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Monday, June 20, 2022

Blog Tour: To Kiss a Wallflower by Jen Geigle Johnson, Heather B. Moore, and Anneka R. Walker

Book Description:

Eventually, all wallflowers will have their chance at love . . . This is where it begins.

The Wallflower’s Dance
by Jen Geigle Johnson
Lottie Hughes likes people, as long as they aren't too close. Does it bother her that no one asks her to dance? Yes, but she's not sure how to drum up dance partners when she has almost no dowry, no title, and freezes up when anyone tries to talk to her. When she suddenly inherits a huge amount and is the new center of attention all over London, her secret dreams might come true but also her worst nightmares. Suddenly everyone wants to talk to her. Men ask her to dance. And she is inundated with interested suitors. She fights to stay close to the few friends she knows are true. One man saw her before her life changed forever. But does she want to accept his help when he, too, might be insincere?

Letters to a Wallflower by Heather B. Moore
Ellen might be beautiful and considered a diamond of the first water by Society, but she is so very tired of the pressure to marry a titled gentleman so that her beauty won’t go to waste. When her cousin Dinah dares Ellen to attend a ball with no frills and to stand with the wallflowers, Ellen takes on the dare. What’s in the wager for her? The prize cuttings of her aunt’s extraordinary roses. But what Ellen isn’t expecting is Lord Ravenshire to engage her in the most interesting conversation. When she confesses to him of her opposition in marrying for a title, he confesses his distaste of the London scene. They strike a bargain together, one which will either push them apart or lead to a future sweeter than either of them could have imagined.

To Marry a Wallflower
by Anneka R. Walker
Charlotte Winters is destined to spinsterhood until she turns down an unwanted proposal and everything changes. With gossip rampant, her father attempts to salvage her reputation by betrothing her to another. Soon she is sent off to her aunt’s to meet Lord Templeton, her intended. Anxiety-ridden, Charlotte begs her aunt to let her observe Lord Templeton from afar before their introduction. She never planned to pretend to be her fictional cousin to learn more about him, or to fall in love with Lord Templeton’s friend in the process. Lord Templeton dreads returning to the empty halls of Newcliff Manor. When his father’s old friend, Mr. Winters reaches out for assistance, Lord Templeton finds himself returning home engaged to a woman he has never met. Desperate to learn more about Miss Winters, he befriends her cousin. He wouldn’t have spoken to her, or lied about his identity, if he’d known the quiet woman would sneak into his heart.

Excerpt: 

Excerpt 1 from To Kiss a Wallflower

Letters to a Wallflower

by Heather B. Moore

Chapter 1

London, 1817

Miss Ellen Young was tired of being called beautiful.

As she gazed into the gilt-framed mirror, wrinkling her pert nose, pursing her rosebud lips, and narrowing her lake-blue eyes, she scowled at her reflection. Perhaps if she held this facial expression for an hour, a wrinkle would result. Or perhaps if the rain would stop for an afternoon, she could traipse through gardens and earn a few freckles.

There you are, dearest,” Mother said, coming into the bedroom. “Why, Ellen, you’re not even dressed for the ball. Cousin Dinah is downstairs, ready and waiting. What will I tell her?”

Without turning, Ellen said, “Tell her she’s ready an hour early, and that I’ll be ready on time.”

Her mother sighed her usual sigh. In a couple decades, Ellen would probably resemble her tawny-haired mother, with gentle lines about her eyes and lips.

Now be sure to tell Sally to add plenty of curls to your hair. Curls are most becoming on you.”

Ellen hid a grimace. “Of course.”

Her mother’s gaze was full of affection and admiration, which should make Ellen feel guilty. But it didn’t. Stepping forward, Mother smoothed a hand over the sleeve of Ellen’s day dress. “The Society papers were right. You are the diamond of the Season, dearest. I only wish I had the funds to buy you the latest fashions from Paris—”

You’ve spent enough on my gowns,” Ellen cut in. “I don’t need extra frills or more luxurious fabrics.”

Mother tutted. “You’re right. You’re stunning without them, and you’ll have a marquess, or an earl, or even a baron proposing to you in no time.”

Not all men of the ton are desirable, Mother,” Ellen cut in with a firm voice. “In fact, most of them are rakes—is that what you wish for my future? A cold marriage bed after I’ve delivered the requisite heir and a spare?”

Ellen Constance Young! I did not raise you to speak of such vulgar matters!”

Ellen felt a little contrite, but only just. “I apologize.”

Now,” her mother said, her tremulous voice taking on a new calm. “You must listen carefully to my advice, since I will not be attending tonight.” She brought a handkerchief to her mouth and coughed delicately.

Everything about Mother was delicate, even when she was ill.

There will be many eligible gentlemen there, and Cousin Dinah knows who’s who. Don’t accept dance invitations from any men beneath your station.”

Of course not,” Ellen murmured.

I will send Sally in,” Mother said. “Expect her shortly. Make sure that she takes extra care with your hairdo tonight by adding in the orange blossoms that Aunt Margaret went to all that trouble to send for. They’ll set you apart from the other young misses, and you’ll earn compliments in the Society pages again.”

Ellen nodded, as if she lived and breathed mentions in the Society pages.

This was par for the course—the typical admonitions Mother had been giving her all Season. Thankfully, the Season was half over, and Ellen was happily counting down.

It wasn’t that she didn’t want to marry—unlike Cousin Dinah, who was thirty-one and a declared spinster. Having a wealthy husband certainly would have its perks, but did Ellen have to be on display to secure a husband? Parade in front of the hostess and the eligible bachelors, as if she were at a horse auction?

She couldn’t think of one sincere conversation she’d ever been a part of at a social function this Season. It was all gossip, judgement, and speculation: who was dancing with who; who was wearing the most fashionable dress; who had obviously eaten too many sweets the week before.

Would all the henpecking end with marriage?

No.

Married women were criticized even more: who was with child; who drove the nicest carriage; who had the invitation to dine with royalty; who had produced an heir; who was hosting the best event of the Season.

Instead of going to ball after ball, Ellen would prefer to tend to her small garden of flowers and herbs—the one that widowed Aunt Margaret allowed her to fully plant and care for by herself on the back terrace of her London townhome. It had become Ellen’s solace, her sanity while she and her mother spent the Season here. Ellen’s father had passed away a few years before and left them a widow’s cottage, but the estate had gone to the nearest male relative.

Review:

The stories in this book all focus on a "wallflower" but each one is very different. I didn't feel like I was reading the same old, same old as I finished one story and moved on to the next. I had a hard time connecting to any of the characters in The Wallflower's Dance, but I absolutely LOVED the second story. Novellas can be tricky for me, but Letters to a Wallflower ticked all of the boxes, and I found myself unwilling to put it down. To Marry a Wallflower was an enjoyable read as well.

If you are looking for a quick and easy read, To Kiss a Wallflower is a great book to choose.

Title: To Kiss a Wallflower
Author: Jen Geigle Johnson, Heather B. Moore, Anneka R. Walker
Publisher: Mirror Press
Published: June 2022
ISBN: 1952611261
Source: I received a copy from the tour host. All opinions expressed are my own.

Purchase: Amazon 

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Book Review: Praying With the Enemy by Steven T. Collis


Book Description:

When pilot Captain Ward Millar is forced to eject over enemy territory in North Korea, the ejection explosion snaps both of his ankles. Unable to walk, he is easily captured by North Korean and Chinese soldiers who interrogate, threaten, and starve him for strategic wartime information. He feeds the enemy false information while plotting his escape. But it's only a matter of time before they discover his lies. He knows it will take a miracle to gain his freedom, but his previous self-reliance on his own capabilities has never included appealing to a higher power. If only he had faith like his wife, Barbara, whose firm belief in God can move mountains.

North Korean soldier Kim Jae Pil was raised to believe in the power of prayer, but, knowing the Communist Party's views on religious groups, Kim and his family must keep their Christian faith secret. He is desperate to escape the army, return to his family, and then flee to South Korea.

With Millar imprisoned and unable to walk, and the North Korean army increasingly suspicious of Kim's actions, it seems impossible that either man will find the freedom they so desperately desire. But when these wartime foes cross paths, they find in each other an unlikely ally. Despite speaking different languages, Millar and Kim find common ground in their fragile faith and must rely on each other to undertake a daring escape.

Praying with the Enemy is a story of courage, determination, unlikely friendship, and enduring faith.

Rorie’s Review:

I pulled this book out to read during a 5+ hour track meet, only intending to read it a little bit while waiting for my son to compete. I didn't want to put it down! The story doesn't start out slow at all, the reader is thrust right into the middle of the action right from the start. Knowing that this is based on a true story made it even more captivating. 

I knew a very little bit about the Korean War before starting this book, but I've never even pondered on the way the communist side thought. I also had no idea that the North was aided by the Chinese. 

History and all of the why's fascinate me, but I was most in awe of the strength and courage of Ward and Kim Jae Pil. Both going through their own battles and struggles, both wondering why things were happening the way they were. In the end, we all get to see that things worked out just the way they needed to, and it could not have happened without divine intervention. 

I appreciated the afterword letting the reader know what happened to both men. I do wish there was a little more detail about Ward's health, more specifically, his legs. 

Definitely a book I recommend to any history buff or really, anyone.

Andrea’s Review:

This was such an interesting story. It was inspiring to see how Ward’s love for his wife and child helped give him the will to survive as a POW, and how his wife’s example of faith took seed in him and helped him get through his ordeal. I can’t imagine what an awful experience he had. It was truly a miracle that he survived given the extent of his injuries and the subpar medical care and filthy conditions. It was so nice to see the humanity in those who lent Ward a hand throughout his journey-especially Kim Jae Pil.
 
Title: Praying With the Enemy
Author: Steven T. Collis
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Published: June 2022
ISBN: 1629729949
Source: I received a copy from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.
 
Purchase: Amazon Deseret Book 

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Blog Tour: An Unfamiliar Duke by Sian Ann Bessey

Book Description:

At eleven years of age, Rosalind Ainsworth was convinced that Sebastian Lumley, the future Duke of Kelbrook, was the most odious young man she’d ever met. And ten years later, after having had no contact with the nobleman in the intervening time, her opinion of him has not changed. Unfortunately, neither has the marriage contract their fathers signed soon after her birth.

As Rosalind’s twenty-first birthday and the appointed wedding day approaches, Sebastian makes a rare appearance in London. His first meeting with Rosalind since childhood goes less than perfectly, but Sebastian has a compelling reason for honoring their marriage contract―a reason outlined in a document kept behind his workshop’s locked door. 

After a quick wedding, the new couple relocates to Finley Park, where their acquaintanceship slowly blossoms into affection. But when Sebastian’s secretive work threatens their fledgling relationship and Rosalind’s life is placed in jeopardy, Sebastian finds himself forced to choose between the man he has pledged to help and the woman he has come to love.

Review:

I am not used to reading stories where both of the main characters have good parents. Usually, in this genre at least, one or both sets of parents have some serious issues. While I enjoy that type of story line, it was a bit of fresh air having the parents all be good people. That being said, I can't even imagine growing up knowing you will be marrying someone not of your choosing. Reading these books also reminds me of how grateful I am to live today instead of back then!

I enjoyed watching Sebastian and Rosalind's relationship change and grow as they came to know each other better (and their first meeting as adults had me laughing out loud.) This is a sweet story, with just enough drama added in to keep the story moving. I always look forward to seeing what new stories this author comes out with, and this one is a winner.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Title: An Unfamiliar Duke 
Author: Sian Ann Bessey
Publisher: Covenant Communications
Published: May 2022
ISBN: 1524419915
Source: I received an e-copy from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.

Purchase: Amazon Deseret Book

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Book Review: Horses, Hounds, & Happily Ever After by multiple authors

Book Description:

Escape with over 20 Historical Romance stories

✔ Horses, animals and love, oh my!

✔ Happily ever afters

This sweet historical romance collection contains over 20 original historical romance novellas from best-selling authors.
All proceeds benefit animal rescue All Seated In A Barn. Don’t miss this limited edition box set, featuring some of your favorite authors.

A few of the stories included...

The Wolf of Heathrow Manor Clarissa Kae
When wolves threaten her home, Lady Josephine rides through Lord Fennyson’s woods, a man as wild as the wolves.

Della and Archie's SecondChance Jo Perry
One awful mistake separated Della and Archie. Can they return to love or be doomed to always wonder, what if?

The Connecting Door Josi S. Kilpack
Norman has spent years devoted to his reputation at the expense of his marriage. Can he change his course before it’s too late?

Pride and Pedigree Jennifer Moore
When Alastair Rutherford III’s prized dam fraternizes with a mongrel, he meets Nora. Perhaps pedigree is not as important as love.

Wuthering Hounds Nancy Campbell Allen
Clementine and Mr. Baskerville are stranded in the moors, finding love amidst a most unexpected circumstance.

Connall's Return Martha Keyes
Connall is tasked with protecting Anabelle’s cattle, but it’s her heart she’s most worried about.

Yours Sincerely, Rose Jess Heileman
Rose is determined to marry her friend, Colin. He is resolved to see her marry someone who can give her the life he can’t.

A Midnight Ride Jen Geigle Johnson
Ella hides in her own home from a prince who wants to marry her.

A Midsummer Day's Scheme Rebecca Connolly
While visiting Sir Bramwell's estate, Hattie hatches a plan to get everything she wants and more.

Maria's Perfect Gentleman Penny Fairbanks
The last thing Maria expects is to be rescued by a charming dog—and an even more charming gentleman.

Waiting for Willard Chalon Linton
Charlene begs Willard for help selecting a spouse, only to learn the man beside her is her ideal match.

Floods and Foes Julie Daines
When Beatrice’s dog pulls a man from the flood, she is shocked to find it’s the man who betrayed her.

A Heart's Quest Julia Ridgmont
Can Camilla, a mail-order bride, help an anguished father and his little girl overcome a tragedy and catch a killer?

Sir Jack and Lady Jill Anneka R. Walker
When Sir Jack loses his memory, can Lady Jillian convince him to love her before it returns?

The Duchess Contract Samantha Hastings
Lady Selina marries for convenience. As she gets to know Theophilus, she wants a new bargain…for love.

Falling for Felicity Tiffany Odekirk
Felicity is determined to free the fox. Her older brother's best friend joins the hunt, jeopardizing everything.

The Stable Master's Son Julie Wright
Clara must distract Holden from hindering her sister’s engagement. She doesn’t count on falling in love.

Miss Bird’s Desperado Brittany Larsen
A disfigured recluse finds love when his guard dog becomes smitten by an adventurous pastor's daughter.

Love Among the Brambles Rosalyn Eves
When a prickly widower takes on a practical governess, neither expects to bond over kittens.

All of Beauty Kaylee Baldwin
When Rosalie falls for Theo Bradshaw, she doesn't realize he's the detective investigating her brother.

Walking Lady Guinevere Mindy Burbidge Strunk
Mariah hates dogs. But could a simple walk in the park change everything?

May the Best Earl Win Gemma Stuart
His manor house, a noble title—to love Bethany, Lord William Cottrell has to choose or lose it all.

Review:

This anthology is HUGE! Admittedly, I have not finished the entire thing yet, because life happens. Instead of reviewing all of the stories that I have read so far though, I'm choosing to spotlight one of the stories that has been my absolute favorite so far. This story is Falling for Felicity by Tiffany Odekirk.

My only complaint about this story is that it simply isn't long enough. I would enjoy getting lost in Felicity and Luke's story even more, so if the author ever decides to make this a full-length novel, I'm there!

This story hit all of my novella requirements. The story wasn't rushed, the characters were realistic, and I was able to lose myself in their world. I could relate to Felicity in so many ways...I would much rather be in the country than the city, and I am rather clumsy... not to mention socially awkward. 

I think the story easily could have felt like one of those insta-romances that are so common in this genre, but the author skillfully told it in a way to make sure Felicity and Luke's relationship didn't come across that way. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and look forward to finishing the rest of the stories in this anthology.
 
Title: Horses, Hounds, & Happily Ever After 
Author: Multiple Authors
Publisher: Carpe Vitam Press
Published: May 2022
ASIN: B09CX2C1C7
Source: I received an e-copy from one of the authors. All opinions expressed are my own.
Purchase: *Please note, all proceeds from the sale of this book will benefit the animal charity All Seated in                   a Barn* Amazon Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Book Review: Games in a Ballroom by Jentry Flint

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61xCwKVbImL.jpg

Book Description:

She was forbidden to love him. He only wanted her heart. Can a childhood game bring them together?

London, 1815

Olivia Wilde has resigned herself to never finding a love match. Her father has insisted she marry a man with a title, but the men her father deems acceptable are either boring or are only interested in increasing their own diminishing coffers. With her future looking dismal, Olivia vows to enjoy the last few months of freedom with her childhood friends, including Emerson Latham. His devilish smile and flirtatious teasing stirs up feelings she knows she cannot entertain.

Emerson is struggling to rise to his responsibilities after his father's death. Though he is still learning his place, one thing he knows for certain is that he wants Olivia Wilde to be his wife. Emerson had long ago fallen in love with her quick wit, beauty, and passionate heart. Yet, without a title, he will never be permitted to court Olivia openly. But he has a plan that may give him a chance to court her in secret.

As the Season kicks off, Emerson proposes a playful game of tag. Olivia's friends are delighted by the idea, though Olivia is wary. After all, the game must be played in secret as they tag each other at dinners and balls. As the romance builds between Olivia and Emerson, so does the risk of being discovered. Not only are their reputations at stake, so is their safety if they are caught by Olivia's strict father.

Can their love find a happily ever after before the game ends?

Review:

This book had an intriguing concept, the underlying theme centering around this group of friends clandestinely playing tag during balls in a way that no one else would realize what they were doing. (Really, the ton sounds like they were a bunch of sticks in the mud.) The actual theme was all about rescue though. Emerson rescuing Liv from her situation, Emerson's friends rescuing him from his grief. Not gonna lie, there were many times when I wondered if Emerson and Bradbury were actually friends with how often they fought. 

While I enjoyed the story, the climax just didn't work for me. Warning, there might be some slight spoilers in the next paragraph. I'm going to try to be as vague as possible, but just be warned...

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

The reason the climax didn't work for me was because there were so many other rational things Emerson and Liv could have done instead of what they ended up doing. This is something that has always and probably will always drive me nuts: if harm or worse is imminent, you don't have time to get all lovey-dovey! Save yourselves first, then take all the time you need. Also, I understand that the author wanted a final showdown between Emerson and the bad guys, but it felt like the way it took place could have easily been avoided, which was why it didn't work for me.

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

OK, spoiler alert over. Other than what's discussed above, I enjoyed this author's debut story, and look forward to reading more from her.
 
Title: Games in a Ballroom 
Author: Jentry Flint
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Published: May 2022
ISBN: 1629729930
Source: I received an e-copy from Netgalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Purchase: Amazon Deseret Book

Friday, April 22, 2022

Blog Tour: Lily of the Valley by Sarah M. Eden

Book Description:

Cumberland, 1786

Amateur inventor Kester Barrington prefers the peace and quiet of his estate to the bustle of Society. But when his tight-knit group of friends, the Gents, descends on Livingsley Hall for their annual gathering, he stoically joins in their activities. It all seems exhausting—until an unexpected addition to the party catches his eye: his new neighbor, the lovely Violet.

Violet Ridley longs to make friends in this new corner of the country, but her family’s fortune was made through investments rather than inheritance, and Society can be fickle. So when tragedy forces her family to shelter at neighboring Livingsley Hall, Violet is delighted to receive a warm welcome from the Gents. In particular, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to Kester. The pair is a study in contrasts: Violet, with her sunny disposition, and Kester, with his prickly facade. Their connection is impossible to deny, but both Kester and Violet harbor heavy constraints. As their association becomes increasingly tangled and confused, their only hope of pursuing a life together is to trust one another with the very truths that could tear them apart.

Review:
Have you ever read a story that has a character who so closely resembles you? I saw so much of myself in Kester Barrington. Not the overwhelming grief that he felt, but the need to be alone to recharge. That is so me!

Other than connecting with Kes, this story made me happy. I wish that I had had the time to sit and read the entire thing in one day. Sadly, life has to take a front seat sometimes and I was only able to read a chapter or two at a time. 

I enjoyed getting to know all of the Gents and Our Julia better, and Violet endeared herself to me quickly. It was fascinating "watching" Kes and Violet work together to come up with solutions to their different challenges. I hope both of those are covered more in future stories. I look forward to getting to know each of the other Gents better as well.
 
Giveaway: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Title: Lily of the Valley 
Author: Sarah M. Eden
Publisher: Covenant Communications, Inc.
Published: April 2022
ISBN: 1524421251
Source: I received an e-copy from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.

Purchase: Amazon Deseret Book

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Review: It Started With a Note by Meg Easton

Book Description:

It’s their second chance at love—but this time their obstacles include thousands of miles, a cultural barrier, and a world-famous chocolate empire.

Avery Parks is proud of her farm girl upbringing, and now she loves her job in Admissions at the local college. But it’s nice and predictable, just like every other aspect of her life. Maybe it’s time to take a huge risk and have an adventure of her own by traveling to Belgium to see her childhood friend.

Nicolas Servais hasn’t chosen much about his life—not that the son of a world-famous chocolatier empire can complain. But he’s about to inherit the prestigious CEO position from his controlling mother whether he wants it or not. The only thing he’s ever truly chosen for himself was a foreign exchange experience as a teenager in farming country, USA—and with it, the unforgettable Avery Parks.


When Avery comes to visit him in Brussels, he decides to show her a vacation of a lifetime. It’ll be one last hurrah for him before he steps into the position he was born to fill and never really wanted.

As Nicolas immerses Avery in a world vastly different from her own, she finds herself attracted to the man he’s become. But as much as she’s growing to love his charming city and its people, their lives couldn’t possibly be more opposite. With Nicolas’s disapproving mother and living in a high-stakes upper-class world, the obstacles that lay between them feel far more impossible than a few thousand miles.

This trip has been all about Avery taking risks, but falling for Nicolas Servais might be the one risk that she should never take.

Review: 

I really enjoyed this second book in the Love Started series. The new setting made for a very entertaining story, and it was fun to have a bit of time in the old setting with people from the first book. 

The main characters were very likable, and the chocolate aspect made me really want to taste the delicious sounding treats. 

It was satisfying for Avery to take chances to try to figure out what was missing in her life.

This is a good, clean read that I’ll probably read again.