Book Review

ARC Book Review: Hearts of Briarwall by Krista Jensen

Rating: ★★★
Audience: Gilded Era Romance
Length: 288 pages
Author: Krista Jensen
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Release Date: August 2nd, 2022
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

A TURN OF THE CENTURY ROMANCE

Lydia Wooding is fascinated by the latest inventions the new century brings, including motorcars. She longs for the independence they represent and believes that women should have a say in the future of the industry—just as they should have a say in suffrage, adventure, and, of course, love.

Spencer Hayes is a man of practicality and innovation, but he lacks the financial backing to make his dream a reality. When he contacts his childhood friend, Andrew Wooding, about a promising business venture, he is invited to Briarwall Manor to discuss the terms. Once there, he is surprised to find that Andrew’s once shy, younger sister, Lydia, has grown into a young woman of beauty, wit, and a bit of fire. Even better, the two share a passion for motorcars.

Andrew, however, is wary of cars, having lost his parents in a tragic auto accident when he and Lydia were young. And he’s not sure a relationship between his sister and Spencer is the best idea—not when Sir Lawrence is available and could match both Lydia’s social status and her fortune.

Torn between risking their hearts and being loyal to their dreams in an era of whirlwind change, Spencer and Lydia anchor themselves with the determination they both share: to live life to its fullest.

Thank you to Shadow Mountain for an ARC.

SOMEWHAT CHARMED.

I really loved Jensen’s previous contemporary (Miracle Creek Christmas) so I took a chance here on reading her first book set in a different time period. Some things worked for me and others didn’t.

The romance was sweet. I did enjoy the characters together and by the end I thought they had believable chemistry. I just didn’t feel enough heat (and not in a steam way), in a general sort of manner. Spencer was smitten from the get go and that was adorable there were some missing aspects that I needed to feel more connected to their relationship.

I liked the turn of century setting and the plot surrounding motor cars. That was new to me in this genre and I liked seeing some of the tools of the trade. Occasionally these scenes were a bit extended, so I’m glad they wrapped back into parts of the backstory.

There’s some good friendships here. I love the woman bonding together and the activism they were working for at the time (being suffragettes). A bit too silly, for instance, I really don’t understand the Wendy flying thing? BUT, women supporting women is always a great addition.

I’m curious what other books will line up in this series with other friends and family members.

Overall audience notes:

  • Gilded Era Romance
  • Language: none
  • Romance: kisses
  • Violence: low
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: loss of both parents (car wreck), grief depiction

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: Beyond the Lavender Fields by Arlem Hawks

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Historical Fiction Romance
Length: 368 pages
Author: Arlem Hawks
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Release Date: February 1st, 2022
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

1792, France

Rumors of revolution in Paris swirl in Marseille, a bustling port city in southern France. Gilles Étienne, a clerk at the local soap factory, thrives on the news. Committed to the cause of equality, liberty, and brotherhood, he and his friends plan to march to Paris to dethrone the monarchy. His plans are halted when he meets Marie-Caroline Daubin, the beautiful daughter of the owner of the factory.

A bourgeoise and royalist, Marie-Caroline has been called home to Marseille to escape the unrest in Paris. She rebuffs Gilles’s efforts to charm her and boldly expresses her view that violently imposed freedom is not really freedom for all. As Marie-Caroline takes risks to follow her beliefs, Gilles catches her in a dangerous secret that could cost her and her family their lives. As Gilles and Marie-Caroline spend more time together, she questions her initial assumptions about Gilles and realizes that perhaps they have more in common than she thought.

As the spirit of revolution descends on Marseille, people are killed and buildings are ransacked and burned to the ground. Gilles must choose between supporting the political change he believes in and protecting those he loves. And Marie-Caroline must battle between standing up for what she feels is right and risking her family’s safety. With their lives and their nation in turmoil, both Gilles and Marie-Caroline wonder if a révolutionnaire and a royaliste can really be together or if they must live in a world that forces people to choose sides.

Thank you to the publisher for an ARC.

A GREAT READ.

That’s how I feel I can best bottle this one up. It was highly enjoyable and I found myself very much invested by the end hoping for a positive outcome.

I thought this romance was SO DANG SWEET. The way it started out had me laughing and I loved the progression. It’s slow, it’s full of feeling and you can feel Gilles and Marie-Caroline’s connection across the pages. I adored the tender things Gilles did for Marie-Caroline, how Caroline teased Gilles and the way they both protected and pushed each other outside of their confined boxes.

The setting was unique for me in regards to historical fiction and I love a good switch-up! I got to see a bit about the French revolution. I wish there was a bit more of that dynamic on a larger scale, but this small scale version in the seaside town did the trick. I also really liked a lot of the side characters. There’s a few you love to hate, but also people like Gilles father had me absolutely gleeful when they played a bigger role. There were many well thought out and well placed characters.

It’s a slower read, and one I didn’t mind had that facet. The writing is gorgeous and moves the plot along well. I love that this was from the hero’s point of view (with some small pieces from the heroine). Many things made this book unique and I highly recommend for historical fiction fans!

Overall audience notes:

  • Historical fiction romance
  • Language: none
  • Romance: kisses
  • Violence: war themes, physical altercations
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: discussion/use of guillotine, loss of a sibling, mob attacks

About the Author:

Arlem Hawks began making up stories before she could write. Living all over the western United States and traveling around the world gave her a love of cultures and people and the stories they have to tell. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications, with an emphasis in print journalism, and she lives in Arizona with her husband and three children.

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Book Review

ARC Review: The Matchmaker’s Lonely Heart by Nancy Campbell Allen

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: Regency Romance
Length: 336 pages
Author: Nancy Campbell Allen
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Release Date: September 7th, 2021
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Set in Victorian London from the Queen of Mystery Romance

Amelie Hampton is a hopeless romantic, which makes her the perfect columnist to answer lonely heart letters in The Marriage Gazette. When Amelie plays matchmaker with two anonymous lonely hearts, she also decides to secretly observe the couple’s blind date. To her surprise, the man who appears for the rendezvous is Harold Radcliffe—a grieving widower and a member of Amelie’s book club.

Police detective Michael Baker has been struggling ever since his best friend and brother-in-law died in the line of fire. Because he knows the dangers of his job, he has vowed never to marry and subject a wife and family to the uncertainty of his profession. But when he meets Miss Hampton, he is captured by her innocence, beauty, and her quick mind.

When a woman’s body is pulled from the river, Michael suspects the woman’s husband—Harold Radcliffe—of foul play. Amelie refuses to believe that Harold is capable of such violence but agrees to help, imagining it will be like one of her favorite mystery novels. Her social connections and clever observations prove an asset to the case, and Amelie is determined to prove Mr. Radcliffe’s innocence. But the more time Amelie and Michael spend together, the more they trust each other, and the more they realize they are a good team, maybe the perfect match.

They also realize that Mr. Radcliffe is hiding more than one secret, and when his attention turns toward Amelie, Michael knows he must put an end to this case before the woman he loves comes to harm.

Thank you to Shadow Mountain for an ARC.

NOT REALLY A MYSTERY?

If you know from the get-go who the murderer is, is it really considered a mystery? Asking for a friend.

Besides that flaw, the beginning started off well enough. I didn’t mind the hero or heroine. The set-up was something I haven’t read before in a Victorian romance so sure! Call me interested. The further things went on the more and more I really couldn’t stand the heroine, Amelie. I think the impression was supposed to come off as strong-willed and capable, but all I saw was a woman in over her head that couldn’t follow basic instructions. Cue a few eye rolls. Michael was the lone savior of the story. I liked his dynamic and POV chapters. I love that his job was a detective and how he pursued the truth.

I found myself intensely skimming the last half because everything was TOO predictable. And based off of the title I thought the story would be a bit different. They didn’t match one another very well. So yes, this book was fine, but not one I’m going to remember.

Overall audience notes:

  • Victorian Proper Romance
  • Language: none
  • Romance: kisses
  • Violence: murder, murder of a pregnant woman, physical altercations, near drowning

NANCY CAMPBELL ALLEN is the award-winning author of eighteen published novels and several novellas, which encompass a variety of genres, ranging from contemporary romantic suspense to historical fiction. Her most recent books, which include Regency, Victorian, and steampunk romance, are published under Shadow Mountain’s Proper Romance brand, and the What Happens in Venice novella series is part of the Timeless Romance Anthology collection published by Mirror Press. She has presented at numerous conferences and events since her initial publication in 1999. Nancy loves to read, write, travel, and research, and enjoys spending time with family and friends. She nurtures a current obsession for true crime podcasts and is a news junkie. She and her husband have three children, and she lives in Ogden, Utah, with her family, one very large Siberian Husky named Thor, and an obnoxious but endearing Yorkie-Poo named Freya.

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