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Shadows in the Mind’s Eye by Janyre Tromp Review and Giveaway

About the Book

Title: Shadows in the Mind’s Eye

Author: Janyre Tromp

Publisher: Kregel

Released: April 19, 2022

Charlotte Anne Mattas longs to turn back the clock. Before her husband, Sam, went to serve his country in the war, he was the man everyone could rely on–responsible, intelligent, and loving. But the person who’s come back to their family farm is very different from the protector Annie remembers. Sam’s experience in the Pacific theater has left him broken in ways no one can understand–but that everyone is learning to fear.

Tongues start wagging after Sam nearly kills his own brother. Now when he claims to have seen men on the mountain when no one else has seen them, Annie isn’t the only one questioning his sanity and her safety. If there were criminals haunting the hills, there should be evidence beyond his claims. Is he really seeing what he says, or is his war-tortured mind conjuring ghosts?

Annie desperately wants to believe her husband. But between his irrational choices and his nightmares leaking into the daytime, she’s terrified he’s going mad. Can she trust God to heal Sam’s mental wounds–or will sticking by him mean keeping her marriage at the cost of her own life?

Debut novelist Janyre Tromp delivers a deliciously eerie, Hitchcockian story filled with love and suspense. Readers of psychological thrillers and historical fiction by Jaime Jo Wright and Sarah Sundin will add Tromp to their favorite authors list.

My Impressions

“Sometimes God uses broken things to save us … Ain’t no light that can get through something solid. It sneaks through the broken places.”

Broken… that is what so many characters are, in Janyre Tromp’s debut novel, Shadows in the Mind’s Eye. WWII is over, but as the surviving men return home, many face the kind of difficulties that own Sam Mattas and his family.

Wives and other family not going to war attempt to keep the family homestead going, waiting their men’s return. When Sam Mattas reappears, his wife and family are left to wonder how to navigate the much less-than-ideal situation God allows. Is God still to be trusted? Does God have a plan for this mess?

This psychological thriller is immersed in the Southern mountain culture, with the heart of truth only revealed after much emotional upheaval (including on the reader’s part!) First person narrative, alternating between Sam and Annie, made me want to choose sides, then switch repeatedly until my head was spinning. Characters are so multi-faceted and fluid that I found myself identifying with even some of the “villains.” I must admit this novel reminded me of some great classics- not easy to enter into for awhile, but once I did, I felt like I had discovered a treasure by the end!

My favorite character is Dovie May. Elderly, life has not been kind to her, yet she remains full of faith, optimism, and encouragement for others to keep pressing forward. Wisdom is certainly on her tongue.

I received a copy of this book from the I Read with Audra Tour via NetGalley. No positive review is required, and all opinions are my own.

Notable Quotable:

So many, but I will give my fave:

“We think everything eventually goes back to what we want it be. That everything’ll be happy and familiar, the good winning. We never want to travel beyond the point where everybody’s happy. But life’s everything after, and the question is, what are you going to do with the truth life drops in your lap?”

My Rating

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Magnificent!! Fabulous Psychological Thriller of WWII Era

About the Author

Janyre Tromp is a historical novelist whose loves spinning tales that, at their core, hunt for beauty, even when it isn’t pretty. She’s the author of Shadows in the Mind’s Eye and coauthor of It’s a Wonderful Christmas.

She’s also a book editor, published children’s book author, and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan with her family, two crazy cats, and a slightly eccentric Shetland Sheepdog. And if you ever meet in person, you pronounce that first name Jan-ear.

You can find her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and her website,www.JanyreTromp.com (where you can grab a free copy of her novella Wide Open).

More Behind Shadows in the Mind’s Eye

An Interview with Janyre Tromp,

Author of Shadows in the Mind’s Eye

 

In Shadows in the Mind’s Eye (Kregel Publications),debut novelist Janyre Tromp delivers a deliciously eerie, Hitchcockian story filled with love and suspense as she takes readers back in time to 1940s Hot Springs, Arkansas.

 

Charlotte Anne Mattas longs to turn back the clock. Before her husband, Sam, went to serve his country in the war, he was the man everyone could rely on—responsible, intelligent, and loving. But the person who came back to their family farm is very different from the protector Annie remembers. Sam’s experience in the Pacific theater has left him broken in ways no one can understand—but that everyone is learning to fear.

 

When Sam claims to have seen men on the mountain when no one else has, Annie isn’t the only one questioning his sanity and her safety. If there were criminals haunting the hills, there should be evidence. Is he really seeing what he says, or is his war-tortured mind conjuring ghosts?

 

Annie desperately wants to believe her husband, but between his irrational choices and his nightmares leaking into the daytime, she’s terrified he’s going mad. Can she trust God to heal Sam’s mental wounds—or will sticking by him mean keeping her marriage at the cost of her own life?

 

Q: The back of the book describes Shadows in the Mind’s Eye as, “A deliciously eerie, Hitchcockian story filled with love and suspense.” In your own words, introduce us to your debut novel. 

 

Charlotte Anne Mattas wants to go back to the way things were before her husband, Sam, left their farm for the war in the Pacific. Sam used to be her protector, but when he arrives home in Spring of 1946, his battle fatigue has everyone questioning his sanity and her safety… especially after he nearly kills his brother, then claims to see men on the mountain where no else has seen them. Are there really dangerous men on the mountain or is his twisted mind conjuring things that aren’t there? 

 

In the tradition of Hitchcock with a hint of psychological thriller, In the Mind’s Eye explores the illness we now call PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and persistent love in a world determined to destroy it.

 

Q: Sam and Charlotte Anne both expected life to go back to normal when he returned from the war, but that doesn’t exactly happen. How was life post-war different from what they expected? How does each of them respond to those differences?

 

This story actually began while talking to my grandparents over a glass of lemonade. My U.S. History professor had given us an assignment to talk to family about the Depression and/or World War II. Until that point, I’d had no real concept of what the war was like, either for the soldiers or their families back home. I guess I’d thought that the greatest generation slid back into life and easily became the loving people I knew my grandparents were in their 70s. When I discovered that wasn’t the case, I wondered how they had survived the fear and drastic changes. 

 

Like my grandfather, Sam glorified the home front, anticipating a glorious homecoming, delicious food, a soft bed, and an easier life.Charlotte Anne expected Sam to quickly become part of the teamagain as they worked their peach orchard. Instead, Sam has nightmares and reacts to food he used to love (I even gave Sam a reaction to orange marmalade just like my grandfather). Sam tends to jump to conclusions because he doesn’t understand the context, struggles with the physicality of farm work, and is overwhelmed with the amount of work that has to be done since Charlotte Anne wasn’t able to do a lot of the upkeep. 

 

At first, neither Sam nor Annie knows quite what to do with one another, but they’re determined to understand each other.Eventually they each open up to Sam’s mom, Dovie May, and she becomes a healing balm for each of them. If I had to give Dovie a theme, it would be: “You’d think holding joy right up against sadness would shatter a body. But it don’t. Joy, it sneaks in all around, sticks everything together, and finds a way to make you whole. See, light sneaks through the broken places.”

 

Q: In our current day, we are very aware of what PTSD is, and that it is very prevalent among men and women who have been in the military and seen war. What was known about PTSD back in the 1940s after World War II?

 

Although the general population didn’t shame WWII soldiers with PTSD symptoms as much as they did their WWI counterparts, WWII era doctors knew little about how to treat trauma of any kind. Battle fatigue, as it was known then, was treated with electroshock therapy (something that was terrifying and had limited success), and many of the men who suffered from it were often divorced, angry, confused, and quietly addicted to drugs and alcohol. Of course, I didn’t want to leave Sam and Annie here, so I dug for treatment options and talked with a few modern therapists.

 

In my research, those who fared best were often those who lived a little off the grid, in places where they could be physically active, with people who loved them and gave them the space to remove themselves when necessary. Sam also stumbles on a bit of a modern treatment technique by accident. Most folks have heardthat going for a walk can help with mental stability. What isn’t as familiar is that the rhythm of walking combined with talking can actually replicate bits and pieces of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy which is one of the most successful battlefield PTSD treatments.

 

Q: What are some struggles Sam deals with upon returning home to Hot Springs? Is he able to hide what is going on from those closest to him or does it become apparent to everyone around him?

 

Sam’s reactions to “normal” stimulus are off the charts. If he hears a sound or sees a shadow, he immediately jumps into fight/flight/freeze reactions. As is normal for people when they’re first dealing with PTSD, he has no tools to hide his responses and lacks a bit of impulse control. He’s a good, good man with an enormous heart and his reactions cause a horrendous amount of guilt for him. The last thing he wants is to put the people he loves in danger.

 

As the story progresses and circumstances continue to slide sideways, Sam faces his own mental instability. Imagine watching yourself become more and more unstable and wondering if there’s anything you can do to stop it. 

 

Q: Sam claims to see and hear things going on around him that no one else does. How does Annie deal with what’s going on with her husband?

 

At first Annie is supportive of her husband and backs him up. She lists all the reasons she believes him: He’s a man she has always trusted. He’s amazing with his daughter. He’s gentle and kind and strong. Unfortunately, circumstances continue to prove that Sam is unstable, and she’s forced to question his sanity. She is rightfully terrified and confused.

 

To deal with her husband’s instability, she leans on her family—Sam’s mom and brother. They give Annie perspective and help with both the emotional and physical toll of working through unexpected circumstances. One of the things I’m most proud of in Annie is that she doesn’t allow Sam to abuse her even by accident. She holds the line and doesn’t budge from that. It’s something I hope all people do for themselves. That said, Sam is horrified by the fact that he hurt Annie in his sleep and refuses to put her in any further danger. But he also doesn’t give up.

 

Q: Hot Springs, Arkansas, is an unusual setting for a book. How did you choose the location and how does it play into the story?

 

Even though the book idea started with wondering how my grandparents’ marriage survived the pressure of war, the book isn’t biographical. So, I needed a setting other than my grandparents’ hometown. For the characters that I was building, I needed a small town. When one of my good friends told me she had an entire book of stories from her family in Arkansas, I jumped at the chance to read first-hand history. Amongst the Hughes family stories, I acquired the basis for Dovie May and Hot Springs, Arkansas—home to the largest illegal gambling racket in the country.

 

Well, I don’t have to tell you that mobsters and illegal activity are an excellent backdrop for a story with a bit of suspense. The book The Bookmaker’s Daughter by Shirley Abbott confirmed that Hot Springs mobsters operated with full permission of the authorities. In Shirley’s stories, I also discovered the foundation for Charlotte Anne’s father. All of which gave me a location and a cast of characters that could stoke Sam’s fears and make everyone (including the reader) wonder whether or not he was crazy.

 

Q: What kind of research did you do on the effects of war during that time period? What sparked the inspiration for that part of the story?

 

As I mentioned, the initial interest came from my grandparents and their stories. But PTSD is also something I’ve struggled with for years. I had some childhood trauma that I worked through back in college. I started writing this book using the nightmares and struggles I had as a kid. Then my daughter became very, very illwhich sparked a new trauma all its own. 

 

That said, battlefield PTSD has different components than the trauma I suffered. To research that, I had several long conversations with a friend who treats battlefield PTSD. She’s the one who reminded me that EMDR is, in essence, any activity thatuses bilateral stimulation to trigger both sides of the brain—thus the positive effects of walking and wide-open spaces. I also read Soldiers from the War Returning by Thomas Childers to get an idea of the authentic story of the men returning from war; The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. for how PTSD affects the brain and body; and Wounded Warrior, Wounded Home by Marshele Carter Waddell and Kelly K. Orr, PhD, ABPP to understand the battlefield specific emotional wounds, and how that affects a warrior’s family.

 

Q: An author often writes part of herself into the story, or at least something she knows about. How have you been affected by PTSD?

 

There have been long stretches of my life where I was all too familiar with debilitating fear. I still have occasional flashes from my childhood, the rush of adrenaline causing my pulse to pound and hands to shake. I was terrified to have kids, to be the one responsible for their physical/mental/emotional wellbeing. The last thing I wanted was for them to have the same problems I had. But, as Dovie May says, “The best place for miracles is where we don’t fully believe, where our believing has run out.” My husband, Chris, and his family, as well as my good friend, Sarah De Mey,and my mom (who worked hard to get help), have been amazing role models for me as I navigate what it looks like to raise emotionally healthy kids.

 

All that peace came crashing down when my daughter became ill. She was hospitalized seven times over a few months’ time and the doctors had no idea what caused her illness. After months of visiting doctors to find out why my thirteen-year-old daughter was experiencing increasing abdominal pain, she collapsed at school. What followed was a living nightmare. Doctors found her abdominal cavity full of a fungal infection that quickly went septic. That was the first time we almost lost her. Months later, she’d lost more than forty pounds, and both she and I were wracked with nightmares, an inability to drive anywhere near the hospital, or be in a room with needles. To this day, I can’t smell rubbing alcohol without my body responding with panic. 

 

On paper she should not have survived, and I can’t describe the immense fear that comes from the Pediatric ICU or a parade of doctors. My girl is doing great now, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I didn’t finish the book, and hadn’t found the path to hope until after my daughter had walked out of the hospital for the last time.

 

I’m enormously grateful for EMDR, my therapist, and the grace of God that much of my fear is gone.

 

Q: The novel includes a good deal of discussion about the nature of evil and the character of God. The characters acknowledge that God doesn’t stop bad things from happening. How do they reconcile the hurt and pain in their lives with their concept of a loving God?

 

The problem of pain is one that even the best and brightest theologians and thinkers don’t have a perfect answer for. There are pat answers—God uses hard things to make us better or God walks with us through our pain. But when I was in the hospital, totally overwhelmed and crying in the bathroom so my daughter wouldn’t hear me, the easy answers didn’t help. And so I (and my characters) often sit with C. S. Lewis saying, “I never knew grief felt so much like fear.” Fear is the great consumer. Sam is afraid he’s going crazy and that he can’t protect his family. Annie is afraid she won’t ever be able to cope, and that the Sam she marriedis lost forever. And when they (or we) focus on fear, there are no solutions, no ways to move forward because they cannot solve fear on their own. We aren’t trustworthy enough or strong enough to fix it. 

 

And so what do we do?

 

In the story, Sam says, “If you pop in the middle of the story, you might just mistake the hero for a failure or worse, a monster. But it’s the scrabbling out of trouble and finding the truth deep inside him that transforms that character into a hero of light and goodness.” In essence, “Remember that it ain’t over until it’s over.” I’m a huge proponent of looking for and celebrating the beautiful even when it isn’t pretty. Gratitude isn’t a pretty bandage to slap on a hemorrhaging wound. It is a way to shift your attention while the master healer does his work. 

 

Annie and Sam find their way to gratitude—for simple joys of a birthday Karo nut pie, collard greens, the sunrise, and mostly the people in their lives. Their determination to be the good in each other’s lives is what slowly, over time, turns their attention away from the shadows and back on the life they have. As Dovie May says, “Sometimes God uses broken things to save us . . . Ain’t no light that can get through something solid. It sneaks through the broken places.” It isn’t immediate. And it isn’t easy. But the sunrise always follows the dark night.

 

Q: How does the imagery of light and darkness, especially in a spiritual sense, weave throughout the story?

 

Early in the story, Annie says, “A body can hide where the light was closed out, but the devils can hide there just as easy.” The temptation for both Annie and Sam (and all of us, really) is to either give up (wallow in the darkness) or to run away from it (which only keeps us in the darkness longer). While wallowing or running seem like easier choices, they’re also dangerous and far more painful in the long run. Both Sam and Annie try to fight the darkness alone, each not quite trusting anyone else.

 

Throughout the book, they both learn that the dark places are really where strength starts. Since Sam and Annie are farmers, they come to think of it in terms of seeds. “There ain’t no growth without darkness. You know that better’n most. If you throw a seed atop the soil, it’ll get snatched away by the wind or the birds. You gottabury it in the good, rich soil, and then it’s gotta split open afore it can grow. . .. We were all made to grow and stretch into the sunlight.”

 

Q: You’ve been on the publisher’s side of things for many years, both in marketing and as an editor working with authors. Have you always wanted to write as well? Has anything surprised you being on the author side?

 

I didn’t start writing or really even think about being a writer until a few years into my career as the marketing manager for a publisher. I actually started college as a chemistry major and ended up as an English major by default. There’s a whole story in hereabout me being a sassy know-it-all seventeen-year-old punk, and my mom being right. But suffice it to say, the major change was me heeding my mom’s advice to do what I loved (reading). 

 

Anyway, I was freelancing for our editorial department, and our managing editor asked me if I would consider writing a book. It sounded interesting. I wrote a short novel for the middle schoolers I mentored at my church, then I did a few picture books for my daughter, and then I took a long break to raise my kids. When I found time to write a book again, it was so life-giving, I don’t even have words to describe it. I was hooked.

 

But let me tell you that being an author has changed drastically in the last decade. There’s a much heavier load to lift for authors now—both in terms of tracking story trends and marketing. But it’s also easier than ever to be in contact with readers. I absolutely adore the opportunity to chat with folks about their lives on Facebook, see their pictures on Instagram, and just talk books with the world. It’s crazy to me that I can chat with friends in California and Australia and South Africa and Brazil just by typing (or speaking) into a little box on a screen. I will forever love technology for that.

 

The writing community also took me by surprise. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a varied group as welcoming and helpful as this group. They’ve been a tremendous support as I’ve worked through edits and marketing and all the highs and lows that come with publishing. There’s so much love and joy there. Julie Cantrell, Rachel McDaniel, Janine Rosche, Susie Finkbeiner, J’nellCiesielski, and so many more have been absolutely amazing.

 

Learn more about Janyre Tromp on her website www.JaynreTromp.com. You can also find her on Facebook (@JanyreTromp), Instagram (@JaynreTromp), and Twitter (@JanyreTromp).

Book Giveaway

The prize pack includes:

– A copy of Shadows in the Mind’s Eye,

– A custom made silver peach tree necklace inspired by the book,

– A “Light speaks through the broken places” t-shirt also inspired by the book.

Click on the link below to enter the giveaway.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/8b3c91bb32/

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Counterfeit Love by Crystal Caudill Review and Giveaway

About the Book

Title: Counterfeit Love

Author: Crystal Caudill

Series: #1 Hidden Hearts of the Gilded Age

Publisher: Kregel

Released: March 2022

Can this undercover agent save the woman he loves–or is her heart as counterfeit as the money he’s been sent to track down?

After all that Grandfather has sacrificed to raise her, Theresa Plane owes it to him to save the family name–and that means clearing their debt with creditors before she marries Edward Greystone. But when one of the creditors’ threats leads her to stumble across a midnight meeting, she discovers that the money he owes isn’t all Grandfather was hiding. And the secrets he kept have now trapped Theresa in a life-threatening fight for her home–and the truth.

After months of undercover work, Secret Service operative Broderick Cosgrove is finally about to uncover the identity of the leader of a notorious counterfeiting ring. That moment of triumph turns to horror, however, when he finds undeniable proof that his former fiance is connected. Can he really believe the woman he loved is a willing participant? Protecting Theresa and proving her innocence may destroy his career–but that’s better than failing her twice in one lifetime.

They must form a partnership, tentative though it is. But there’s no question they’re both still keeping secrets–and that lack of trust, along with the dangerous criminals out for their blood, threatens their hearts, their faith, and their very survival.

To read an excerpt of Counterfeit Love click here.

My Impressions

Ah, a deliciously, satisfying debut novel of the Gilded Age from Crystal Caudill. A couple, Theresa Payne and Broderick Cosgrove, once engaged, must determine if they can trust each other and if there is any hope for a rekindled romance. Will they be able to work together to uncover the true counterfeiters in Cincinnati?

Caudill emphasizes themes of trust, forgiveness, and family as she provides plenty of emotion, action, and truth. “Even if… “ is a big question that Theresa grapples with mightily. The novel is well-paced, balancing all the threads together- romance, history, suspense, and life lessons- delightfully.

Broderick is the long-absent love; tall, charming, and witty. But, he is shrouded in mystery. His methods are a little suspect. His results, well, not quick enough for the boss. Is he a man of faith and integrity or one who would play Theresa and his partners for fools?

Theresa is wonderfully headstrong, intensely loyal, and also very intelligent. Is she intelligent enough to figure out her grandfather’s secrets? Loyalty is a great quality if one places it in the right person. Can Theresa discern who to trust with her secrets? Theresa tends to be quick to forgive and allow most people second chances. I loved this about her, but sure rooted for her trust not to be abused!

While Theresa and Broderick are relatable and sure to earn the reader’s loyalty, other characters kept hopping the good guy/bad guy fence for me. What I thought of characters like Isaacs, Lydia, Abraham, Mrs. Hawking, Grandfather and others was variable. This fluidity made the story very suspenseful and I couldn’t put it down!

With thoughtful questions at the end, this would be a good book for a book club discussion.

I received a copy of the book from the author and publisher through I Read with Audra. (I also bought a copy for my keeper shelf.) No positive review was required, and all opinions are my own.

Notable Quotables:

“Nathaniel wronged you, but God convicted him, and he’s a different man now.”

“It’s so nice to be together again. Isn’t it?” Theresa squeezed their arms…”“About as nice as an outhouse in summer.” …”Then I suppose it’s a good thing I have plumbing.”

“Feelings change, and they can lie, but God’s presence is constant and true. Whether we feel Him or not.”

Love, not blood, makes a family.

Family. The word stuck in her throat like a lozenge, melting to soothe an ache she’d long accepted as permanent. Her blood relatives were gone, but the love flanking either side of her pulsed with life and healing. They may not always see eye to eye, but they cared. More than that, they wanted her.

God answered Theresa’s prayers this time, but that didn’t mean He would in the future. Could she trust Him with what little she had left? But trust didn’t mean she’d get what she wanted. So what did it mean?

“…no matter what happens or what you think you’ve lost, you cannot lose God….

My Rating

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Magnificent!! This is a Satisfying Debut Novel of the Gilded Age, and I’m looking forward to the next two in the series!!

About the Author

Crystal Caudill is the author of “dangerously good historical romance,” with her work garnering awards from Romance Writers of America and ACFW.

She is a stay-at-home mom and caregiver, and when she isn’t writing, Caudill can be found playing board games with her family, drinking hot tea, or reading other great books at her home outside Cincinnati, Ohio.

Learn more at crystalcaudill.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram.

Giveaway

Enter to Win a copy of Crystal Caudill’s book at the Rafflecopter site below:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/8b3c91bb31/

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The Debutante’s Code by Erica Vetsch Review and Giveaway

About the Book

Title: The Debutante’s Code

Series: #1 Thorndike and Swann Regency Mysteries

Author: Erica Vetsch

Publisher: Kregel Books

Released: December 7, 2021

Jane Austen meets Sherlock Holmes in this new Regency mystery series
 
Newly returned from finishing school, Lady Juliette Thorndike is ready to debut in London society. Due to her years away, she hasn’t spent much time with her parents and sees them only as the flighty, dilettante couple the other nobles love. But when they disappear, she discovers she never really knew them at all. They’ve been living double lives as government spies–and they’re only the latest in a long history of espionage that is the family’s legacy.
 
Now Lady Juliette is determined to continue their work. Mentored by her uncle, she plunges into the dangerous world of spies. From the glittering ballrooms of London to the fox hunts, regattas, and soirees of country high society, she must chase down hidden clues, solve the mysterious code her parents left behind, and stay out of danger. All the while, she has to keep her endeavors a secret from her best friend and her suitors–not to mention the nosy, irritatingly handsome Bow Street runner, who suspects her of a daring theft.
 
Can Lady Juliette outwit her enemies and complete her parents’ last mission?
 
Best-selling author Erica Vetsch is back with a rollicking, exciting new series destined to be a hit with Regency readers who enjoy a touch of mystery in their love stories. Fans of Julie Klassen, Sarah Ladd, and Anne Perry will love the wit, action, and romance.
 
Click here to read an excerpt.

My Impressions

Wow! This is only the second book I’ve read by Erica Vetsch, but The Debutante’s Code just pushed Vetsch into my must-watch authors.

An adventurous and resourceful debutante, fresh from finishing school, Juliette’s biggest desire is to return home to get reacquainted with the parents she has missed for seven long years. Unfortunately, upon entering society, she finds herself in the care of a drunken uncle and an overbearing dowager duchess. When Lady Juliette makes a surprise discovery about her parents, can she reconcile the faith they taught her with what she now knows to be true?

Daniel Swann of Bow Street, a young police constable, has humble beginnings that his superior never tires of reminding him about. Yet, when he meets Juliette Thorndike following a robbery at a wealthy residence, he is intrigued.

I fell in love with both of these characters. Juliette is kind, intelligent, and so brave, and willing to learn all she can about her new calling.
I felt her pain and confusion in my own soul over her parents’ absence. Daniel Swann… well, for starters, Swann is very close to the word Swoon. Perhaps there is a connection! Poor Daniel!! He has parental issues, too. Plus, his job is in jeopardy because of unfair bias. The closer Daniel gets to Juliette, the more he realizes she is not who she seems.

Unfortunately for the reader, this book ends without a solid conclusion. We must wait for book two to see what develops in many ways. I will be first in line!

The epilogue and author’s notes are essential parts of this book. There are links to more information on certain items of interest.

I received a copy of this book from the author through I Read with Audra via NetGalley. No positive review was required, and all thoughts are solely my own.

My Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Magnifcent! Vetsch Becoming a New Fave Author!!

About the Author

Erica Vetsch is a New York Times best-selling and ACFW Carol Award–winning author. She is a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota with her husband, who she claims is both her total opposite and soul mate.
 
Vetsch is the author of many novellas and novels, including the popular Serendipity & Secrets Regency series and the new Thorndike & Swann Regency Mystery series
 
Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks.
 
Learn more about Erica Vetsch and her books at www.ericavetsch.com. She can also be found on Facebook (@EricaVetschAuthor)Instagram (@EricaVetsch) and Pinterest (Erica Vetsch).

More from Erica

Do you have a fiction lover on your holiday shopping list? Look no further for a gift suggestion! Just in time for the gift-giving season, award-winning author Erica Vetsch is kicking off her new Thorndike & Swann Regency mystery series with the release of The Debutante’s Code (Kregel Publications). This new series combining a historical setting, romance, and mystery has been described as Jane Austen meets Sherlock Holmes. With that combination, where can you go wrong?

Q: Introduce us to the new Thorndike & Swann Regency Mystery series which has been described as Jane Austen meets Sherlock Holmes.

This story has been a long time in the making! It has to be almost ten years ago that I first thought up the story idea, and originally, it was set in Gilded Age New York. But when I began writing stories set in Regency England, I realized the original tale could easily be adapted to the Regency Era.

Our heroine longs to be reunited with her parents and have her debut season in London, but her plans go awry when her parents do not meet her at the docks and are, in fact, missing. She discovers that she comes from a long line of spies for the Crown, and she has a choice, either to finish what her parents started, or turn her back on her heritage and become the socialite she assumed she would be all along. Her mind is made up when murder is afoot.

Our hero is a Bow Street Runner, one of London’s earliest policemen, and he’s on the hunt for a stolen painting…then other valuables from the same shipment of rare items disappear one by one, and an art dealer is found murdered in his gallery. Each clue leads our hero closer and closer to the thief and killer, but he’s disconcerted to find that his chief suspect has become the debutante he finds so attractive.

Q: Tell us more about your leading lady, Juliette Thorndike.

Juliette is fresh from finishing school in Switzerland, where she has been for several years. Because of Britain’s ongoing war with France, her parents determined a cloistered school in Switzerland was a safe place for her to remain, especially while they were doing daring deeds for the monarch. Juliette is an accomplished toxophilite, avid reader, puzzle solver, and good dancer. 

Most of all, Juliette yearns for her family to be reunited. She was a child when she was sent to Switzerland, and she longs to know her parents as an adult. They have been in frequent communication via letters, but it isn’t the same as being together in person. When she discovers that her parents have kept such a dire secret from her all these years, she wonders if she’s ever known them at all.

Q: Juliette has a somewhat fantasized view of who her parents are, yet she really hasn’t spent that much time around them. What happens to make her realize she’s never really known them at all?

They’ve hidden so many things from her—from her heritage to their activities and hidden rooms in their house. She has created an image in her mind of what life will be like once they are reunited, but now she wonders if any of it is even possible, much less probable. 

She’s always felt secure in her parents’ love, but if they can lie about something so big, what else have they lied about?

Q: Why does Juliette not only feel abandon by her parents, but abandoned by God?

We often form our views of a Heavenly Father from our experience with our earthly parents, for good or for ill. Juliette has not been ill-treated by her parents, or at least she didn’t think she had, but if they could abandon her on the eve of her coming out in society (in what should be the most important year of her life), can she trust anything about them?

Their priorities clearly don’t line up with hers. They put their work ahead of their daughter. Is that fair? Is that right?

They’ve taught her that God is with her, that He will never abandon her, but can she trust what they have taught her when they can lie so easily?

Q: How have Juliette’s parents been preparing her to be a part of the “family business” even though they haven’t been a physical presence in her life? A person wearing a green dress

Description automatically generated with low confidenceA variety of ways, starting with protecting her from the truth when she was very small. They also took great care in the school they chose for her to attend. She’s conversant in French and some Italian as well as English, has been taught the skills required of a young lady in the British aristocracy, such as dancing, deportment, music, and art. 

But she’s also learned a great deal of history, logic, and rhetoric in her curriculum, as well as archery. All skills that will aid her if she chooses to follow in her parents’ footsteps as a spy for the Crown.

And her father added another twist. He wrote to her often, but always in code. A different code each time, growing more complex as she grew and became more adept at deciphering his codes. 

Juliette comes to realize that her parents have been preparing her for her future role, but she doesn’t realize how quickly her skills will be tested.

Q: A Regency novel is not a Regency novel without a swoon-worthy hero. Just who is Daniel Swann?

Ah, Daniel. He’s had very little say in his life up to now, being the illegitimate son of a household servant. He’s done every chore that can be found on a country estate, from being the boot boy in charge of cleaning and polishing all the shoes, to helping the groundskeepers and gardeners with the weeding and planting, to working in the stables and riding the master’s horses out to exercise. In his own way, he’s been training for his future, too.

Through more outside influence, he was removed from his mother’s care, sent to boarding school, and then to Oxford with the understanding that his guardianship would end at his 25th birthday, which is fast approaching. Then he will be in command of his life for the first time…but he wonders if he’s up to the task.

Q: Daniel has a bit of a mysterious past himself—one that even eludes him even though he’s a detective. How has his past directed his career choice?

Daniel has no idea who his mysterious patron is, and he is forbidden from searching out his identity. He’s given other rules he must follow, including cutting off all ties with his mother. He was a bewildered, homesick child, wrenched from his home and shipped off to boarding school, and he believes his mother was only too glad to be rid of him, otherwise why would she agree to such a terrible thing? 

Daniel studied art and history at Oxford, unsure of what he would do for a career, but when a Bow Street officer shows up to investigate a murder in the Oxford Canal, Daniel is hooked on detective work. With the help of his hidden patron, he secures a job at Bow Street, against the wishes of his new superior officer, who is always looking for a reason to dismiss Daniel. 

With his past so shrouded in mystery, his current situation tenuous, and his future racing toward him at his 25th birthday when his patronage will cease, Daniel focuses on being the best detective he can be and hopes things will all work out.

Q: What kind of research was required to write a mystery set in the early 1800s? What are some of the methods detectives of the day would have to depend on?

There was quite a bit of research involved in this one, from police procedures to art history. Much studying of maps and the hierarchy of society, the lives of British spies, and fitting it all into the current political and social situations of the times. I had fun deciding upon the various items that would go missing, from statues to jewelry to artwork, and deciding upon different ways each piece could be acquired.

As to the police methods of the day, the Bow Street detectives didn’t have our current levels of forensic science to help identify culprits. They relied upon eyewitness testimony, circumstantial evidence, catching someone red-handed, and by following the paperwork/money trail. Some things have not changed. The main motives for lawbreaking still fall into three categories: money, power, and sex. Who has it, who wants it, who wants to deny someone else from acquiring it? And in Regency times, the detectives were still looking for motive, means, and opportunity. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Debutante’s Code is my first true mystery, and it’s all wrapped into a heist story, so layering those different threads together was a new adventure for me.

Q: Fans fell in love with the characters from your Serendipity & Secrets series. Is there any chance we might see some familiar faces make a cameo in your new series?

I am delighted that the Thorndike & Swann mysteries take place in what I like to call the “Haverly Universe” first created in the Serendipity & Secrets series. In The Debutante’s Code, several characters from the S&S series reappear, including the Duke of Haverly, Marcus, his duchess, Charlotte, and the Dowager Duchess of Haverly, who is a personal favorite of mine.

Though there is a host of new characters in The Debutante’s Code, as the series unfolds, more of the S&S cast will come into the stories. 

Q: Can you give us a tease of what to expect in the remainder of the Thorndike & Swann series?

The next book, Millstone of Doubt, begins with a bang! Literally! A grist mill on the Thames explodes, but when the rubble and dust are cleared, a man is found dead, not from the explosion, but from a gunshot! Was the mill blown up to cover the murder? Who would want the mill owner dead? Daniel and Juliette put their heads together to sort out the crime, while Juliette juggles her new career as a spy and a debutante, and Daniel uncovers many of the secrets he needs to piece together the puzzle of his past.
Learn more about Erica Vetsch and her books at www.ericavetsch.com. She can also be found on Facebook (@EricaVetschAuthor) and Instagram (@EricaVetsch).

Giveaway

https://www.ericavetsch.com/giveaway.html

ARC, BLOG, Kregel, Purchase

Husband Auditions by Angela Ruth Strong

About the Book

Title: Husband Auditions

Author: Angela Ruth Strong

Publisher: Kregel

Release Date: August 17, 2021

Genre: Christian Romance, Comedy

How far would you go to find the perfect husband? All the way back to the 1950s?

In a world full of happily-ever-after love, Meri Newberg feels like the last young woman on the planet to be single, at least in her Christian friend group. So when she’s handed a strange present at the latest wedding–a 1950s magazine article of “ways to get a husband”–she decides there’s nothing to lose by trying out its advice. After all, she can’t get any more single, can she?

Her brother’s roommate sees the whole thing as a great opportunity. Not to fall in love–Kai Kamaka has no interest in the effort a serious relationship takes. No, this is a career jump start. He talks Meri into letting him film every silly husband-catching attempt for a new online show. If it goes viral, his career as a cameraman will be made.

When Meri Me debuts, it’s an instant hit. People love watching her lasso men on street corners, drop handkerchiefs for unsuspecting potential beaus, and otherwise embarrass herself in pursuit of true love. But the longer this game goes on, the less sure Kai is that he wants Meri to snag anyone but him. The only problem is that he may not be the kind of husband material she’s looking for . . .

With droll comic timing, unbeatable chemistry, and a zany but relatable cast of characters, Angela Ruth Strong has created a heartfelt look at the reality of modern Christian dating that readers will both resonate with and fall for. 

About the Author

Angela Ruth Strong sold her first Christian romance novel in 2009 then quit writing romance when her husband left her. Ten years later, God has shown her the true meaning of love, and there’s nothing else she’d rather write about. Her books have since earned TOP PICK in Romantic Times, been optioned for film, won the Cascade Award, and been Amazon best-sellers. She also writes non-fiction for SpiritLed Woman. To help aspiring authors, she started IDAhope Writers where she lives in Idaho, and she teaches as an expert online at WRITE THAT BOOK. Get to know her even better at http://www.angelaruthstrong.com.

My Impressions

“Poor ideas in real life often make the best entertainment.” And so is born the premise of this hilarious rom-com novel from Angela Ruth Strong. Meri and Kai, reluctant roommates (actually housemates)act and film respectively in a reality-made-for-YouTube channel serial movie about 100 ways to catch a husband. The catch of Husband Auditions is, that the rules are taken from a 1950s women’s magazine and applied in today’s world. As filming progresses, Meri and Kai begin to wonder how wise it is to complete this unusual project. Will there be a winner, or just losers?

With a sense of humor that will have you laughing out loud, Ms. Strong also presents very real moral situations for her characters to work through. Staid Sunday School answers need not apply. How does the very real love of Jesus work itself out in (gasp)Hollywood? In personal boundaries? In how we judge and treat others? Conservatives may have a hard time with the emphasis of the fact the Meri and Kai and another beauty are roommates(housemates). Strong WANTS you to be uncomfortable. Are we as readers assuming relationships that are not present? Do people answer to God or us? One of many dilemmas couched in Strong’s trademark humor to challenge your reactions to others and make you question if you are fully living out your faith.

My Rating

5 Stars!!

Magnificent! Hilarious Rom-Com

Angela has added a special prize, so I am reporting this on the date Husband Auditions is officially released.

All right, guys. [Today] is the big day!!! And I have big news. I’m giving away a free flight to one lucky winner. Here’s the link where you can sign up and share! https://mailchi.mp/50fe6fc73514/husband-auditions-book-launch/

ARC, BLOG, Kregel, Purchase

Husband Auditions by Angela Ruth Strong

About the Book

Title: Husband Auditions

Author: Angela Ruth Strong

Publisher: Kregel

Release Date: August 17, 2021

Genre: Christian Romance, Comedy

How far would you go to find the perfect husband? All the way back to the 1950s?

In a world full of happily-ever-after love, Meri Newberg feels like the last young woman on the planet to be single, at least in her Christian friend group. So when she’s handed a strange present at the latest wedding–a 1950s magazine article of “ways to get a husband”–she decides there’s nothing to lose by trying out its advice. After all, she can’t get any more single, can she?

Her brother’s roommate sees the whole thing as a great opportunity. Not to fall in love–Kai Kamaka has no interest in the effort a serious relationship takes. No, this is a career jump start. He talks Meri into letting him film every silly husband-catching attempt for a new online show. If it goes viral, his career as a cameraman will be made.

When Meri Me debuts, it’s an instant hit. People love watching her lasso men on street corners, drop handkerchiefs for unsuspecting potential beaus, and otherwise embarrass herself in pursuit of true love. But the longer this game goes on, the less sure Kai is that he wants Meri to snag anyone but him. The only problem is that he may not be the kind of husband material she’s looking for . . .

With droll comic timing, unbeatable chemistry, and a zany but relatable cast of characters, Angela Ruth Strong has created a heartfelt look at the reality of modern Christian dating that readers will both resonate with and fall for. 

About the Author

Angela Ruth Strong sold her first Christian romance novel in 2009 then quit writing romance when her husband left her. Ten years later, God has shown her the true meaning of love, and there’s nothing else she’d rather write about. Her books have since earned TOP PICK in Romantic Times, been optioned for film, won the Cascade Award, and been Amazon best-sellers. She also writes non-fiction for SpiritLed Woman. To help aspiring authors, she started IDAhope Writers where she lives in Idaho, and she teaches as an expert online at WRITE THAT BOOK. Get to know her even better at http://www.angelaruthstrong.com.

My Impressions

“Poor ideas in real life often make the best entertainment.” And so is born the premise of this hilarious rom-com novel from Angela Ruth Strong. Meri and Kai, reluctant roommates (actually housemates)act and film respectively in a reality-made-for-YouTube channel serial movie about 100 ways to catch a husband. The catch of Husband Auditions is, that the rules are taken from a 1950s women’s magazine and applied in today’s world. As filming progresses, Meri and Kai begin to wonder how wise it is to complete this unusual project. Will there be a winner, or just losers?

With a sense of humor that will have you laughing out loud, Ms. Strong also presents very real moral situations for her characters to work through. Staid Sunday School answers need not apply. How does the very real love of Jesus work itself out in (gasp)Hollywood? In personal boundaries? In how we judge and treat others? Conservatives may have a hard time with the emphasis of the fact the Meri and Kai and another beauty are roommates(housemates). Strong WANTS you to be uncomfortable. Are we as readers assuming relationships that are not present? Do people answer to God or us? One of many dilemmas couched in Strong’s trademark humor to challenge your reactions to others and make you question if you are fully living out your faith.

My Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Magnificent! Hilarious Rom-Com

BLOG, Favorite, Kregel, Read with Audra

Dusk’s Darkest Shores, #1 Regency Wallflowers, by Carolyn Miller

About the Series

While most stories set in Regency England focus on the rich, the young, and the beautiful, award-winning author Carolyn Miller decided she wanted to give readers something different for a change. Her new Regency Wallflowers series follows the commoners, away from the hustle and bustle of 1810s London, out in the Lake District of England. She tells the stories of women who are slightly older and have few prospects for marriage, women who might be considered “wallflowers.”

About the Book

How can a meek wallflower help a returning war hero whose dreams are plunged into darkness?
 
Mary Bloomfield has no illusions. Her chances for matrimony have long since passed her by. Still, her circumstances are pleasant enough, especially now that she has found purpose in assisting her father with his medical practice in England’s beautiful Lake District. Even without love, it’s a peaceful life.
 
That is until Adam Edgerton returns to the sleepy district. This decorated war hero did not arrive home to acclaim and rest, but to a new battle against the repercussions of an insidious disease. Mary’s caring nature cannot stand to see someone suffer–but how can she help this man see any brightness in his future when he’s plunged into melancholic darkness, his dreams laid waste by his condition?
 
Adam wants no charity, but he’s also no coward. If this gentle woman can work hard, how can he do less? Together they struggle to find a way forward for him. Frustration and antipathy slowly develop into friendship and esteem. Then a summer storm atop a mountain peak leads to scandal–and both Mary and Adam must search the depths of their closed hearts for answers if they hope to find any future path with happiness at its end.
 
Best-selling author Carolyn Miller is back with a fresh series that will not only thrill readers eager for more of her work, but bring in new fans looking for beautiful writing, fascinating research, deftly woven love stories, and real faith lived out in the Regency period.
 
Click here to read an excerpt.

My Impressions

“God’s goodness did not fade away simply because she did not perceive it. Circumstances were not a faithful prism through which to see God’s love. God’s love, like the sun, always remained.” Englishman Adam Edgerton, a local hero, and favored son has yet to learn this as he feels God has deserted him. In 1811, he returns from war, injured and broken. Can sweet, positive, wallflower Mary Bloomfield nurse back to health not only his body but his soul? These two are brought together by unusual circumstances. Miller kept me spell-bound as I watched each of them transform the other.
Miller weaves a compelling regency with a strong faith message. It isn’t overbearing, but it is prominent, part of the necessary fabric.


“What if God did want people to trust Him to act in miraculous ways today? Was it presumptuous to believe in healing miracles? Or was it faith?” So many questions for God as Emily and Adam each work out their own faith.
I loved seeing the family dynamics play out in Emily’s family, Adam’s family, and Susan’s. Sometimes one wonders if a character’s family had been different, would that have altered his or her personality?
An animal is recognized as being an important part of Adam’s healing. I love this concept and the way it is integrated into the story.
Why does God answer some prayers and not others? At the end of the novel, I still grapple with this main question. But, like Mary and Adam, I’m willing to trust God to make the plans and to lean hard into His ways.
I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher via Read with Audra. No positive recommendation was required, and all thoughts are solely my own. Because of content, recommended for adults and mature teens.

My Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Magnificent! A Regency to Remember

About the Author

Carolyn Miller is an inspirational romance author who lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children.
 
A longtime lover of romance, especially that of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer’s Regency era, Carolyn holds a BA in English literature and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. She enjoys music, films, gardens, art, travel, and food.

Miller’s novels have won a number of RWA and ACFW contests. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Australasian Christian Writers. 
 
Learn more about Carolyn at www.carolynmillerauthor.com, or find her on Facebook (Carolyn Miller Author)Instagram (@CarolynMillerAuthor), and Twitter (@CarolynMAuthor)

GIVEAWAY

Enter to win a fun prize pack inspired by the book and its English setting that includes: 
 
– a copy of Dusk’s Darkest Shores
– a canvas bag to carry your latest reads
– a fun pair of Jane Austen socks
– Novel Teas’ English Breakfast tea
– “Drink tea, read books, and be happy” tea spoon
– “Let your faith be bigger than your fear” mug
– Black currant preserves from England
– Wax Lyrical candle from England

Click on the link below to enter the giveaway.

https://www.audrajennings.com/2021/05/introducing-carolyn-millers-dusks.html