When Ivy Rose returns to her hometown to oversee an estate sale, she soon discovers that her grandmother left behind more than trinkets and photo frames–she provided a path to the truth behind Ivy’s adoption. Shocked, Ivy seeks clues to her past, but a key piece to the mystery is missing.
Twenty-four years earlier, Harvey James finds an abandoned newborn who gives him a sense of human connection for the first time in his life. His desire to care for the baby runs up against the stark fact that he is homeless. When he becomes entwined with two people seeking to help him find his way, Harvey knows he must keep the baby a secret or risk losing the only person he’s ever loved.
In this dual-time story from debut novelist Amanda Cox, the truth–both the search for it and the desire to keep it from others–takes center stage as Ivy and Harvey grapple with love, loss, and letting go.
The Edge of Belonging is such a spellbinding, dual-time novel from Amanda Cox. I foresee Edge of Belonging winning an award for debut novels. For myself, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the page. Heart-rending themes such as foster homes, homelessness, human trafficking, depression, and PTSD are dealt with from both the sufferer’s and a loving helper’s POV. The raw loneliness hurt, and need that several of the characters experience is portrayed so poignantly. It seems each character in the earlier story (Harvey, Pearl, Thom, and Miriam) feels they are on the edge of belonging to some degree.
In the later story, Ivy is the focal point who feels like she doesn’t quite belong, but her best friend Reese has often struggled with those same sentiments. I was thrilled to see how the book’s title applied to so many. I also loved seeing the hope and mercy that certain characters, especially Pearl and Reese, generously dole out to others. Again, so many of Ms. Cox’s characters show significant growth by the end of the story. While it is easy to see early on where the stories will connect, there remains the fascination of just how Ms. Cox is going to work it all out.
I usually like to pick a favorite character, but they were all faves. I love Reese for his steadiness and undying care. Harvey, for the way he supersedes his own fears to love another. And Pearl, for her radar to find and genuinely love lost souls. Get your own copy of this must-read debut! I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher through Revell Reads via NetGalley. All opinions are my own and no positive review was required.
It’s a match made in heaven…as long as they don’t fall in love!
The ranch Nolan Key has spent decades working for, even lost a leg for, is now his—or at least it should be. But an absurd clause in his father’s will means he’s in danger of losing the place to his lazy, undeserving cousin. Nolan finds himself scrambling to save his home—by proposing marriage to the town laundress.
Corinne Stillwater’s hands have betrayed her. Numb from hours of doing the same work over and over, her hands will only heal, according to the town doctor, if she gives up the laundry and marries. But she’s been stung repeatedly by love before, so that is one remedy she can’t swallow.
When Nolan offers Corinne a marriage in name only, how can she refuse? Such a partnership could give them the security they seek, but what if the ranch isn’t as secure as they believe, and their lives—and dreams—aren’t quite as compatible as they thought?
Pretending to Wed is the second book in the Frontier Vows Series by award-winning Christian romance author Melissa Jagears. If you like marriage-of-convenience stories that deal with the nitty-gritty of making a relationship work, you’ll love this authentic romance set in a time gone by that tackles issues still relevant for today.
Travel back to a hot summer in 1884 in Wyoming Territory. Nolan Key is desperate, as the ranch he stood to inherit from his father will only pass to him if he marries within 3 months. Otherwise, his unbearable cousin Matt, whom his father always seemed to prefer over his own son, will own the spread.
Pretending to Wed is my first Melissa Jagears novel, but I will be on the lookout for more. I enjoyed the marriage of convenience trope. I liked how some of Nolan’s attitudes were due to his pain, but was amazed at the lengths to which he would go, to be self-sufficient. I found it amazing to think that there were prosthetic limbs to be had way back then. Corrine Stillwater, the town laundress, was as stubbornly self- sufficient as Nolan. She also lived with constant pain and was just as determined not to marry as Nolan. I was happy to see the apparent growth in Uncle Matthias and the softening of some attitudes. Matt was so irritating and arrogant. He seemed to have few redeeming qualities. While Matt may have been two-dimensional, it made for a lighter read.
One thing that did frustrate me, was the unwillingness of either Nolan or Corrine to be open about their feelings. While part of a series, Pretending to Wed can stand alone well. Recommended for those who like light historical romance. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author and publisher through Celebrate Lit. All opinions are my own, and no positive review was required.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
About the Author
Award winning author, Melissa Jagears, is a homeschooling mom who writes Christian Historical Romance into the wee hours of the night. She lives in Kansas with her husband and three children. Her ebook novella, Love by the Letter, is her ACFW Carol Award winning novella and free to try. You can learn more about her, her books, and where she hangs out online at www.melissajagears.com
More from Melissa
The Elusive Electrical Spark to Awaken Frankenstein’s Monster
The plot of Pretending to Wed just wasn’t coming together for me. I had the romantic dilemma, but I didn’t love the characters. They were boring. And if I’m going to write a book, a.k.a. read it a bazillion times, I have to really want to read the book myself. I decided to take a break from the weeks of struggle and read. I was recommended a book because of the author’s great voice (I can’t recommend it because it’s not a clean novel), but I loved the fact that the heroine was a scientific illustrator. I wondered if I could give my heroine a scientific hobby and came up with inventing. That single character tidbit was the jolt that awakened Frankenstein’s Monster. She came alive! The research into what she could have patented at the time led my imagination to the egg hatching romance scene in the middle of the story and I was hooked! I couldn’t wait to read my book that didn’t yet exist.
To celebrate her tour, Melissa is giving away the grand prize package of a Gift Certificate for the winner’s Choice of Book (up to 16.99 plus S&H) from Melissa’s Local Christian Bookstore, Faith & Life Bookstore, and a signed copy of Pretending to Wed!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.
A traveling librarian ventures into the mining towns of Kentucky on horseback and rediscovers her passions in this powerful novel from the best-selling author of A Silken Thread.
During the Great Depression, Addie Cowherd dreams of being a novelist and offering readers the escape that books gave her during her tragic childhood. When her adoptive father loses his job, she is forced to leave college and take the only employment she can find–delivering books on horseback to poor coal mining families in the hills of Kentucky.
The small community of Boone’s Hollow is suspicious of outsiders and steeped in superstitions that leave Addie feeling rejected and indignant. Although she finds an unexpected friend in an elderly outcast, the other horseback librarians scorn her determination to befriend Nanny Fay.
Emmett Tharp grew up in the tiny mountain hamlet where most men either work in the coal mine or run moonshine. He’s the first in the community to earn a college degree, and he has big dreams, but witnesses the Depression robbing many young men of their future.
Then someone sets out to sabotage the library program, going so far as to destroy Addie’s novel in progress. Will the saboteur chase Addie and the other librarians away, or will knowledge emerge victorious over prejudice? Is Emmett the local ally that Addie needs–and might their friendship lead to something more?
Inspired by the real WPA program that sent librarians on horseback to deliver books to hill families in Kentucky, Kim Vogel Sawyer immersed herself in Appalachian history to tell this captivating story.
A while back, some polls were taken of Christian fiction readers. Many said their favorite fiction book of all time was Catherine Marshall’s Christy. Now we are blessed with several Christy-like books on the market. Certainly, the Appalachia of times gone by has a nostalgic pull for readers. Kim Vogel Sawyer’s depiction of the Kentucky hills and her proud, but superstitious people will sate some of the longings to know these people who lived by their own code of honor. It wasn’t enough to live in the hills, one needed to be born and bred in the hills, know the neighbors from birth, and adhere to the superstitions.
In 1936, Addie Cowherd and Emmett Tharp, near strangers, and separate of each other, leave college in Lexington, KY, and attempt to make their respective homes in Boone’s Hollow (pronounced ”Holler” by the mountain folk). Emmett is rejected because of his outside education; Addie, for being a total stranger to an area where being a stranger ”like to as not” can get you shot on sight. Sawyer shows us throughout the story what life in the mountains could be like. Superstitions run high, distrust of strangers is learned early, family feuds are fed for generations, and anyone stepping off the mountain is seen as a traitor. Stills hide in the trees, feeding addiction, which then, in turn, feeds abuse, yet neighbors refuse to break the ”code of honor.”
I couldn’t believe that at the end of the story, Ms. Sawyer had me loving the person she had shown unlovable. That’s talent! And those are characters- who can forgive that mightily! So much to learn, more than even reading, from the people of ”Boone Holler.” My two favorite characters (who like to be too shy to take a bow) would be Emmett’s mother, Damaris, and Nanny Fay. They just might could be the backbone of the mountain. I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher through NetGalley. I also bought my own copy, to be sure I didn’t miss it. All opinions are my own, and no positive review was required. Notable Quotables: “…yawning during a sermon is most certainly a sin.” “Just ’cause nobody else knows you done somethin’ extra special don’t mean it ain’t special.” ”She’d cracked that mirror herself so her soul could escape if the mirror captured it, but she didn’t want to take no chances by looking at herself too long.”
Rating: 5 out of 5.
About the Author
Award-winning, bestselling author Kim Vogel Sawyer told her kindergarten teacher that someday people would check out her book in the library. The little-girl dream came true in 2006 with the release of Waiting for Summer’s Return. Kim’s titles now exceed 1.5 million copies and are available in six different languages. A former elementary school teacher, she now enjoys a full-time writing and speaking ministry. Kim’s passion lies in writing stories that point the reader to a deeper, more intimate relationship with God. When Kim isn’t writing, you’ll find her traveling with her retired military hubby, spoiling her granddarlings, petting the cats, quilting, or–as time allows–participating in community theater. You can learn more about Kim’s writing and speaking ministries at her website, KimVogelSawyer.com.
Return to the turbulence of ancient Canaan in Book Three of The Stones of Gilgal. Even the raging floods of the Jordan could not stop the Israelites from crossing the river and setting up camp near Jericho. Canaanite kings and kingdoms—even the Anakim giants—are in turmoil. Former enemies jostle for power in new alliances, united only in their determination to destroy the Israelite invaders.
When the massive fortifications of Jericho collapse, Salmon rushes into the ruins to save Rahab, the beautiful harlot who had rescued him and his fellow spy from certain death. But saving her from her own city is not so easy. And that is only the beginning of the trouble, treachery and devastating ruins they and their friends face as they settle into their new life in the Promised Land.
CL Smith’s Trouble in the Ruins, # 3 Stones of Gilgal, gripped my heart with terror and wonder. Terror of the Anakim in the land. I wondered as Smith describes the Anakim and their devotion to Baal if I would have been faithful to follow Joshua and Caleb’s urging to conquer the Promised Land (although that actually occurred in a previous book, we see so much of the Anakim, I can understand the Israelites’ fear. If only they could KNOW that their God is greater…) Wonder at the greatness of God. “Night after night, the stars declared Yahweh’s message. Israel did not face evil alone. God would provide a deliverer. It was the message of Passover.” Evil abounds, whether in Jericho, or in the Anakim, or the hearts of man, not fully committed to God. We travel with Israel and observe the wondrous defeat of Jericho, only to see the treachery that causes the defeat at Ai. I love how each character is presented as realistically, struggling, and sometimes failing, in their walk with Yahweh. Yet we see several attaining redemption, while others reject Yahweh and rail against Him. I liked how even the “good” characters like Caleb’s daughter Acsah and her friend Abihail find they need forgiveness and cleansing. Sometimes those who think themselves most righteous have to re-examine God’s Word for guidance on how to treat others.
My heart yearned in agreement with statements about the young people: “Passover is not their story, but it must become so. It is the birth story of our people. I must tell it and retell it. Make it theirs. Tell it every year until I die—my parting gift to future generations.” So many touching quotes. So many competing storylines, yet they work. Especially if you have read the first two books, which I had not, or are familiar with the Biblical Exodus. I give Ms. Smith points for putting the map in front (where I believe all maps belong) and the lengthy character list in back, where one can refer to it, once you have enough knowledge to hang your hat on. Otherwise, I find a list of names at the front off-putting. Add footnotes to Biblical allusions and references, great! At times the prose is not only compelling, but it is also melodic. This is a book that was hard to put down, as I followed each character and grew to love them. Of course, with so many characters getting their turn in the sun, many did not see the ending I was hoping for. Fortunately, we are promised two or three more books to bring this Israelite saga to a satisfying conclusion. I went and bought the first two stories. I would have bought the sequels if they were available. If you like exciting Biblical fiction, give Trouble in the Ruins a try. Notable Quotables:
“…we must not let the living force of the story be lost.”
“God transforms tears into jewels. He has a new plan for me than the life I imagined. A higher place, and it will be good.”
“Welcome to a place where identity and dignity are found in covenant with Yahweh.”
I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher through Celebrate Lit. (I also bought my own copy.) All opinions are my own, and no positive review was required.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
About the Author
C.L. SMITH, former missionary, retired junior high English/history teacher, has captivated audiences around the world for years with the timeless thrill of biblical tales. Now her six-part Stones of Gilgal saga brings the mayhem and miracles of the book Joshua to life. Well researched and beautifully written, the author weaves her lifetime love of learning and people into the fabric of the biblical text, creating a tapestry of rich scenes and colorful characters the reader will not soon forget.
The Stones of Gilgal biblical novels follow the epic adventures of a group of ordinary young Israelites. As they battle evil together, they sink their roots deeper and deeper into the bedrock of God’s Truth and Love, slowly growing from a stand of saplings to a forest of giants.
Two of the seven young characters in my series have to deal with a lot of Trouble in the Ruins in this book. Lots of trouble. Lots of ruins.
Rahab the Harlot barely escapes the ruins of Jericho, but the ruins of her former life threaten to keep her ever an alien among the people of Yahweh.
Abihail is Acsah’s best friend from childhood, but she is also a fictionalized daughter-in-law of the biblical Achan. Her life is slammed with heart-rending trouble and ruin as that horrific Old Testament drama unfolds.
The Title: Trouble in the Ruins
The inspiration for this title comes from a couple of “plays on words” in Hebrew.
Trouble: The name Achan in Hebrew sounds very similar to the word Achor meaning trouble. The story of the biblical character Achan is forever tied to the word trouble at the end of Joshua 7 when the valley where he was stoned and buried under a “monument” of rocks received the name the Valley of Achor.
Ruins: Achan’s sin led to defeat at a little fortress known as Ai which means ruin. Some scholars suggest that the fortress was built on or near the ruins of a city destroyed in an earlier time. Following the glory of the crossing of the Jordan and the crumbling walls of Jericho—the Hebrew mind would find great dramatic irony in Israel being defeated by a “ruin.” The story jolts us out of complacency, underscoring the life and death consequences of obedience versus breaking covenant with God.
Delany Fleet, a widowed former indentured servant living in the colonial port of Norfolk, Virginia, dreams of having an estate of her own where she will never have to compromise her freedom.
When the only man she ever loved shows up with a load of smuggled firearms, Delany is forced to leave her home and her livelihood to protect her family and property from Lord Dunmore’s raids and the conniving plots of a man who claims to be her friend.
Now, with her destiny forever altered, Delany must find a new way to happiness. Can reconnecting with her husband’s family and a former love be the path that God has for her?
Historical romance. Colonial Virginia, 1775. A young girl falls into an unlikely crush with a rich landowner’s son, only to meet him years later under different circumstances. My reading juices are salivating over such a description of The Shopkeeper’s Widow by Izzy James. This book’s rating was a conundrum for me, as I sorted out what I liked (a lot) and what I think would like to see different (sometime it would be fun to have an author write a story and have different people finish it, just to see the different opinions.) I would like to highlight that these wishes, especially for a different take, are MY OPINION. Delaney Button Fleet, widowed owner of a toy shop in Norfolk, becomes an outspoken advocate of abolition, though it may not have been referred to as such in 1775. Delaney chooses to align with the colonists when the British loot a local print shop. First wish: I wished the book would have ended without the epilogue. I expected some rewarding tidbit to be uncovered but felt it was too abrupt. Secondly, when I finished the book, I was left with a few loose ends, which I didn’t know how to secure.
For happy points, I did like that we were shown how much Delany enjoyed her nieces and nephews. A book always gains my interest when children are involved in a loving, wholesome way. I did appreciate how Ms. James shows that brothers can be very different and have very disparate values. Tom Fleet is the antithesis of his brother, Sam. Also, George and Freewill were opposites. One can only assume that children raised in the same home by the same parents still can make very different life-defining choices. The novel is a little preachy in spots. I would prefer a more naturally flowing message, but I do agree it is life’s most important message. I like romance but got a little impatient with Delany in her unwillingness to give Field Archer room to grow. However, Ms. James was on it. I loved that Sarah reminded Delany, “you have to allow for growth to happen at its own pace.” So, the heroine is flawed. Well and good, because so was the hero.
Now, with the list of pros and cons presented against each other, I gladly rate this historical novel a solid four stars. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author and publisher through Celebrate Lit. All opinions are solely my own and no positive review was required.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
About the Author
Izzy James grew up surrounded by history and story in coastal Virginia. She still lives there with her fabulous husband in a house brimming with books.
More from Izzy
Hello! My name is Izzy James. My new book is The Shopkeeper’s Widow. It’s about freedom and second chances. I learned quite a bit of history while researching and writing this book. Did you know that the first showers began to appear in the early 1760’s? I gave Delany one of them in Shopkeeper’s just for fun. It is not likely she would have had a shower at that time, but it is fiction and as such I thought it would be a fun detail to add. We do know that some people did rig up for themselves a semblance of a daily shower by using a bucket full of water suspended above them.
Mary Daley has been the sheriff of Tipton County for more than two decades, but someone wants her job. When it seems circumstances can’t get more complicated, a murder happens on her watch. Had she been the intended victim?
Deputy Chief Lyle Griffin only wants Mary to be happy, but when he asks her if she’d consider retiring, it sets off a string of events and emotions that muddy their friendship.
Nancy Daley-Malone can’t believe anyone would run for sheriff against her mom. She is onboard to help run the best campaign Tipton County has ever seen until the sheriff’s opponent is murdered and Nancy’s husband joins the race. On top of that, it appears someone is out to kill her mother as well.
Can Nancy, along with the sheriff’s department, find the murderer before it’s too late? Will Lyle and Mary be able to admit their feelings for one another or will the status quo remain?
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” I first loved The Sleuth’s Surprise, #4 The Librarian Sleuth, because it is a Christian cozy. No bad words, no bad scenes, but a small town with a murder and an amateur sleuth. While I vaguely remembered the librarian, Nancy, who tries to solve the mystery (I’d only read one other book in the series), it was obvious that this book could stand on its own merits. Yay.
The main character, Mary, is a mature woman, into her fifties. She is quite capable and respected in her job AND she has a romance waiting to happen IF she and a friend can get past the “friend” point. How often main characters are only in their twenties or thirties at best! Thank you, Ms. Johnson.
The competition that Kimberly Rose Johnson sets up for Nancy’s heart. How can Nancy ever decide whom to support between the two people she loves most. Just for free, the main characters of the other book I read were also involved and their relationship grew, as well. Lighter than my most recent read, The Sleuth’s Surprise was a timely, delicious surprise for a hungry bookworm. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. This in no way affects my opinions, which are solely my own.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
About the Author
Award winning author Kimberly Rose Johnson married her college sweetheart and lives in the Pacific Northwest. From a young child Kimberly has been an avid reader. That love of reading fostered a creative mind and led to her passion for writing. She especially loves romance and writes contemporary romance that warms the heart and feeds the soul.
Kimberly holds a degree in Behavioral Science from Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington, and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.
Children’s clothing designer Mary Wade Kimball’s soft spot for animals leads to a hostage situation when she spots a briar-entangled kitten in front of an abandoned house. Beaten, bound, and gagged by the two thugs inside, Mary Wade loses hope for escape when a third villain returns with supplies.Discovering the kidnapped, innocent woman ratchets the complications for undercover agent Brett Davis. Weighing the difference of ruining his three months’ investigation against the woman’s safety, Brett forsakes his mission and helps her escape, the bent-on-revenge brutes following behind.When Mary Wade’s safety is threatened once more, Brett rescues her again. This time, her personal safety isn’t the only thing in jeopardy. Her heart is endangered as well.
“You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Hmm, maybe not, but you sure can increase the chances of a reader picking it up if it has an enticing look to it. I chose Rescued Hearts by Hope Toler Dougherty first because of the irresistible cover. The kitten, the rundown cottage, and sinister clouds produce just the right effect. Mary Wade Kimball is house-sitting when she stumbles into an undercover operation and finds herself kidnapped by two fiendish characters. What happens next is incredible, but works for this romantic suspense novel.
Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t really connect with the characters until about 40% of the way through. Once I got that far, I began to enjoy the novel much more, and the relationship, or possible relationship, between Mary Wade and Brett Davis. Brett has been hurt before and is super cautious, confusing Mary Wade. Mary Wade tries hard to forget him, but circumstances conspire against her. Gigi, Brett’s grandmother, is a wonderful source of support for Brett. She is a great cook and has a sharp mind and impeccable timing. She’s a card well-played. I liked the end but wasn’t really comfortable with the settling of one of the problems. It seemed a little simple, give the amount of time spent on setting up the conflict.
Still, a fun read all in all. The road to true love is never smooth. Try an afternoon with Rescued Hearts and be ready for a bumpy ride. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author and publisher through Celebrate Lit. All opinions are my own. No positive review was required.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
About the Author
Hope holds a Master’s degree and taught at East Carolina University and York Technical College. Her novels include Irish Encounter and Mars…With Venus Rising, Rescued Hearts, and Forever Music. She’s a member of ACFW and RWA. Residing in North Carolina, she and her husband enjoy visits with their daughters and twin sons.
More from Hope
I live in the country on land my great grandfather owned. For exercise, I ride my bike on our two-lane roads. One afternoon a few years ago, I took a detour off the paved road and onto a dirt path not too far from my house.
The lane meanders by the location of a distant cousin’s long-since demolished house. Trees and a few bushes still outline the phantom house’s parameters, but no boards or bricks mark the spot. Farm equipment waits under nearby shelters.
As I passed the lonely trees and silent tractors, a creepy sensation tickled the back of my neck. My imagination kicked into gear. What if a bike rider rode by an abandoned house? What if she saw a kitten entangled in a honeysuckle vine at the porch steps? What if, while she tried to free the kitten, someone grabbed her and dragged her inside where she was beaten and threatened with rape?
My pedaling picked up speed, and I reached home in record time.
Those questions continued popping up in my mind, however. I began seeing the characters, then hearing them speak every night as I dropped off to sleep. I’d never written a romantic suspense story before, but the characters refused to leave me alone.
Those initial questions led to the first chapter of Rescued Hearts.
Two Series of Murders Seem Mysteriously Connected…
Book 7 in the True Colors series—Fiction Based on Strange-But True History
Three years before Jack the Ripper began his murderous spree on the streets of London, women were dying in their beds as The Midnight Assassin terrorized the citizens of Austin, Texas. Now, with suspicion falling on Her Majesty’s family and Scotland Yard at a loss as to who the Ripper might be, Queen Victoria summons her great-granddaughter, Alice Anne von Wettin, a former Pinkerton agent who worked the unsolved Austin case, and orders her to discreetly form a team to look into the London matter.
The prospect of a second chance to work with Annie just might entice Isaiah Joplin out of his comfortable life as an Austin lawyer. If his theories are right, they’ll find the The Midnight Assassin and, by default, the Ripper. If they’re wrong, he and Annie are in a bigger mess than the one the feisty female left behind when she departed Austin under cover of darkness three years ago.
Can the unlikely pair find the truth of who is behind the murders before they are drawn into the killer’s deadly game? From Texas to London, the story navigates the fine line between truth and fiction as Annie and Isaiah ultimately find the hunters have become the hunted.
As I started the Black Midnight, #7, True Colors, by Kathleen Y’Barbo, I was shaking in my boots. What kind of grisly murder story was I in for this time? The True Colors series has been very interesting, as different authors take turns spinning factual historical crimes into a fascinating, but often gruesome story. The inclusion of a romantic thread often collides against the seriousness of the crimes. Y’Barbo has taken on the story of “The Servant Girl Killer“ which occurred in Austin,Texas in 1884-1888 added it to the story of Jack the Ripper in England, starting in 1888. I was glued to the pages as Annie, a distant royal, and a Pinkerton, tried to keep her sleuthing job hidden from her Granny, the Queen. Ike, also a Pinkerton, is obviously in love with Annie, but can the two locate the killer in Austin while falling in love?
Y’Barbo did a tremendous amount of research and it was so neat that she shared so much of it with us in fiction form, including a certain room in the Palace, crime scenes, and the many varied rumors about the possible perpetrators of the murders. I found my reading speed increasing as the story wound up, my heart beating way too fast.
There are author notes at the end that separate fact from fiction and allow the reader to be doubly educated. For those who enjoy mysteries and crime thrillers with a touch of romance, The Black Midnight is a good choice. But be loyal and have your other society member’s backs! I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author and publisher through Celebrate Lit via NetGalley. No positive review was required, and all opinions are my own.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
About the Author
Bestselling author Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee of more than sixty novels with almost two million copies of her books in print in the US and abroad.
More from Kathleen Y’Barbo
I am a tenth generation Texan, but London has held a place in my heart for over ten years. You see, I have a son who has lived there for more than a decade. Thanks to him and his family of three—my granddaughter was born there on New Year’s Eve 2019—the city will always be special to me. There is absolutely nothing like walking those streets with a thousand years of history close enough to touch.
It was on a walk with my son through this great city that the stories of nineteenth century London came alive. With fog shrouding the rooftops of buildings that were hundreds of years old and our footsteps echoing on the cobblestones, I could imagine a time when lack of electricity and CCTV would make this place less than charming on a dark night. What reminded me of my favorite childhood movie, Mary Poppins, quickly became more reminiscent of Jack the Ripper. And then a story was born.
Only I just had half the story.
The other half came to me several years later when I stumbled across an article in Texas Monthly magazine about a serial killer who rampaged through Austin, Texas in 1884 and 1885 and was never caught. Some surmised this madman, called “The Midnight Assassin” by some, might have been Jack the Ripper honing his skills before he crossed the Atlantic to begin his famous crime spree in Great Britain.
But Austin? Ironically, my other two sons lived in Austin. So while part of my heart was in London, two more parts of that same heart resided in the Texas capital. I thought I knew Austin inside out. Between one of my sons getting not one but two degrees from the University of Texas (this Aggie grad is still proud of him in spite of what I jokingly call his burnt orange rebellion) and my other son living there and managing a restaurant at the time (and who just graduated from Texas A&M Galveston last month!), I had spent many years in the city. And yet I had never heard of the Midnight Assassin.
Research turned up a tale that sounds so close to fiction I had to write about it. Discovering the theory that the Austin killer might also be the Ripper just added to my interest—neither had been caught. And I like to write about Pinkerton detectives.
From there the story unfolded. If you’ve read any of my historical romances, you know that I love incorporating actual history into my stories. As you’ll see when you read The Black Midnight, this book is no exception. While I will continue writing the historical romances I love to bring to you, I will confess that writing this book has me itching to research another one like it.
What’s next in my foray into true crime novels? Maybe Houston. You see, I have a daughter who lives there…
In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy reading The Black Midnight as much as I enjoyed writing it!
1928 The Bonaventure Circus is a refuge for many, but Pippa Ripley was rejected from its inner circle as a baby. When she receives mysterious messages from someone called the “Watchman,” she is determined to find him and the connection to her birth. As Pippa’s search leads her to a man seeking justice for his murdered sister and evidence that a serial killer has been haunting the circus train, she must decide if uncovering her roots is worth putting herself directly in the path of the killer.
Present Day The old circus train depot will either be torn down or preserved for historical importance, and its future rests on real estate project manager Chandler Faulk’s shoulders. As she dives deep into the depot’s history, she’s also balancing a newly diagnosed autoimmune disease and the pressures of single motherhood. When she discovers clues to the unsolved murders of the past, Chandler is pulled into a story far darker and more haunting than even an abandoned train depot could portend.
“Life was not unlike the wisp of fog that curled around the base of a grave marker, softly caressing the marble before dissolving into the violet shadows of the night.” And so, Jaime Jo Wright begins spinning her chilling web of mystery, wonderment, and deceit in The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus. At first, it seems like there might be a lot of unrelated information we are given. Like Alice in Wonderland, we just never know down which rabbit hole Ms. Wright will take us, or what to do with the scenes we see. With a dual timeline story, Wright alternates chapters between past and present. Double the rabbit holes; add a baby elephant, a Sasquatch-like man, a self- proclaimed medium, and a pit-bull, in no particular order.
We see young Pippa Ripley, adopted daughter of the circus owner, who longs to know her people and find value in her life. Before we can discover too much about Pippa, Wright pulls us out of the mire and thrusts us into the quagmire that is Chandler Faulk’s story. As we sort through her present-day needs to survive, excel, and raise a child on her own, we are again uprooted and thrown back into the circus world, or as close as Pippa is allowed to venture. Actually, Wright does a wonderful job of feeding us just enough information about each young lady, both searching for belonging, significance, and love. Then, like a crazy carnival ride, we are tossed back and forth between the two narratives, hanging on for dear life, and trying our best to hang onto our wits as well. When I finished the book, I looked back in astonishment, amazed at the wild ride I’d been on, helpless to change it (I tried, but Pippa wouldn’t listen).
What a slowly-building whirlwind adventure that turned out to be! The book is finished but the repercussions will live on in my mind. Dare to read the book and leave it unfazed. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author and publisher through NetGalley. No positive review was required, and all opinions are my own.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
About the Author
Daphne du Maurier and Christy Award-Winning author, Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing suspenseful, mysteries stained with history’s secrets. Jaime lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimewrightbooks.com!
When Savannah Mast’s fiance dumps her a week before their wedding, she flees California for the safety of her Amish grandmother’s farm near Nappanee, Indiana. She’s not planning on staying long but becomes unexpectedly entangled in the search for a missing Amish girl. She can’t leave–especially not when her childhood friend Tommy Yoder is implicated as a suspect.
When Savannah accompanies her grandmother to Plain Patterns, a nearby quilt shop, the owner and local historian, Jane Berger, relates a tale about another woman’s disappearance back in the 1800s that has curious echoes to today.
Inspired by the story, Savannah does all she can to find the Amish girl and clear Tommy’s name. But when her former fiance shows up, begging her to return to California and marry him after all, she must choose between accepting the security of what he has to offer or continuing the complicated legacy of her family’s faith.
Piecing It All Together, #1 Plain Patterns, by Leslie Gould, is one novel I want to label purely “Wunderbar.” I was fortunate to catch a sample chapter somewhere on my phone and I was hooked. I immediately requested a copy from NetGalley. I must admit, I was a little uncertain. Some of Gould’s collaborations I have loved, while one particular series was not my style. But I am so glad I didn’t miss this one, and I will be first in line for book two, it is that enticing.
Gould’s riveting novel is a dual-timeline, with two young women, either Amish or with
Amish ties, who are desperately seeking their place in life. Gould weaves so much
tension into each story, switching between the two effortlessly. I couldn’t stand to put the
book down and finished it in one day. So many emotions are pulled out of the reader’s
heart, as you journey life with both present-day Savannah and 1842’s Emma and begin to
see the greater picture come together.
So many takeaways for any reader. As we see overt and covert prejudice, we see what
the cost is to fight for true equality. Some people don’t give troublesome teenagers a
chance to grow and mature into upstanding adults. We see characters who, one step at a
time, rise far above anything they’d ever imagined. And we see incredible courage in the
face of insurmountable odds, only to be recognized after the fact. Faith and forgiveness
lived out to the fullest. I can’t rave enough about this book and its unforgettable
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author and publisher through
NetGalley. No positive review was required and the opinions are solely my own.
5 Stars- Hits My Reading Sweet Spot
About the Author
Leslie Gould is the #1 bestselling and Christy Award-winning author of thirty novels. She received her MFA from Portland State University and teaches writing at Warner Pacific University. Leslie enjoys traveling, hiking, and history. She and her husband, Peter, are the revolving-door parents of four children and two cats. Visit her at http://www.lesliegould.com/.