Dealing with tough and sad issues involving children, I was not expecting to enjoy this book as much as I ended up doing. To be fair there were parts of the plot describing appalling conditions for the children working on Canadian farms, which I found thoroughly disturbing, but other parts were about how a close relationship between Julia and Quinn got room to develop in the middle of all the drama as well as descriptions of their life in Canada. We also got to follow Julia when she dealt with her very own problems. Secrecy, pride and stubbornness seemed to be at the core of the entire plot. I found descriptions of all the restraints society put on women of the time interesting.

War veteran, family man and Earl’s of Brentwood’s personal valet Quinten Aspinall – Quinn, has made a very big promise to his father before his death to keep the family together. He has made it through the war with minor injuries and seems a level headed and well put together man who believes in the guidance of God and generally trying to do the right thing.
He is asking for leave of absence to travel to Canada in order to bring siblings Becky, Cecil and Harry, 18, 16 and 12, home. The earl hires him to find his niece and bring her home with them.
I enjoy following his though process as he is dealing with the tough experiences of this story. He gets very concerned along the way when he is told appalling stories of children having been gravely mistreated as free labor on farms. Quinn has to get creative to get information about his siblings whereabouts. He trusts God to guide him and keep him safe on his quest. His faith helps him through his hardships and descriptions of this runs strong through the story. Throughout the story he is met with experiences that challenge his view of life as well as his values, and he needs all his strength and down-to-earth personality traits to carry him through the events he encounters. I found him a thoroughly nice guy. He impressed me. Well done for creating such a likable and well rounded up character.

Julia Holloway, earl’s niece, went off to Canada as personal caregiver to Private McIntyre. Following his suicide, she lives in dire straits in Toronto. When Quinn inquires after his “fellow soldier”, he finds Julia scrubbing floors at the military hospital for a pittance.
She harbors secrets she feels vital to keep from Quinn and the earl. She expects to feel even further disgraced, so she refuses to speak to him. The earl has dangled a very tempting «carrot» in front of Quinn, making it essential for him to keep Julia safe and bring her back to England. I was relieved to see the relationship between Julia and Quinn develop in spite of all the constraints within themselves and in society.

I enjoyed the writing a lot as it managed to draw me into the plot and make the reading quite captivating. It was probably not the best idea to jump right into installment #3 of Canadian Crossings. I anticipated encountering some short comings in my knowledge about a storyline running through all the books, but felt there were no issues at all reading this as a standalone. It was a quick and easy read I was sad to see end, but still there is the option of reading books #1 and 2, which I look forward to.

I recommend The Brightest of Dreams in the Canadian Crossings Series for fans of Susan Anne Mason and for readers of historical romance fiction. Thank you to publisher Bethany House and NetGalley for this eARC, which gives me the chance to share my honest review. All opinions are completely my own.

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Recently widowed Lily Adler is at a party at her friend’s house when she overhears a quarrel between two men and a gunshot is fired. In this exciting story of murder, blackmail and bribery, Lily is shocked to find who is involved.

The police get bribed and the case is put off because of «insufficient evidence». Large sums of money change hands and suddenly they are unable to identify the victim because they don’t want to try. The magistrate, himself is in receipt of 300 £ from the host of the party where the murder took place. Lily secretly witnessed this. As the police are instructed not to investigate, Lily takes it upon herself to do it, with the help of Capt. Hartley and Miss Oswald. She hasn’t the first idea how to investigate a murder case, but sees no way around it if she is to bring about justice for the victim.

The scene of the crime is in a large mansion, so the party goes on unawares while the investigation is kept secret. Pretty difficult to do, I’m sure, but the hosts of the evening seemed to go to extremes to avoid scandal, which seemed the crucial concern for people of “Quality” at the time.

In this plot the victim discovered something worth killing to keep secret. I found the circumstances around the murder interesting as well as exiting. Difficult to find out who the culprit might be as the murder victims kept piling up. I felt the West Indies connection added extra interest to the plot. I have read some books set in the West Indies before, but not murder mysteries, so this was a new angle for me which I enjoyed a lot. As I like stories with multi cultural dimensions, this felt like a win. There seemed a bit of a Sanditon feel about the part of the plot which contains the West Indian heiress, Miss Ofelia Oswald, who is launched into London Society to find a wealthy husband. Miss Oswald is, however, slightly less rich and therefore slightly less aggressively chaperoned compared to Miss Lamb in Sanditon.

I found the progress and exiting intensity of the plot more than made up for a slightly wordy start. I enjoyed the writing a lot. Added bonus, I think, were the funny parts of the story, particularly relating to the budding friendship between Lily and Capt. Hartley as they were knees deep in trying to solve the murder. With a mix between light hearted banter and the serious issue of murder, this was a story I was unable to put down even well past midnight. I found it highly entertaining as well as a quick and easy read. No shortage of suspects here, I can assure you. Well done to the author for creating such a wide variety of realistic “good guy” characters as well as the unsavory ones that both angered and unsettled me.

The Body in the Garden is recommended for readers of historical fiction as well as readers of crime fiction. Thank you to publisher Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for this eARC in return for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 5 stars / 5

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When well known feminist, author and lecturer Clare Abbott gets poisoned, Lynley and Havers have to investigate both in London and Dorset. There seems to be connections to the suicide of William Goldacre. Dark and disturbing secrets within his family come to light.

Following William Goldacre suicide, there is a series of consequences. Dysfunctions in his family come into a glaring focus impossible to ignore. They all seem to suffer. The mother Caroline Goldacre works as PA to the murder victim. Controlling behavior and paranoid thinking is severely interfering with her work. She acts more like a gate keeper than assistant. Clare acts very forgiving about this. People wonder why she doesn’t simply fire Caroline but she keeps her on, even gives her more responsibilities.

Through a combination of coloring outside the lines and taking advantage of connections, Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers lands herself in the murder investigation. But she is not too chuffed with having Detective Sergeant Winston Nkata watching her every move and reporting to Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley the very moment she gets creative.

Reads like a combination of several timelines related to the plot, which my methodical self really appreciates a lot. There is a really thorough introduction leading up to the actual crime taking place. The sheer size of this work allows for detailed descriptions which I enjoy a lot.

The hilarious interaction between police secretary Dorothea Harriman and Barbara Havers I find beyond entertaining. Dorothea wants to contribute to Barbara meeting men, which in turn is supposed to help make her relax more and be a better police sergeant.

It’s funny and entertaining in the middle of this serious plot the way she is portrayed as loose cannon who has a history of interpreting her orders, bending the rules and sidestepping police regulations. She achieves good results, but in the end there have been so many problems that she ends up on superior’s transfer list.

Di Lynley: seems to be all business for most of this story, having been instructed by his superior to keep DS Havers on the straight and narrow at all times. He is occupied with the London end of the investigation as well as closely and carefully managing DS Havers to make sure she goes by the book. But I enjoyed the parts where there are descriptions of his feelings and thoughts about his personal life, having been a widower for 18 months.

The writing itself I find a wonderful use of the English language. Very few comes to mind that manage to express themselves in super enjoyable writing like this. The development of the plot is balanced out with funny dialog and interactions between characters.
I really enjoy when DS Haves jokes about Inspector Lynley having such a posh car. She thinks it’s so expensive; he keeps a teenager to polish the dust from the bonnet.
I also really enjoy that the plot is set in London and British countryside, with environmental descriptions to match.

The clues were so carefully laid out that I felt completely in the dark as to who the culprit might be. Expertly done I think. This work contained a large number of elements. So many, in fact, it muddied the waters for me. I was unable to distinguish the important clues from the less important ones. When the culprit was found and I thought the case was solved, yet another surprising twist was sprung on me. That made for an unusual end to the story.

There is an interesting story line about DS Havers continuing to book #20, which I think readers will enjoy. I have read it, and I certainly did. It feels like reading a teaser for the next book. It’s on my radar partly because I’m curious how DS Havers will get on in future.

This book is highly recommended for fans of Elizabeth George’s other work and readers of historical fiction.
All opinions in this review are my own.
My rating: 5 stars / 5

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When a brutal murder takes place close to family restaurant Pie Town, restaurant owner Val Harris sets out to solve the case in her amateur-sleuthing way, which gets her in serious danger.

English professor Michael Stark is invited to Pie Town for a poetry reading event. He chooses to read a rather strange poem, which gets him into a heated argument with another member of the local college English department. He is accused of plagiarism. Soon after he is found dead, stabbed with a saber.

Worried about the reputation of the restaurant, Val finds it crucial to solve the case. Her boyfriend, Detective Gordon Carmichael, risks being kicked off the murder investigation for the third time because of Val’s interfering. He makes her promise to keep all talk about the case to Pie Town. Charlene and Val invent new and creative ways around that promise. She tries to make sure her business isn’t in jeopardy being connected to a murder case again.

I like Val Harris. She seems a sweet, sensible girl who is building a successful pie business. She may come across as somewhat of a pushover at times, but for the most part she seems to find it important to keep her promises and be reliable. But being close friends with Charlene, she is sometimes “forced” to color outside the lines a bit, which gets her into trouble with her local police detective boyfriend.

Charlene McCree is the second main character who adds a funny and interesting spin to the story. She is a creative and industrious busy-body with a vivid imagination that enjoy coming up with antics supposed to have favorable outcomes. She stops at nothing to make her ideas happen, but has a good heart. She is a firm believer in UFOs and the use of social media, which creates vital and enjoyable additions to the plot.

Charlene’s social media activity plays a crucial role in the development of the plot as she tries to draw crowds to Pie Town. While I found it entertaining and interesting, I felt it took up a lot of space in the plot and might have been shortened a bit.

I really enjoyed the vibe of small-town living where everybody knows everybody else.
In spite of all the craziness, the plot seems to progress steadily, which I am pleased to see. There seem to emerge useful clues for the investigation, which became interesting elements to the story.

Pies Before Guys is recommended for fans of Kirsten Weiss and for readers of cozy mystery. Thank you to Kensington Books via Netgalley for this eARC in return for my honest review.
All opinions are completely my own.

My rating:
4 stars / 5

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Famed opera singer Margaret Lee is hiding out at Morden Hall at the end of Dartmoor, when she finds escapee prisoner Oliver Ward lifeless at the side of the road. The plot centers around a jewel theft they both are connected to. On an intense and dangerous mission to bring down the real jewel thief they have to deal with people as dangerous as they are powerful.

Having fled from her contract obligations to sing in Bath, famed opera singer Margaret Lee is in hiding at the end of Dartmoor. She feels she has to escape to protect herself and her father from threats and violence. After 9 months at the end of the moor she is still scared her manager, Mr. Grout, will find her.

Oliver was wrongly convicted for theft of a jewelry necklace and has fought to stay alive in Dartmoor prison. He makes a narrow escape with dangerous and violent Prison Warden, Mr. Barrow, on his tale. This is why he ends up near Margaret’s house, wounded and unconscious. When he gets better, he recognizes Margaret as the one who wore the necklace just before it was stolen. He suspects her to be the thief. She thinks she is in possession of a theatre prop, and is shocked to find out it is real.

Margaret and Oliver realize they have to work together, so they decide to set out on a journey to Bath to solve the jewel mystery as well as trying to stay safe from Mr. Barrow and Mr. Gout who are chasing them. Throughout this ordeal, they get to see each other bring out their best under pressure.

I really liked the character of Margaret as she tries to fend for herself in a world of powerful men. I found her reactions believable for a woman of that time lacking the security of family or powerful connections to shield her. All her life she has been told what’s acceptable and what’s not by men, but now she is done with it. She has a good heart taking mute girl Nora into her employ, when she is harassed in the local community.

Oliver seems a real charmer with the ladies, and well connected among various groups of potential voters come election day to parliament. He uses his silver-tongued skills for all they are worth to get out of sticky situations. His work in favor of the less fortunate has led to powerful people wanting to get rid of him, hence the wrongful conviction. His political views seem something like Ross Poldark’s, as he fights for the poor and against people whose goal in life is lining their own pockets whatever it takes.

This story contains some seriously unsavory characters. Well done! Prison Warden and law enforcement officer Sebastian Barrow in particular, who has his very own interpretation of what trust in God entails. I find him to be a violent, dangerous and appalling man. When dealing with prisoners, knocking them senseless seems to be his go-to approach. Whether they survive or not doesn’t seem to concern him. He is an excellently crafted villain character with a questionable stability of mental health. He really pushes my buttons. I am pleased to see there is a bit of a positive development towards the end of the story, so stay tuned.

The story is told from Oliver’s and Margaret’s points of view as well as Mr. Barrow’s, who keeps hunting them down to achieve his version of justice and God’s will. The plot contains some intense and dramatic parts, mixed with calm in which the relationship between Margaret and Oliver gets room to develop and, I’m pleased to say, my shoulders get to relax a bit. I really enjoyed the funny streaks mixed into this story, which lightens the mood in spite of the sometimes intense drama.
As the danger temporarily subsides Margaret gets conscious of some of Oliver’s positive traits. There are contrasts in this plot which I love. We move from sequences of Dickensian proportions to opulence in homes of the super rich in Bath. There is a clear element of faith running through the plot which I also truly appreciate.

Fans of Michelle Gripe will enjoy The House at The end of The Moor. It is recommended for readers of historical fiction too.

Thank you to Barbour Publishing and NetGalley for this eARC in return for my honest review. All opinions in this review are completely my own.
My rating: 5 stars / 5

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Poirot receives a letter from Monsieur Paul Renauld with a plea for help as he feels his life is in danger. Poirot and Captain Hastings rush off to France only to find it too late to prevent the murder. The victim is found in an open grave stabbed in the back with his own dagger. The case includes a mess of cover-ups, lies and deceits to divert the investigation, thoroughly testing Poirot’s skills.

Frensh Detective Investigator Girault tries to undermine Poirot. He tries to consider him a silly little man. Using an arrogant, condescending and patronizing manner, it doesn’t seem to get Poirot off his game. He focuses on his task, ignoring Girault’s attitude. He even mocks and teases Giroult by pointing out weaknesses in his investigation.

This is Story #2 of the Hercule Poirot Mysteries, when Poirot has no become famous. It is told from Captain Hastings’ perspective from a time when he doesn’t quite believe Poirot will be able to bring about a successful outcome. Poirot gets on Hastings’ nerves with his neat, methodical methods. But as the story progresses, he becomes impressed by Poirot and develops more trust in his skills.

We get to follow Poirot and Hastings’ relationship in the earliest stages when Hastings gets irritated with Poirot’s talks about “the little great cells” and analyzing methods. That doesn’t happen in the later stories. With his army background, Hastings seems to prefer to act instead of analyze too much. He comes across as a rather impulsive character who gets side-tracked by feelings, particularly regarding women, which put spanners in the works of Poirot’s investigation.

There is an interesting mix of characters who don’t exactly make it easy for Poirot to dig out the real truth. A veil of mystery surrounds some of the characters. Some consistently lie and cover up to divert the investigation, while others openly resist and do some great acting to deceive the detectives, but Poirot doesn’t buy it. He walks to the beat of his own drum, and methodically follows the evidence which ends up solving the murder. Must say I was quite surprised by the result as I felt the culprit was sprung on me. I normally pick up on clues along the way, but not this time.

All in all I enjoyed this story by Agatha Christie a lot like I always do. In The Murder in The Links I particularly liked the parts about the relationship between Poirot and Hastings. These descriptions set it apart from later works where it seems their relationship has developed into more fixed detective vs assistant roles where they have learned how to go about solving cases most effectively way.

Fans of Agatha Christie will enjoy The Murder in The Links. It is also recommended for readers of crime fiction.

All opinions in this review are my own.
My rating: 4 starts / 5

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Ex Crimean Nurse Hester Monk covers a shift for a friend when she finds a secret hospital ward where scared and very sick children are kept. While Hester tries to keep them alive, she finds out they are part of a cynical medical experiment. The three children and Hester herself soon find themselves in grave danger having been abducted to help with the experiment.

This is installment #21 in The William Monk Series. I enjoy them as stand-alone works and love the universe of characters she creates who show up like old friends. This story contains new male characters with discriminating behavior. By today’s standards Hester has to deal with appalling views on women. Discrimination against women in the work place seems to be an additional theme in the plot, which I find interesting from a historic point of view.

The descriptions annoy me even though I realize the characters have been crafted for this exact purpose. The patient Bryson Radnor, is the main example even though the chemist Hamilton Rand is also quite skilled in patronizing and condescending behavior towards Hester. Radnor has the full range of bad traits being condescending, ungrateful, manipulative and patronizing trying to undermine Hester for not being a man. In his defense I have to say he is sick and angry, not able to deal with receiving nursing help, but the way he makes the most of every moment to bully his own daughter as well as Hester makes me incredibly angry.

In this story Hester is the main character, even if there is a separate story line where Monk and his River Police are trying to keep London safe. They conduct an operation against a cargo ship smuggling weapons, which is not exactly a roaring success. This shorter part of the story seems like addition to the real story, whereas Hester stars in the main part. Monk, however, has to use his detective skills to rescue her towards the end of the plot.

Hester is faced with plenty of dilemmas connected to blood transfusion. I would imagine there were not much in the way of ethical regulations at the time even though blood transfusion had been tried on and off for hundreds of years. I find it interesting reading as we get to follow Hester’s though process when dealing with patients. She focuses mainly on keeping the children alive through this cynical experiment, when she is their only advocate.

The patient Radnor has consented and is paying for experimental treatment as this is his only hope to survive “the white blood disease”, today known as leukemia. Against Hester’s will she helps with the secret experimental treatment. As a nurse of the time she doesn’t seem to have much power or say in what she takes part in. Seems she pretty much does as she’s told even though she is the one with experience with severe blood loss, being an ex WW1 battlefield nurse.

I enjoy the cast of recurring characters, among them is Squeaky Robinson who somewhat lightens up the otherwise dark plot with his volatile temper and failed attempts to cover up his feelings. He has a good heart which he thinks nobody knows about. Having a history as a brothel owner involved in a number of shady and underhanded dealings, he has now somewhat cleaned up his act to only include the occasional forgery. I find it funny that Monk knows Squeaky sometimes colors outside the lines a bit, but closes his eyes as long as it’s nothing major. He works as a semi-reliable accountant for Hester’s health Clinique for prostitutes. In return he gets to live there for free.

The written East London Cockney dialect I sometimes find a bit hard to read, but I enjoy it a lot and feel it adds authenticity to the plot. The way Perry makes sure readers know upper class characters from lower class, I think works quite well in her stories.

Fans of Anne Perry’s numerous works will enjoy Corridors of The Night. It is also recommended for readers of historical fiction.

All opinions in this review are completely my own.

My rating 4 stars / 5

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As Ashleigh Mcallister is struggling to get over her 12 year marriage, her friend introduces her to ex-soldier Kellan Dwyer who has travelled from Colorado to apartment-sit. They have a lovely time enjoying New York sights and each other until Kellan’s secret lands like a bomb between them.

This is my first time reading romance from a gay/lesbian perspective. I will not pretend to be knowledgeable about it but found it an interesting read. Universal elements in this story I think might be relevant for any gender, as the plot is about development and change of relationships. About what fears and insecurities might come into play when we try to be in a relationship.

Ashley is weary of dating following her divorce, but she still manages to open up to Kellan. She knows she will leave after the summer so she starts off guarding her heart, pretending this is just a pleasant summer fling. Kellan helps Ashley move through the hurt feelings from her divorce and gradually starts to trust her more and share her innermost feelings. Kellan, on the other hand, seems to be under sharing which comes back to haunt them both later in the plot.

Of all the characters in this story, I think Ashley’s 80 year old grandma was my favorite. She is important in the story’s first part as Ashley’s sounding board and confidant. The energetic and young-at-heart grandma is a great support for Ashley with her sharp comments and good advice while they walk to the Day Centre together. I found it endearing and funny that she is computer literate and gets information from a day centre friend’s Instagram account.

This story felt sweet and easy with a summer vibe to it, which would make a great holiday read. For anyone tempted to go to New York, there is a nice collection of sights described. I’m sure fans of Maggie Cummings’ other work would appreciate this new installment, as well as readers of gay/lesbian romance.

Thank you to publisher Bold Strokes via NetGalley for this eARC in return for my honest review. All opinions are completely my own.
My rating: 4 stars / 5

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When five strangers, Jett, Lexa, Coral, Chuck and Ed, out of the blue get invited to the Fifth Avenue Literary Society Library, they don’t understand what’s going on. Gradually they get past their insecurities and start sharing some of the stories of their lives. These strangers with no previous connection come to trust each other, pour their hearts out and wrestle with each other’s stories to get to the truths.

This story starts with background stories of each of the invited. Each has past issues they have been too afraid to deal with and prefers to keep secret. But as they keep meting every Monday night, they share more and more details and are bringing fresh, new perspectives into each member’s life. New input and new inspiration helps to reignite the lives of these somewhat stuck and lonely people. Their relationships seem to develop and the support of the society helps the members reflect on their past and move through some hard issues. They learn to love and be loved, be cared for and respected as they get more and more involved and willing to be there for each other.

I enjoyed the personal development we get to witness by following these individuals as members of the story society. From being rather closed off when joining, they learn to open up about their feelings and trusting the other members with the real truths about their lives. The stories they share become more and more heartbreaking, raw and honest.

The plot presents each society member similar to diary entries where we get to follow their unique process. The writing draws me into how their lives feel to them from the inside with all the fear, grief, and hurt feelings they experience. Going to the story society every Monday somehow adds to their lives and contributes to the healing they didn’t expect or seek.

The members of the story society is a good cast of well developed characters I feel are easy to identify with as they have their individual issues they try to lie, cover up or in other ways refuse to deal with leading to resentment and bitterness in their lives. This makes them all believable, real and special. I appreciated the faith element mixed into the plot which intensified towards the end.

My favorite of the characters is Lexa Wilder who is personal assistant in a burger chain. I am delighted to see her finally stand up for herself work wise. Her eyes get abruptly opened when she understands she really has caught the wrong end of the stick. Realizing this, she has to figure out what she wants and make a tough adjustment.

I felt the writing was vivid. In my mind’s eye I could see how the Fifth Avenue Story Society Library might actually look like. Fascinating how the meetings were held in surroundings of antique furniture, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and dusty carpets. I envisioned maybe it might look something like a mini version of the library at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movie.

This is the first book I read from Rachel Hauck, but she will be on my radar from now on and I will be on the lookout for more of her previous works as well as future releases. I would recommend The Fifth Avenue Story Society to fans of Rachel Hauck and readers of romance genre.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
My rating: 5 stars / 5

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When lawyer Benjamin Booker and his senior partner Robert Harvey stumbles upon a crime scene, they are horrified the victim is longtime friend and company founder Percival Norris. The case seems connected to Isabella Wilder of Belle Island. Benjamin agrees to pay her a visit to investigate the murder under the cover of giving her legal advice.

The victim, Mr. Norris, has served as trustee of the Wilder estate in a way which increasingly worries and angers his charge Isabella. He is trying to use his power to pressure Isabella into allowing a shipbuilding company onto the beautiful and secluded Belle Island. For the last ten years she has not left the island even once because she believes in a curse on her family. She is adamant on keeping everything as it is, stay on the island and run her willow basketry business as usual. Only trouble is, she has this strange and vivid dream of being present in the Wilder’s town house at the time of the murder.

When Benjamin arrives at Belle Island, he is eager to both please his employer, Mr. Hardy, and regain confidence in himself after a very public and humiliating loss in court. He is trying to quietly dig up additional evidence in the murder case and figure out what Isabella has to do with it all. Could it be she or another family member is the actual murderer?

Isabella’s niece Rose Wilder is betrothed to Christopher Adair. He lies about his whereabouts at the time of the murder. He acted entitled and arrogant, and I disliked the way he tried to cover up and obstruct the investigation.

Evan Curtis is Isabella’s childhood friend and youth love interest. He was sent away to the most dangerous of war zones because it was in Mr. Norris’ best interest as trustee that Isabella didn’t marry. He is very angry with Mr. Noris and suspects him of picking the most dangerous posting of all hoping he would be killed in the Peninsular war. I found him odd and secretive, maybe even dangerous with his experience of weapons and war. Why is he back a Belle Island after so many years?

Dr Theodore Grant also Isabella’s childhood friend. Even though he is a very talented doctor meant for big things in some city, he stays on as country doctor. Isabella expects him to propose to her at some point. She waits, but nothing happens. Instead he seems to act over-protective, possessive and patronizing towards her. She considers him a friend, but has no real feelings for him. A strange display of reactions show everything is not as it seems with him.

The vivid writing of this story draws me into the plot. It feels like I’m actually there in the beautiful English hamlet Riverton with the old village church, thatch roofed cottages and the Thames River lazily floating by. I love the descriptions of life on the river at the time. A lot of activity seemed to be going on with fishing boats and net makers trying to make a living.
Weeping willow trees and lush greenery add to the lovely nature scene. I can almost hear birds chirping in the trees and feel the sun on my face, while I visualize the story. Who could imagine bad things happen in a beautiful place like this.

I found the menu descriptions of the dinner party at Belle Island as thorough as they were impressive. People really did know how to eat and party at the time. The dancing part an issue in it’s own right.

This plot had great build up of tension. I was kept busy suspecting a number of characters of some kind of foul play throughout the story. The relationship between Isabella and Ben I felt grew slowly but surely amidst all the drama in a way that complimented the story without overpowering it.

The Bridge to Belle Island is recommended for fans of Julie Klassen’s other works and for readers of historical fiction.

My rating 5 stars / 5
(All opinions in this review are my own)

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Following an accident as a child, Neville Cross is speech impaired and that holds him back from fulfilling his dreams of a good life. When he meets Clara Hartwright, lady’s companion with a shockingly unladylike secret, he feels forced to challenge his low self-esteem to forge an independent life.
In the Parish Orphans of Devon Series we follow the orphan boys Justin Thornhill, Tom Finchley, Alex Archer and Neville Cross. Installment #4 is featuring Neville Cross, who is apprentice steward at Greyfriar’s Abby owned by his friend Justin. He finds it hard to do the paper work part of the position and prefers to work outside, particularly tending to the horses. Having had a troubled background, Neville is grateful to Justin for the opportunity to work and live on the estate. He doesn’t think he is able to do anything else and is afraid to venture out among people. He expects to be ridiculed for his trouble expressing himself. The parts of the story where we get a glimpse into his thoughts about himself and his life are heartbreaking. Neville’s confidence and outlook on life has really taken a toll. He is convinced he has to isolate himself at the Abbey for the rest of his life. There is not really anybody in his surroundings who challenges him to make a change until he meets Clara.

Clara Hartwright, comes for a Christmas visit together with her employer Mrs Bainbright. She needs her position to save enough money, so she tries to be as good a lady’s companion as she can be. She doesn’t feel she has the knack for staying silent and acting like a living ghost, but she has this shockingly unladylike project that needs funding and be kept an absolute secret. Clara seems an assertive and outspoken young woman, so slowly but surely she manages to challenge Neville’s preconceptions. With her help his mind is opened to dreams and opportunities he previously believed was out of his reach.

I really appreciated Clara’s desire to rid herself of some of the feminine constraints of the time, and there certainly were a lot of them to deal with and find creative ways around. I found it refreshing that the plot includes a mix of what might have been forward thinking or even revolutionary ideas at the time. Darwinistic ideas are balanced out with, to us, very old fashioned views.

Neville loves horses and the knowledge and interest in horses and dogs shines through in this work, which I find very enjoyable. Clara rescues old pug Bertie from being put down and secretly takes him with her to her new position. He seems to find a new and happier life in the country playing with his two new mastiff friends. I found him an enjoyable and funny supporting character in his own right.

There seems to have been thorough research ahead of writing this story into how Christmas decorations were made and what games and activities were played at the time. Some of the activities I even recognize as being done today as part of pre Christmas crafting or Christmas Workshops. As the plot is set at a Christmas gathering of friends and family in Devon, I found this part of the story entertaining and enjoyable adding to the Christmas vibe.

I read A Winter Companion (Parish Orphans of Devon #4) as a standalone. It worked well, but I think I would recommend reading the series starting with #1, gradually getting up to speed with characters and events. I found this to be a sweet, entertaining read and I would recommend it to fans of Mimi Matthews other works and readers of historical romance fiction.
Thank you to NetGalley and Victory Editing for this ARC in return for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Emily Prescott, expert baker, is in a dwindling relationship with firefighter boyfriend when she finds out he cheated on her. She doesn’t know how to handle the complicated mess of her life, so she flees to her childhood home in Scotland to serve as bridesmaid and make the wedding cake for her friend Beth’s wedding. The drama intensifies as even more issues come to light.

This is an enjoyable and relaxing read that gives me all the feelings I wish for in a book of this genre. I loved that this story has such a light, happy and sometimes funny vibe to it. There are patches of life wisdom scattered about, which I find an added bonus. I feel drawn in by plenty of descriptions of life in Glendale, which reminds me of rural life of my childhood in northern Norway. I always seem to enjoy stories set in Scotland. There’s just something about descriptions of relationships and the rural community feel that that appeals to me so much.

Beth Williams, bride and small town power house, is working to breathe new life into the community using her grandmother’s inheritance. She has chosen to make her wedding a major community rally to both make the wedding perfect and to add business and activity to the Glendale area.

I am pleased to see Emily has support of her close Scottish friends and family at a time when she feels life is tough and she doesn’t know what the next step is. There is a whole cast of background characters in this story who are all Emily’s friends and family. Most important is commitment phobic boyfriend Greg, who fortunately goes through a major development throughout and is essential to the plot. Also vital to this story is handsome minister Brodie Stewart. His presence intensifies the drama and complications even more.

I really appreciate how the writing relates a cozy vibe despite the complexities and drama of the plot. Relaxing summery weather descriptions add to a relaxed holiday feel. Wedding preparations get a distinct place in the story. We get to follow planning of the color scheme, bridesmaid’s dresses and wedding cake as well as the outdoor arrangement of flowers and lights on the gazebo in the grounds of Glendale Hall.

This was an enjoyable and relaxing read, just as I was expecting. I would recommend it to fans of Victoria Walters and readers of romance woman’s fiction. This is book 2 in the Glendale Hall series. I read it as a standalone, which worked out just fine, and will be on the lookout for future installments.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Hera, for this ARC in return for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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When Pearl MacFarland is forced by Confederacy to take in seriously wounded Federal prisoners to give makeshift nursing care, she resists with everything she’s got. Meeting Federal Sergeant Joshua Wheeler who fights to end secession and slavery, they are both in for an eye-opening experience becoming aware of the not so black and white elements of war. While suffering under the weight of enormous responsibility, hardships and occasional experiences of danger, Pearl learns to still show compassion towards the enemy soldiers.

This makes for a very interesting story for readers who are interested in how nursing might have been carried out in a makeshift hospital during the war. We get to follow Pearl as she tries to nurse the heavily wounded, sometimes dying enemy soldiers, with little or no supplies relying on the simplest activities of care. Having no medicines, main task would be to keep wounds clean and pray patients would survive. Food supplies were scarce and irregular at best, so Pearl had to dip into the family’s emergency rations to feed soldiers.

In spite of all her everyday hardships nursing the ever increasing number of patients, Pearl’ is thankful. It impresses and humbles me that she is able to feel like that in her situation. While reading this story, I felt my appreciation for running water increase. How labor intensive it would have been to take a bath, which we all take for granted nowadays, is quite eye-opening. As is descriptions of the labor that went into changing bed sheets and do laundry by hand to keep all her patients clean to get better.

Pearl and Joshua’s relationship gets off to a really rocky start as they find themselves on opposite sides of the Civil War. Pearl blames Joshua for her loss of 3 brothers to the war and thinks the Federals are invaders who do not care about the slaves at all. That it’s all about politics. Joshua is equally adamant that the war is all about ending secession and slavery. However reluctant they both are to admit it, it cannot be denied that a closer relationship between them is developing.

I found this story to be a bit of a learning experience about American geography in addition to the Civil War history. As the story is inspired by real events, I feel there are plenty of facts to be picked up along the way. I think that is why I like historical fiction genre so much. The mix of fact and fiction spikes my interest in learning more about the issues being dealt with in the story. As a nurse there was the added bonus of learning more about makeshift nursing during the war, which I found sad, scary and entertaining in a curious mix. I wish Pearl had an easier time of it.

The faith element was an added bonus running like a read thread through the story. Pearl’s father quotes scripture, insisting Pearl should feed the enemy. Patients are also comforted by Bible reading sessions. There are quite a bit of space used for scriptures quotes which I found probably realistic, as the MacFarlands lived a quite hard life where they leaned on the Bible for strength and hope. Feeding the enemy was quite essential to the plot.

The Rebel Bride is book #10 in the Daughters of The Mayflower series. I read this as a standalone, which worked well. I would recommend this work to fans of Shannon McNear, to readers of historical fiction in general or those interested in Civil War History.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC in return for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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When Abigail Bracey’s father tries to get out of his involvement with a counterfeiter ring, he gets killed, and the world as Abby and her mother knows it falls apart.. She reluctantly has to work with ex boyfriend and Secret Service Agent Dashiell Lassiter.

Four years after the scandal Secret Service makes contact. She is asked to help them in their search for the criminal counterfeiter known as “The Artist” – Fletcher Pitch who killed her father. He keeps moving from place to place disguising himself and making sure nobody knows what he looks like, making it difficult to apprehend him.

Abby agrees to go to Wells Nebraska to work undercover to bring her father’s killer to justice. Pitch is searching for his son, who is in hiding from his criminal father, so Abby needs to uncover both father and son’s identities. Agent Dashiell Lassiter of Secret Service is assigned to keep her safe. He is Abby’s ex boyfriend and she finds it very hard to be around him again. She is angry and feels he abandoned her six years ago when he left town without a word.

I find it touching how Abby finds her way back to her faith and manages to forgive and let go of the hurt she has been carrying around for years. She stopped praying as she feels God doesn’t hear her after her father’s death. When leaving for Nebraska, she purposely leaves her Bible behind. After a time she realizes she misses her relationship with God. Throughout the story she is in a process of reigniting and strengthening her faith, which I felt ended up being a great value to the plot.

I felt this story gave me Little house on the Prairie feel with descriptions of small town environment where everybody knows everybody else and Abby soon becomes a respected part of the community. The need for constant considerations of propriety within school hours I found entertaining and funny. In small town rural Nebraska there would have been countless events that could get tongues wagging, which Abby needed to take seriously to keep her job.

The plot of this story moved gradually in the first half, tension increasing in the second half and ending with a dramatic conclusion. The real historic event of the blizzard of 1888 in Nebraska added an intense and drama to the story, really putting Abbey’s faith and perseverance to the test.

This is book #11 in the Daughters of Mayflower Series, and the first one I have read in this series. I would recommend it for fans of Susanne Dietze and for readers of historical fiction.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for this ARC in return for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 4 stars / 5

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Ingrid Chastain is on an excruciating quest to get vaccines to remote areas of the vast Montana Territories where people are suffering a major outbreak of smallpox. Being the only survivor from a wagon crash she still tries to get the vaccines delivered. Only trouble is she has broken the femur bone in addition to a couple of ribs, so she can’t really move.

For five years Dr Micah Bradley has lived in the outback trying to deal with grief after the loss of his wife and daughter to smallpox. He blames himself that he was unable to use his skills to save them. Following their deaths he stopped doctoring and moved to the Montana outback where he kept to himself trying to deal with his loss as a husband, father and doctor.

A wounded donkey-cry alerts Micah to the wagon crash site where he finds three dead men and one wounded woman. He learns this is the life saving smallpox vaccines’ transport Ingrid’s father has promised to deliver to outback town Settler’s Fort. Now Ingrid is the sole survivor of the accident and she is determined to deliver the vaccines come hell or high water, but her leg and ribs have to heal first. In spite of the lack of confidence in himself and his doctoring skills, Micah takes care of Ingrid the best way possible without any medical supplies available. He is adamant to save her even though he was not able to save his family.

The relationship between Ingrid and Micah develops in spite of all the hardships they go through trying to move ahead in the snowy and bad weather, while at the same time caring for Ingrid’s injuries. Reading this story I sometimes got frustrated and thought “is anything ever going to work out for them”. Difficult and dangerous events just seemed to be piling up one after the other. But, as in real life, going through difficult situations may lead to stronger relationships. Ingrid is a strong woman with a strong faith and that seems to rub off on Micah. She trusts that God will help them survive the journey and get the vaccines delivered safely to help people of Settler’s Fort. Micah worries a lot about Ingrid’s health but sees how steadfast she is in her faith. She becomes a role model of sorts for him as his faith grows stronger. Together they stay strong and maintain their courage. The romantic relationship between them seems to grow slowly but surely in moments when the danger and drama quiets down a bit. It takes on a backdrop position which I found added to the story instead of being a disturbing element of the plot. I think it would have felt unrealistic for romance to have taken center stage in with all the danger and drama going on.
I really enjoyed the thorough research into how medical treatment might have worked out in rural areas in the 1860s. The story includes quite detailed descriptions of Dr Bradley’s considerations and careful ministrations as he treats Ingrid’s injuries. How he goes about moving her, treating her pain and avoiding infection without any kind of supplies, crutches or a wheel chair. I find this really interesting from a 2020 perspective.
An element which lightens the mood of the story is descriptions of the Chinook warm winds. As I live on another Continent I didn’t know about this weather phenomenon. It seemed to thaw some of the snow and generally make conditions easier when they tried to move as quickly as they could through the wintery mountain wilderness.
The outdoors descriptions I found very enjoyable and relatable as I have grown up close to nature in harsh winters of Northern Norway. Even though most outdoor activities from my childhood were during summer, I feel the descriptions of the cold, winter conditions stir up memories of playing in the snow.
This is my first book by Misty M. Beller, but probably not the last. I think she managed to balance the faith element and romance with the danger and drama in a way that overall worked out quite well. Fans of Ms Beller will enjoy this work. It is also recommended for readers who like historical romance fiction.
My rating: 4 stars / 5
(All opinions are my own).

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When two women are found brutally murdered in an artist’s apartment, private detective William Monk and his wife Hester team up with well connected and wealthy Lady Callandra Daviot to find out what happened to them. It seems very hard to know who the intended victim was and who just was at the wrong place at the wrong time. One is an artist’s model and the other doctor’s wife Elissa Beck. Elissa Beck’s husband is very soon charged with the murder of the two women. He is Hester Monk’s colleague and friend. She believes him innocent, so she desperately wants to help clear his name. As Hester and William investigate, secrets start to unravel relating to the victims’ pasts. As the Becks used to passionately battle for reform in the Austrian Revolution of 1848, it becomes vital for William to travel to Vienna to gather additional information about the Beck’s role in the Vienna Uprising.

Main Characters
Hester Monk is an ex Crimean War nurse who now volunteers at a hospital. She is married to William Monk who investigates cases privately as he has resigned from the police force under a bit of a cloud. They enjoy a close and happy marriage and are able to read each other very precisely, which is both a blessing and a curse while investigating this case. Hester is friends with both hospital surgeon dr Beck and member of the hospital board Lady Callandra Daviot. William feels he has to tread very carefully to protect his wife’s feelings when he discovers potentially hurtful facts. I enjoy the considerations of both William and Hester when they try to keep each other safe from emotional hurt throughout the investigation.

Lady Callandra Daviot is a wealthy widow and a member of the hospital board. She tries to keep a secret that she loves surgeon Kristian Beck. She officially takes an interest in the doctor’s case and gets Head of the Board to approve her as the doctor’s employer. In reality, she tries to do everything she can to help him without being judged by society.

Elements I Enjoyed:
I so much enjoy the emotional care the Monk’s take when they investigate; both towards each other as well as towards other persons involved. They seem to experience a lot of fear as the investigation progresses and are constantly considering who to tell what and when. This makes me exited to know what happens next. I get to know the relationship between the characters while the plot develops and I feel invested in them. Descriptions of the characters being wet and cold while moving around London in the rain and fog add to the gloomy feel of the story. As does descriptions of dark and unheated rooms. It is expertly balanced out with tea breaks in cozy withdrawing rooms in front of fires, or the eating of hot stews in a warm kitchen. I like that Anne Perry creates a universe with a vast number of characters who make appearances in different stories. It’s like brief visits from old friends.

Overall Thoughts
The historical events description sets the plot at approximately1860. The story develops gradually through the first half. In the second half the plot seems to bounce around a little bit. New information comes to light and a major twist adds up to a quite surprising conclusion. I find there is a lot to enjoy in this work. Fans of Anne Perry would love this novel, and I think readers of crime fiction would too.

My rating: 4 stars / 5
(All opinions are my own)

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Starting out, I found that this story had a bit of a Cinderella vibe to it. Abigail, Abby, has a step mother who hates her. Although her biological father is still alive, that doesn’t seem to help Abby much. Her mother still manages to physically and verbally abuse her, so Abby can’t wait to get away from the family. Her betrothed lives far to the north of the country, Abby’s family is set to travel abroad and can spare no footmen, so Abby has to travel unaccompanied by males across some regions controlled by highwaymen. She only gets to take Fanny, the maid her stepmother doesn’t want in her employ. This setup is bound for disaster, and soon Abby finds herself in a life threatening situation, from which she is saved by world-weary police Captain Samuel Thatcher. Abby realizes she needs protection and persuades the Captain to help her. He agrees to deliver her safely to her betrothed in return for a hefty sum of money he will use to fund his retirement.

There are plenty of dramatic events mixed up with humor, especially in the beginning of the story. Later the drama intensifies and takes over. The plot feels more like a somewhat predictable thriller with the occasional moment of closeness between Abby and Captain Thatcher. I enjoyed the sweet situations as the relationship develops between them, however brief and somewhat casual they felt.

Main Characters
Abigail, Abby, Gilbert has suffered the loss of her mother in her earlier years. Growing up she has suffered abuse by her stepmother without her father having interfered much. She has tried to be a good daughter to no avail, and carries around a lot of grief. Apart from trying to be tough and deal with whatever comes in life, I felt her character seemed a bit one-sided. I had hoped to find descriptions of a more complex personality and connect with her feelings more. However, I enjoyed that we got a glimpse into the real Abby when she suffered feverish nightmares.

Captain Samuel Thatcher seemed the most developed character in this story and he went through the most change and development throughout. To begin with he seemed to carry a lot of baggage having been through a lot in his life. As the story progresses he goes through a positive change, although he still remains this justice conscious police man trying to make the world a safer place. As he seems so closed off and cold, he seems to have his work cut out for him developing into a person who is able to connect to a woman at all.

The maid Fanny I found was a funny supporting character who focuses on eating and taking naps. She seems to not quite understand her role as a maid silently doing as she’s told. Instead Fanny talks back and generally makes a disruptive nuisance of herself. That’s why Abby’s stepmother prefers to get rid of her.

Overall Thoughts
This is book #3 in The Bow Street Runners Trilogy. Usually I try to read trilogies as they come, but decided to read this as a standalone. As expected there were characters from the previous installments that I didn’t know. There were brief explanations as to who they were, so on the whole I thought #3 worked out quite well as a standalone. The plot, I felt, became somewhat predictable and I would have enjoyed more complex and further developed characters. I enjoyed the mention of places they travel past and the mixing in of entertaining facts about them as well as the Historical Notes at the back of the story. Fans of Michelle Griep will enjoy this as the final installment in The Bow Street Runners Trilogy.

My rating: 3 stars / 5
(All opinions are my own)

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About This Book

A Courtship of Convenience

Sophie Appersett is quite willing to marry outside of her class to ensure the survival of her family. But the darkly handsome Mr. Edward Sharpe is no run-of-the-mill London merchant. He's grim and silent. A man of little emotion--or perhaps no emotion at all. After two months of courtship, she's ready to put an end to things.

A Last Chance for Love

But severing ties with her taciturn suitor isn't as straightforward as Sophie envisioned. Her parents are outraged. And then there's Charles Darwin, Prince Albert, and that dratted gaslight. What's a girl to do except invite Mr. Sharpe to Appersett House for Christmas and give him one last chance to win her? Only this time there'll be no false formality. This time they'll get to know each other for who they really are.


Sophia Appersett, daughter of a baronet in dire financial circumstance, has no real interest in getting married. She agrees to court Edward-Ned Sharpe, a wealthy businessman Sophia’s family approve of because he has money.

The courtship
I found it funny and entertaining that Sophia and Ned’s courtship gets messed up by his reading of the Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette where he gets some very bad advice indeed. It does nothing but muddy the waters between them. Sophia doesn’t get to see Ned for who he really is at all, but somehow he gets to know her. I enjoyed following what goes on between them throughout the story. She is not exactly the delicate lady he initially thought her to be.
Being a believer in Darwin’s new ideas, she harbors some quite progressive views for a Victorian woman.

Christmas theme
Descriptions of the holiday gathering added a very nice Christmas vibe to the story, which I enjoyed a lot. I felt it was a shame really, that it was only 174 pages long. I flew through it in a couple of hours. Really enjoyable to read about the gathering of greenery when the host invited guests to go into the estate’s woods looking for Mistletoe and Holly branches to decorate the house with.

The Changing World
In this story there is a vibe similar to Downton Abbey where people were worried about the changes in society. The landed gentry’s members, like the Appersetts, really wanted things to stay the same but had to adapt to the changing world. Even though they really wanted to look down their noses at Ned and his family, they had to accept him as suitor for their daughter.

I enjoyed the references to historical facts of the time and to technical inventions like the sewing machine. Sophie spent years of her life trying to cover up the family’s difficult financial circumstances. Trying to find ways to make money stretch and have the appearance and lifestyle of a wealthy family. The way this was done, I found interesting and unusual in today’s perspective. Don’t think I have read about women of that era trying to be thrifty.

My Overall Thoughts
This is the first of Mimi Matthews’ works I have read, and I found it both entertaining and enjoyable. It had plenty of interesting elements of facts and references to what might have influenced the characters’ mindset at the time. I also found the Christmas theme well covered, adding to a great vibe throughout. All in all I would recommend A Holiday by Gaslight to fans of Mimi Matthews’ works and for readers of historical fiction in general.
(All opinions are my own)

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About The Book
When Sarah Gooding returned a valuable brooch to the elderly Dowager Countess of Densbury, she had no idea it would lead to a job as the lively woman's companion. Nor did she expect to admire the Dowager's youngest grandson so much, even though the difference in their stations means nothing will ever come of her daydreams.

Grown-up foster child Sarah Gooding once did The Dowager Countess of Densbury a huge favor finding her most prized possession, a large amethyst brooch she had lost in the snow. This resulted in securing her a position as the countess’ companion. One of the tasks of this job is accompanying the countess to the weekly dinner with her family. During the event she sits behind the piano hidden from view playing music to entertain the family. Sarah dislikes them all, save for one, Randall Everard who is The Countess’ grandson. Hidden behind the piano she gets to listen in on quite the unsavory discussion when The Earl of Denbury is trying to direct wealth towards his oldest son and heir at the expense of his mother The Dowager Countess and later also his son, Randall.

We discover early on that the Dowager Countess has a good heart, and that her grandson is her favorite. She tries to encourage him to stop working for his father’s estate, which will never be his, and start working for something of his own. Whenever he spends time with his grandmother he tries to talk to her companion, but Sarah seems meek and shy so he doesn’t know quite what to make of her. The Dowager Countess, however, encourages them to spend time together even if Sarah is of a much lower standing than Randall and any serious connection between them seems out of the question.

This story can be read as part of the Christmas Heirloom collection or, like I did, as #1.5 in the Heaven Manor series. Either way you are in for a treat. It is a quick and sweet read that will easily get you into the Christmas mood. It is recommended for fans of Kristi Ann Hunter’s other works and for readers of historical fiction in general.
My rating: 4 stars /5
(all opinions are my own)

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As a recent widower, Charles Latterly decides to take a vacation to Italy where he plans to spend 3 relaxing weeks walking and thinking. This is not exactly what happens. He is staying in a hotel at the volcanic island of Stromboli, where a group of other British people is also gathered. The innkeeper, Stefano, assures them all that the volcano will not erupt. He says it merely rumbles and sputters a bit from time to time. He is totally proved wrong.

The story focuses heavily on the relationships between the guests, although there is no explanation as to why they are visiting the island. If they are previously connected remains a mystery throughout only to be revealed at the very end.

Charles becomes friendly with the lively 14 year old girl, Candace Finbar. She stays at the hotel with her slightly old and ailing uncle, Roger Finbar. They just seem to “be there” without any explanation or view into their thoughts before taking the trip. Why Stromboli? Why this particular inn? This is also lacking for all the different guests, save for Charles himself. What seems strange is that Roger persuades Charles, a perfect stranger he has just met, to take care of Candace if something should happen to him. It’s like he expects to be dying soon and seems quite desperate to find someone to care for her. As he seems such a nice and caring man, it seems strange that he would put his nice in a vulnerable circumstance? The story doesn’t seem consider that she might not be safe.

Wealthy Isla Bailey is there with her husband Walker-Bailey. Theirs is a difficult marriage. He is unkind, insensitive and cruel to her. She is frustrated and angry about his heavy handedness, but finds some support in Colonel Bretherton, who admires her. That just makes Walker-Bailey even more angry and cruel. He is generally negative to the other guests who dislike him and spends his time walking in the area on his own.

Percival Quinn is a writer with some success. He has written a bestseller but suffers writer’s block as he is trying to write book number two. Walker-Bailey seems to be intensely jealous of him and Quinn doesn’t like Walker-Bailey much either.

Main character, Charles Latterly, takes on a bit of an observer role in this story. After the volcano has erupted and a body is found, he takes charge of leading the group to safety a few hours walk down to the coast.

The famous, rumbling volcano seems to be a character in itself contributing to the sense of danger. It represents the backdrop which drives the plot, and maybe it also adds a distraction to avoid finding out what really happens. They are too focused on staying safe to consider what happened to the victim. The story seems to be focusing on the main characters. The supporting characters of the group seem less developed.

I felt there was little explanation as to what had happened to the victim, just some brief facts.
The person suspected of the murder was sprung out on me towards the end of the story. I had not noticed a buildup of clues along the way, so it surprised me. I suspected some fishiness about the murderer, but had not foreseen exactly how it all panned out. I had not picked up on this person having a motive. It was explained briefly towards the end but the whole thing felt a bit unfulfilled.

There were very little of the Christmas theme in this story, only a few lines at the end. I have read quite a few of Anne Perry’s Christmas novels before, and she usually manages to create Victorian Christmas cheer mixed up with the crime element. Not so much this time. I realize it would be difficult to add a Christmas vibe to this plot, but I can’t help feeling a bit disappointed.

Overall the story felt a tad rushed, but I realize there are only 150 pages to do elaborations. I’m sure there would have been strict priorities as to what to emphasize and what to leave out.. Fans of Anne Perry’s work would find this an ok read.
My rating 3 stars /5
(all opinions are my own)

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