Friday, November 18, 2022

Book Review and Giveaway - Death on a Deadline (A Homefront News Mystery) by Joyce St. Anthony

My Review

Death on a Deadline is the second book in the Homefront News Mystery series.  Irene Ingram is working as editor of her small town newspaper during World War II.  There is a town fair and war bond drive, and a B-list actor who shows up for the bond drive ends up murdered.  Irene works to solve the mystery.

I wanted to read this mystery because I read the first book in this series and absolutely loved it.  I enjoyed the WWII home front setting of both books, and found the little 1940's details charming and fascinating.  

Irene is a talented amateur detective, with strong observational skills from her work as a journalist.  I enjoyed seeing her mystery solving process.

I also like her family and friends, and the small town of Progress (which is practically another character in the book!).

I recommended Death on a Deadline and this series to a friend just before I started this review, and I will continue recommending this series -- especially to anyone who enjoys historical mysteries and a 1940's home front setting.

Book Synopsis 

Editor-in-chief Irene Ingram pencils in her newest mystery in Joyce St. Anthony’s second captivating Homefront News mystery, perfect for fans of Anne Perry and Rhys Bowen.

As World War II rages in Europe and the Pacific, the small town of Progress is doing its part for the soldiers in the field with a war bond drive at the annual county fair. Town gossip Ava Dempsey rumors that Clark Gable will be among the participating stars. Instead of Gable, the headliner is Freddie Harrison, a B-movie star. When Freddie turns up dead in the dunk tank, Irene Ingram, editor-in-chief of The Progress Herald, starts chasing the real headline.

There are plenty of suspects and little evidence. Ava’s sister Angel, who was married to the dead actor, is the most obvious. The couple had argued about his affair with the young starlet Belinda Fox, and Angel was the last person to see Freddie alive.

Irene discovers there’s more than one person who might have wanted Freddie dead. As Irene draws on her well-honed reporter’s instincts to find the killer—nothing is what it seems in Progress, and now her own deadline could be right around the corner.


Author Bio

Joyce St. Anthony was a police secretary for ten years and more than once envisioned the demise of certain co-workers, but settled on writing as a way to keep herself out of jail. In addition to the Homefront News Mysteries, she is the author of the Brewing Trouble Mysteries and the upcoming Cider House Mysteries written under her own name, Joyce Tremel. She lives in the beautiful Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania with her husband.

Author Links –

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Friday, November 11, 2022

Book Review - Beneath His Silence by Hannah Linder

My Review

Ella Pemberton travels to Wyckhorn Manor and presents herself as a governess so she can be part of the household and find out what happened to her beloved sister, who was married to Henry, Lord Sedgewick before she died mysteriously.

I wanted to read this novel because the setting and gothic overtones intrigued me.  This was a wonderfully gothic book with a manor that becomes almost a character in the story:

Ella tugged the ribbons loose until the bonnet shifted to her back. She wasn’t certain what she had hoped to find, or what measure of comfort she might have gained from the mere sight of Wyckhorn Manor. But whatever she had longed for, she was rewarded with nothing. The sight only emptied her. Far in the distance , high upon the cliffside, the manor faced the open sea. It was tall and lofty, a likeness of Lord Sedgewick himself. A strange and rugged beauty, a pinnacle of power— yet dark and forlorn, as if death had made a home in both the house and the man"  (eBook location 325)

Ella becomes attached immediately to Peter, Lord Sedgewick's young son.  She finds herself suspicious of Henry (Lord Sedgewick) but also drawn to him. 

The mysteries of the house make her curious to learn more: a painting of a woman with a cold and distant expression, a bedroom with a presence that seems to move over the bedclothes as she watches.

Beneath His Silence is so well written, rich with period detail and layered characterizations.  It is surprising to me that this is a debut novel!  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to other fans of historical fiction, especially for anyone who enjoys a gothic setting with some suspense.  I look forward to future novels by Hannah Linder.

Book Synopsis

Will Seeking Justice Lead to Her Own Demise?
A Gothic-Style Regency Romance from a Promising Young Author
Second daughter of a baron—and a little on the mischievous side—Ella Pemberton is no governess. But the pretense is a necessity if she ever wishes to get inside of Wyckhorn Manor and attain the truth. Exposing the man who killed her sister is all that matters.
Lord Sedgewick knows there’s blood on his hands. Lies have been conceived, then more lies, but the price of truth would be too great. All he has left now is his son—and his hatred. Yet as the charming governess invades his home, his safe cocoon of bitterness begins to tear away.
Could Ella, despite the lingering questions of his guilt, fall in love with such a man? Or is she falling prey to him—just as her dead sister?

Author Bio

Hannah Linder resides in the beautiful mountains of central West Virginia. Represented by Books & Such, she writes Regency romantic suspense novels. She is a double 2021 Selah Award winner, a 2022 Selah Award finalist, and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Hannah is a Graphic Design Associates Degree graduate who specializes in professional book cover design. She designs for both traditional publishing houses and individual authors, including New York Times, USA Today, and international bestsellers. She is also a local photographer and a self-portrait photographer. When Hannah is not writing, she enjoys playing her instruments--piano, guitar, and ukulele--songwriting, painting still life, walking in the rain, and sitting on the front porch of her 1800s farmhouse.


Friday, November 4, 2022

Book Review and Giveaway - A Book Club to Die For (A Beloved Bookroom) by Dorothy St. James

My Review

Trudell (Tru) Beckett is invited to speak at a local book club, only to find that the group's star member has been murdered in the kitchen. The book club has been hosted by the mother of Tru's boyfriend, and she is immediately under suspicion.  Tru goes to work to find the killer.

I wanted to read A Book Club to Die For because I have read and enjoyed the other books in this series. They take place at a small South Carolina library that is all digital -- no print edition books at all. As a result, Tru has made a secret book room in the library basement, where patrons can check out print editions of beloved old books.

This was once again a fun read. I like the unconventional library setting and of course the secret book room!  And Dewey, Tru's kitty, is always a fun addition to the book.

Tru does a great job of solving a puzzling murder case, inspired as always by her love of mystery books.  I enjoy Tru as an amateur detective.  I also like the Tru and Jace storyline.

I recommend A Book Club to Die For and the Beloved Bookroom series for fans of cozy mysteries - and especially for anyone who enjoys a library setting.

Book Synopsis

When a member of an exclusive book club is checked out, spunky librarian Trudell Becket must sort fact from fiction to solve the murder. 

The Cypress Arete Society is one of the town’s oldest and most exclusive clubs. When assistant librarian Trudell Becket is invited to speak to the group about the library, its modernization, and her efforts to bring printed books to the reading public, her friend Flossie invites herself along. Flossie has been on the book club’s waiting list for five years, and she’s determined to find out why she’s never received an invitation to join. 

But not long after Tru and Flossie arrive for the meeting, they’re shocked to find the club’s president, Rebecca White, dead in the kitchen. Rebecca was a former TV actress and local celebrity, but was not known for being patient or pleasant. She’d been particularly unkind to the book club’s host for the evening, who also happens to be the mother of Detective Jace Bailey, Tru’s boyfriend. And Rebecca had made it clear that she didn’t think Flossie was book club material. 

With her boyfriend and one of her best friends wrapped up in a murder, Tru has to work fast to figure out who cut Rebecca’s story short before the killer takes another victim out of circulation….

Author Bio

Dorothy St. James is a former Folly Beach beach bum. She now lives in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, with her family, slightly (OK, terribly) needy dogs, and the friendliest cat you’ll ever meet. Author of a dozen novels, Dorothy enjoys writing both cozy mysteries and romance.

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Friday, October 28, 2022

Book Review - Godmersham Park by Gill Hornby

My Review

Godmersham Park is a historical novel set in the early 1800's. It tells the story of Anne Sharp, a governess who went to work for the Austen family (Jane Austen's nieces and nephews) and became close to Jane Austen.

I wanted to read this novel because I love Jane Austen's books.  I had not heard of Anne Sharp before, and was fascinated to learn that she was a real person and this book is inspired by fact.

Anne Sharp is introduced as a woman who is suddenly in reduced financial circumstances and found herself seeking governess work.  She traveled from London to the countryside, to Godmersham Park, a beautiful estate. The estate is owned by Edward Austen (brother of Jane Austen) and his wife Elizabeth. They have a large family, and Anne is put in charge of the education of their eldest daughter, Fanny.

Anne struggles with her place in this new life - not part of the family or society, but also not a servant.  She is somewhere between, and that is an uncomfortable place. She has a bright, lively mind and loves to read and write (plays).  She also has frail health, with frequent, debilitating headaches.

As Anne settles in, growing attached to her young charge Fanny, her life changes when she meets two more Austens.  Henry is the charming young brother of the family. He has an immediate spark with Anne, but his attentions are unwanted because she feels they will damage her position with the family.  She eventually (later in the book) meets Jane Austen, and they become immediate friends.  Her attachment to both Henry and Jane effect her life - and her position as governess.

The story started a bit slowly for me but as Anne settled in at Godmersham Park, I found myself reading more quickly because I was eager to see what would happen next.  It became even more interesting as Henry, and especially as Jane, were introduced. 

I loved the depiction of Jane Austen in this book - bright and sensitive, but also lively and full of good humor. The scenes between Jane and Anne were the highlight of the novel for me.

Godmersham Park was a fascinating read, and I recommend it highly for fans of historical fiction -- and especially for anyone interested in the life of Jane Austen.

Book Synopsis

A richly imagined novel inspired by the true story of Anne Sharp, a governess who became very close with Jane Austen and her family by the #1 International bestselling-author of Miss Austen.

On January 21, 1804, Anne Sharpe arrives at Godmersham Park in Kent to take up the position of governess. At thirty-one years old, she has no previous experience of either teaching or fine country houses. Her mother has died, and she has nowhere else to go. Anne is left with no choice. For her new charge—twelve-year-old Fanny Austen—Anne's arrival is all novelty and excitement.

The governess role is a uniquely awkward one. Anne is neither one of the servants, nor one of the family, and to balance a position between the "upstairs" and "downstairs" members of the household is a diplomatic chess game. One wrong move may result in instant dismissal. Anne knows that she must never let down her guard.

When Mr. Edward Austen's family comes to stay, Anne forms an immediate attachment to Jane. They write plays together and enjoy long discussions. However, in the process, Anne reveals herself as not merely pretty, charming, and competent; she is clever too. Even her sleepy, complacent, mistress can hardly fail to notice.

Meanwhile Jane's brother, Henry, begins to take an unusually strong interest in the lovely young governess. And from now on, Anne's days at Godmersham Park are numbered.



Author Bio

Gill Hornby is the author of the novels Miss Austen, The Hive, and All Together Now, as well as The Story of Jane Austen, a biography of Austen for young readers. She lives in Kintbury, England, with her husband and their four children. 



Friday, October 21, 2022

Book Review and Giveaway - The Belle of Belgrave Square by Mimi Matthews

My Review

The Belle of Belgrave Square is set in 1862 England. Julia Wychwood is considered to be nearing spinsterhood at 23 and unmarried.  Captain Jasper Blunt is seeking a wife with a fortune to help restore his ramshackle estate and take care of his three children.  He is magnetic but brooding, with a dangerous reputation. Julia and Jasper meet and sparks fly. Her father, a controlling invalid, intervenes. Julia decides to take matters into her own hands and make her own decisions.  Then the adventure truly begins, with a mysterious estate, a locked room in a tower, and mysteries and secrets abounding!

I wanted to read this novel because I have loved all the Mimi Matthews books I've read. I love her amazing attention to period detail, down to the language of the storytelling. (It often requires looking up some arcane older words - but I love that!)

I am glad that I finished this novel today -- because it was taking up all my waking hours! I could not put it down. I stayed up late reading, I read every time I had a break in the day ... it is such a wonderfully engrossing story.

There is a lot of Beauty and the Beast in this novel. Julia is a renowed beauty and Jasper is brooding, with a scar across his mouth from a battle in the Crimean War. Their relationship is initially a marriage of convenience, but their love story unfolds slowly after that, as Jasper courts Julia and secrets are revealed in surprising ways.  In the Author's Notes, Mimi Matthews also references inspiration from The Law and the Lady (Wilkie Collins) and The Blue Castle (Lucy Maud Montgomery, so I now want to read those novels too.

I loved the mysterious setting of this novel;  Goldfinch Hall is almost another character in the book. I also loved the mystery storyline that is intertwined with the romance.

And the romance! Jasper is the most swoonworthy romantic lead I've enountered in ages. I absolutely loved the love story in this book.

This is a novel for true book lovers -- there is so much about a love of reading (considered dangerous for young ladies in this time period), the writing process, and a fabulous old library.

I have already started recommending The Belle of Belgrave Square to my friends. It's sure to be high on my top 10 list this year, and it is a must read for fans of historical fiction -- especially for anyone who loves Victorian settings.  Five stars - highest rating from me.

Book Synopsis

A London heiress rides out to the wilds of the English countryside to honor a marriage of convenience with a mysterious and reclusive stranger.

Tall, dark, and dour, the notorious Captain Jasper Blunt was once hailed a military hero, but tales abound of his bastard children and his haunted estate in Yorkshire. What he requires now is a rich wife to ornament his isolated ruin, and he has his sights set on the enchanting Julia Wychwood.

For Julia, an incurable romantic cursed with a crippling social anxiety, navigating a London ballroom is absolute torture. The only time Julia feels any degree of confidence is when she’s on her horse. Unfortunately, a young lady can’t spend the whole of her life in the saddle, so Julia makes an impetuous decision to take her future by the reins—she proposes to Captain Blunt.

In exchange for her dowry and her hand, Jasper must promise to grant her freedom to do as she pleases. To ride—and to read—as much as she likes without masculine interference. He readily agrees to her conditions, with one provision of his own: Julia is forbidden from going into the tower rooms of his estate and snooping around his affairs. But the more she learns of the beastly former hero, the more intrigued she becomes… 


Author Bio

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, and Kirkus, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a retired Andalusian dressage horse, a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats.


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