ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Historical Fiction, Romance, Series & Collections

Return to Satterthwaite Court, by Mimi Matthews

AVAILABLE April 11, 2023

I am so honored to have been chosen by Mimi Matthews to be part of her launch team for Return to Satterthwaite Court! This delightful novel of historical fiction is the third in the series of Somerset Stories, after The Work of Art and Gentleman Jim. But it also works perfectly fine as a standalone. The other books, each wonderful in its own way, are only lightly referenced.

It is December 1844 when we meet Lady Katherine Beresford and Lt. Charles Heywood, who has recently returned from several years at sea. Like the best literary romances there is awkwardness, tension, even annoyance, right from the beginning when these two have their first haphazard meeting on a busy street. Throw in a horrified best friend and a mangy stray dog and the encounter is nothing if not comical. And while Kate (Lady Katherine) is much more tenacious than most Victorian young ladies, she is kind and endearing in her pursuit of the handsome lieutenant. Her determination serves only as a reminder that females of that era had to orchestrate certain parts of their lives when so many other things were beyond their control.

There is mystery, intrigue, and terrific banter between the two characters. It easily played out as an entertaining movie in my mind’s eye, reminding me of some of my favorite onscreen couples. Because, although you know they will get together in the end, the journey to that conclusion is great fun.

If you love clean historical fiction with excellent character development and witty dialogue, I highly recommend this charming book!

9/10 Stars

Historical Fiction

A Girl Called Samson, by Amy Harmon

I have such a special place in my heart for women in history whose stories waited much too long to be told. Henrietta Lacks, The Radium Girls, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are the ones who immediately spring to mind. And now, Deborah Sampson.

In A Girl Called Samson we have the story of this real-life heroic woman who was abandoned by her father and sold into indentured servitude by her mother. Through a series of events she became one of a handful of females who served valiantly in the Revolutionary War. Author Amy Harmon has filled in the details faded by time, portraying Deborah as a brave and determined soldier, one who never let her gender and society’s rules stand in her way during incredibly challenging times.

My dilemma is the ending. I won’t reveal it, except to say that a very important element in the book is fictional. Why? Why pay respectful homage to this woman only to tamper with the facts? For this reason and because of some extra lengthy war scenes I could only give it 9 stars. But I will say that the book is worth reading. The less you know of actual history, the more you will enjoy it. If the real Deborah Sampson was at all as honorable as our novel’s heroine, she is a person you should know and admire.

9/10 Stars

This is a Kindle First Reads selection for March 2023, a free book if you have Amazon Prime in the US. Paperback and hardback formats will be available April 1st.

Historical Fiction

Gilded Girl, by Pamela Kelley

Beginning in London in the 1890s, we follow the journey of ladies’ maid Eliza Chapman, who discovers she is the illegitimate daughter of one of Manhattan’s wealthiest businessmen. Aided by her current employer, Eliza embarks on a luxurious solo trip across the sea to begin her life as a New York heiress.

A very loose Cinderella story, Gilded Girl tackles themes like class distinction and the role of women in an age where suffrage was just beginning to be a topic of conversation. Eliza must confront a new family, a new country, and the myriad of choices and constraints that accompany her new station in life. The rules are many–from how to spend one’s time to who to marry and why. Eliza learns that different people interpret these rules in different ways, which isn’t easy as she still wants to remain a humble, appreciative young woman.

This was an excellent read that kept my attention from start to finish. The pacing is satisfying, the settings are lush, and the characters are very distinct. Eliza is a wonderful protagonist and a credit to women of any age and time period. I recommend it! Available with a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

9/10 Stars

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction, Historical Fiction, Suspense, Thriller

The Spectacular, by Fiona Davis

AVAILABLE June 13, 2023

How often does the title of a book also describe it? Practically never. But such is the case with The Spectacular, by Fiona Davis, because it is, in a word…spectacular.

Set mostly in 1956, we follow nineteen year old dancer Marion Brooks. Stifled by an over-protective father and a jealous older sister, Marion abandons all caution and decides to audition for the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. Amazingly, she succeeds and is put through the exhausting grind of long hours, extreme physical exertion, and lofty expectations. Kick high and smile wide, no matter what.

The first half of the book gives us a backstage pass through Marion’s eyes and experiences: the euphoria of being on stage, the fear of disappointing her family, plus the friendships and intricacies of a young woman living independently during a very buttoned up time in history. Then suddenly, this already fascinating plot swerves in a new direction, turning The Spectacular into a suspenseful thriller.

While Marion is navigating the excitement of professional dance, the Big Apple Bomber is on his sixteenth year terrorizing the city. Pipe bombs are being left in public places such as libraries, phone booths, offices, and theaters. That’s right. Theaters. It is here that Marion’s story gains even more momentum and collides with actual events because these bombings really happened, becoming a case that pioneered the use of criminal profiling in police work and examining the role of severe mental illness as a possible cause for such crimes.

I went into this book with no real idea of what to expect and ended up absolutely mesmerized. Fiona Davis is an extraordinary writer who has created an incredibly immersive story. Marion Brooks is a riveting protagonist, as are the supporting characters in her orbit, all of whom are grappling with challenges and emotions that Davis brings to life in a realistic way. I could feel the energy of events while being transported to 1950s New York City, a living, breathing metropolis which is a character in itself. Its heartbeat echoes throughout the story’s action, romance, and drama with a pulsating rhythm that keeps the reader’s attention from start to finish.

Keep this book on your radar when it releases in June. It is exceptional.

10/10 Stars

Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, by Jenny Wingfield

Nestled beneath this assuming book cover, waiting to be discovered by more readers, is one of literature’s great young heroines. Swan Lake (don’t laugh, she’ll beat you up,) the middle child of Samuel and Willadee Moses Lake. A spunky eleven year old hybrid of To Kill A Mockingbird’s Scout Finch and Will Tweedy of Cold Sassy Tree, Swan is the champion of the underdog. She observes and protects, lying and breaking rules if she deems it necessary. Where she inherited this fearlessness, no one quite knows, but it serves her and others well. She has no plans to change.

When Swan’s preacher daddy, Samuel, loses his congregation and must move the family in with his wife’s parents, the adventure begins. Along with her two brothers, Noble and Bienville, Swan explores the overgrown brush in their new Arkansas town, fighting imaginary injustice until the real thing comes along. It happens quickly, in the form of eight year old Blade Ballenger, a traumatized young boy who is at the constant mercy of his abusive father.

While Blade acclimates to being around a loving family–though not one without their own challenges–Swan tries to ingratiate herself with her mama’s brother, Uncle Toy. Toy is a quiet oak of a man, selfless to a fault and kinder than the credit he receives. As the summer progresses, everyone’s stories begin to intertwine, including that of Blade’s vengeful daddy and Toy’s wife with the wandering eye.

I’m not overstating when I say The Homecoming of Samuel Lake is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Author Jenny Wingfield does everything right to make this story as good as the classics we know and love. It has a rhythm, colors, and smells. It has characters so distinct they feel like real people. It has an ending that reminds the reader of the world’s shades of gray. I hope this review encourages someone to read it. It’s a gem that deserves widespread recognition.

10/10 Stars

Trigger warnings: Suicide, domestic/child/animal abuse and child rape. With the exception of two short scenes that are slightly more graphic, these subjects are handled with care and used for character development.

Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Series & Collections, Suspense

Theme: Two Unforgettable Women

When was the last time you read a book that was so immersive, you felt numb after turning the last page? What about two books in a row? Numb, reeling, in awe, emotionally exhausted in a good way…that is me right now. What makes it even more unusual is that I never even heard of either of these books until very recently.

Whiskey When We’re Dry, an incredible debut novel by John Larison, and The Child Finder, by Rene Denfeld, need to go on your reading list ASAP. Are they sweet, comfortable reads? No. Both deal with unpleasant subjects. But presentation is everything and even unpleasant subjects can be handled in such a deft way that the power lies within the reader’s imagination. That, my bookish friends, is high quality writing.

Each of these stories centers around a female protagonist. Jess Harney in “Whiskey” and Naomi Cottle in “Child.” Both of them are motherless and isolated, forcing them to figure out on their own what it means to be a woman. Both have been through extreme hardship. Both use that hardship in positive ways to help others. Both sacrifice greatly.

Whiskey When We’re Dry is western historical fiction. Left alone on the family homestead in 1880’s Montana, Jessilyn Harney decides to find her last remaining relative, beloved older brother Noah. Dressed as a man and armed with above average shooting skills, she and her trusty mare, Ingrid, set off on an unimaginable adventure. Along the way, Jess encounters people of every sort, good and evil. She must defend herself, but she also learns from what she sees, tucking away that knowledge for the future. The most fascinating secondary characters are the women who come and go throughout Jess’s odyssey. Because of their limited choices, women did what they had to do to survive whether it was marriage, spinsterhood, masquerading as a man, or selling their bodies. Rich and poor, submissive and rebellious, frontier women and city women, Jess encounters them all. Knowledge and wisdom is exchanged. (The weaker sex? I think not.) The jaw-dropping ending will leave you gasping and Jess’s narrative voice is one of the best I’ve ever read.

9.5/10 Stars

The Child Finder is contemporary suspense. Naomi Cottle is a twenty-nine year old survivor of childhood abduction. She is one of the lucky ones, if you can call not knowing her parents and a deep mistrust of men lucky. But she’s alive and her foster home was a loving one. Now she is the “child finder,” a private investigator who makes it her mission to rescue missing children. She’s been hired to locate Madison Culver, who disappeared at age five from the Oregon forest. It’s been three years, so the chances she is alive are slim. Meanwhile, hidden away in an old cabin, live Mr. B and the Snow Girl. Their language is silent. Their relationship is odd. Snow Girl knows something isn’t right. There is friendship and there is terror, two things that cannot coexist forever. Some missing children are found alive and make something of their futures. Some always remain victims. The brilliance of this book is the way it shows both of these scenarios, as well as the fortitude that lies dormant within all of us until it is needed.

9.5/10 Stars

I recommend both of these books most highly. I found myself transported into other times and other worlds. They are undoubtedly raw, but the writing is magnificent. Both deserve accolades and attention.

Fiction, Historical Fiction, Memoir

December Reading Wrap Up, Monthly Favorites, 2023 Recommendations

OK! The new year is upon us! Time for some wrap ups, favorites, and recommendations for the new year!

Let’s start off with the books I read in December. It was fun to read winter and holiday-themed books. I’ve never done that before. But I’m open to anything that gets me out of my comfort zone a bit. It seems like that is when I discover authors who become favorites. Melanie Jacobson and Jane Porter were two great author discoveries in December. Jennifer Peel and Becky Monson continued their streak of fun books. Denise Hunter is quickly rising to the top of my list of authors whose works I want to revisit. And Brigid Kemmerer…I could read her books over and over again. They are that good. Ratings are based on the Goodreads 5-Star rating system.

Next, I’m posting my 2022 favorites by month. This was a tough one! There were many months when I read several that stayed with me. In the end, though, I thought about which ones really got under my skin. They are the ones I find myself constantly recommending. They made me laugh or cry. They opened up a whole new arena of thought. They are, in my opinion, extra special. These are the final 12. The Ogress and the Orphans is middle grade (ages 8-12.) What I Carry, Letters to the Lost, and Call It What You Want are considered Young Adult. (16+)

Lastly, I’m posting fifteen recommendations. I’ve seen lots of people in my online book groups asking for book recommendations for the new year. Believe me, I have MANY more than just fifteen that are worth suggesting, but in the interest of time, space, and not picking the same ones as everyone else, here they are. All of them are stand-alones (not part of a series.) All of them are fiction or historical fiction with the exception of Deaf Utopia, which everyone should read. Everyone.

I hope to post some more favorites by topic and genre in the near future. I’ve discovered some incredible books and amazingly talented authors in 2022, many of whom I’ve had the honor of communicating with through different means. One who even recruited me to join his beta reading team. (More on that in the future.) 😉

As always, these are my recommendations based on my taste, experience, filters, and tolerances. Be sure to do your own research about adult scenes, language, and age-appropriate content.

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance, Series & Collections

August Reads & September Faves

Here are the books I read and/or listened to in August! I rated them throughout the month so I could share them with you. Some will still be reviewed on this site (mainly You’ve Reached Sam, which touched me deeply.) If a book has 4 or 5 stars, I really enjoyed it. If it has 3 stars it means it’s good, but flawed. Anything with 2 or 1 star…you’ve been warned! All of these are just my opinion, of course.

Lastly, here are two advanced copies I read a while ago that I enjoyed very much. Both are coming out in September:

Right now I’m rereading Katherine Center’s The Bodyguard because my husband and I plan to listen to the audio book this week. Next I’ll be doing a buddy read of The Art of Racing in the Rain with one of the ladies in my online book club. There’s always something to read!

Author Spotlight, Cozy Mysteries, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance, Series & Collections, Women's Fiction

June & July 2022 Reads

I even added stars next to my July favorites!

I guess you could say that I’ve read a lot of books in the last two months! People ask how I do it and this is my answer:

  • I live in a small town where there isn’t much to do.
  • I’m still living the pandemic lifestyle, staying home even more than usual.
  • My husband has had to work lots of overtime lately.
  • We don’t have kids.
  • I sleep terribly.
  • I read fast.
  • My online book group has tons of motivational activities.
  • I upgraded my Kindle from a Basic to a Paperwhite Signature. (I was getting eye strain from the Basic. My poor eyes are so happy now!)

Some books I skim, some I give a great deal of attention to, and there are even some that I start and don’t finish (I don’t list these.) You may recognize some titles from previous posts. There are still a few I plan to acknowledge here, but the ones who had the greatest impact on me have already been reviewed. It’s difficult to get to everything.

I also get asked about authors. Which authors do I recommend? This is a TOUGH question! Everyone’s tastes are different. Please keep in mind that just because I love a book doesn’t mean everyone else will love it. This is why it’s important to read several reviews (unless you’re really brave)–and not just mine–before buying a book. Join Goodreads, read reviews on Amazon, join NetGalley, find a Facebook group for your age and genre preference. Being proactive is the only way to find what YOU enjoy reading.

But to answer the author question, here are some favorites–all fiction. You can find all of them in the “author” section of this site.

I hope this gives you a little glimpse into authors to research and whose works to pursue. For the devoted reader there is truly something for everyone. ❤️

Email subscribers: Visit to see the site in its entirety.


ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Circus Train, by Amita Parikh

AVAILABLE December 6, 2022

Have you ever shelved a book, wondered why you had it in the first place, then finally read the book and thought–Wow! Why did I wait so long to read this?? That is my experience with The Circus Train. I guess I thought it was going to be about a circus and have so many characters I wouldn’t be able to keep track of them all. Who knows? Happily, I was very wrong. Wrong in the best way.

Yes, there’s a circus and, yes, there’s a circus train, but they are only the backdrops for this marvelous story that takes place throughout Europe while tensions are building during World War II.

Over twenty years we follow Theo, a Greek illusionist; his daughter, Lena, who was crippled by Polio as an infant; and Alexandre, a French orphan who Theo finds and mentors. Theo, always honing his craft, sparring with the circus owner, and being overly protective of his daughter. Lena, who longs to go to school and be part of the academic world, her inquisitive mind never at rest. Alexandre, Lena’s closest friend, a keeper of secrets, and the story’s hero as the children become adults.

There is friendship, devotion, betrayal, separation, and a connective thread of love and determination during that separation that cuts through the absurdities and atrocities of the time period.

This is a magnificent book, one I recommend most highly. We’re still a few months away from its release, but keep it on your radar. It is worth the wait.

9.5/10 Stars

Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance

Gentleman Jim, by Mimi Matthews

Author Mimi Matthews is one of the best discoveries I’ve made this year. Her Regency era books are so fun and so unique. My favorite is The Work of Art, but Gentleman Jim now runs a very close second.

The plot can get a bit confusing because our male protagonist–a cross between Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights and Westly from The Princess Bride–uses three different names, but it is worth every bit of the reader’s attention. Meanwhile there is the long-suffering Maggie Honeywell, who, ten years before, sent her one true love, Nicholas Seaton, off into the world, never to return. Or did he?

There’s romance, action, witty banter, a plucky heroine, and a swashbuckling time from beginning to end. The supporting characters are well-developed and add great foundation to this story that pulls you in and carries you away to another period when birthright and honor reign supreme. A jolly good read!

9/10 Stars

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction, Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction

Come Down Somewhere, by Jennifer L. Wright

AVAILABLE September 5, 2022

After a couple of disappointing books that I refused to finish–my time is too valuable–I was pulled into the story of Olive and Jo in Come Down Somewhere. Now I’m in the midst of that awed exhaustion a reader gets after finishing an incredible book.

Beginning during World War II but set on US soil, the novel takes place in Alamogordo, New Mexico. I never knew the significance of that place. I do now. It was the site of the Trinity nuclear test–the first detonation of such a weapon–the fallout of which was much more than atomic.

Revolving around the lives of two teenage girls, Olive Alexander and Jo Hawthorne, we see war from the view of those on the American home front. Even those who are not enlisted and called up are affected. Everyone and everything is affected. Emotions are heightened, relationships are strained, allegiances are intensified.

Olive’s story takes place mainly in 1944 when her family’s ranch is taken over by the US Army. While her mother, uncle, and brother dutifully move into a small casita on the property, Olive is outraged–not only by the apparent apathy of her family, but because she is shuffled off to live with her grandmother sixty miles away.

Jo’s story mostly chronicles her return to the area in 1952. Once God-fearing and optimistic, Life has severely challenged her faith. She’s there to visit her father, Richard–Sargent Hawthorne–once the proud military leader who supervised activity on the Alexander ranch, who now lays dying, silenced by throat cancer.

Back and forth between these two timelines, we see an ebb and flow of friendship, beliefs, family, betrayal and loving sacrifice. The writing is beautiful, the characters are complex, and the story is singularly unique. This is one I will remember for a long time. I highly recommend this novel. It would make a great book club selection.

Thank you to NetGalley and Tynedale House Publishers for the advanced copy in exchange for my honest review. Come Down Somewhere is a true winner.

9.5/10 Stars

More on the Trinity Nuclear Test HERE.

Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Aftermath, by Rhidian Brook

“…I feel sympathy: for your own loss, for your dislocation, for the difficulty of living with your former enemy and a husband you hardly ever see. It makes it easier to believe that you are more than just a bitter woman who is full of prejudice. You have your own pain…But there are others like you. Wake up! You are not the only one.” –Stefan Lubert

The Aftermath is book that looks at World War II from an entirely new angle. Beginning in Germany five months after V-E Day, we swirl in the dizzying orbit of Rachael Morgan, wife to Colonel Lewis Morgan, mother to sons Michael (deceased) and Edmund. The Morgans have taken up residence in the grand mansion of architect Stefan Lubert, and his teenage daughter, Freda. Requisitioned by the British army, the mansion’s main living area is now occupied by the Morgans, while the Luberts are resigned to live in an upper apartment. The victors and the conquered must learn to co-habitate. While Colonel Morgan is often empathetic to the plight of the Germans, Rachael is guarded, still strangled by the grief of losing her oldest son.

Rubble is everywhere, both literally and figuratively. Buried bodies are still being dug out from beneath the carcasses of buildings on a daily basis. Buried souls take even more effort to excavate. No matter which side they were on during the fighting, everyone is depleted. They have been conditioned not to think too far into the future. As such, many live in the moment, controlling what they can at the risk of morals, ethics, and personal integrity. Feeding their most basic needs is all that matters, using whatever currency possible.

Eventually the plot splinters into 4 storylines: Rachael and Stefan finding common ground and companionship, Lewis Morgan and his reconstruction efforts, Freda and Albert (her worldly boyfriend,) and Edmund and the “Ferals” (orphaned street children who live by their own set of dystopian rules.)

My tender sensibilities grapple with a book like The Aftermath because of its carnal approach to language and themes, but I appreciate the fact that they are nearly characters unto themselves at a time when nothing in the world makes sense. This is not a book for the faint of heart. Desperate people do not have the luxury of refinement.

9/10 Stars

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Author Spotlight, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction

Author Spotlight: Jennifer Ryan

Jennifer Ryan is known for her tales of bucolic village life in World War II England. She grew up listening to her grandmother’s stories of the time period, longing to write while working as an editor for different publishing houses. After receiving an MA in Fiction from Johns Hopkins University, she wrote her debut novel, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. I enjoyed that book very much in 2019– a personally dramatic year–and it never received a mention on this site. It’s time to fix that, along with introducing you to her upcoming book, The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle.

The Chilbury Women’s Choir: Told through a series of letters, we learn about the lives of several different women in the village of Chilbury in 1940. The war is raging and the vicar has decided to close the choir until the men return. The ladies take it upon themselves to establish a ladies’ choir (shock and horror) in their absence.

The characters who write the letters have very different personalities, a true testament that perception is everything. There is service, there is gossip, and there are lessons learned. I read and listened to this book. The audio book was especially enjoyable because of the multiple narrators. 9/10 Stars

The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle, Available May 31, 2022: This book is a treat from start to finish. I loved it. Cressida Westcott is a renowned London fashion designer whose home and studio are destroyed in the Blitz. She finds refuge in her family’s manor where her niece, Violet, and nephew, Hugh, now live. Violet is thrilled to meet her famous aunt and invites her to the local village sewing circle. The newest project is to mend and update Grace Carlisle’s mother’s wedding dress. Rationing has made it impossible to get materials for a new dress and Grace, the vicar’s daughter, is engaged to be married. We cycle through the lives of Cressida, Violet, and Grace, whose stories become more entwined as time goes on.

This book is very special. I loved all the characters, their individual journeys, and–yes–the positive effects the war has on their lives. Each of them experienced their share of losses before the story begins and a few bumps after, but the majority of the novel is about their separate epiphanies and realizations about what is really important. People are humbled, they learn more about themselves, the British class system is called into question, and the American soldiers even make an appearance. Highly, highly recommended. 9.5/10 Stars

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Historical Fiction, Romance

The Blue Butterfly, by Leslie Johansen Nack

AVAILABLE May 3, 2022

A beautiful cover. An intriguing title. The Roaring Twenties. Prohibition. Hollywood glamour. The true story of the richest man in the country and a young, unsuccessful actress. Surely these ingredients make for a gripping story?

I had high hopes for The Blue Butterfly. The 30 year relationship between William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies is, no doubt, interesting. However, the more I read, the more I wondered if it is a story that really needs to be told–especially a fictionalized account from the point of view of Davies herself, who is anything but a sympathetic character. Even though it was Hearst that pursued Davies, the fact that he was world famous and married with five sons brings the story to a predictable end before it even begins.

The whole thing reads like a diary entry of bad decisions. The tentacles of their choices reach farther and farther over the years, creating devastating effects in the lives of others. What else could happen? I didn’t really care. Davies comes across as immature and selfish. Hearst is either manipulative or a beaten-down puppy dog of a man. How can we root for either of them? We can’t.

6.5/10 Stars