Review of “Miss Janie’s Girls” by Carolyn Brown

Brown, Carolyn. Miss Janie’s Girls. Seattle: Montlake, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-1542023047 | $12.95 USD | Women’s Fiction

Blurb

A bittersweet reunion becomes a time for looking back and starting over in a heartwarming new novel from New York Times bestselling author Carolyn Brown.

Miss Janie is at the end of a long and full life, but she has no intention of crossing that finish line until she’s found her girls…

It’s been ten years since Teresa and Kayla shook off the dust of Birthright, Texas, went their separate ways, and never looked back. Apart from their foster mom, Miss Janie, they don’t have many fond memories of their hometown. Or of each other. Still, neither can forget the kind woman who opened her home and heart to two teenagers in need.

When a private investigator—who just happens to be Miss Janie’s handsome nephew—tracks them both down and tells them Miss Janie is dying, Teresa and Kayla know deep down that they’ve got to be there for her as she had been there for them.

With Teresa and Kayla together again under the same roof, old tensions may flare, but with Miss Janie’s help, they might rediscover that home is the perfect place for new beginnings.

Review 

4 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Miss Janie’s Girls is a heartwarming book about a dying woman who wants to be reunited with her two foster daughters, who left and parted ways years ago. It was an emotional and original read that stands out, because I rarely see books that center the relationships between foster parents and children, much less any that highlight the enduring relationship between them after they are parted because of the way the system works. 

I loved getting to know Miss Janie, Teresa, and Kayla, and the intimate details of the situation that made it more heartbreaking. I was particularly moved by how Janie’s past, having been forced to give up her children she gave birth to as a teen, shattered her, and becoming a foster mom helped her to heal.

And the role that plays again in the present, as she’s suffering from cancer and Alzheimer’s, and she wants once again to connect with them…that’s beautiful. 

And given that Teresa and Kayla faced hardship both before coming to Miss Janie’s, and after leaving, I was glad to see them both finding happiness and love upon their return to Birthright, with Teresa even falling for Noah, Janie’s great-nephew, an incredibly sweet romance. 

This is a delightful book, and one I recommend to fans of heartfelt women’s fiction. 

Author Bio

Carolyn Brown is a New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and a RITA finalist with more than one hundred published books to her name. Her books include romantic women’s fiction and historical, contemporary, cowboy, and country music mass-market paperbacks. She and her husband live in the small town of Davis, Oklahoma, where everyone knows everyone else, including what they are doing and when—and they read the local newspaper on Wednesdays to see who got caught. They have three grown children and enough grandchildren and great-grandchildren to keep them young. For more information, visit http://www.carolynbrownbooks.com.

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Review of “Sisters and Secrets” by Jennifer Ryan

Ryan, Jennifer. Sisters and Secrets. New York: William Morrow, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-006294467 | $16.99 USD | 384 pages | Women’s Fiction 

Blurb

If you love Jill Shalvis and Susan Mallery, then you won’t want to miss this newest novel by New York Times  bestselling author Jennifer Ryan. 

There’s nothing more complicated than the relationship among family…

And the Silva Sisters are no exception. 

For Sierra it means returning home with her two little boys after a devastating Napa wildfire takes her home, her job, and even the last mementos of her late husband, David. Determined to start over, how can she ever reveal the truth—that her husband may have led a double life? 

To the world, Amy’s world is perfect: handsome husband, delightful children, an Instagram-worthy home. But behind this facade lies an awful truth: her marriage is rocky, her children resentful, her home on the verge of breaking up. 

Heather, impulsive, free-spirited, and single mom to an adorable little girl, lives for the moment wearing a carefree smile. But she refuses to reveal the truth about her daughter’s father, and his identity remains a mystery even to her family. 

As the Silva Sisters secrets are revealed, each realizes that there is more to their family than meets the eyes…and forgiveness may be the only way to move forward and reclaim true happiness at last.

The Silva Sisters’ Secrets is a moving novel of sisterhood, second chances, and the secrets that have the power to break or bond families—and alter destinies.

Review

4 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

I have never read Jennifer Ryan before, but I was intrigued by the premise of this book, since it involved sisters and their complex dynamic with one another. While the relationships are intricate and a bit complex at first glance, as soon as I got the gist of it, I found myself becoming invested in the complex lives of these characters and how they interact with one another. 

I really liked Sierra, the sister who is the central character of the book, and her romance with her old friend Mason, especially since her arc is her rebuilding following her husband’s death. 

I was less fond of the other sisters, especially Heather, but there was a good reason for that, with a reveal that had me feeling shocked and betrayed on Sierra’s behalf. 

In short, this story is exactly what the title says: about sisters and secrets, and I enjoyed it. I recommend this if you love stories centering on complex family ties. 

Author Bio

Jennifer Ryan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Hunted and McBrides Series, writes romantic suspense and contemporary small-town romances.

Jennifer lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and three children. When she isn’t writing a book, she’s reading one. Her obsession with both is often revealed in the state of her home, and how late dinner is to the table. When she finally leaves those fictional worlds, you’ll find her in the garden, playing in the dirt and daydreaming about people who live only in her head, until she puts them on paper.

Please visit her website at www.jennifer-ryan.com for information about upcoming releases.

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Review of “Tangled in Ivy” by Ashley Farley

Farley, Ashley. Tangled in Ivy. [Place of publication not identified]: Leisure Time Books, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-1734629408 | $23.99 USD | 274 pages | Women’s Fiction

Blurb

From the bestselling author of Sweet Tea Tuesdays comes a story of true love that spans decades.

Lillian Alexander’s father is dying of cancer. When he rambles on in a morphine-delirium, Lillian can’t ignore the feeling he’s trying to tell her something. At his funeral days later, she encounters ghosts from her past who stir long-suppressed memories from the day her mother died twenty-seven years ago. Why, if her mother’s death was an accident, does Lillian harbor guilt, as though she were somehow to blame?

When Lillian and her twin sister, Layla, learn the Stoney family fortune is gone, Lillian fights to save her ancestral home on Charleston’s prestigious East Battery. Desperate to resolve her money problems and get answers to her questions about the past, she tears her father’s study apart in search of clues. She discovers a thumb drive in a hollowed-out hardback copy of For Whom the Bell Tolls. The thumb drive, marked For Lillian in his handwriting, contains her father’s memoir. Secluded in the family’s cottage on Wadmalaw Island, she immerses herself in her father’s account of his stormy relationship with her mother. What she learns sets her on a journey of self-discovery.

Tangled in Ivy is a tale of tortured souls and southern family dysfunction.

Review

5 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

I picked up Tangled in Ivy entirely based on the premise, as I was intrigued at the prospect of a story with “southern family dysfunction.” And I was not disappointed. 

I love how it set things up with Lillian’s story of her complicated, somewhat toxic, relationship with her sister in the wake of their father’s death, then had things get deeper as dirty secrets were unveiled about the father’s relationship with their mother. The way things were foreshadowed culminating in the later revelations is perfectly done. 

And I also love that, while it does give all the answers by the end, it shows that family isn’t all about blood. In fact, one of my favorite moments was Lillian’s acknowledgment that their housekeeper Trudy was a mother figure to her in a way the woman she had grown up referring to as “mother” wasn’t. 

I really enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a heartfelt women’s fiction story about mothers and daughters, and sisters. 

Author Bio

Ashley Farley writes books about women for women. Her characters are mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives facing real-life issues. Her bestselling Sweeney Sisters series has touched the lives of many.

Ashley is a wife and mother of two young adult children. While she’s lived in Richmond, Virginia for the past 21 years, a piece of her heart remains in the salty marshes of the South Carolina Lowcountry, where she still calls home. Through the eyes of her characters, she captures the moss-draped trees, delectable cuisine, and kindhearted folk with lazy drawls that make the area so unique. For more information, visit www.ashleyfarley.com

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Review of “The Summer Deal” (Wildstone #5) by Jill Shalvis

Shalvis, Jill. The Summer Deal. New York: William Morrow, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-0062897916 | $16.99 USD | 384 pages | Women’s Fiction 

Blurb

From New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis comes a friends-to-frenemies-to-sisters story… And then add in a love story (okay, two love stories). Shake. Stir. Read on a lazy summer day at the beach.

Brynn Turner desperately wishes she had it together, but her personal life is like a ping-pong match that’s left her scared and hurt after so many attempts to get it right. In search of a place to lick her wounds and get a fresh start, she heads back home to Wildstone.

And then there’s Kinsey Davis, who after battling serious health issues her entire twenty-nine years of life, is tired of hoping for . . . well, anything. She’s fierce, tough, and pretty much the opposite of Brynn except for one thing: they’re half-sisters. Kinsey is keeping this bombshell, and a few others as well. Long time frenemies from summer camp, there’s no way she’s going to tell Brynn they’re related.

But then Brynn runs into Kinsey’s lifelong best friend, Eli, renewing a childhood crush. He’s still easy-going and funny and sexy as hell. When he gets her to agree to a summer-time deal to trust him to do right by her, no matter what, she never dreams it’ll result in finding a piece of herself she didn’t even know was missing. She could have a sister, love, and a future―if she can only learn to let go of the past.

As the long days of summer wind down, the three of them must discover if forgiveness is enough to grasp the unconditional love that’s right in front of them.

In the series 

#1 Lost and Found Sisters 

#1.5 The Good Luck Sister

#2 Rainy Day Friends

#3 The Lemon Sisters 

#4 Almost Just Friends 

Review

4 stars 

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own. 

While The Summer Deal is the fifth book in the Wildstone series, it works very well as a stand-alone, with the only identifiable overlapping feature with the previous book I read in the series being the setting of the small town of Wildstone. 

One thing I enjoyed about this book is that the characters feel real and flawed, to the point where you don’t always like them. It took me a while to warm up to Brynn, Kinsey, and Eli, but once I did, I could really relate to them and their lives. The way Brynn and Kinsey as secret half sisters go on their journey from hating each other to bonding with each other was particularly sweet, and while I didn’t know what to expect with Eli and thought the two women would have a bit more melodrama where he was concerned, I was pleasantly surprised at the direction it took. 

This is a great read about family being about more than blood ties. I recommend it to anyone who likes sweet contemporaries flawed, yet endearing characters. 

Author Bio

Multiple New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is … mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning heartwarming and full of humor novels wherever books are sold and visit her website for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures. Her most recent book, Almost Just Friends, was just published last month and her next book, The Summer Deal, comes out in June.

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Review of “Chaos Reigning” (Consortium Rebellion #3) by Jessie Mihalik

Mihalik, Jessie. Chaos Reigning. New York: Harper Voyager, 2020. 

ISBN-13; 978-0062802422 | $16.99 USD | 416 pages | Science Fiction—Space Opera

Blurb

Interplanetary intrigue and romance combine in this electrifying finale to the Consortium Rebellion series.

As the youngest member of her High House, Catarina von Hasenberg is used to being underestimated, but her youth and flighty, bubbly personality mask a clever mind and stubborn determination. Her enemies, blind to her true strength, do not suspect that Cat is a spy—which makes her the perfect candidate to go undercover at a rival House’s summer retreat to gather intelligence on their recent treachery.

Cat’s overprotective older sister reluctantly agrees, but on one condition: Cat cannot go alone. Alexander Sterling, a quiet, gorgeous bodyguard, will accompany her, posing as her lover. After Cat tries, and fails, to ditch Alex, she grudgingly agrees, confident in her ability to manage him. After all, she’s never found a person she can’t manipulate.

But Alex proves more difficult—and more desirable—than Cat anticipated. When she’s attacked and nearly killed, she and Alex are forced to work together to figure out how deep the treason goes. With rumors of widespread assaults on Serenity raging, communications down, and the rest of her family trapped off-planet, Catarina must persuade Alex to return to Earth to expose the truth and finish this deadly battle once and for all.

But Cat can’t explain why she’s the perfect person to infiltrate hostile territory without revealing secrets she’d rather keep buried. . . .

In the series

#1 Polaris Rising 

#2 Aurora Blazing

Review

4 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

I enjoyed the first two Consortium Rebellion books for what they were, but Chaos Reigning is probably my favorite. I love characters who, despite being underestimated, come to surprise you by being super competent, and that’s Cat to a tee. I like that there’s also the factor of her relationship with her family here, something I wanted to be fleshed out more prior, and how they don’t expect much of her. 

Alex also plays a role in my enjoyment, being a sweet, yet still protective love interest. However, as with the previous books, the romance isn’t as much of a focus, and I feel like this one had the least emphasis on that aspect. However, the bits we get still made their relationship my favorite of the series. 

I continue to enjoy the intricate space-opera politics of this world, especially as far as each character plays their role in it trying to improve things in the Consortium for both themselves and the family, as well as for the greater good. While this series is over, I would not be opposed to exploring more of the Consortium in the future, if Mihalik was interested in writing more.

This is a solid conclusion to a debut sci-fi trilogy, and one I recommend to fans of the series, as well as anyone who likes sci-fi with light romantic elements. 

Author Bio

Jessie Mihalik is the author of the first two books in the Consortium Rebellion trilogy, Polaris Rising and Aurora Blazing. A software engineer by trade, she has a degree in Computer Science and a love of all things geeky. Jessie now writes full-time from her home in Central Texas, and when not writing, can be found playing co-op videogames with her husband, trying out new board games, hiking, or reading.

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Review of “He’s Come Undone: A Romance Anthology” by Adriana Herrera , Emma Barry, Olivia Dade , Ruby Lang, and Cat Sebastian

Barry, Emma, et.  al. He’s Come Undone. [Place of publication not identified]: Self published, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-1945836091 | $2.99 USD | Romance

Blurbs

For him, control is everything…until it shatters, and now he’s come undone.

“Appassionata” by Emma Barry
Piano technician Brennan Connelly lives to control details: the tension on a piano string or the compression of hammer felt. But he’s never faced demands like those heaped on him by Kristy Kwong, the diva who’s haunted his dreams for two decades. Kristy’s got her own secrets–the debilitating stage fright that’s kept her from performing publicly for years to start–and this concert is the last chance to save her career. But can he locate her lost passion without losing his precious control?

“Unraveled” by Olivia Dade
Math teacher Simon Burnham–cool, calm, controlled–can’t abide problems with no good solution. Which makes his current work assignment, mentoring art teacher Poppy Wick, nothing short of torture. She’s warm but sharp. Chaotic but meticulous. Simultaneously the most frustrating and most alluring woman he’s ever known. And in her free time, she makes murder dioramas. Murder dioramas, for heaven’s sake. But the more tightly wound a man is, the faster he unravels–and despite his best efforts, he soon finds himself attempting to solve three separate mysteries: a murder in miniature, the unexplained disappearance of a colleague…and the unexpected theft of his cold, cold heart.

“Caught Looking” by Adriana Herrera
When best friends Yariel and Hatuey’s gaming night turns into an unexpected and intense hook up, Hatuey can’t wait to do it again. Yariel is less certain–the major leaguer might seem to all the world like he has a heart of stone, but he’s been carrying a torch for his friend for years, and worries this will ruin the most important relationship in his life. That means Hatuey has to do all the work, and he’s planning to give it all he’s got. Yariel may be the one hitting home runs on the field…but Hatuey is playing a game of seduction, and he knows exactly how to make Yariel crumble.

“Yes, And…” by Ruby Lang
When rheumatologist Darren Zhang accidentally sits in on acting teacher Joan Lacy’s improv class, he’s unprepared for the attraction that hits him–and he’s a man who likes to be prepared. Joan is caring for her ailing mother and barely has time to keep up her art, let alone date. But as the pair play out an unlikely relationship during stolen moments, they both find themselves wanting to say yes, and… much more.

“Tommy Cabot Was Here” by Cat Sebastian
Massachusetts, 1959: Some people might accuse mathematician Everett Sloane of being stuffy, but really he just prefers things a certain way: predictable, quiet, and far away from Tommy Cabot–his former best friend, chaos incarnate, and the man who broke his heart. The youngest son of a prominent political family, Tommy threw away his future by coming out to his powerful brothers. When he runs into Everett, who fifteen years ago walked away from Tommy without an explanation or a backward glance, his old friend’s chilliness is just another reminder of how bad a mess Tommy has made of his life. When Everett realizes that his polite formality is hurting Tommy, he needs to decide whether he can unbend enough to let Tommy get close but without letting himself get hurt the way he was all those years ago. 

Review

I received an ARC from the authors in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

He’s Come Undone is truly an epic romance anthology, featuring works from five up-and-coming romance authors, two of whom I’ve read and loved numerous books from, and the other three being authors I was interested in picking up. While “opposites attract” is hard to pull off in my opinion, especially when it’s an uptight character meeting a more free spirited one and falling apart, all of the takes are great romances, even if there are some minor flaws. 

“Appassionata” by Emma Barry (m/f)

5 stars

This story is a moving tribute to the piano instructors and the art of music itself. I loved both of the leads, but I was particularly struck by the way Kristy’s anxiety and stage fright were conveyed, as it’s something I Sea with in my daily life, although in a different capacity. 

“Unraveled” by Olivia Dade (m/f)

4 stars

It’s a perfect meeting of opposites when the calm, logical math teacher ends up mentoring the new art teacher, the chaotic Poppy Wick. I liked seeing how she—and her murder dioramas (fun!)—challenged him, and led him down the path to his, well, unraveling. 

“Caught Looking” by Adriana Herrera (m/m)

5 stars

This one was steamy in all the right ways! I love a good friends to lovers, and I adored seeing Yariel and Hatuey navigate their “beyond-friendship” feelings for one

 another. And it’s an extension of the Dreamers series, which is always a good thing in my book. 

“Yes, And…” by Ruby Lang (m/f)

4 stars

This is a beautiful portrayal of a woman on the verge of breakdown while caring for a relative, and finding the perfect partner to lean on in a handsome doctor. I definitely feel like there was room for more development of the issues at play here into a larger story, but it still ended up being a sweet read. 

“Tommy Cabot Was Here” by Cat Sebastian (m/m)

5 stars 

This one has it all in a beautiful, emotional package. I loved seeing both Tommy and Everett navigating their feelings for one another in the midst of other pressures from family and society. The 1950s setting is richly drawn, depicting the homophobia of the time, while also giving a sense of hope with the characters’ story. 

In general, this is a superb anthology from five brilliant authors. If you love romance, especially what they’ve termed “starchy” heroes, then check out this anthology. 

Author Bios

Adriana Herrera was born and raised in the Caribbean, but for the last 15 years has let her job (and her spouse) take her all over the world. She loves writing stories about people who look and sound like her people, getting unapologetic happy endings.

Her debut novel, American Dreamer, has been featured on Entertainment Weekly, NPR, the TODAY Show on NBC and was selected as one ALA Booklist’s Top Ten Debut Romances of 2019.

When she’s not dreaming up love stories, planning logistically complex vacations with her family or hunting for discount Broadway tickets, she’s a social worker in New York City, working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Emma Barry is a novelist, full-time mama, recovering academic, and former political staffer. When she’s not reading or writing, she loves her twins’ hugs, her husband’s cooking, her cat’s whiskers, her dog’s tail, and Earl Grey tea.

Olivia Dade grew up an undeniable nerd, prone to ignoring the world around her as she read any book she could find. Her favorites, though, were always, always romances. As an adult, she earned an M.A. in American history and worked in a variety of jobs that required the donning of actual pants: Colonial Williamsburg interpreter, high school teacher, academic tutor, and (of course) librarian. Now, however, she has finally achieved her lifelong goal of wearing pajamas all day as a hermit-like writer and enthusiastic hag. She currently lives outside Stockholm with her patient Swedish husband, their whip-smart daughter, and the family’s ever-burgeoning collection of books.

Ruby Lang is pint-sized, prim, and bespectacled. Her alter ego, essayist Mindy Hung, has written for The New York Times, The Toast, and Salon, among others. She enjoys running (slowly), reading (quickly), and ice cream (at any speed). She lives in New York with a small child and a medium-sized husband.

Cat writes steamy, upbeat historical romances. They usually take place in the Regency, generally have at least one LGBTQ+ main character, and always have happy endings.

Before writing, Cat was a lawyer and a teacher. She enjoys crossword puzzles, geeking out over birds, gardening badly, and–of course–reading. In high school, her parents went away for a week, and instead of throwing raucous parties, Cat read Middlemarch. Even worse, Cat remembers little of a trip through Europe because she was busy reading Mansfield Park. Her proudest moment was when she realized her kids were shaping up to be hopeless bookworms too. Currently, her favorite genres are romance, mystery and fantasy.

Cat lives with her husband, three kids, and dog in an improbably small house. After growing up in the northeast, she now lives in a part of the south where every body of water seems to contain alligators or sharks, and every restaurant serves biscuits and gravy. She likes the biscuits, but not so much the alligators.

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Review of “The Other Bennet Sister” by Janice Hadlow

Hadlow, Janice. The Other Bennet Sister. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2020.

eBook | $14.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1250129437 | 480 pages | Historical Fiction

Blurb

Mary, the bookish ugly duckling of Pride and Prejudice’s five Bennet sisters, emerges from the shadows and transforms into a desired woman with choices of her own.

What if Mary Bennet’s life took a different path from that laid out for her in Pride and Prejudice? What if the frustrated intellectual of the Bennet family, the marginalized middle daughter, the plain girl who takes refuge in her books, eventually found the fulfillment enjoyed by her prettier, more confident sisters? This is the plot of The Other Bennet Sister, a debut novel with exactly the affection and authority to satisfy Austen fans.

Ultimately, Mary’s journey is like that taken by every Austen heroine. She learns that she can only expect joy when she has accepted who she really is. She must throw off the false expectations and wrong ideas that have combined to obscure her true nature and prevented her from what makes her happy. Only when she undergoes this evolution does she have a chance at finding fulfillment; only then does she have the clarity to recognize her partner when he presents himself—and only at that moment is she genuinely worthy of love.

Mary’s destiny diverges from that of her sisters. It does not involve broad acres or landed gentry. But it does include a man; and, as in all Austen novels, Mary must decide whether he is the truly the one for her. In The Other Bennet Sister, Mary is a fully rounded character—complex, conflicted, and often uncertain; but also vulnerable, supremely sympathetic, and ultimately the protagonist of an uncommonly satisfying debut novel.

Review

3 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

I’ve always felt some kinship with Mary Bennet as the sister with the least prospects in Pride and Prejudice, and have always found myself disappointed with the overall execution of the stories, even though they do interesting things with her character. The Other Bennet Sister, sadly, was another such disappointment.

Mary’s character is still probably the best part of the book. I enjoyed seeing the first part of P&P from her perspective to start off, providing context to the situation the Bennet family’s financial uncertainty. I also like how, even though Hadlow is yet another author who doesn’t fully deliver on it, she entertains the idea that Mary saw Mr. Collins as a suitable match in a practical sense, as well as their sharing similar interests, which makes a good jumping-off point for her to compare to as she begins to come into her own and actually experience love.

But this book was so long, and it felt tedious at times. I appreciate it objectively from an artistic standpoint, as it highlights the journey Mary goes on perfectly, but there was so much of it that was so boring, I ended up skimming in hopes of getting it over with. And I don’t know that I fully felt engrossed by Hadlow’s style either, as it failed to fully engross me.

This was kind of just ok, but I think this of one of the better books about Mary Bennet I’ve read. I think if you love Austen, it’;s wotth a try, to see if you love it more than I do.

Author Bio

Janice Hadlow worked at the BBC for more than two decades, an for ten of those years she ran BBC Two and BBC Four, two of the broadcaster’s major television channels. She was educated at Swanley School in Kent and graduated with a first-class degree in history from King’s College London. She is the author of A Royal Experiment, a biography of Great Britain’s King George III. She currently lives in Edinburgh. The Other Bennet Sister is her first novel.

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Review of “Music from Another World” by Robin Talley

Talley, Robin. Music from Another World. Toronto, Ontario: Inkyard Press, 2020.

eBook | $9.99 USD | ISBN-13:978-1488056604 | 381 pages | YA Historical Fiction

5 stars

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

I read my first Robin Talley book last year, and have been wanting to read another, but have been unsure of where to go from there. However, Music from Another World sounded interesting, and like the other Talley book I read, explored a piece of LGBTQ+ history I didn’t know much about, due to it not being taught in school.

Talley perfectly recreates the 1970s, a world where adults were still trying to hold onto conservative ideas, including the right to keep LGBTQ+ people from pursuing their livelihood and trying to reform their teens and “keep them from sin.” And she also manages to show this journey through two dynamic protagonists who are at different places in their journey of self-discovery: L.A. teen Tammy, closeted and hiding her sexuality from her uber-Christian family, and Sharon, who has a gay brother and supports him, but doesn’t think at the beginning to question her own sexuality.

It was wonderful to see these two convey their thoughts about themselves, their families, each other, and the political climate, both in diary entries and letters to each other. While this format can be hit-or-miss, it allowed the characters’ vulnerabilities to be conveyed in a different way, and one I really appreciated, both when the girls were together and wanted to write to each other anyway, and apart, and this book runs the full gamut of emotions, from the funny as they banter with each other, to the heartrending, when things seem bleak.

This a wonderful book about teens coming of age and finding themselves, resisting parental authority for the greater good in the process, providing hope for many queer people who may be dealing with similar issues right now. I recommend this to anyone with whom this story might resonate, teen or adult. I would also recommend it to other allies who are interested in reading about an important moment in LGBTQ+ history.

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Review of “Lady Jayne Disappears” by Joanna Davidson Politano

Politano, Joanna Davidson. Lady Jayne Disappears. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2017.

eBook | $10.49 USD | 978-1493411108 | 339 pages | Historical Fiction/Christian Fiction

5 stars

Lady Jayne Disappears has been on my radar since its release, although I was never able to read it until now. It seemed to promise everything that I love: romance, mystery, and a bit of history. And given it’s also Politano’s debut, it’s wonderful, evoking a classic flair that feels reminiscent of real life Victorian novels, like Dickens or the Brontes.

Politano masterfully creates a Gothic atmosphere with her prose, with mysterious characters, all of whom are suspects in the murder of Aurelie’s father, great sense of place, and a plot that kept me on my toes with the twists and turns, as the many questions mount, culminating in well foreshadowed, but incredibly satisfying, revelations at the end.

While Gothic stories frequently turn me off due to their inept heroines, I absolutely loved Aurelie. She’s incredibly kind, but not saintlike to the point of irritation. And as an aspiring writer myself, I could empathize at various points with her in that way, as well as appreciating the care she took with words in crafting her stories.

This a great book displaying the writing talents of a great up-and-coming author. I recommend this to anyone who loves an atmospheric historical mystery.

Buy it here: https://amzn.to/2SotaeI

Review of “Cartier’s Hope” by M.J. Rose

Rose, M.J. Cartier’s Hope. New York: Atria Books, 2020.

Hardcover | $27.00 USD | ISBN-13 : 978-1501173639 | 322 pages | Historical Fiction

4 stars

While I’ve read a few M.J. Rose books by now, I still didn’t know much about what to expect with Cartier’s Hope, other than the obvious name recognition. And that’s a good thing, because the book ended up being not only about a legendary and mysterious jewel — and its relationship to Cartier — but about the wider landscape of the early twentieth century as well.

Vera’s story both intrigued and moved me, especially as she continued to fight to be her own person in control of her own life, in spite of the opposition placed in her way by both family and society. At one point, she is placed in an unfortunate situation regarding her reproductive rights, and I admired not only her courage throughout the ordeal, but how she used this personal experience to further investigate the issue and the current services available in a time when abortion was still illegal.

And while I, like most people I imagine, know the name Cartier, I knew nothing about their history, including that it was a family business. I enjoyed getting some insight into Pierre Cartier and his business dealings, even if some of it was fictionalized for dramatic effect.

The mystery of the Hope Diamond is also compelling, as it was another topic I knew about purely by name. The jewel has such a rich and complex history, and seeing that play into the mystery element is super fun.

This is a delightful book that has a little bit of everything: history, mystery, romance. I recommend it to fans of historical fiction.

Buy it here: https://amzn.to/2UIYm9R