Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Magnolia Duchess, by Beth White {Book Review}

The Magnolia Duchess is the final book in the Gulf Coast Chronicles series by Beth White. I had finished the previous book, The Creole Princess back in March but took my time getting to the third book because it was the last book published by the author and I wanted to prolong my goodbyes. However, I recently learned that Beth White is publishing a new book in a brand new series in 2018! This was the green light I needed to get started on the third book.

While each book can be read as a stand-alone, I recommend reading them in order to get the back story on the characters and their families. Beth White has created a full pedigree of characters, spanning over five generations. While the first story with Genevieve Gallain is mostly forgotten by the third book, many of the characters from the second book are back, though much older.

The Magnolia Duchess takes place during the War of 1812. Fiona Lanier is the daughter of Simon Lanier and Daisy Redmond from book two. In a sad turn of events, Simon and Daisy are killed two years prior when the British attacked the ship they were traveling on. However, Simon's sister Lyse (the main character in book two) and her husband Rafael Gonzalez are both alive and well. Back to Fiona... she is a bit of a tom-boy, being the only girl of the family with three brothers. It is by chance that she happens upon Charlie Kincaid lying half-dead on the beach. He doesn't remember her due to memory loss, but she remembers visiting him with her Uncle Rafe, Aunt Lyse, and cousin Maddy in England years before. The two develop an attraction, though they are on opposite sides of the war between the Americans and the British. He becomes her prisoner, as she hopes to exchange him for her brother Sullivan who is being held by the British. Charlie successfully escapes from the tack room where he is being held and tries to make it to Pensacola to rejoin the British but Fiona is after him, furious that he took her horse, and shoots him in the thigh. She takes him back to her home, and he is later exchanged.

While staying with her cousin Maddy in mobile, Fiona can't take any more and runs off to join the troops on their way to New Orleans. She dresses in her cousin Israel's clothes and chops off her hair. However, she is found by one of her brothers and is taken to a plantation home for safekeeping until he can return her to Mobile. During this time, the British invade, take the plantation as their headquarters, and who none other than her beloved Charlie saves her from a dangerous encounter.

He goes off and fights and she stays at the mansion as a prisoner and nurses the injured and dying British soldiers. After a gruesome battle, Charlie gets captured again, though Fiona thinks he has been killed when he doesn't return to her. She is released back to the Americans and returns, heartbroken, to Mobile.

There is more to the story and it is a very exciting read with so many twists and turns. Beth White is a wonderful author who carefully does her research. The events are factual and the characters are endearing.

My Rating: 5 stars

I urge you to read the entire Gulf Coast Chronicles series. You won't be disappointed!


Beth White is back with a new series. The first book of the Daughtry House series will be released June 5, 2018. I can hardly wait!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

A Stranger at Fellsworth, by Sarah E. Ladd {Book Review}

A Stranger at Fellsworth is the third and final book in the Treasures of Surrey trilogy by Sarah E. Ladd.

Sarah Ladd has become a fast favorite for me. She has quality to her writing and truly draws in the reader in a calming way. For me, this is what makes her books so enjoyable. I enjoy suspense and mystery, but I don't want to experience anxiety at 3 a.m. because the lead character is having a major crisis. For this, I appreciate the way Sarah writes her stories.

In this latest book, Annabelle Thorley is a lovely, kind, and generous young lady living as part of London's society. Her mother died a decade earlier and her father recently died, but not before leaving the family in financial ruin. Annabelle's fiancé breaks things off and her brother is desperate marry Annabelle off to a wealthy sleaze. She fears this arrangement and late one night, she and her ladies' maid escape London with the help of Owen Locke, gamekeeper for one of her brother's friends. (In Owen's character description, I may have had flashes of Aiden Turner of Poldark fame. I think it was the hair.) On the same night of her escape, the murder of one of her brother's friends occurs at her home in London. Owen takes Annabelle to her estranged uncle's home in Fellsworth, where he works as the superintendent for Fellsworth school. Owen has known Annabelle's uncle for years, and almost from the beginning, Annabelle's aunt tries her hand at subtle matchmaking between the two.

The story continues with Annabelle working as a teacher's assistant and her ladies' maid working in the school's kitchen. Owen's daughter attends the school and Annabelle works with her on learning to read and also teaches her to paint. They form quite the bond, so when Owen's daughter runs away from the school through the woods trying to get to her father's house and her foot get caught in a trap, Annabelle knows just where to find her.

Owen is busy working as a gamekeeper on the estate and discovers poachers in the area. The owner of a piece of land that Owen wants is also having trouble with poachers and hires Owen to get rid of them. Owen is kept very busy, but he still finds the time to visit his daughter and to see Annabelle.

While reading the story, I thought the situation Annabelle fled in London and the poaching were unrelated. I don't know why I didn't pick up on it sooner, as I usually do! I just knew she needed to stay away from that disgusting man her brother was forcing her to marry. I did catch on quickly that her ladies' maid was no good, though I felt awful for the extent of the betrayal.

I love how Sarah Ladd slowly brought Owen and Annabelle together and the sweetness of their love story.

My Rating: 5 stars

I am looking forward to the release of Sarah E. Ladd's next book, titled The Weaver's Daughter, due to be released on April 10, 2018!!

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Captain's Daughter, by Jennifer Delamere {Book Review}

The Captain's Daughter is the first book in the London Beginnings series by Jennifer Delamere. It was published on June 6, 2017.

Summary: Rosalyn Bernay is orphaned, with her two sisters, Julia and Caroline. At seventeen, she leaves the orphanage to make her way in the world. At the age of 23, Rosalyn finds herself in London with no employment, no money, no home, and no friends.

Nate Moran, having been injured in an attack while serving in India, has been recovering at home in London. After his brother injures his leg, Nate offers to work for his brother while the leg heals in order to ensure his brother will have a job to come back to.

Rosalyn and Nate first meet at a train station, as Nate unsuccessfully tries to save Rosalyn from a sketchy character. Later, they are reunited at the theater, where Nate is filling in for his brother and Rosalyn has just been given a job as a dresser for the women in the HMS Pinafore. Soon, Rosalyn is living at Nate's residence, having been taken in by his family as a boarder. Nate has every intention of returning to service in India, but he is captivated by Rosalyn's kind and gentle demeanor, let alone her beauty. Knowing that they will soon be separated by Nate's plan to reenlist in the Army, neither one of them voice their growing feelings.

My Thoughts: This was a delightful book! I happened to come across this book at the library as one of the new releases. It is my first book by Jennifer Delamere. The setting looked interesting enough, so I checked it out. I'm glad I did. Rosalyn and Nate were both your typical main characters in this type of fiction, but as the story played out, they had their own characteristics and talents that made them unique. It is rare that I am not able to predict what will happen throughout a book, but this book didn't go the way I thought it would, and I am glad! It ended up being better. I thought I knew that Rosalyn was going to come face-to-face with Mr. Huffman, Mrs. Hurdle, or Mick again. Instead, Rosalyn had to deal with another evil-doer.

I appreciated the authors inclusion of real characters from the theater, such as Jessie Bond, who really did star in the HMS Pinafore. She did it in a way to tell Jessie's story without changing real-life events. It was fun to look up the real life characters to learn more about them and also to see what they looked like.

(L): Jessie Bond and George Grossmith in HMS Pinafore; (R): Opera Comique on East Strand, London, 1901

(L-R): Miss Helen Lenoir, Mr. William Schwenck Gilbert, Mr. Arthur Sullivan

I was pleased to learn that the author's next book in the series will tell the story of Julia Bernay, Rosalyn's sister, as she attends medical school in London. I am looking forward to reading more about the Bernay sisters!

My Rating: 5 Stars

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Lady at Willowgrove Hall, by Sarah E. Ladd {Book Review}

A Lady at Willowgrove Hall is the final book in the Whispers on the Moors series by Sarah E. Ladd.

The story begins with 16-year-old Cecily Faire, the daughter of the blacksmith at Aradelle Park in Detham England, 1814. She believes she is about the elope with the 17-year-old heir to Aradelle Park, Andrew Moreton. Cecily's alcoholic father discovers this and puts an immediate stop to it. The same night, her father drops her on the doorstep of the Rosemere School for Young Ladies (the setting of the second book in the series), and leaves for good. She is completely disowned and separated from her twin sister, Leah. Feeling that she has shamed her family and ruined her chances of ever getting married (as she had physically given herself to Andrew), she settles in at Rosemere.

Nathaniel Stanton, the 21-year-old son of the steward at Willowgrove Hall in Wiltonshire, is at the bedside of his ailing father. On his deathbed, his father tells him that Nathaniel is not his son, but the son of the deceased master of Willowgrove Hall, Mr. Trent. Nathaniel is told to tell no one, not even his sisters, and upon the death of Mrs. Trent, Nathaniel will inherit a property in the north.

Fast-forward five years. Cecily has been given a position as lady's companion to Mrs. Trent of Willowgrove Hall. Nathaniel is the steward over the house and land at Willowgrove Hall. Nathaniel and Cecily are drawn to one another almost immediately, but because of the secrets they keep, they do their best to ignore the attraction, knowing that nothing good could come of it.

My Thoughts: This book was unique in that there were no kidnappings or dangerous situations for the characters as there were in the previous two books. The story is told from the perspectives of both Cecily and Nathaniel. Sarah Ladd does an excellent job in her descriptions. The story was not a mushy romance, and not much actually happened in the book, but simply followed the internal struggles of the characters.

I was nervous when Cecily's path crossed again with Andrew Moreton. I wasn't sure of his character and whether or not he would take advantage of Cecily in regards to their shared history. It ended up being quite the opposite. I think Andrew always loved Cecily but it was clear that Cecily had moved on. I was relieved that he didn't make some sort of big announcement about Cecily's transgression in an effort to publicly embarrass her.

I thoroughly enjoyed not only this book, but the entire series. All of the books could be read alone and only had small tie-ins with the books ahead of them. I cannot fail to mention that the covers on each book are absolutely gorgeous. They all do very well in capturing the main characters and settings in each book.

I look forward to reading more from Sarah Ladd's in her Treasures of Surrey series.

Check out the entire Whispers on the Moors series:


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Love on the Mend, by Karen Witemeyer {Book Review}

"After serving as a doctor during the War Between the States, Jacob Sadler wants nothing more than to establish a quiet country practice in rural Texas. But he knows he'll never find peace until he buries the pain of his past. To that end, he accepts a job in Cold Spring, Texas--the town he's avoided for seventeen years--and discovers his past is definitely still alive and kicking.

When a new doctor arrives in town and saves her brother's leg, Mollie Tate quickly puts him on a hero's pedestal. But then the new doc insults her "Uncle" Curtis. Years ago, Curtis Sadler rescued Mollie when no one else cared. How could he possibly be the villain the new doctor believes him to be?
Jacob doesn't know what to make of the young woman who assists him like a seasoned nurse one minute only to take a strip out of his hide the next. Yet the sparks that fly between them make him feel more alive than he has in a long time. As respect for his young nurse turns into something deeper, can he set aside the pain from his past to embrace this new love, or are some sins too big to be forgiven?"

My Thoughts: Love on the Mend is the sequel to Karen Witemeyer's Full Steam AheadThis sweet novella picks up about 20 years later and follows the story of Jacob Sadler, the young boy we were introduced to in the first book. Jacob is now in his mid-20s, having graduated from medical school, served as a doctor in the war between the states, returned to live with the Thornton's in Galveston for two years, and has now returned to his former home in rural Texas. We learned in the first book that Jacob ran away from his uncle's home after his little sister, Emma, was killed. Jacob and his sister had been orphaned the previous year and taken in by their alcoholic uncle.

Mollie Tate is also an orphan, taken in by none other that Jacob Sadler's reformed alcoholic uncle, Curtis Sadler. Jacob has not forgiven Curtis for what happened, and Mollie cannot seem to understand why or how someone could be so unforgiving to Uncle Curtis, who had shown nothing but love and kindness for her and other children he had taken in over the years.

In spite of Curtis Sadler being her guardian, Mollie takes on a position of nurse and works closely with Jacob. Affection grows between the two, as it often does in these types of stories, and forgiveness is the key obstacle that needs to be overcome before they can admit their feelings to one another.

I really liked this novella because while it was short and sweet, there was also no "bad guy". I also liked how the author reminded us of Jacob's knife throwing talent that he learned from his guardian/mother Nicole (Renard) Thornton. I had forgotten all about that part in the first book until I read the part where Jacob is throwing his knife into the side of the old church.

The story focused mainly on the characters of Jacob, Mollie, and Uncle Curtis and on the healing powers of forgiveness. I finished the story feeling satisfied and with a mild craving for blackberry cobbler.

My Rating: 4 stars

Check out the entire Full Steam Ahead series:


Sunday, June 11, 2017

For the Record, by Regina Jennings {Book Review}

For the Record is the third and final book in the Ozark Mountain Romance series by Regina Jennings.

Betsy Huckabee first appeared in A Most Inconvenient Marriage as a child, with her older brother Josiah Huckabee. Through the coarse of the series, spanning 20 years, she's grown up and Betsy Huckabee is now a young lady, living with her uncle, aunt, and cousins in Pine Gap, Missouri. She helps around the household and helps her uncle, Fred Murphy, with his small-town newspaper. Betsy has dreams of becoming a journalist, is very independent, and has no desire to get married. That changes when deputy from Texas moves to Pine Gap.

Deputy Joel Puckett is escaping an unfortunate circumstance in Texas where he served as a deputy and was maliciously set up by a woman who wanted him to be her husband. Not willing to throw his life away and marry someone he did not love (and that he had done nothing with), he left when the opportunity arose for a deputy position in Missouri.

Post-war vigilantes, the Bald Knobbers
The small town of Pine Gap is nestled in the Ozarks and has its fair share of crime, including horse stealing and even murders. Sheriff Taney of Pine Gap is not able to keep the people safe, so the state of Missouri has brought in reinforcements in the form of Deputy Puckett. Upon his arrival, he is introduced to a gang of townsfolk that have taken the law into their own hands, riding on horseback with strange bags with horns over their heads, and calling themselves the Bald Knobbers. I thought the Bald Knobbers were a figment of the authors imagination until I looked it up! They are not what I had pictured. But they were real and they did what they could to keep their farms and towns safe.

Throughout the story, Betsy is keeping a secret from everyone that she is writing a romance column for a distant newspaper. The subject of her column is inspired by Deputy Puckett, who is not always so gentlemanly, so Betsy has to make things up as she goes along. Little does she realize, her column is a huge hit and has been picked up by newspapers around the country, including the town that Deputy Puckett had left behind. Eventually, her stories are discovered and becomes a source of embarrassment for Joel.        

Betsy's independence and stubbornness add so much to the story and makes her a fun character to follow. Regina Jennings has done an excellent job throughout the series in drawing the reader in to the story. Every story has a new mystery, and the characters can be rather colorful. I loved revisiting the same townsfolk with each book. Regina Jennings has a gift in creating witty characters and keeping the romance to an appropriate level. Betsy has been a favorite character from the beginning of the series and I was happy to see her happily-ever-after unfold.

Check out the entire Ozark Mountain Romance series:


Monday, May 15, 2017

A Match Made in Texas, A Novella Collection {Book Review}

In the small town of Dry Gulch, Texas, a good-hearted busybody just can't keep herself from surreptitiously trying to match up women in dire straits with men of good character she hopes can help them. How is she to know she's also giving each couple a little nudge toward love?

When I borrowed this book from the library, it was for the purpose of finishing Karen Witemeyer's Archer Brother series. I had never read a novella before, and usually ignored them when I saw that a book series had a #2.5 or anything with a #.5 in it. I had assumed it wasn't too important to read the "in between" books. Now I know not to ignore them! I have a new love for novellas. It's a full story that one can finish in a day. After I read the first novella, A Cowboy Unmatched (Archer Brother's #3), I abandoned the rest of the book, intending to return it to the library on my next visit. I picked it up again a week later and realized that all four novellas worked together to tell an entirely new story. A story of an anonymous matchmaker.

A Cowboy Unmatched by Karen Witemeyer
Neill isn't sure who hired him to repair Clara's roof--he only knows Clara desperately needs his help. Can he convince this stubborn widow to let down her guard and take another chance on love?

This poor woman. Heavily pregnant, widowed, and her house is falling apart. But Clara Danvers doesn't let this get her down. She is tough and independent. Her father-in-law is a wealthy ranch owner, whose son, Clara's late husband, was heir to the ranch. Now Mr. Danvers wants Clara's child, to raise as his own and one day inherit the ranch. Because of Clara's Comanche blood, he wants nothing to do with her.

Neill Archer is guided by an anonymous tip to Clara Danvers' shack. In need of some money to start his own ranch, he patches her roof and works on various jobs around her home. He learns the danger she is in and vows to protect her. Then one night, she goes into labor...

I loved revisiting the characters from the rest of the Archer Brother's series, and was pleased with the man that youngest brother Neill became.

An Unforeseen Match by Regina Jennings
Hoping to earn an honest wage on his way to the land rush, Clayton ends up on Grace's doorstep, lured by a classified ad. He may have signed on for more than he expected though--and he may have found the one woman who can keep him from moving on. 

Grace O'Malley is a school teacher, born in Ireland and brought to America with her parents to join her odler brother. Her parents die on the voyage over and she is delivered to her big brother. She is seen as more of a burden and takes it upon herself to educate herself and make her own way in the world. Years later, she gets a teaching position in Dry Gulch, but soon begins to lose her vision to the point of having to leave teaching behind. She is given a small home to live in (the shack that Clara Danvers left behind when she left with Neill Archer) and brought food. Clayton Weber intends on winning land but his horse dies just as he enters into Dry Gulch. He is anonymously offered a job fixing up a shack and barn for a former teacher in the town. Believing she's an old maid, he goes out there only to discover that the former teacher is a young and beautiful woman.

It was interesting to read a story in which both main characters have a physical flaw: Grace is nearly blind and Clayton has a large scar on the side of his face. He assumes that she cannot see it, so he lets his guard down around her. Little does he know, she does see it, but doesn't care. While I knew how to story was going to end, I still liked it.

No Match for Love by Carol Cox
Andrew can't fathom how refined Lucy ended up as the caretaker to his dotty aunt, and somehow her arrival has prompted even more bizarre occurrences around the ranch. When they join forces to unearth the truth, will the attraction between Andrew and Lucy develop into more?

Lucy Benson finds herself nearly penniless after her father's death. An anonymous tip leads her to leave Dry Gulch and head to North Fork, Texas to help care for a rancher's elderly and widowed aunt.

While Andrew has the best of intentions, his Aunt Martha is not in need of someone to care for her. She is strong and spunky. She takes care of Lucy and teaches Lucy how to take care of herself (Lucy is so helpless that she even burns tea). The characters soon learn that Aunt Martha is not crazy, as originally thought, but being targeted. This book had a bit of mystery in it that I enjoyed, even if it did have the silly aspect of a cow jumping over a moon.

Meeting Her Match by Mary Connealy
When the tables are turned and a tenderhearted meddler becomes the beneficiary of a matchmaking scheme, her world is turned upside down. As her entire life changes, will she finally be able to tell the banker's son how much she cares for him?

This is the final story of the matchmaker herself! Marcus Whitfield, the bankers son, has been in love with beautiful Hannah ever since their school days. He is just too shy to tell her so. Hannah is the local school teacher who has found herself kicked out of her childhood home and living in a room over the diner. One afternoon, everything changes for Hannah and Marcus.

This story had me laughing. I couldn't believe what was happening! It was my first Mary Connealy book, but certainly not my last. I loved the story of Hannah, and also loved how it tied the other books together and we finally knew who the matchmaker was.

Overall, I really enjoyed this charming little collection of novellas!