Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Dear Abby -Summer Break!

Dear Friends,

I'm sorry I haven't been posting regularly lately.  I have been busy being lazy with summer.  My Momma and I are going to take a blogging break until after Labor Day.  I will be back then, and will get back on a regular schedule of posting here.  In the meantime, I plan to stay busy with some frosty treats and leisurely afternoons in air conditioning with a big fan right by my dog bed!

Have a great rest-of-the-summer!   Talk to you in September!

Abby xoxoxo

Book Review and Giveaway - The Work of Art by Mimi Matthews

Book Synopsis
An Uncommon Beauty…

Hidden away in rural Devonshire, Phyllida Satterthwaite has always been considered more odd than beautiful. But in London, her oddity has made her a sensation. Far worse, it’s caught the eye of the sinister Duke of Moreland—a notorious art collector obsessed with acquiring one-of-a-kind treasures. To escape the Duke’s clutches, she’s going to need a little help.

An Unlikely Hero…

Captain Arthur Heywood’s days of heroism are long past. Grievously injured in the Peninsular War, he can no longer walk unaided, let alone shoot a pistol. What use can he possibly be to a damsel in distress? He has nothing left to offer except his good name.

Can a marriage of convenience save Philly from the vengeful duke? Or will life with Arthur put her—and her heart—in more danger than ever?

Amazon | Apple | Barnes and Noble | Kobo

My Review
The Work of Art is the story of "Philly" Phyllida Satterthwaite.  After Philly's grandfather, who raised her, dies, she is sent to live with relatives in London.  She has Heterochromia, two different color eyes - one blue, one amber.  Her unusual and striking looks catch the attention of the Duke of Moreland, who is known as "The Collector" because he wants to collect anything unusual.  Philly wants to escape an arranged marriage with the Duke, so she enters into a marriage of convenience with Arthur Heywood.  Arthur was wounded in the war.  He has emotional wounds too, but his life changes when he meets Philly.

This is my second read by Mimi Matthews.  I absolutely love her books!  The stories are so engrossing and so full of the most exquisite historical details.  Unlike most of her other books, The Work of Art is a Regency novel set in London during Spring, 1814.

Philly is such a likeable and unique character.  She loves animals and has a little family of four dogs that she loves and protects.  The smallest dog, Fox, has a wounded leg.   She is so lacking in pretensions;  I felt badly for her when the Duke makes her the object of attention by calling her The Work of Art in society.

The Duke is a malevolent figure, controlling and overbearing.  I can certainly see why Arthur, who is straightforward, kind, and intelligent, would be so appealing to Philly.  I loved the romance between Philly and Arthur;  it starts as a casual friendship, but grows quickly as she longs to escape the Duke's plans.

There is also a strong mystery storyline in this novel. As they settle in at Heywood House, mysterious things begin happening that lead Arthur to think that someone is stalking Philly and wishing her harm.

The descriptions in this book are vivid and appealing.  For instance, Arthur's home is described:

"Heywood House appeared in a swathe of moonlight as they crested the final hill in their path.  The classical Palladian structure was built of granite, which had weathered over the years, and under the full moon, made the house look as if it were composed of silvery shadows rather than gray stone.  It was a building of perfect proportions, set back amid untamed parkland ..." (location 2137, Kindle).

One thing that makes Mimi Matthews' books unique is her large vocabulary of historical and sometimes archaic words.  I found myself learning new words here and there in the book through the Kindle dictionary feature. I really like that about her books!

I absolutely loved The Work of Art and cannot recommend it highly enough for fans of historical fiction and historical romance.  The author reveals in the afterward that this book was originally meant to be a two book series with The Viscount and the Vicar's Daughter.  I have decided that will be my next read, since I enjoyed this book so much! 

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, one winner will receive a signed copy of The Work of Art!  To enter, please use the Gleam form below.  

Giveaway Rules
– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on July 31st. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be 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 a new winner is chosen.

The Work of Art

Friday, July 19, 2019

Book Review and Giveaway - Summer Snoops Unleashed: 14 Furr-ocious Mysteries and Cozy Crimes by Judith Lucci, Anna Celeste Burke, Colleen Mooney, Fiona Quinn, Maria Grazia Swan, Kelly Hashway, Kim Hunt Harris, Susan Boles, Lisa B. Thomas, Emily Selby, Ava Mallory, Chelsea Thomas, Sam Cheever, and Joanna Campbell Slan

Book Synopsis
Summertime Murders are RUFF -- ALL BRAND NEW STORIES! 

Looking for cool cozies for hot summer days? Then you’ll love this purr-fectly paw-some cozy mystery boxed set from fourteen USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Amazon best-selling authors.We’ve pulled out all the stops with Summer Snoops Unleashed! Enjoy hours of fun sniffing out clues on sandy beaches, shimmering waterways, and at small-town celebrations in these brand-new stories full of wily sleuths, cagey plots, and un-fur-gettable tails!Fetch your copy now to get these furr-ocious new cozy mysteries and woof it up with us!

They’re howlingly good reads!


My Review 

Summer Snoops Unleashed is a cozy mystery anthology.  There are 14 short animal theme cozy mysteries included, by authors Judith Lucci,  Anna Celeste Burke,  Colleen Mooney, Fiona Quinn, Maria Grazia Swan,  Kelly Hashway, Kim Hunt Harris, Susan Boles, Lisa B. Thomas, Emily Selby, Ava Mallory, Chelsea Thomas, Sam Cheever, and Joanna Campbell Slan.  The mysteries are short -- novella to short novel length.


I am reviewing the first mystery in the collection, The Most Glittery Crime of The Year - The Jewel Heist.  It is An Artzy Chicks Mystery (Book 1) by Judith Lucci.  This mystery takes place in the Shenandoah Valley.  Lily works at the Artisans Gallery in a restored 1700's log cabin.  The Gallery is also home to a possum, a yellow lab, and a calico cat.  The ladies who work at the gallery are all pet people, and Lily also has four little Shih Tzu dogs at home.


When an ornery customer from the gallery turns up dead, Lily becomes involved in trying to solve the mystery.  There is another murder and word of an old, unsolved crime -- a jewel heist from the 1930's.


The mystery is a fast paced read, with charming place descriptions (I would love to visit the gallery!) and some witty dialogue.  For example, Lily describes one of her friends who works at the gallery:  "Nobody should ever want to mess with the Diva.  There's nothing worse than a Yankee woman who wants to be a Southern belle" (Kindle location 1859).


The mystery was suspenseful.  I guessed the killer, but enjoyed reading the denouement.  I loved that one of the gallery pets even helped as the mystery unraveled.


This is a fun collection and I think other animal lovers will enjoy it as well!   Nice for a summer read with lots of mystery stories included!

Purchase Links
AMAZON, NOOK, KOBO, & APPLE: https://www.summersnoops.com/

Individual Links

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Sunday, July 14, 2019

Book Review - Yours Truly, Thomas by Rachel Fordham

Book Synopsis
For three years, Penny Ercanbeck has been opening other people's mail.

Dead ends are a reality for clerks at the dead letter office, and she dreams of something more--a bit of intrigue, perhaps a taste of romance. When she comes across a letter from a brokenhearted man to his one true love, it becomes her mission to place this lost letter into the hands of its intended recipient.

But when Penny's undertaking leads her to the intriguing man who touched her soul with his words, everything grows more complicated. She wants to find the rightful owner of the letter, and yet . . . she finds herself caring--perhaps too much--for the one who wrote it.

My Review
Penny Ercanbeck's story begins in 1883 in Washington, D.C.  She is working as a clerk at the dead letter office. Her job is to read letters that have not reached their recipient and send them on to their rightful owner if possible.  She finds a letter from a man named Thomas Connor.  He writes to a woman named Clara whom he loved and lost.  There are more letters from Thomas to Clara that follow.  Since Clara's address is nearby Alexandria, Virginia, Penny makes a day trip to try to return the letters.  When that proves impossible, she decides to travel to Azure Springs, the small town where Thomas has relocated.  She realizes her interest has grown beyond the letters to the man who wrote them.

I wanted to read Yours Truly, Thomas from the description.  I have always loved letters and love epistolary novels.  I find the idea of a dead letter office with someone long ago sorting and redirecting mail fascinating.

Penny is a very likeable character.  She's kind and genuinely cares about others (perhaps to the extent of taking her job a bit TOO seriously!).  She has had a difficult time since her father's death, and has tried to turn her life around with her work and friends.  She even has a lovable dog named Honey (short for Honeysuckle).

Thomas is also a very sympathetic character.  He has endured a tragic loss and moved to rebuild his life.  The connection between Penny and Thomas is immediate, and I enjoyed their interactions. That said, I did get a bit frustrated with Penny with her lack of directness.  I wish she would have been more forthcoming with Thomas about her reason for being in Azure Springs.

Which brings me to Azure Springs -- what a delightful little town!  I enjoyed reading about it - the boarding house, the town dance, the caring, small town atmosphere.

Yours Truly, Thomas is inspirational fiction, and fans of Christian historical fiction will enjoy this novel with a unique setting and premise. 

Author Bio
Rachel Fordham is the author of The Hope of Azure Springs. She started writing when her children began begging her for stories at night. She'd pull a book from the shelf, but they'd insist she make one up. Finally, she paired her love of good stories with her love of writing and hasn't stopped since. She lives with her husband and children on an island in the state of Washington.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Book Review - The Summer of Sunshine and Margot by Susan Mallery

Book Synopsis
The Baxter sisters come from a long line of women with disastrous luck in love. But this summer, Sunshine and Margot will turn disasters into destiny…
As an etiquette coach, Margot teaches her clients to fit in. But she’s never faced a client like Bianca, an aging movie star who gained fame—and notoriety—through a campaign of shock and awe. Schooling Bianca on the fine art of behaving like a proper diplomat’s wife requires intensive lessons, forcing Margot to move into the monastery turned mansion owned by the actress’s intensely private son. Like his incredible home, Alec’s stony exterior hides secret depths Margot would love to explore. But will he trust her enough to let her in?
Sunshine has always been the good-time sister, abandoning jobs to chase after guys who used her, then threw her away. No more. She refuses to be “that girl” again. This time, she’ll finish college, dedicate herself to her job as a nanny, and she 100 percent will not screw up her life again by falling for the wrong guy. Especially not the tempting single dad who also happens to be her boss.
Master storyteller Susan Mallery weaves threads of family drama, humor, romance and a wish-you-were-there setting into one of the most satisfying books of the year!

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

My Review
The Summer of Sunshine and Margot is the story of two sisters.  Although Margot and Sunshine are fraternal twins, they are not very much alike.  Margot is an etiquette teacher.  Sunshine is a freespirit working as a nanny.  The one thing they have in common is terrible taste in men.  One summer, though, things change.  Margot goes to work for a famous (and somewhat scandalous) actress who has a handsome son.  Sunshine falls for the father of the little boy she is taking care of.  Can things change for them both in the space of a summer?

I always enjoy Susan Mallery novels.  She does such a good job at writing women's lives, and her characterizations are always enjoyable.  I wanted to read this novel because I like her work -- and I really enjoyed this book.

Margot and Sunshine were very relatable and sympathetic characters.  Margot wants to be so proper and she is really challenged by her etiquette client Bianca, who has an issue with self control.  Bianca's son, Alec, a scholar who lives in a repurposed monastery and studies ancient texts, is the polar opposite of his mother;  he is so restrained that he has a hard time connecting emotionally.

Sunshine is my favorite character.  She is very warm and sweet natured but has a tendency to get involved much too quickly with men who inspire her to leave her everyday life, traveling or moving suddenly, abandoning responsibility.  She finally has a stable job as a nanny to a little boy named Connor.  Connor's father, Declan, is a landscape architect who is a recent widower.  Sparks fly between Sunshine and Declan but they are both wary because of the situation and timing.

I really liked all the lead characters and couldn't put the book down because I wanted to see what would happen with these possible relationships.

There are some fascinating details in this book.  I enjoyed reading about Declan's work as a landscape architect, and Alec's home (a former monastery) was especially interesting.  There are secrets waiting in the attic and the cellar, and Margot makes time to explore while she is staying there.

The Summer of Sunshine and Margot is a wonderful summer read -- the setting, the characters, and the fast moving storyline make this a perfect book for a vacation or for a weekend read. 

There is also some real depth to the characters of Sunshine and Margot, and their desire to break out of longstanding patterns.  For this reason I also think this would make a wonderful summer book discussion pick.

Author Bio
#1 NYT bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming, humorous novels about the relationships that define our lives-family, friendship, romance. She’s known for putting nuanced characters in emotional situations that surprise readers to laughter. Beloved by millions, her books have been translated into 28 languages.Susan lives in Washington with her husband, two cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur. Visit her at SusanMallery.com.

Connect with Susan

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Book Spotlight and Giveaway - Guilty as Charred (A Cook-Off Mystery) by Devon Delaney

Book Synopsis
Sherry Oliveri has attained celebrity status after winning the America’s Good Taste Recipe Contest with her delectable New England Crab Cake Sliders. But now that she’s back home in Connecticut, she’s got to deal with something else fishy . . .

Sherry’s making a guest appearance on a local radio show when the news comes in: Poppy Robinson has been found dead in the town’s community garden. Sherry was supposed to be taking questions about her win in the national cooking competition, but instead the callers start dishing dirt.

Poppy and Sherry were both involved in the vegetable garden, and while Poppy may have been a bit priggish, it wasn’t anything that called for a shovel to the back of the head. There was already trouble brewing, with the owner of the land threatening to renege on their agreement, and this murder has taken tensions to a new level. Now while Sherry’s organizing a Fourth of July cook-off event, she’s also got a murder investigation on her plate . . .

Includes Recipes from Sherry’s Kitchen! 

Author Bio
Devon Delaney is a wife, mother of three, accomplished cooking contester, recent empty nester, and lifelong resident of the Northeast. She has been handsomely rewarded for her recipe innovation over the last twenty-plus years, including a full kitchen of major appliances, top cash prizes, and four trips to Disney World. She has also won the Grand Prize in a national writing contest for her “foodie” poem “Ode to Pork Passion.”
Check out Devon’s website at: www.devonpdelaney.com and find her on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/devonpdelaney/

Purchase Links – AmazonB&NKoboGoogle PlayIndieBound

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Friday, July 5, 2019

Book Review and Giveway - Project Duchess by Sabrina Jeffries

Book Synopsis
From New York Times bestselling author Sabrina Jeffries comes a sparkling new series about an oft-widowed mother’s grown children, who blaze through society in their quest for the truth about their fathers . . . and in the process find that love just might conquer all . . .

A series of stepfathers and a difficult childhood have left Fletcher “Grey” Pryde, 5th Duke of Greycourt, with a guarded heart, enviable wealth, and the undeserved reputation of a rogue. Grey’s focus on expanding his dukedom allows him little time to find a wife. But when his mother is widowed yet again and he meets the charmingly unconventional woman managing his stepfather’s funeral, he’s shocked to discover how much they have in common. Still, Grey isn’t interested in love, no matter how pretty, or delightfully outspoken, the lady . . .

Beatrice Wolfe gave up on romance long ago, and the arrogant Duke of Greycourt with his rakish reputation isn’t exactly changing her mind. Then Grey agrees to assist his grief-stricken mother with her latest “project”: schooling spirited, unfashionable Beatrice for her debut. Now that Beatrice is seeing through Grey’s charms to his wounded heart, she’s having trouble keeping him at arm’s length. But once Grey starts digging into her family’s secrets, she must decide whether her loyalties lie with her family . . . or with the man whose lessons capture her heart . . .


Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Google Play | iTunes | IndieBound | Kobo

My Review
Project Duchess is the story of Beatrice Wolfe and "Grey," Fletcher Pryde.  Grey is a Duke in need of a wife, and Beatrice is an independent woman who is planning her debut.  Because Beatrice is from modest means, she aspires to marry a vicar or doctor.  When Beatrice and Grey meet, there is an instant spark, and they find they have much in common with their difficult childhoods.  But will this be enough for them to break tradition and find happiness together?

This is the first book in Sabrina Jeffries' new Duke Dynasty series.  A large cast of characters with a lot of background is introduced in the first few chapters.  It would be helpful to have a list of characters in the book for readers.

Once the book focused more on Beatrice and Grey, I became engrossed in their story. They are from different worlds but on an intrinsic level are so very alike.  I liked Beatrice's spark and independence, and Grey's kindness and strength.  There was a lot of back and forth between these characters with banter and a rollicking romance.

There is also a double mystery in the book -- there were two unexplained deaths in the past (Beatrice's uncle and Grey's stepfather -- both highly unsympathetic characters).  Grey works to solve the two murders, and that is part of the plot as well.

We are also introduced to Beatrice's brother and Grey's siblings -- I am guessing they will appear in future books in this series.  (I hope so!)

I enjoyed the setting of the country estate.  There is even a kennel with pointers and foxhounds, and the dogs appear several times in the book.

There are also a number of interesting historic details -- like funeral biscuits, and ruins constructed on the estate (a ruined abbey with a bell tower). 

I found Project Duchess a fun and entertaining read.  I think readers who enjoy historical romance and the regency period will especially enjoy this book.  I look forward to reading the next book in this series!

Author Bio
Sabrina Jeffries is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 50 novels and works of short fiction (some written under the pseudonyms Deborah Martin and Deborah Nicholas). Whatever time not spent writing in a coffee-fueled haze is spent traveling with her husband and adult autistic son or indulging in one of her passions—jigsaw puzzles, chocolate, and music. With over 9 million books in print in more than 20 languages, the North Carolina author never regrets tossing aside a budding career in academics for the sheer joy of writing fun fiction, and hopes that one day a book of hers will end up saving the world.


Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | InstagramGoodreads | BookBub


We have two paperback copies of Project Duchess up for grabs! To enter, please use the Gleam form below. 

Giveaway Rules 
– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on July 5th. You must be 18 or older to enter. 
– Giveaway is open to the 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 a new winner is chosen.  
Project Duchess