Author Interview, Blog Tour and Review: Secrets and Suitors

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by Joanna Barker

Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Covenant Communications, Inc. (October 1, 2019)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1524411728
ISBN-13: 978-1524411725

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Reluctantly returning to London for yet another Season, shy Nora Hamilton has nearly given up hope that she will ever find the love match she longs for. After all, the one man she does harbor feelings for—her closest friend, James—has made it perfectly clear he views her as just that: a friend. With James traveling half a world away and Nora’s father pressuring her to marry for wealth and status, Nora is forced to set aside her desire for love and accept the future she has always dreaded.

Until James returns unexpectedly and Nora’s feelings once again rush unbearably close to the surface. Determined to save what is left of their friendship, Nora ignores her own heart and allows herself to be swept up in the London Season, soon finding herself the object of two very different gentlemen’s affections. Though she should be thrilled, both men come with a glaring fault: neither is the one man who holds her heart.

But there is much more at stake than heartbreak. When long-kept secrets are laid bare, Nora must face the fears that have plagued her all her life and decide what true love is worth.

*Secrets and Suitors has received a Starred Review from Publishers Weekly.*


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Nora always wanted to be in the background at social events and after two seasons in London she still hadn’t had a serious suitor. After receiving pressure from her father, she makes a bargain with him that she will marry Mr. Weston (a man she barely knows) if her two younger siblings are allowed to join her for the season in London. She also makes her father agree that she can continue being friends with her childhood neighbor James.

After time away at his family plantation, James is suddenly back in Nora’s life. He wants to still be her friend, but there is often a seriousness about him.

“A fancy could be forgotten, and I was determined to forget it.”

While back for a third season, Nora is torn between her feelings for James, a new acquaintanceship forming with Lord Worthington, and a commitment to Mr. Weston.

“James was my best friend, yes, but my heart yearned for so much more. He was the one who understood me best, who made me laugh, who listened to me.”

Nora has a completely different relationship with each of her three suitors. She and Mr. Weston are practically engaged, and she doesn’t even know his first name.

“He had run halfway across the world the last time I had given signs of having feelings for him. What would he do now if I were to give the slightest hint that he still held a piece of my heart?”

When Nora and James are together it feels like the air in the room changes. They are comfortable with each other because of being best friends growing up, but now there is tension and secrets between them.

“I would pay dearly for such a skill right now, to peer into his mind and discover all his tightly held opinions and secrets.”

This book is told in the first person, so we only know Nora’s point of view. When I first started reading it, I wished it also told James’ point of view. I was often wondering what was going on in his head. As it turns out, I loved that there were things I didn’t see coming. I was truly surprised by some of the secrets, and I liked that I didn’t know what would happen next.

I liked that it was not just about the romance, it was also about a broken family trying to find their way.

Besides the strong main characters, there were some lovable side characters like Ralph. He was absolutely adorable. Ralph’s relationship with Nora reminds us that we have to be careful with the promises we make, and his relationship with James made them both even more endearing.

Secrets and Suitors is a sweet story that also has a lot of deeper meaning. This book earns a well deserved five stars.

While I received a complimentary copy of this book, I was not required to write a positive review.


Interview with Joanna Barker

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Do you have any future books in the works? I would love a story about Ralph!

I’m currently working on a sequel to my debut novel, The Truth about Miss Ashbourne. This new book features Rebecca Rowley, the sister to the hero of that story, and I am having so much fun with it! But one day I would so love to write a story for Ralph! He deserves his own happy ending, doesn’t he??

Was there something that inspired you to write Secrets and Suitors?

I wanted so badly to write a best friends love story, and I went through about eight different versions of this story before deciding on the plot. What finally helped me nail down the idea was hearing Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” on the radio and realizing it described so perfectly the story I wanted to write. This song brought to life James Allen’s character, and if you listen to it after reading Secrets and Suitors, you might see how the chorus inspired the garden party scene ?

Do you like writing novels or novellas better? And was it harder working with other authors when you were writing All Hearts Come Home for Christmas? 

It always seems like the grass is always greener for me! When I’m stuck in the murky middle of drafting a novel, I always wish I was writing a novella. But when I’m running out of words for a novella, I’m longing for the word count of a novel! But I think novels are my true love. There’s a depth that’s generally only possible through spending more time with the story and characters, and I love to dig in deep. Oh, and I am extremely wordy, so that might be part of it, haha! I actually loved working with the other authors so much! All three of them are incredibly talented and kind, and I just felt lucky to be a part of the project.

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Blog Tour and Review: A Lady’s Maid

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by Jen Geigle Johnson

Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Covenant Communications (August 1, 2019)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 152440845X
ISBN-13: 978-1524408459

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Molly O’Malley, lady’s maid to the progressive Lady Amanda Halloway, is determined to continue the life’s work of her lost love, killed in the Peterloo Massacre. But when her efforts and a trip to Lady Halloway’s charitable orphanage culminate in her own abduction, Molly’s eyes are opened to the horrifying crimes transpiring in the city’s slums. Despite the risks, she broadens her mission and is drawn ever closer to the peril all around them.

Thomas Flaherty, a footman in the Halloway household, has been with Molly from the beginning, but he fears she will never trust him with her heart. Even though her cause and happiness are of foremost importance to him, his loyal patience is tested by the fears that keep her at a distance. But with their safety on the line, Thomas is resolved to sacrifice everything for the woman he loves.

Risking their lives and their love, Molly and Thomas and a team of nobles on their side will stop at nothing to empower the powerless, no matter the personal cost.


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Molly O’Malley is a lady’s maid. She tragically lost the love of her life ten years ago. She wants to love again, but she is afraid of what she stands to lose. Thomas Flaherty is a footman in the same household. He loves Molly and has patiently waited for her, but he worries she will never be ready to let him in.

I liked hearing from the working class of Thomas and Molly. Though Molly has a very unusual relationship with her employer, because it is so friendly and casual. I loved hearing more about the orphanage and the children.

The summary on the back of the book gave no hint that there would be two other major characters and many chapters would be told from the point of view of Lord Annesley and Lady Chloe. Chloe is shy, but she finds her voice fighting for women’s suffrage. Due to his father’s poor choices, Annesley is forced to act like a puppet for the villain of the story, Theo. The longer he follows Theo, the more he is pulled away from Chloe.

As a side-note, I found it funny that it seemed like every character in the book winked. A lot.

During this period of history, there were positives like the fight for a woman’s right to vote. There were also the devastating events like the Peterloo Massacre, child slaves, and brothels.

“If it was important enough for him to die for, then it is important enough for me to live for.”

Molly, Thomas, Lord Annesley and Lady Chloe came from different social classes but all came together to fight for what they believed in.

“Suffrage was the great unifying topic.”

Historical fiction is my favorite genre. I enjoy when authors research an era and weave historical events into their book in an interesting way. Some speeches in the book during the suffrage rally were direct quotes from those who really fought for women’s right to vote. Coughing during the political speeches was so juvenile. I was surprised to find out that people actually did that.

To read more about the fight for the freedom of the lower classes, you can find Lady Amanda and Lord Nathaniel’s story in The Nobleman’s Daughter.

While I received a complimentary copy of this book, I was not required to write a positive review.


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Blog Tour and Review: The Redgrave Murders

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by A. L. Sowards

Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Covenant Communications, Inc. (July 1, 2019)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1524409456
ISBN-13: 978-1524409456

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When her father is murdered, Evie must prove her boyfriend innocent and find the real criminal before he kills again.
Loss is inevitable, as Evie Hampton knows all too well. But despite losing her mother to cancer and her older brother to a war, she knows she’s one of the lucky ones. After all, she still has her father, a distinguished professor of medieval history. And she has Gary Redhawk, the man she loves despite the emotional scars he carries from the Second World War–and despite her father’s opposition to their relationship.

When Evie’s car suddenly careens off the road, she chalks it up to poor maintenance or sheer bad luck making another appearance in her life. Little does she know a host of hardships is just beginning–the car was her father’s, and the brake lines were deliberately cut. Someone wants them dead–but why? All fingers point to Gary, a man with a troubled past and no solid alibi, but Evie is unwilling to believe he’s involved. Determined to uncover the truth, she begins to piece together a startling picture of deception and vice. But as she closes in on the truth, it is clear that someone is determined to silence her–and the next attempt on her life may be a deadly success.


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The Redgrave Murders is listed as a romance and suspense story which peaked my interest. I read almost all historical fiction, but haven’t read a lot from this time period.

Knowing the summary of the book, the first chapter did not immediately draw me in, but I became interested soon after. I am not used to stories being written in the first person, and I think it threw me off a little at first.

While the story is about the solving of murders, the characters all seem realistic and raw. My favorite character was Gary Redhawk.

Gary makes you immediately feel protective of him. Being in the Indian reform school, and then being a POW must have really been traumatic for him. Of course, this would not make him innocent of the issues that arise against him, but there is something that seems innocent and vulnerable about him from the very beginning. You slowly get to learn more about his history, and I felt even more of a connection to him.

Gary felt that he was broken after the war. He still had nightmares every night, and he worried about hurting others. My favorite scenes were when Evie was trying to break down Gary’s walls and show him he could still be loved. Everyone is broken. We are just broken in different ways.

Since the book is written in first person, I felt that I didn’t learn as much about Evie Hampton’s past. The letters from her brother at the beginning of each chapter helped some.

Evie’s father is a history professor, and I loved hearing about the decor of their house. My favorite was the suit of arms that they named. I would love to know what happened to it.

There are a lot of intense issues in this book. PTSD is a major theme. There is also a minor character who is a pedophile and continues to be non-repentant. The PTSD was especially interesting to me. During this time, many men returning from war were written off as having psychological issues if they displayed any symptoms at all. Yet there was no real help for them.

The main characters are in an interracial relationship which causes a lot of conflict with others. Gary has been through so much, and I loved the lighthearted comment he made after someone made a derogatory comment about him.

I liked the pace of the book. There were a lot of things happening, but it didn’t feel rushed. I also liked that things didn’t feel predictable. It felt like I was trying to solve the case right alongside Evie.

If you enjoy an excellent blend of romance, action and mystery, be sure to checkout The Redgrave Murders.

While I received a complimentary copy of this book, I was not required to write a positive review.


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