Saturday, May 18, 2019

Book Spotlight and Pre-Order Giveaway - Southern Sass and Killer Cravings (Marygene Brown Mysteries) by Kate Young

Book Synopsis
Life has always been sweet on Georgia’s Peach Cove Island, but a case of murder has Marygene Brown down in the pits . . .

For generations, the women of the Brown family on Peach Cove Island have been known for their Southern sass and sweet homemade desserts at their beloved Peach Diner. Since their mother’s passing two years ago, Marygene has been stuck in Atlanta while her sister Jena Lynn has been running the family business. Now Marygene has left her husband and returned to her hometown, where she can almost feel Mama’s presence.

But all is not peachy back home. Marygene has barely tied on an apron when a diner regular drops dead at the counter. When it turns out the old man’s been poisoned, Jena Lynn is led away in handcuffs and the family eatery is closed. Now, to save her sister and the diner, Marygene must find the real killer. With some startling assistance from her Mama’s spirit, Marygene will be serving up a special order of just desserts . . .

Includes Seven Recipes from Marygene’s Kitchen!

Author Bio

Kate Young writes humorous southern mystery novels. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Guppy Chapter. Kate lives in a small town in Georgia with her husband, three kids, and Shih Tzu. When she is not writing her own books, she’s reading or cooking.

Author Links 

Website -
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GoodReads –
BookBub –


Purchase Links — Amazon  B&N  Kobo Indie Bound  ibooks  BAM 



A PRE-ORDER CONTEST with fabulous prizes! A Coach Bag with matching wristlet and $120 in gift cards plus autographed copies of the book!

* Grand Prize Winner receives a gorgeous Coach Avenue Tote and Coach wristlet pictured below (value $450) and a $100 gift card to either Amazon or B&N.

​​* 2 Runners up will receive a $10 gift card to either Amazon or B&N and an autographed paperback copy of  Southern Sass and Killer Cravings.


Friday, May 17, 2019

Dear Abby - Silly Things People Say

Dear Friends,

I'm so glad to be back!  I've been eager to return and visit with you.  I kept thinking of things I wanted to tell you, but I have to depend on my Momma to help me post here.  Unfortunately, she kept saying she had too much on her plate.  I don't understand that at all -- I don't even see a plate (and believe me, I looked!).   We made a deal that for right now I will post every few weeks but I will post more regularly in Fall.   It will be nice to have a lighter blogging schedule for summer.  More time to nap and enjoy the sunshine!

I'll share a couple of new pictures with you.   I am waving in this picture.  Momma says it looks like I am smiling a bit too.  I actually do smile when I am happy.

Here is another recent picture -- this was taken on Easter.  I had company and lots of excitement, and I spent a lot of time looking hopefully for treats.

That makes me think of something I have been wanting to mention -- people say some silly things!    For instance:

"Don't lick my nostrils."   I don't understand this at all.  I can lick a doggie friend anytime I like.   People have some silly rules.

(This one happens sometimes when it is time to wake up in the morning.)  "Don't stand on my kidneys."  Another one that makes no sense to me.   It's very comfortable to stand on a sleeping person.

"Please don't lick the floor."   But the floor smells so interesting!   I have to explore it. 

"You don't need another treat."   What?!   This is beyond ridiculous.  Of course I do.  I need ALL the treats.

Can you think of any other silly things that people say to dogs?  (Please feel free to ask your own pets if you need ideas.)   I would love to hear from you in the comments, below.

I am so glad to be back in touch, and look forward to talking more here.


Abby xoxoxo 

Book Review and Giveaway - Gold Digger by Rebecca Rosenberg

Book Synopsis
One look at Baby Doe and you know she was meant to be a legend! She was just twenty years old when she came to Colorado to work a gold mine with her new husband. Little did she expect that she’d be abandoned and pregnant and left to manage the gold mine alone. But that didn’t stop her!

She moved to Leadville and fell in love with a married prospector, twice her age. Horace Tabor struck the biggest silver vein in history, divorced his wife and married Baby Doe. Though his new wife was known for her beauty, her fashion, and even her philanthropy, she was never welcomed in polite society.

Discover how the Tabors navigated the worlds of wealth, power, politics, and scandal in the wild days of western mining.


Amazon | Barnes and Noble


My Review

Gold Digger tells the story of Lizzie "Baby" Doe, who travels to Colorado with her husband Harvey because he wants to try his hand at gold mining.  Life is far different than either of them expects, and her husband leaves Baby Doe when she is pregnant and struggling to make a living on her own.  She meets the charming Horace Tabor, a wealthy man who is involved in mining and eventually politics as well.  Unfortunately, he is married.   They fall in love and life changes once again for Baby Doe.


I wanted to read this book because I was interested in the the western frontier and the California Gold Rush as a young girl.  I had never read about gold prospecting in Colorado, and both the subject matter and time period really interested me.


This was what I would call a rollicking read.  It is really fun and lively, and would make a great movie.  I have been trying to cast the movie in my head and have regretfully decided that Sam Elliott is a bit too old to play Horace Tabor.  Perhaps Dennis Quaid would be good in that role.  I am still thinking about who could play Baby Doe.


Baby Doe's fortunes go from rags to riches and back to rags -- it is a real roller coaster ride.  There is another book coming up as a sequel, Silver Dollar, and I already look forward to reading it as well.


The author evokes the 1870's to 1890's with period details.  I had no idea how rough mining conditions were for both miners and for the poor donkeys who worked in the mines.  The frontier days of Colorado are vividly captured, including an appearance by Doc Holliday, who helps Baby Doe when she injures her ankle.


I particularly enjoyed the novel after Baby Doe and Horace met.  The details of the grand opera house that Horace built were fascinating.  I especially loved the visit to the opera house by Oscar Wilde!


Baby Doe later meets other historic figures in her travels, including Lillian Russell, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and President Arthur.  


Baby Doe was a complex character -- involved with a married man but interested in helping others, unafraid of hard work and eager to be a participant and not just a spectator in her own life.


I recommend Gold Digger for fans of historical fiction, and especially for anyone who is interested in the American west.  You have a fun and lively read ahead of you!

Author Bio

A California native, Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where Jack London wrote from his Beauty Ranch. Rebecca is a long-time student of Jack London’s works and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian London. The Secret Life of Mrs. London is her debut novel.

Rebecca and her husband, Gary, own the largest lavender product company in America, selling to 4000 resorts, spas and gift stores. The Rosenbergs believe in giving back to the Sonoma Community, supporting many causes through financial donations and board positions, including Worth Our Weight, an educational culinary program for at-risk children, YWCA shelter for abused women, Luther Burbank Performing Arts Center to provide performances for children, Sonoma Food Bank, Sonoma Boys and Girls Club, and the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home.

For more information, please visit Rebecca’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Goodreads. Visit the Facebook page for The Secret Life of Mrs. London.

During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away a copy of Gold Digger, a gold facial mask & soap set, and recipe brochure to five winners. Three winners will receive an ebook of Gold Digger. To enter, please use the Gleam form below. 

Giveaway Rules 
– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on June 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter. 
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY. 
– Only one entry per household. 
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. 
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.  
Gold Digger

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Book Spotlight - A Deadly Feast: A Key West Food Critic Mystery by Lucy Burdette

Book Synopsis
National bestselling author Lucy Burdette’s intrepid food critic Hayley Snow must sniff out a killer in the ninth Key West Food Critic mystery. 

Key West food critic Hayley Snow scents-es something fishy when a customer falls stone-crab cold dead on a seafood tasting tour. 

Thanksgiving is nearly here, and Key West food critic Hayley Snow has just one more assignment to put to bed for Key Zest magazine before she gets to celebrate with her family and her police officer fiancé, Nathan Bransford. Then, just days later, wedding bells will ring—if death doesn’t toll first. 

The sweet potatoes and stuffing will have to wait when Hayley picks up a distraught phone call from her friend, Analise Smith. On the last stop of a seafood tasting tour run by Analise, one of the customers collapsed—dead. With the police on the verge of shutting down the tour—and ruining Analise’s business—Hayley can hardly refuse her friend’s entreaties to investigate. 

As if wedding jitters and family strife weren’t enough for Hayley to worry about, there’s crusty pastry chef Martha Hubbard, whose key lime pie may have been the murder weapon—but did she poison her own pie or was she framed? As the hours to Turkey Day tick away, the pressure cooker is on for Hayley to serve up the culprit on a silver platter in A Deadly Feast, national bestselling author Lucy Burdette’s taste-tempting ninth Key West Food Critic mystery. 

Author Bio 
Clinical psychologist Lucy Burdette (aka Roberta Isleib) has published 16 mysteries, including the latest in the Key West food critic series, DEATH ON THE MENU (Crooked Lane Books, August 2018.) Her books and stories have been short-listed for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and a past president of Sisters in Crime. She blogs at Jungle Red Writersand shares her love for food with the culinary writers at Mystery Lovers Kitchen She lives in Madison CT and Key West FL. Read more at

Author Links
Purchase Links: – AmazonB&NIndieBound

Friday, May 10, 2019

Book Review and Giveaway - The Strongman and the Mermaid by Kathleen Shoop

Book Synopsis

Myscowa, Poland—1910

Once upon a time in tiny, rural Myscowa, Lukasz Musial competes in feats of strength against his lifelong nemesis to win passage to America. He leaves behind grinding poverty and despair, to seek the clear blue skies, and better life he sees on a postcard. Settled in Donora’s Polish community, Lukasz secures a coveted job in the wire mill, and is matched to marry Donora’s very own Polish princess. Life is set on course. The American Dream is nearly his.

Donora, Pennsylvania—1910

Mary Lancos is no princess. A tall, athletic girl who loves the water, she spends her days keeping house for families in town, digging coal out of a backyard seam and rowing her father across the Monongahela River for work. Mary is dependable, tenacious, and always ready to help when someone needs her. She dreams of a gas-heated home, a bedroom for each of her future children, and good meals on the table each night. To help make that happen Mary attends local dances, waiting for the few men who are taller than her to ask her to dance, hoping one of them is right for her.

An unexpected Christmas Eve visitor brings bad luck, and Lukasz’s world crumbles. Meanwhile, tension grows at the Lancos home when money is short and Mary’s dreams clash with her parents’ old world expectations. Just when Mary and Lukasz are at their lowest, they find themselves under an odd pink moonlit sky and Lukasz rescues Mary from a fall into frigid river water. The attraction between them is sudden and consuming, turning the pair onto an unexpected path. With mounting disapproval from Mary’s parents, and increased pressure on Lukasz, they must decide if love is enough to risk losing everything else that matters.

Available on Amazon

My Review
The Strongman and the Mermaid is a historical novel that begins in 1910.  Lukasz Musial lives in Poland, but wants to immigrate to America.   Mary Lancos lives in Donora, Pennsylvania.  Her family is struggling and she has left school to work as a maid.  This is the story of how these two surprisingly similar people meet and come together.

First, I have to say this book has an absolutely beautiful, evocative cover.  I was interested to read it initially because of the cover art and because it sounded like an unusual historical novel - part family saga, part love story, part fairytale.

This is a big book -- 565 pages.  It moves at a leisurely pace.  However, I could not put it down.  I stayed up reading until 2:00 AM, then 1:00 AM the next night because the author has a gift of creating characters who I cared about.

The novel begins with Lukasz in Poland, and Mary in Pennsylvania.  Lukasz loses his chance at a ticket to America, but then improbably wins a ticket after all.  That changes his life, and the life of Mary as well.  I really became involved in the book more when the characters were both in Pennsylvania;  that is when the book really seemed to begin for me.  They meet casually but are involved in their own lives.  Lukasz is set up with a beautiful Polish girl and Mary is interested n a young man from a wealthy family. 

I loved the fairy tale quality of this storytelling.  Lukasz is a strongman, not big but very powerful.  He is gentle, though, and has an artist's eye for creating beautiful figures of metal and wire.  At night he dreams about a legendary mermaid.  Mary longs to change her life, like Cinderella in the fairy tale.  One magical night a pink moon changes everything for them both.

The writing in this book - most especially the descriptions - is absolutely lovely.  I loved all the details of Catholic holidays and rituals, of food and baking (although I sometimes wished for recipes to try some of the dishes!), and day to day descriptions.  For instance, there is a ritual where young single women in the community make unique flower wreaths that they wear.  Then they toss them in the river and suitors dive in for the wreaths.  There was such an evocative image of the wreaths bobbing in the river.  

And when Lukasz spies the pink moon:

"He looked upward.  A full moon, pink and blazing through the clouds, shocked him.  Its rays reflected off the newly fallen snow as if the heavens had laid down a winter blanket over the dark, barren ground.  Blue light reflected off the snow, a pink haze circled the moon, and he felt as if he'd been dropped off into another world" (p. 423).

The framework of the novel is a very elderly man named Patryk in the present day.  He shares a special book with his daughter and grandson.  It is a book about "mermaids, red birds, baseball gloves, and bats, circus animals and performers, and cemetery headstones. of all things" (p. 9).  Although I found these characters very likable, they took me out of the action of 1910 in a way that distracted me a bit.  I was eager to return to the original story.

The name of Stan Musial is mentioned several times in the book. I will admit that I'm not a sports fan and was not familiar with him until I looked him up.  He was a famous baseball player and it appears this novel was inspired by his family's story.  That makes the story even more interesting!

There will be another book in this series about Stan Musial, and I look forward to revisiting these characters and this world again.   I recommend The Strongman and the Mermaid for fans of historical fiction, love stories, family sagas.  It is a totally unique book and I found it a very rewarding read.  I think you will too.

Author Bio
Bestselling author, Kathleen Shoop, holds a PhD in reading education and has more than 20 years of experience in the classroom. She writes historical fiction, women’s fiction and romance. Shoop’s novels have garnered various awards in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, Eric Hoffer Book Awards, Indie Excellence Awards, Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the San Francisco Book Festival. Kathleen has been featured in USA Today and the Writer’s Guide to 2013. Her work has appeared in The Tribune-Review, four Chicken Soup for the Soul books and Pittsburgh Parent magazine. She lives in Oakmont, Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.

During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away a copy of The Strongman and the Mermaid and a $50 Amazon Gift Card! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.  

Giveaway Rules 
– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on May 22nd. You must be 18 or older to enter. 
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY. 
– Only one entry per household. 
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. 
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.  
Strongman and Mermaid

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - A Modest Independence by Mimi Matthews

Book Synopsis
He Needed Peace…

Attorney Tom Finchley has spent his life using his devious intellect to solve the problems of others. As for his own problems, they’re nothing that a bit of calculated vengeance can’t remedy. But that’s all over now. He’s finally ready to put the past behind him and settle down to a quiet, uncomplicated life. If only he could find an equally uncomplicated woman.

She Wanted Adventure…

Former lady’s companion Jenny Holloway has just been given a modest independence. Now, all she wants is a bit of adventure. A chance to see the world and experience life far outside the restrictive limits of Victorian England. If she can discover the fate of the missing Earl of Castleton while she’s at it, so much the better.

From the gaslit streets of London to the lush tea gardens of colonial India, Jenny and Tom embark on an epic quest—and an equally epic romance. But even at the farthest edges of the British Empire, the past has a way of catching up with you…

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iTunesKobo

Author Bio

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews (A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty, The Matrimonial Advertisement) writes both historical non-fiction and traditional historical romances set in Victorian England. Her articles on nineteenth century history have been published on various academic and history sites, including the Victorian Web and the Journal of Victorian Culture, and are also syndicated weekly at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes an Andalusian dressage horse, two Shelties, and two Siamese cats.

For more information, please visit Mimi Matthews’ website and blog. You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitterBookBubPinterestGoogle+, and Goodreads.

During the Blog Tour, we have two signed copies of A Modest Independence up for grabs! To enter, please see the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on May 10th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. 

A Modest Independence

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - The Silent Woman by Terry Lynn Thomas

Book Synopsis
Would you sell your secrets?

Catherine Carlisle is trapped in a loveless marriage and the threat of World War Two is looming. She sees no way out… that is until a trusted friend asks her to switch her husband’s papers in a desperate bid to confuse the Germans.

Soon Catherine finds herself caught up in a deadly mixture of espionage and murder. Someone is selling secrets to the other side, and the evidence seems to point right at her.

Can she clear her name before it’s too late?


Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Google Play | Kobo

Author Bio
TERRY LYNN THOMAS grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, which explains her love of foggy beaches and Gothic mysteries. When her husband promised to buy Terry a horse and the time to write if she moved to Mississippi with him, she jumped at the chance. Although she had written several novels and screenplays prior to 2006, after she relocated to the South she set out to write in earnest and has never looked back.

Terry Lynn writes the Sarah Bennett Mysteries, set on the California coast during the 1940s, which feature a misunderstood medium in love with a spy. The Drowned Woman is a recipient of the IndieBRAG Medallion. She also writes the Cat Carlisle Mysteries, set in Britain during World War II. The first book in this series, The Silent Woman, came out in April 2018 and has since become a USA TODAY bestseller. The Family Secret is slated for release in March 2019. When she’s not writing, you can find Terry Lynn riding her horse, walking in the woods with her dogs, or visiting old cemeteries in search of story ideas.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away a $20 Amazon Gift Card! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on May 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

The Silent Woman

Friday, May 3, 2019

Book Review - By Invitation Only by Dorothea Benton Frank

Book Synopsis
The Lowcountry of South Carolina is where By Invitation Only begins at a barbecue engagement party thrown by Diane English Stiftel, her brother Floyd, and her parents to celebrate her son’s engagement. On this gorgeous, magical night, the bride’s father, Alejandro Cambria, a wealthy power broker whose unbelievably successful career in private equity made him one of Chicago’s celebrated elite, discovers the limits and possibilities of cell phone range. While the mother of the bride, Susan Kennedy Cambria, who dabbles in the world of public relations and believes herself deserving of every square inch of her multimillion-dollar penthouse and imaginary carrara marble pedestal, learns about moonshine and dangerous liaisons.

Soon By Invitation Only zooms to Chicago, where the unraveling accelerates. Nearly a thousand miles away from her comfortable, familiar world, Diane is the antithesis of the bright lights and super-sophisticated guests attending her son Fred’s second engagement party. Why a second party? Maybe it had been assumed that the first one wouldn’t be up to snuff? Fred is marrying Shelby Cambria, also an only child. The Cambrias’ dearest wish is for their daughter to be happy. If Shelby wants to marry Frederick, aka Fred, they will not stand in her way—although Susan does hope her friends won’t think her daughter is marrying more than a few degrees beneath her socially. At the same time, Diane worries that her son will be lost to her forever.

By Invitation Only is a tale of two families, one struggling to do well, one well to do, and one young couple—the privileged daughter of Chicago’s crème de la crème and the son of hard -working Southern peach farmers.

Dorothea Benton Frank offers a funny, sharp, and deeply empathetic novel of two very different worlds—of limousines and pickup trucks, caviars and pigs, skyscrapers and ocean spray—filled with a delightful cast of characters who all have something to hide and a lot to learn. A difference in legal opinions, a headlong dive from grace, and an abrupt twist will reveal the truth of who they are and demonstrate, when it truly counts, what kind of grit they have. Are they living the life they want, what regrets do they hold, and how would they remake their lives if they were given the invitation to do so?

By Invitation Only is classic Dorothea Benton Frank—a mesmerizing Lowcountry Tale that roars with spirit, humor, and truth, and forces us to reconsider our notions of what it means to be a Have or a Have Not.


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

My Review
By Invitation Only is the story of two very different families coming together for the wedding of their children.  Diane English Stiftel is a divorced single mother who lives on the peach farm in South Carolina where she grew up, along with her aging parents and her brother.  Diane is the mother of the groom, Fred.  Susan and Alejandro Cambria are wealthy socialites from Chicago.  They are the parents of the bride, Shelby.  Although most of the novel is told from Diane's perspective, there are chapters from Susan's perspective as well.  It is heartwarming and sometimes humorous seeing the adventures of this new extended family over the space of a couple of years (August 2016 to Spring 2018).

I wanted to read this book because I love southern fiction and always enjoy Dorothea Benton Frank's storytelling.  This novel was no exception!   It is told with great warmth and humor.  By Invitation Only was a quick read for me because I read in any spare time I had over a weekend -- just because I did not want to put the book down.

Shelby and Fred, the bride and groom, were sweet characters but the novel really focuses more on their families. 

I loved the character of Diane.  I related to her in many ways, and she is a character I would choose as a friend.  She is kind and empathetic and really cares about others;  she's also very down to earth.  I enjoyed reading the passages of the book about the peach farm and the farm stand business that the family runs, where they sell peach jam, baked goods, and fresh produce.

Susan is initially not an empathetic character;  she presents as materialistic and shallow.  However, as the characters' lives change over the course of time, she also evolves as a person.  I especially enjoyed her changing relationship - and friendship - with Diane.

There are some great secondary characters in this novel as well, like Diane's delightfully outspoken mother, Virnell, her brother Floyd, who always livens up a party, and her long time suitor, Alden.

There are many twists and turns in this novel, as fortunes change and unexpected romances develop, and things change over time - as they do in real life.   I found the lively nature of the storytelling, along with these twists and turns, particularly engaging.

I recommend By Invitation Only as a weekend or vacation read.   You will get to spend some time in both small town South Carolina and with the glamorous set in Chicago, and meet some characters that you will not soon forget! 

Author Bio
New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank was born and raised on Sullivans Island, South Carolina. She resides in the New York area with her husband.

Find her on the web at, or like her on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.
I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours.

Book Review - The Austen Playbook (London Celebrities) by Lucy Parker

Book Synopsis
In which experienced West End actress Freddy Carlton takes on an Austen-inspired play, a scandal at a country estate, an enthusiastic search for a passion outside of acting…and the (some people might say icy*) heart of London’s most feared theater critic.

*if those people were being nice

Freddy Carlton knows she should be focusing on her lines for The Austen Playbook, a live-action TV event where viewers choose the outcome of each scene, but her concentration’s been blown. The palatial estate housing the endeavor is now run by the rude (brilliant) critic who’s consistently slammed her performances of late. James “Griff” Ford-Griffin has a penchant for sarcasm, a majestic nose and all the sensitivity of a sledgehammer.

She can’t take her eyes off him.

Griff can hardly focus with a contagious joy fairy flitting about near him, especially when Freddy looks at him like that. His only concern right now should be on shutting down his younger brother’s well-intentioned (disastrous) schemes—or at the very least on the production (not this one) that might save his family home from the banks.
Instead all he can think of is soft skin and vibrant curls.

As he’s reluctantly dragged into her quest to rediscover her passion for the stage and Freddy is drawn into his research on a legendary theater star, the adage about appearances being deceiving proves abundantly true. It’s the unlikely start of something enormous…but a single revelation about the past could derail it all.

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble


My Review

The Austen Playbook tells the story of Freddy (Frederica) Carlton, an actress from a London acting family who has traveled to the English countryside to appear in a Jane Austen inspired "choose your own adventure" style TV production.  While rehearsing to play Lydia Bennett in the production, she runs into theater critic Griff, who has been very harsh about her acting in the past.  He is at his family's estate to research a future film about a theater star -- and a story that connects both their families.


I wanted to read this novel initially because I was intrigued by the London theater setting.  I loved theater (and studied acting) in my 20's and knew I would like the setting.  I did!  However, I was even more interested in the sparks that flew between Freddy and Griff ... and I loved the family history that brought the past into this story as well.


The writing is smart and lively, with some clever British wit.  For instance, this description from the book:  "It was a truth, universally acknowledged that an actor in a rut must be in a want of a spot of murder, mayhem, and true love" (Kindle location 441).


The story really became especially interesting to me when Freddy and Griff took off to a spooky neighboring estate to research the past of Henrietta (Freddy's ancestor) and Sir George (Griff's ancestor).  The past that begins to unravel there - and the way it impacts the present - was fascinating.


The author uses a lot of British slang and uniquely British words.  I was grateful for the word definition feature on my Kindle!   It was fun learning a lot of new words and expressions by reading this book.


This is the fourth book in the London Celebrities series.  I have not read the rest of the series (yet!) but enjoyed this novel as a standalone read.


I recommend The Austen Playbook for fans of smartly written romance, British settings, all things Austen, and lively wit and storytelling.


Author Bio

Lucy Parker lives in the gorgeous Central Otago region of New Zealand, where she feels lucky every day to look out at mountains, lakes and vineyards. She has a degree in Art History, loves museums and galleries, and doodles unrecognisable flowers when she has writer’s block.

Her interest in romantic fiction began with a pre-teen viewing of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (Firth-style), which prompted her to read the book as well, and the rest was history.


Connect with Lucy

Website | Twitter | Instagram


Thursday, April 25, 2019

Book Review - We Were Beautiful by Heather Hepler

Book Synopsis
It’s been a year since fifteen-year-old Mia Hopkins was in the car crash that killed her older sister and left her terribly scarred. The doctors tell her she was lucky to survive. Her therapist says it will take time to heal. The police reports claim there were trace amounts of alcohol in her bloodstream. But no matter how much she tries to reconstruct the events of that fateful night, Mia’s memory is spotty at best. She’s left with accusations, rumors, and guilt so powerful it could consume her.

As the rest of Mia’s family struggles with their own grief, Mia is sent to New York City to spend the summer with a grandmother she’s never met. All Mia wants to do is hide from the world, but instead she’s stuck with a summer job in the bustling kitchens of the café down the street. There she meets Fig—blue-haired, friendly, and vivacious—who takes Mia under her wing. As Mia gets to know Fig and her friends—including Cooper, the artistic boy who is always on Mia’s mind—she realizes that she’s not the only one with a painful past.

Over the summer, Mia begins to learn that redemption isn’t as impossible as she once thought, but her scars inside run deep and aren’t nearly so simple to heal … especially when Mia finally pieces together her memories of the night Rachel died.

From acclaimed author Heather Hepler comes We Were Beautiful, a poignant young adult novel about tragedy, forgiveness, and love. Perfect for fans of Robyn Schneider and Justina Chen.


Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

My Review
We Were Beautiful is a young adult novel about Mia Hopkins.  Mia is 15 years old;  a year ago she was in a terrible car accident that killed her sister Rachel and left scars on one side of her face.  Mia is sent to stay with her grandmother in New York City for the summer, and there her life begins to change as she works at a neighborhood cafe, meets a new group of arty friends, and even a boy that she feels a real connection with.

This is such a moving and heartfelt book.  Mia is a character I really cared about.  She is tormented by guilt because of the accident that killed her sister and splintered her family (her mother has left home for a convent and her father is perpetually busy and traveling with work).  She also is constantly reminded she is now different because of the extensive scarring on one side of her face.   Some of the reactions people have on her travels are just shockingly cruel.

What Mia wants is a way to find peace and to belong, and her travels to New York City sets that into motion.  While working at a little Italian cafe, she meets Fig, who is quirky and fun and a real kindred spirit.  Through Fig she meets a group of creative teens who she instantly connects with, including Cooper, who has secrets in his own past.

The story is told over the summer, and unfolds little by little.   The writing is beautiful.  Heather Hepler creates a lovely sense of place.  I loved this passage:

"When night falls in Maine, light just ceases to exist.  Rachel and I used to sit on the back porch in the evening, and if we tilted our heads back, all we could see were stars.  So many that it looked like a bowl of them had been upended over earth.

Like holes to heaven, Rachel used to tell me.

Here in New York, I can't see any stars at all.  Just the bright city lights and the darkness beyond" (p. 31).

I love the way that Mia opens herself more to others over the summer, and as she gets to know her grandmother and her new friends, her definition of family expands and changes.  She also learns that many people are broken in ways that you cannot immediately see, and through this she finds new ways to connect.  I like what the author wrote about this in her questions and answers after the end of the novel:

"I think it's important to remember that everyone has a story.  It's easy to just focus on the things we can see -- beauty and wealth and status.  But the important things are the things that you can't see, even the things we hide from each other" (p. 289).

There are some powerful messages in this book that would make it a fine book discussion read, classroom read, or a mother-daughter read.  I think teens will especially respond to the story of Mia and the way she slowly learns to triumph over pain and adversity. 

Author Bio
Heather Hepler is the author of several books for teens and tweens, including Frosted Kisses, Love? Maybe, and The Cupcake Queen. Having lived in East Texas, Alaska, and Death Valley, she currently resides with her son, their two spoiled cats, and their ridiculously smart dog in Maine.


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