy and Miss Innes
The Enemy and Miss Innes is a wonderful romantic historical fiction about enemies who unite against common foe. This is the 2nd book in fabulous Tales from the Highlands series by Martha Keyes



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Friday, February 18, 2022

The Enemy and Miss Innes (Tales from the Highlands Book 2) Book Review

Almost a year ago, I reviewed the first book in the Tales from the Highlands series by Martha Keyes.  I truly loved The Widow and the Highlander book and I hated it when it ended.  I was saddened even more when I realized that the second book in the series had yet to be released.  Even though I did not want to, I was forced to move on, at least for a little while.  

As soon as The Enemy and Miss Innes, the second book in the Tales from the Highlands series, was released, I added it to my Kindle Paperwhite.  Unfortunately, the release wasn't the best timing for me, but the book waited there patiently.  I started reading it a week ago and was, once again, pulled back into the drama of the Highlands of Scotland in the 1700's.  Back to the days of kingdoms, lairds (lords), and a ruling hierarchy with limitless power. 

I was not disappointed!  This was a book well worth the wait.  The Enemy and Miss Innes is another fabulous book by Martha Keyes.  While it continues the series started with The Widow and the Highlander, it could be an easy stand alone book for historical fiction fans. Just because I have enjoyed this series so much, I would recommend starting with the first book in the series.

 

The Enemy and Miss Innes Synopsis
Tales from the Highlands Series - Scotland 1762  

 The Enemy and Miss Innes
(Tales from the Highlands Book 2)
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Malcolm MacKinnon is once again ordered to do something he does not want to do by Angus MacKinnon, the laird of Benleith. Since his mother and younger siblings are also dependent on Angus, he has no choice.  It is a well known fact that Angus is ruthless, even murderous, when he wants something. He does not hesitate to threaten Malcolms' family when faced with the least resistance. Now, Angus seeks revenge on the Innes sisters.  Since the eldest has a protector in her husband, he sets his sights on the younger sister, Elizabeth.  Her willingness to speak her mind and publicly degrade Angus has made her his latest target. 

Angus wants Malcolm to get Elizabeth to fall in love with him (Malcolm) so he has a way to get at her to exact his revenge. This "idea" doesn't appeal to Malcolm but he knows he has to at least give the appearance of trying to carry out Angus's plan.

Elizabeth Innes has been by her sister's side throughout her recent widowhood and subsequent difficulties. She is her outspoken defender and doesn't hesitant to take on anyone face to face, including Angus MacKinnon and his "second in command", Malcolm MacKinnon.  

In an effort to keep Elizabeth focused on work and out of trouble, her sister, Christina, asks her to remodel Glengour Inn, which was recently damaged by fire.  This is a task Christina readily accepts.  When she arrives at the inn to discover the innkeeper has hired Malcolm MacKinnon, she is determined to keep an eye on him. She believes he has a different agenda separate from working on repairs to the inn. 

Neither Christina nor Malcolm are happy with the current situation, but they are both determined to carry out their projects at the inn and tolerate each other.  They do not expect to end up on the same side and caring for what happens to one another.


I am thrilled to see more books have been added to this series and I am so excited to read the remaining books!




You may also be interested in reading my previous review of The Widow and the Highlander.

The Widow and the HighlanderThe Widow and the Highlander Book Review
The Widow and the Highlander - excellent book. When Christina's husband dies, she is sole heir. His family is not willing to let her have the estate and are determined to regain control of the estate one way or another.



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Friday, February 4, 2022

Her Unsuitable Match (Supposed Scandal Series) Reviewed

When determining if someone is an unsuitable match, we must first consider the criteria. Society may look at financial status or social status of an individual, while the person desiring a match may be seeking something totally different.

I suspect we have all known couples we felt were ill-matched but seem completely happy with one another.  There are a variety of reasons why we wouldn't think they would be a good fit.  The heart rarely looks at social status, education level, finances, or even physical looks based on the current day opinions or popularity. 

In the book, "Her Unsuitable Match", I questioned whether the title referred to the individual her family had selected for Pippa, or if it was based on the individual Pippa selected.  Either way, both sides thought someone was an unsuitable match for the Earl's daughter.

However, what was most interesting about this book was that Pippa didn't seek someone based on any of the previously mentioned criteria.  She wanted someone who would allow her to be free, which meant she needed a husband who didn't make any demands on her, her time, or her money.  Interesting dilemma for a Regency era (1795-1820) setting. 


"Her Unsuitable Match" Book Synopsis

Lady Philippa Gillensford is 23 years old, past the expected age for marriage.  Wishing for his daughter to have some choices in life, Pippa's father had stipulated in his will that she would be given her own dowry if she was unmarried at 23, as an inheritance so she could live independently.  That is exactly what she wanted, but her mother and her oldest brother who was now the Earl, had a totally different opinion and they were determined to have their way regardless of the cost.

 Her Unsuitable Match
(Supposed Scandal)
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Pippa's mother wanted her to marry someone equal or of greater social station.  Her brother had someone specific selected and had already granted Lord Walter permission to marry his sister.  Pippa was repealed by the very presence of Walter who sought to marry her even if he had to ruin her reputation to do so.

Lord Walter Ruthersby (the suitor), the dowager Countess of Montecliff (her mother), and Richard, the Earl of Montecliff (her brother), colluded to force Pippa into this alliance and marriage.  All of society seemed determined to see Lord W & Lady P wed, especially once there was gossip and a touch of scandal associated with the couple.  But Pippa knew she was innocent and she had no desire to marry anyone, especially Ruthersby.

Pippa did have one very strong alliance of her own.  Her younger brother, Adam and his wife, Elaine wanted her to be happy. They were blessed with a marriage based on love and they would have preferred that for her, but Pippa didn't have any love interest. She did, however, desire independence and they supported her choice. 

When the earl refused to give Pippa her inheritance, she sought legal counsel.  Even though she was willing to pursue her rightful inheritance in court, she knew that might not be successful.  However, marrying someone else would end that ridiculous torment. Recalling a man who had stepped in to defend her, she decided to make an offer to a soldier.  A gentleman she hoped would join in a contract that would be mutually beneficial without the normal marital confines.  

Myles Cobbett had returned from war with severe battle scars, both physically and mentally.  He found a reclusive lifestyle with a daily routine, along with his small pension, provided a tolerable life. He didn't really have hope for more. When he was presented with an unusual marriage contract, he felt needed again and compelled to assist the damsel in distress. He believed he could provide the shelter from social norms that she needed and she offered to provide dowries for his younger sisters to hopefully ensure better marriages for them.  

The marriage arrangement seemed like the perfect solution for both Pippa and Myles, but the aforementioned alliances against Pippa were not sated and they were relentless.  After all, marriages could be set aside by annulments and jealous gossips still wagged their tongues with reckless abandon. 


Conclusion

It is impossible to not like Myles Cobbett and to feel sympathy for Pippa.  In spite of her social standing, they are the underdogs we all want to see succeed.  

While not your typical romantic novel, this book does pull at the emotions of the reader.  We would all love to see these two people happy.  

I read the book in two evenings.  It was rather hard to put down.  I wanted to see what was going to happen, who would succeed in their pursuits and what inevitable changes would have to be made. 

I do highly recommend this book for the hopeless romantic and those who enjoy rooting for the underdog.

 



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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Review of The Keeper of Happy Endings

 

Book Review: The Keeper of Happy Endings
This was another book I downloaded from Amazon Prime and I was absolutely captivated from page one.  In this book the author, Barbara Davis, weaves a wonderful tale of two woman decades apart whose lives are very similar.  Both have a fiance' who is missing and they fear they have lost. Both are devastated by their tragedies and at first have trouble finding the strength to continue on with their lives.



Soline

Soline Roussel has learned the bridal industry from her family.  For generations the family has had a bridal shop in Paris where they are well known for the magic in their dresses that bring happy endings to the brides who wear them.  The dresses are all hand made and beautiful and Soline learns to carefully stitch the dresses.  All is well till the war comes to Paris along with the German occupation.  Dresses are no longer in demand and Soline is pulled in many directions including working with the resistance.  Heartbreak and grief lead her to America where she starts a new life.

Rory

Decades later Rory comes in contact with Soline when she leases Soline's old bridal shop for a gallery for unknown artists.  Rory has a tragedy herself in a missing fiance' and a domineering mother.  She is torn between hiding and moving forward.  I would love to tell more of the story but do not want to spoil the surprise and twists and turns of the story.  Let us just say that the two women meeting will become a turning point in both of their lives.

Other Books by this Author

I  first read a book by Barbara Davis when it was an Amazon Prime first read last year.  The Last of the Moon Girls was another book the captivated me right from the beginning.  Here is a review I wrote about it.



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Friday, October 15, 2021

With Love, Louisa: A Regency Romance - Larkhall Letters Book 3 Reviewed

With Love, Louisa Reviewed
The Larkhall Letters book series has kept me reading, and laughing, for days! 

I've quickly moved from one book to the next.  Most recently, I finished reading With Love, Louisa.  Sadly, I now have to wait for the next book in the series to be published to continue following the lives and escapades of the ladies and gentlemen of Larkhall. However, you can start the series today, then wait along with me in eager anticipation of the 4th book.

In book 3, as you would expect from the title, Louisa Rosemeyer is the main character. Previously, she has been a likable support character in the series.  We first meet Louisa in book 1, The Ace of Hearts.  She and her older sister Alice (the main character of book 1) visit Larkhall for the summer in hopes that one or the other will find a lovable husband so they can avoid being forced into arranged marriages by their stepfather. 

In book 2, The Captain's Confidant, Louisa had become Bridget Northcott's companion, which allows her to safely remain at Larkhall and travel with the Northcott family. 

Book 3 opens with Louisa feeling uncomfortable with continuing to live at Larkhall with Bridget's brother, Matthew, her self-appointed older brother, and their elderly aunt. She believes it will cause a great scandal if she remains in the home with a single man.

Unexpectedly, the shy Louisa manages to find herself in an extraordinary situation that had me rolling with laughter as she winds up in the very worst place while seeking a hiding place in an unfamiliar home.


With Love, Louisa Book Synopsis

 With Love, Louisa: A Regency Romance
(Larkhall Letters Book 3)
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When Louisa Rosemeyer decides it is time for her to leave the protection of Larkhall, she pens a letter to her wealthy widowed aunt, Mrs. Irwin, whom she hopes would welcome a companion. Louisa hasn't met Mrs. Irwin, but she knows she owns an estate, Benham Abbey, in Folkswich. To her happy surprise, Louisa receives a response to come as soon as possible.

However, Mrs. Irwin did not write the letter.  Her tenant, Jack Warwick, replied to Louisa and signed Mrs. Irwin's name. He believes it would serve his disagreeable landlord right to be required to receive unwanted company and believes it would be a grand joke on Mrs. Irwin.

Upon arrival at Benham Abbey, Louisa is mistaken by the housekeeper as a hired maid and escorts her to the servant's quarters. Because it is already bedtime, Louisa believes this is a mistake that can be rectified in the morning and she is exhausted from travel.  However, she can't sleep due to hunger.  She decides to venture to the kitchen for a snack. When she hears a man's voice, she is frightened.  After all, why would a man be in her elderly aunt's home?  Fearing that it could be an intruder, she decides to hide, but she has to keep moving further away as it seems the man is following her.  

Both the man and Louisa are shocked by what happens next!

 

Conclusion

It is rare for me to find a book series that every individual book deserves a separate review.  However each book in the Larkhall Letters by Ashtyn Newbold has an excellent plot with wonderful characters and could easily be enjoyed without having read other books in the series.

With Love, Louisa is a delightfully entertaining story with several difficult situations that must be dealt with properly and in accordance with societal rules.  

In the end, I feel I have made a few new friends and I wish them every happiness.  


Read My Other Reviews of Books in the Larkhall Letters Series

 The Ace of Hearts Review The Captain's Confidant Review




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Friday, September 24, 2021

The Captain's Confidant: A Regency Romance - Larkhall Letters Book 2 Review

I previously reviewed the first book in the Larkhall Letters series. Because it was such a delightful book to read, I immediately started the second book in the series, The Captain's Confidant

We originally met Bridget Northcott in book 1, The Ace of Hearts. I instantly liked her!  She was a gracious hostess, sweet friend, and clearly someone who could keep secrets.  In book 1, Bridget didn't even tell her brother, Matthew, Alice Rosemeyer's real reasons for visiting his estate, Larkhall.

When Bridget shared her own secret with Alice and told her why she wasn't interested in considering any would-be suitors, it is obvious why keeping confidences was so important to Bridget. She had a big secret of her own!  For years, she had been in love with her brother's friend, Captain Colin Foster.

Any romantic reading the book would hope that Bridget's captain returned her love. However, at the beginning of book 2, when we discover that Captain Foster is engaged to someone else, that hardly seems likely. 


The Captain's Confidant Synopsis

 The Captain's Confidant: A Regency Romance (Larkhall Letters Book 2)Check PriceWhen his older brother dies in an accident, Captain Foster is forced to return home and assume his place as heir and master of Thorncarrow.  Colin resents having to leave his career and his beloved sea. He has been living the life he wanted.  Now, he is choked by obligations, debt, and an unwanted estate. Captain Colin Foster is a very unhappy man.

When they find out that Colin is back at Thorncarrow, Matthew and Oliver Northcott make plans to visit him.  They hope they might be able to help him ease into his new role as owner of an estate. Plus, they are interested in how he had so quickly become engaged to their neighbor, Miss. Tabitha Terrell.  

Bridget is heartbroken to hear of Colin's engagement and questions how he could even consider marrying Tabitha. He knows firsthand of the spiteful things that Tabitha did to Bridget when they were kids. She is determined to find out how he could possibly love her and convinces her brother, Matthew, that he should allow her to accompany them to Thorncarrow.  However, upon arrival, is seems Colin is not thrilled to see Bridget. He sends her and her companion to stay in the dower's house with his mother.

In her own state of distress, Bridget decides to vent her anger through a letter that is never meant to be delivered.  However, a maid finds the letter and promptly takes it to the addressee, Captain Colin Foster.  After Colin reads the letter, he decides to write one of his own and that is how Bridget becomes the Captain's confidant. 


My Conclusion

Sharing secrets with someone you trust is something we all need to be able to do from time to time. Knowing they would never betray you is paramount.  

This is a sweet story of an old friendship that is reestablished after years of separation.  It is also the story of forgiveness and reconciliation of other broken relationships.  No doubt, there is a message of encouragement laced within the pages of this story for all of us if we take the time to reflect upon it.

 




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Friday, September 17, 2021

The Ace of Hearts: A Regency Romance - Larkhall Letters Book 1 Review

The Ace of Hearts
I've only read a few Regency romance novels and I don't remember ever recommending one in the past. While they are clearly romantic fiction, which is my preferred genre, there is no guarantee they will be clean and wholesome.  When I search for a new book, I have learned to use the term "clean and wholesome" and have had much greater success finding a romantic fiction book that doesn't include graphic sex.

I've seen Regency romance novels in the "clean and wholesome" search results, but past experience has made me hesitate to choose one again. However, when I saw "The Ace of Hearts" was included in my KindleUnlimited membership, I felt I had nothing to lose if I tried a Regency romance again.  After all, I could stop reading if it became too racy and know that I had not spent a dime on the novel.  I'm really glad I gave that genre another chance!

I love historical fiction and thanks to Pride and Prejudice, I am very fond of the British Regency era depicted in books, especially if the book includes a touch of humor. While I am fascinated by the aristocracy, I admit I am glad I don't live under their rigid rules and expectations for women.  The "Larkhall Letters" book series reminds me, once again, to be grateful that I was not subject to an arranged marriage because my family estate needed an infusion of cash, or because someone was in the right social class.

In "The Ace of Hearts", Alice Rosemeyer went to great lengths and engaged in socially unacceptable activity in order to avoid her stepfather's arrangement for her marriage and life.  Given her circumstances, I'm sure I would have been inclined to run away too.

 

The Ace of Hearts Book Synopsis

 The Ace of Hearts: A Regency Romance
(Larkhall Letters Book 1)
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Alice thought she had found a way out of having to marry her stepfather's choice when she and her step-brother, Isaac, colluded to help Isaac win the heart of a wealthy heiress, Diana Herring.  He had agreed to use some of Diana's dowry to setup a dowry for Alice that would attract a more desirable gentleman for her to wed.  Alice's hopes, along with her stepbrother's hopes, were dashed when his hopeful bride's brother refused Isaac as a suitor for Diana. 

While Thomas Herring may have made a very wise decision for his sister, Diana, that decision made Alice desperate to devise another way to gain her independence.  Without telling anyone, including her stepbrother, she made plans for her and her younger sister, Louisa, to visit a friend in another city for the summer.  Bridget Northcott was excited to have the two Rosemeyer sisters join her at Larkhall and was more than happy to introduce them to prospects, which happened to be her brothers friends and guests for the summer.  Surely the sisters would catch the eye of a more desirable suitor.  

But, Alice did not wish to be bound by matrimony. She much preferred the idea of being independent and able to provide for herself and her sister if necessary.  When she found a like-minded ally, as well as financial backing, in Diana's aunt, she was thrilled to consider a different future.  It was one, however, that would require careful planning and anonymity. Together, they made a plan.

Thus, the Ace of Hearts was established and open for business!

 

My Conclusion

I found this to be a delightful read that occasionally made me laugh. I could easily envision the characters as described by Ashtyn Newbold. Their actions, unusual, yet creative schemes, and antics were rather entertaining.  Plus, the parlor games were quite amusing! 

This is one Regency Romance Novel I can highly recommend! I look forward to reading the rest of the books in this series.





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Thursday, September 9, 2021

Review of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

Historical Fiction by Kim Michele Richardson
I found this historical novel very interesting.  It is based on two pieces of history that were new to me.  The author did a lot of research to make sure she got the significant facts correct and then wrote her novel surrounding these events.

Historical Facts

The novel takes place in the 1930's and was inspired by the blue-skinned people of Kentucky and Kentucky Pack Horse librarians.

The Blue people of Kentucky were first discovered in the hills of eastern Kentucky.  They had an extremely rare disease that causes the skin to be blue.  This disease limited oxygen to the blood and caused a bluish tint to the skin. It is called Methemoglobinemia. These people lived in remote areas of the Kentucky hills near Troublesome creek and were shunned by other people in the area because they looked different.

The Kentucky Pack Horse librarians were started with the signing of Roosevelt's New Deal Acts.  The Pack Horse Library project was established in 1935 and ran until 1943.  It was created in an effort to both create jobs for women in rural Appalachia and to bring books to the people that lived in the poorest and most isolated areas of eastern Kentucky.  These librarians were known as the Book Women.

 

The Novel

The book takes place in Troublesome Creek, Kentucky in 1936.  It follows a pack horse librarian,  Cussy Mary Carter (also known as Bluet) through her travels as she delivers books, magazines and compassion to the poor people in the remote areas of the Kentucky hills.

Bluet has blue skin and is shunned by many of the town's people because she looks different and they feel that she has something they could "catch".  She finds peace in her job as a pack horse librarian and in the joy she brings to the people in the hills as she brings them reading materials.  She also will take the time to read to those who are not able to read themselves and she shows a lot of compassion to these people who have little food and possesions.

We also see Bluet as she works in the library storage area once a month and interacts with the other librarians.  Some are very mean to her and others are very kind.  

Bluet's mother has passed away and she lives with her father.  Troublesome Creek is a mining town and her father works in the mines.  A side story with the father shows the troubles that the miners have and the way  they live with the black lungs they got from working in the mines.

I found the main character Cussy Mary to be someone I really got to know in the book and looked forward to continue reading the book.  This is a book I would strongly recommend.

Another Book on the Kentucky Pack Horse Librarians

The book club I belong to read another book on the pack horse librarians.  It was called The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes.  I also found it fascinating.





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Thursday, August 12, 2021

Book Review of The Beekeeper's Promise

 

The Beekeeper's Promise is a work of historical fiction that takes place in the World War II era.  It portrays two women of courage.  The first is Eliane, who lives in a small town in France during the the war and the second is Abi who visits that small town in 2017. The chapters in the book alternate between Eliane's story and Abi's story.

First Storyline

Eliane lives in rural France and we hear her story starting in the late 1930's near the beginning of World War II.  She lives on the Count Comte's Bellevue estate and she is employed as a kitchen assistant in the main chateau.  One of the duties she loves is taking care of the many beehives.  She does an excellent job and the Count arranges for some additional beehives to be moved from a nearby farm for Eliane to also mange.  When the beehives are moved Matthieu oversees the move and Eliane and Matthieu soon develop a close relationship.
The story then evolves as the chateau is taken over by the Nazi's and the Count moves out to a side cottage.   Eliane continues on with her duties with the bees and in the kitchen.  Without giving away more of the story I will say that Eliane and many of the others become involved in the war effort.  The French resistance is very much a part of this novel and the courage of those involved is evident.  I found it to be a very interesting and educating book.

Second Storyline

Abi, who lives near London, is recovering from an accident and severe depression.  Her friend talks her into attending a Yoga retreat in a small French town.  During the retreat Abi wanders off into the French countryside and gets herself lost.  A storm comes up and Abi is rescued by Sara who is driving by in the area.  Sara brings her to her home to wait out the storm.  It turns out that her home is the former estate of Count Comte.  Sara and her husband Thomas have turned the estate into a wedding venue.  It is the height of the wedding season and a key employee has taken ill.  Abi stays to help and during her stay Sara tells her the story of Eliane.  Through this story, which is told gradually over the weeks that Abi is working at the wedding venue, Abi realizes that she too can be strong and face the future.






My Recommendation

This was a book that I thoroughly enjoyed.  In fact I think I will recommend it for my book club to read.  I loved all of the characters and the author, Fiona Valpy, did an excellent job of making me feel that I was part of the story.  It was one of those books that carried the characters with me long after I had finished reading.



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Friday, July 9, 2021

A Better Country Book Series by Kristina Hall Reviewed

A Better Country Book Series
When I received a request to review "To the Uttermost", which is book 2 of A Better Country series by Kristina Hall, I quickly agreed to read it.  However, I wanted to start with book 1, "Strangers and Pilgrims" and I'm really glad I did.  

Reading Strangers and Pilgrims first allowed me the opportunity to get to know the main characters in the series.  Understanding their background and the struggles this created family survived, helped me appreciate and understand them.  I doubt I would have grasped the depth and reason for their close relationships without the revelations of book one.

Both books caused me to really stop and think about several things. When reading books, hearing stories, or visiting battleground sites of the American Civil War, I often consider how families were forever changed.  Reading a book, even a fiction book, about a soldier who returned home to find his parents dead and his home town overrun by the enemy, is not a scenario I previously considered. However, I have no doubt it is a plausible plot and was, most likely, a reality for far too many at that time in history.

As long as the reader keeps in mind that there are evil people in every region of every country and doesn't get locked up on Civil War sides, I believe "Strangers and Pilgrims" offers an excellent message for all.

It is unlikely anyone would struggle with the content in "To the Uttermost", but you will want the background provided in "Strangers and Pilgrims". 

 

Strangers and Pilgrims Synopsis

In book 1 of A Better Country series, Harry Reiner has just returned to his home town in Texas and to a very unwelcome reception.  He is easily identifiable as a Confederate soldier in this town overrun by Yankees, and they are intolerant of his presence.  He is shot and left for dead in the middle of the street. Only one woman has the courage to come to his aid.  

Rose Kendrick previously stood up against the self-appointed leader of the town, Edwin Burton, and is almost an outcast herself. She survives by taking in laundry, but once she takes in Harry, her business completely dries up. She finds herself, her home, and her loved ones under physical attack. 

Sally Guilford is an orphan who was previously taken in by Rose.  She is Rose's helper, adopted daughter, and biggest defender. Sally is also Rose's greatest area of weakness and evil people are not beyond threatening or even harming a child.

Doyle is an adult man who is Rose's only friend in town. Every time Rose is under attack, Doyle comes to her defense, which puts him in great danger.  Because he has previously taken a bullet while defending Rose, his physical strength is limited.

These four individuals don't stand much of a chance against a lawless town full of enemies lead by a vengeful and spiteful leader.

------

Throughout this book, Christians are reminded that they are "strangers and pilgrims on the earth".  (Hebrews 11:13)

 

To The Uttermost Synopsis

Book 2 of the series picks up a few years later where Harry Reiner and his family are living on his parents horse farm, but the book begins in the wilderness of Colorado with Owen Lockart and his 3 brothers escorting a captured outlaw to jail. 

The outlaw is a member of Vic Guilford's gang. When the 4 brothers are ambushed by the gang, only Owen survives.  He vows revenge for his brother's murders. 

Owen heads to a farm in Texas (Harry Reiner's farm) where Guilford's sister lives. He believes the brother will visit his sister there and give him opportunity to exact revenge.  Since Harry is familiar with the Lockart farm and their excellent horses, he doesn't hesitate to hire Owen.  Of course, Harry has no knowledge of Owen's true intentions.

When the area farms are hit by rustlers, Harry and his workers establish around the clock watches. When the rustlers attack his farm, they kill one of his men and shoot Harry.  All of the remaining workers, except Owen, quit. They don't believe defending Reiner and his farm are worth their lives. 

Once again, Harry finds himself wounded and fighting a battle with little help.  Unfortunately, his one remaining healthy worker has ulterior motives and Vic Guilford is back in town.  Owen will go to great extremes to take down Guilford, but when another's life is threatened, will he go to the uttermost?

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The message of this book is clear as we watch how a desire for revenge will eat away at someone's character and overshadow all else.  

 

My Recommendation

Both of these books deal with the insidious nature of anger, hate, & revenge.  Conversely, they also include kindness, love, & forgiveness.  

Too often, books can make forgiveness look easy and don't really explore the depths of emotions.  I don't believe that is the case with either of these books.  I think the author did an excellent job of walking us through the events, as well as the hearts and thoughts of those involved.  She didn't try to make it all look simple or effortless, and everything isn't tied up neatly with the bow of Christianity.  

We all struggle with being humans.  I highly recommend this series to believers who recognize we are strangers on this earth seeking Him to the uttermost.





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