The Earl’s Hideaway, No Ladies Allowed – Review

by Esther Hatch

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Bowker (December 31, 2022)
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Paperback ‏ : ‎ 292 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1736747827
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1736747827

If there is one woman Samson Rutherford, Earl of Riverton, can’t abide, it is his meddling sister. He has spent his whole life being a pawn in her plans and tricks, but when one of her schemes leaves him embarrassed in front of an old friend, he has finally had enough. Since he cannot beat her at her games, or even say no to her, his only option to save his sanity and pride is to run away—and luckily, his solicitor knows just the place…

Catherine Wallace wasn’t born to be a governess, but with her family’s fall from grace, she has become one. A good one. However, when the chance arises to stay at her uncle’s home so she can care for his horticulture project while he is absent, she jumps at the chance. Leaving her position, she plans to gather her sisters together so they can be a family again—even if it is only for three months.

But the last thing Catherine expected to find upon her arrival was her childhood friend. Samson has sequestered himself at the cottage and claims to have been invited to watch over her uncle’s project as well. Catherine has nowhere else to go and needs the cottage for her and her sisters. Samson needs it to get away from his. But one thing is absolutely clear—they cannot stay there together.

However, Samson has always known that with no risk, comes no reward, so he proposes a plan. The answer to their living conditions is simple…they will both stay. They merely need to make certain no one ever finds out.

Sisters can be sweet or meddling, and Samson Rutherford is dealing with some of each. His meddling sister Dru has even pushed him into hiding for months at a time after some of her antics. What he doesn’t know is that his hiding place is going to be invaded by a childhood friend he has feelings for.

Samson has never been able to say no to women and always gives in to his sisters. I found him to be immature in the fact he couldn’t say no so he would just run away from his problems. I understand taking a moment to yourself, but months at a time when his family had no way to communicate with him or know if he was okay was just wrong.

Catherine Wallace grew up with luxuries but is forced to work as a governess when an investment her father made goes South. Her mother contributes to the problem by overspending their income and taking advantage of her three daughters. Catherine takes care of her family’s needs, but she also is not afraid to stand up for what she wants with her friends.

I feel for Catherine. She has a lot of responsibility on her shoulders paying for her sister’s schooling. Instead of learning anything, her mother is continuing to overspend and does not care how she treats her daughters.

In both books in the series there are strong side characters I love that I hope will have stories of their own. Oliver and Dru’s courtship would certainly be an adventure. Victoria was a favorite in the previous book, and I loved seeing more of her.

I used to put on plays all the time with my sister and cousins, and I loved reading about the ones they did in the story.

I always love the childhood friends into more stories. I enjoyed hearing about what things they did as children and how they have changed as adults.

This book has the fun and romance that Hatch is known for, and I look forward to reading the next in this series!

Engaging Deception – Review

by Regina Jennings

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Bethany House Publishers (December 13, 2022)
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Paperback ‏ : ‎ 320 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0764235362
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0764235368

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A lively competition draws her into her rival’s blueprints–and maybe even his heart.

Olive Kentworth has spent her life hiding her interest in architecture, even though she pores over architectural books and sketches buildings. When she accepts a job on a home expansion, it’s only because her cousin Amos agrees to pose as the builder. To further hide her involvement, Olive takes a position as a nanny–not knowing that she’ll be working for her idol, Joplin’s leading architect, widower Maxfield Scott.

Maxfield is intrigued by his new nanny–she makes his home and his life bearable again. His work, on the other hand, is a disaster. An untrained builder is remodeling a completed project of his. What’s worse, Maxfield’s current client wants changes to his plans because of that builder’s work.

As the architectural one-upmanship heats up, Olive’s involvement becomes harder to hide. Will the relationship between her and Maxfield survive, or will they both miss out on building something for their future?

Olive Kentworth had always wanted to be an architect, but there was a lot going against her. Females did not design buildings, and Olive wanted to remain in the background and not be known for her designs. She was able to design some family-connected properties using her cousin as a front, so no one suspected the true designer. However, when an opportunity to expand on the design of a Maxfield Scott house presents itself, Olive cannot stay away.

Maxfield is upset when he discovers that someone is trying to modify a house he designed for a client. Little does he know that person is his own nanny who uses his vast library after the children are asleep to expand her knowledge.

Maxfield and Olive are both grieving the loss of loved ones, but they handle it in very different ways. Olive wants to stay at home and hide from the world, and Maxfield wants to be surrounded by people so he can’t have a moment to think about what he has lost. This year has been the hardest year of my life as I have also been grieving the loss of multiple family members very close to me. I have found myself more similar to Olive in this situation.

Regina Jennings excels at creating characters that are real people. Their emotions are authentic, and you can always connect to them. This series has been especially interesting to me. I love each of the family members and the themes the books have focused around. I wish this wasn’t the last book in The Joplin Chronicles.

A Game of Hearts – Review

by Joanna Barker

ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0B5WK5JS9
Publisher ‏ : ‎ Rose Petal Press
Publication date ‏ : ‎ October 18, 2022
Print length ‏ : ‎ 330 pages
Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ B0BHL9FDZ3

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If you can’t join them, beat them.

Marigold Cartwell has only one goal: to defeat her long-time rival on the archery field. She knows she can outshoot irritating, cynical Tristan Gates, but the local bowmen’s society—the one he belongs to—refuses to allow women to compete. Spurred on by their rejection, Marigold decides to start a new society. Naturally, it has only one rule: no men.

Tristan Gates is used to Marigold Cartwell always getting her way, so he is far from surprised when she forms her own society. He knows how relentless she can be, something he learned firsthand facing her at the targets. But Tristan has enough worries of his own, what with his bachelor uncle falling in love with a fortune hunter. He has no time to entertain Marigold’s ambitions.

However, after a visit to the seashore ends in disaster—and scandal—Marigold and Tristan soon realize how little they know about each other. The strained tension between them quickly turns to simmering attraction, but an important archery competition looms ahead. Lines are drawn all around them, with Marigold and Tristan on opposite sides, and neither can afford to lose. Yet winning might be the very thing to tear them apart.

Tristan Gates and Marigold Cartwell have spent years knowing each other only as rivals on and off the field of archery. When an unexpected event throws them together will they become closer or destroy each other?

I have always heard about archery being a hobby during this time period, but I didn’t know about the societies and prize shoots. I grew up practicing archery and taking lessons, and I loved that this was a major theme of the book.

This book has the trope of enemies to lovers, but I appreciated how it was done. There was definitely the fighting and the tension, but it was never extreme or tiresome like I have seen happen with some books with this trope.

The scenes where it is just Tristan and Marigold were my favorite. They just feel like a legendary couple to me, and I want to hear more about their exploits together. I also loved the friendship with Marigold and Cora, and I need to know what happens with Cora and Oliver!

Blog Tour and Review: The Holly and the Ivy 

by Sarah M. Eden, Esther Hatch, Dana LeCheminant, Anneka R. Walker

Publisher ‏: ‎Covenant Communications (October 3, 2022)
Language ‏: ‎English
Paperback ‏:‎ 400 pages
ISBN-10 ‏: ‎1524422223
ISBN-13 ‏: ‎978-1524422226

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Spend the holidays with four of your favorite historical romance authors, whose stories of Yuletide romance will brighten the season with humor, hope, and the promise of true love.

“The Holly and the Ivy” by Sarah M. Eden
As nursemaid to the eight-year-old Duke of Kielder, Robbie will spend her holidays with her young charge as a guest of Lord and Lady Jonquil. While the couple makes the child’s holiday magical, the handsome gardener works his own magic on Nurse Robbie’s heart.

“Hiding Christmas” by Esther Hatch
Celebrating Christmas in Scotland will only invite persecution. But that never stopped Kirstine’s English grandmother. When they are almost caught, Kirstine is forced to beg for the help of the one man she cannot abide.

“A Twist of Christmas” by Dana LeCheminant
A Christmas house party offers two members of the ton an irresistible opportunity: a weekend of anonymity. But their charade comes with unexpected romantic consequences.

“A Season to Love” by Anneka R. Walker

Alice Hunt is searching for a Christmas miracle: a husband of her choosing. With the threat of an arranged marriage looming, she looks to an unlikely matchmaker for help.

“The Holly and the Ivy” by Sarah M. Eden

Adam is my favorite Sarah Eden character, and I loved that this story took place when he was 8 and just a “little Duke” at the time. If you haven’t read Adam’s other stories yet, I highly suggest you do.

Robbie and Howard had a sweet romance. I liked seeing Robbie’s point of view of having been with Adam for 8 years but she knew her time with the family was drawing to a close now that Adam was being sent away for his education.

Adam missed celebrating Christmas because his mother sent him away and he was alone at school during the holiday. The Jonquils, Robbie, and Howard help create Christmas for Adam to celebrate in April. While this takes place in the story, it is not the main focus. The story focuses more on Adam growing up and taking on the serious role of a Duke, and Robbie trying to find out where she fits in.

No spoilers, but there is an Easter egg at the end of chapter 15 for people who have read other connected books, and I was losing it!

“Hiding Christmas” by Esther Hatch

While not illegal any longer, Christmas is still frowned upon in Scotland. Every year Kirstine and her grandmother have to travel a few days by carriage in order to celebrate in England with family.

This year, Kirstine’s grandmother starts one of their Christmas traditions early, and in order to hide it from Kirstine’s cousin, the new kirk elder, estranged neighbor Mr Parker gets roped into the trip to England.

Mr Parker has never felt like he fit into English society. When his friend and fellow soldier talks about his home and family in Scotland, Mr Parker feels drawn there.

This story was so cute, sweet, and funny! I always think it’s harder to have fully developed characters in a novella that you can connect with and a non rushed storyline, but this story nails it.

“A Twist of Christmas” by Dana LeCheminant

Graham is a Viscount who is tired of people only seeing him for his title and overlooking his younger brother for his lack of one. They decide to switch places for a house party so Graham can have a break and blend into the background, and Henry can be seen for the wonderful man his brother knows he is.

Lady Elizabeth is a Duke’s daughter, and she and her companion Jemma decide to switch places as well for the house party.

I love how Graham got awkward around Beth because he liked her. It was adorable. They had some really cute scenes together.

I have never read this author before, and I really enjoyed this story. Her book The Thief and the Noble is on my TBR list and now I want to bump it higher up on the list.

“A Season to Love” by Anneka R. Walker

As the last of her sisters to remain unmarried, Alice prays that God will bring her a husband before she is forced to marry someone not of her choosing. The pastor Mr Perry overhears her plea, and they work together to find her a husband.

I loved that Mr Perry wasn’t your traditional serious clergyman. He wanted people to realize the man behind the clergyman, and he had a fun, playful side.

I liked the dynamic of this couple and how they played off of each other.

The children in this story are so cute. I liked the choir boys and little “Freckles”.

I always enjoy interconnected stories, especially novellas. You can read it as a standalone, but if you have read Julia and Ivy’s stories, you already feel connected to this family.

Enter Here!

Blog Tour and Review: Healing Hazel

by Jennifer Moore

Publisher : Covenant Communications (September 8, 2022)
Language : English
ISBN-10 : 1524422185
ISBN-13 : 978-1524422189

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A Victorian Romance

Hazel Thornton has one great ambition: to help the sick and wounded as a nurse. But that dream can never become a reality. After a devastating childhood trauma, she has spent her life battling fits of panic that make it impossible to finish her studies. Everything changes, however, when a trip to Spain takes a perilous turn that derails her plans to visit her father for Christmas and immediately plunges her into the dangers of a brutal war.

With single-minded focus, she springs into action to help her fellow travelers. To ensure their continued care, she begins work at a Spanish hospital alongside Dr. Jim Jackson, a man whose only emotion seems to be wariness of his new assistant. Armed with gifts of support from each of her dearest friends, a group that dubs themselves the Blue Orchid Society, Hazel embarks on a journey of hope and healing to battle the demons of her past with the help of the doctor who has captured her heart.

Hazel Thornton can have an unassuming personality, but she cares so deeply for others and wants to help them. She is still in training to be a nurse, but after a train accident on the way to see her father for Christmas, her skills are required in full force.

Despite the fact that Hazel suffers from panic attacks, she rarely lets it stop her from doing what needs to be done. Her profession is very high stress and every second matters, yet Hazel powers through. She also finds herself in a country where she doesn’t speak the language and her friends are incapacitated. So much is going against Hazel, yet she maintains her positive attitude and stays strong.

Dr. Jim Jackson is an American doctor working with the Red Cross. He can come across as having a gruff exterior, but he also wants to heal people.

Hazel and Jim had a slow and quiet relationship. They were attracted to each other right away, but due to the circumstances, their relationship stayed more on a professional level.

This story is much more than their romance. I really like reading about the events that took place in this story, and I love the friendship of the women in the Blue Orchid Society.

While this is part of The Blue Orchid Society series, and we get to see some scenes with the other members, this book can very easily be read as a standalone.

Enter Here!

Blog Tour and Review: An Autumn Kiss

by Laura Rollins, Annette Lyon, Lisa H. Catmull

Publisher : Mirror Press (September 1, 2022)
Language : English
Paperback : 275 pages
ISBN-10 : 195261130X
ISBN-13 : 978-1952611308

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Will one kiss change their lives?

In this collection:

THE PLUCKY MISS RUTH by Laura Rollins:
Miss Ruth Hughes is certain she’s caught in a time loop—every day she wakes to find it exactly as the one before. A thrilling prospect to be sure. If the many books she reads on time travel has taught her anything, it is that to break free she must complete an all-important task. For Ruth the task is straightforward: reunite a couple, once desperately in love but forced apart by society. Unfortunately, things are not always as easy as they first appear. Struggling, Ruth opens up to the handsome Lord Lambert and he readily agrees to help. With autumn on the brink of turning into winter, time is running out for Ruth to help the ones who need her most. And, with a bit of luck, perhaps she can even find a little time for her own happily ever after.

MR. DOWLING’S REMEDY by Annette Lyon:
Crandall Dowling’s aspirations of becoming a physician collapse when he develops symptoms that land him in an asylum. He’s been at Sherville Retreat long enough for autumn leaves to appear when Beverly Stanton arrives. She’s held under the dubious diagnosis of “hysteria” but seems perfectly sane, unlike Crandall, though his verbal and physical tics don’t seem to scare or even bother her. Beverly and Crandall develop a friendship fueled by an undeniable attraction that under other circumstances could become more. But in an asylum, one cannot plan a future, let alone one of love or marriage. Then tragedy strikes, testing staff and patients beyond anyone’s training. When the dust settles, Beverly’s diagnosis may be reversed, but if she leaves, what will become of her? What of Crandall? And what of their autumn-born love?

Mr. Adrian Everard has tried everything to keep his father’s factory open, but a single solution remains. Marry an heiress before Christmas to fund the desperately needed railway. The local landowner, Lady Anne Baxter, will not agree to sell her garden—or her heart. Indeed, his childhood friend is determined to sabotage all his efforts to find a wife. As the deadline for Adrian to choose a bride draws close, one thing becomes painfully obvious. Saving the factory will mean losing the woman he loves forever.

The Plucky Miss Ruth by Laura Rollins

Ruth Hughes cares about science, books, and solitude, while she believes Lord Lambert cares for society and parties. She feels that her life is stuck in a continuous loop and the only way to break it is to reunite her cousin with her long lost love.

I found the continuous loop concept interesting. I am certainly a creature of habit, and I can see other people doing the same things over and over again routinely.

This was a sweet story, and I liked the setting of the garden and the changing of the season. I also liked the message of the quote of asking questions and listening to people.

Ruth knew, for all her book learning, she needed to do a little less presuming and a little more asking questions of people.

Mr. Dowling’s Remedy by Annette Lyon

Beverly Stanton has been committed to an asylum by her stepfather for “hysteria” as a way to get her out of his way and to make way for his daughter. At the asylum, Beverly meets Crandall Dowling. Crandall had been on his way to becoming a doctor before being committed by his mentor due to Tourette Syndrome. People believed that he was possessed by a demon.

If one was a hysterical lunatic, one wouldn’t know it, would they? How could she be sure of her own sanity? How could anyone?

I loved the point of view of Crandall the most. He was in such a dark place before he met Beverly. There were things that he couldn’t control, and instead of people being understanding, they were horrible to him. Beverly brings such a spark of light to him that is beautiful to see.

People believe that some of these barbaric treatments are a thing of the past, but a number of them are still done today. My sister is a mental health clinician. She and her company have had to work with a parent to get her child away from a local institute that still uses shock therapy. There are far more things that still go on, it is truly appalling what is still happening.

A Railway Through the Roses by Lisa H. Catmull

Lady Anne Baxter is a baroness who has had 6 seasons and is waiting for love but has only come across fortune hunters.

Adrian Everard is one of those fortune hunters. His father has threatened to disinherit him if he doesn’t marry an heiress in the next few months and secure funding for their business.

I loved this story! I always love the trope of childhood friends to more, and I really enjoyed the way their relationship progressed.

Millstone of Doubt – Review

by Erica Vetsch

Publisher : Kregel Publications (September 20, 2022)
Language : English
Paperback : 304 pages
ISBN-10 : 0825447143
ISBN-13 : 978-0825447143

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Caught in the explosion of the Hammersmith Mill in London, Bow Street runner Daniel Swann rushes to help any survivors only to find the mill’s owner dead of an apparent gunshot–but no sign of the killer.

Even though the owner’s daughter, Agatha Montgomery, mourns his death, she may be the only one. It seems there are more than a few people with motive for murder. But Daniel can’t take this investigation slow and steady. Instead, he must dig through all the suspects as quickly as he can, because the clock is ticking until his mysterious patronage–and his job as a runner–comes to an abrupt and painful end. It seems to Daniel that, like his earthly father, his heavenly Father has abandoned him.

Lady Juliette Thorndike is Agatha’s bosom friend and has the inside knowledge of the wealthy London ton to be invaluable to Daniel. She should be in a perfect position to help with the case. But when her trusted instructor in the art of spy craft orders her to stay out of the investigation, Lady Juliette obeys. That is, until circumstances intervene, and she drops right into the middle of the deadly pursuit.

When a dreadful accident ends in another death on the mill floor, Daniel discovers a connection to his murder case–and to his own secret past. Now he and Juliette are in a race to find the killer before his time runs out.

Millstone of Doubt brings back Bow Street runner Daniel Swann and Lady Juliette Thorndike as they investigate an explosion at the Hammersmith Mill.

This book continues with the genre of Sherlock Holmes meets Jane Austen with more mystery than romance. I highly suggest you read the first book in the series before this one.

The mystery in this book held my interest the entire time, and I love how there were so many layers of the onion to peel back. It was never obvious what would happen. I have also enjoyed following the characters, even the side ones.

I don’t usually think of turning books into TV shows, but I think this series would make an amazing TV show. It has all the elements you need with mystery, gripping drama, and lovable characters. I would totally binge watch it. I can’t wait for the next book!

The Bachelor and the Bride – Review

by Sarah M. Eden

Publisher : Shadow Mountain (September 6, 2022)
Language : English
Paperback : 368 pages
ISBN-10 : 1639930485
ISBN-13 : 978-1639930487

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London, 1866

Dr. Barnabus Milligan has always felt called to help people, whether that means setting a broken bone or rescuing the impoverished women of London from their desperate lives on the streets as part of his work with the Dread Penny Society.

Three years ago, he helped rescue Gemma Kincaid by secretly marrying her to protect her from her family of notorious grave robbers.

But six months after Gemma and Barnabus exchanged vows, she realized her love for her new husband was unrequited. To protect her heart, she left, telling Barnabus to contact her if his feelings for her ever grew beyond a sense of duty.

When Barnabus sends a letter to Gemma inviting her to return home, she hopes to find a true connection between them. But unfortunately, he only wants her help to foil the Kincaids, who have been terrorizing the boroughs of London, eager to gain both money and power.

Heartbroken, Gemma agrees to help, but she warns Barnabus that she will not stay for long, and once she goes, he’ll never see her again.

Yet as the couple follows the clues that seem to connect the Kincaids to the Mastiff, the leader of London’s criminal network, Gemma and Barnabus realize they might make a better match than either of them suspected. Perhaps the marriage that had once saved Gemma’s life might now save Barnabus―and his lonely heart.

But before the once-confirmed bachelor can properly court his secret bride, they’ll need to evade the dangerous forces that are drawing ever closer to the hopeful lovers and the entire Dread Penny Society itself.

Dr. Barnabas “Baz” Milligan is a member of the Dread Penny Society and has always felt a calling to help ever since he was a young child and watched what his mother was forced to go through. He has always been called a bachelor among his friends because he hid the fact that he had secretly been married for the last 3 1/2 years after rescuing a woman from her family.

London was no place for the faint of heart. Fortunately for Barnabus Milligan, he’d stopped listening to that organ long ago.

Gemma Kincaid grew up in an awful situation, and she didn’t follow after her family. I love that she is strong, yet she is vulnerable with Baz. She has never had anyone love her, and Baz’s distance and lack of reassuring words breaks her heart. She is not sure how much she can let him back in when she suddenly hears from him three years after she left.

“Life is often a struggle. There’s something beautiful about having someone who is willing to walk with you through it.”

I always loved this series, but this book was one of my favorites. It was so hard to put down! I love all the characters in the Dread Penny Society, and Gemma was a great new character.

I adore Moirin, and she and Parkington would make the best couple. I loved their scenes. There were so many characters from previous books I loved seeing again.

“Never you fear, Gemma,” Móirín said. “We’ve a high and mighty blue-bottle with us.” She hooked her finger in Parkington’s direction. “Never safer than when you’re with a policeman.”

“One of these days, Móirín Donnelly,” Parkington said, “you’ll confess I’m a fine person.”

“Do you mean to make the same confession about me?”

He shook his head. “I’ve a strict policy against lying.”

“And I’ve a strict policy against being too friendly with Peelers, so seems we’re at an impasse.”

As with the other books in this series, this book has the main story, and 2 penny dreadfuls weaved throughout it. I love how unique this is, and Sarah Eden is so incredibly talented in her writing. I highly suggest reading the others in the series before reading this one.

The ending of the book is so good! It is going to be brutal to wait for the next in the series.