Fair as a Star by Mimi Matthews (Victorian Romantics Book 1) #TuesdayBookBlog #NewRelease

fair as a star

A Secret Burden…

After a mysterious sojourn in Paris, Beryl Burnham has returned home to the village of Shepton Worthy ready to resume the life she left behind. Betrothed to the wealthy Sir Henry Rivenhall, she has no reason to be unhappy–or so people keep reminding her. But Beryl’s life isn’t as perfect as everyone believes.

A Longstanding Love…

As village curate, Mark Rivenhall is known for his compassionate understanding. When his older brother’s intended needs a shoulder to lean on, Mark’s more than willing to provide one. There’s no danger of losing his heart. He already lost that to Beryl a long time ago.

During an idyllic Victorian summer, friends and family gather in anticipation of Beryl and Sir Henry’s wedding. But in her darkest moment, it is Mark who comes to Beryl’s aid. Can he help her without revealing his feelings–or betraying his brother?

A violet by a mossy stone

Half hidden from the eye!

Fair as a star, when only one

Is shining in the sky.

My Review

Beryl Burnham is a more vulnerable heroine than Mimi Matthews’ previous main characters. She carries a burden which stops her from looking forward to her imminent marriage. Sir Henry Rivenhall is an eminently suitable fiancé whom she has known for some years, but will he be an understanding husband?  On the other hand, his brother Mark, the curate, is her best friend. He appreciates her subtle whitework embroidery, featuring the plants of the English countryside and she can talk to him about anything, well almost anything, but not her darkest secret. Mark Rivenhall has told his brother of his feelings for Beryl, but he knows he has no chance of gaining her heart. Perhaps it will be best if he leaves the parish of Shepton Worthy.

Meanwhile, Beryl’s spirited younger sister, Winnifred, is involved in a feud with Sir Henry, who intends to sell the magnificent steed she loves to ride. The ordinary people of the parish establish the surroundings and village problems for the reader and the stunning Paris wedding gown which arrives for Beryl emphasises the importance of her future life as a baronet’s wife.

I loved the sensitivity in which Beryl’s unhappiness is expressed and the hope that she finally achieves in this delightful first novel of a new romantic series.

 

The Detour: A road trip with my mom, her pug and a 1986 Volvo by Jennifer Ammoscato #BookReview #RBRT

Detour

Michael Garland’s is so good at getting lost that the thirty-year old coder lives an almost virtual life. He works from home, shops exclusively online—and does not drive. The poor man is shocked to discover his mother’s last wish is that he bring her ashes in the old family Volvo from San Francisco to her childhood hometown of Lebanon, New Hampshire. Guilt for reaching his mother’s deathbed too late will fuel the trip—with additional gas supplied by his mother’s Pug, Puddles, he must bring along. Armed with a GPS, a series of ever-more detailed lists, and the support of his best friend, Savannah, he embarks on an emotional side trip that will change his life.

My Review

I started this book expecting a light amusing story, which it certainly is but it is also much deeper. It is about friendship, loyalty and love.  We share Michael’s courageous adventure into the real world departing from his safe organised home. This is something we can all appreciate as we cautiously put out a toe from Lockdown.

Clearly Michael has some form of Asperger’s syndrome. He is highly intelligent and has been brought up by a warm, caring mother, but expressing emotions or trying something new is not part of his life.  As he sets out on his long journey across America, we share Michael’s fears of the traffic and the possibility of bedbugs in the hotel, but we also see that he is growing in confidence and independence. There are many amusing incidents often including Puddles the Pug but everything always works out in the end.

I always enjoy reading about journeys, all the more so at present, and I particularly warmed to Michael’s caring friend, Savannah. I can really recommend this book to put a smile on your face and make you feel good.

The Detour on Amazon UK

Ammoscato

Author Jennifer Ammoscato – solving the world’s problems one cosmo at a time.

Jennifer Ammoscato is a paid, productive member of society. Frankly, it’s not enough. Therefore, May 2015 saw the launch of her debut novel, “Dear Internet: It’s Me, Avery” (The “Avery Fowler 2.0” series, Book I).

During the day, she is an intrepid writer/editor for the public relations department of a Canadian university. By night, she fights crime and the urge to organize closets and stuff herself with salted chocolate caramels.

Dreams do not inspire Jennifer’s books. In fact, they tend to terrify her. In particular, the ever- popular naked-at-school or I-have-a-final-exam-and-didn’t-study dreams. She usually just makes stuff up.

She is married to her husband, Ezio. As opposed to someone else’s husband (insert name here). She is the proud mom of two very tall sons, Dante and Christian.

Art & Soul by Claire Huston #BookReview #RBRT #Romance

A heart-warming, uplifting romance served with a generous slice of cake.

Art and Soul

There’s no problem Becky Watson can’t fix. Except her own love life…

The best romance is one which grows out of friendship, but will Becky Watson ever find common ground with morose, grumpy artist, Charlie Handren?  Becky is returning to her job as a life coach and fixer of crises, after her maternity leave, and as a single mother she needs this major contract to augment her other job as the invisible fairy godmother at weddings, calming family tensions.  Living in the Comptons, a wealthy, upmarket area in the south of England with a strong artistic tradition, it would be a triumph if she could help Charlie to regain his ability to paint after 6 years lamenting his failed marriage. Arranging an exhibition to relaunch his career does not phase Becky, but helping him to woo Rachel Stone, the woman he admires from afar, is more challenging.

The story’s warmth is created by the vivid characters surrounding events. Becky’s 2-year-old son, Dylan, captivates Charlie and her friend, Ronnie, cake creator extraordinary, is a breath of fresh air.  Becky’s ability to convince the “movers and shakers” of the community that the exhibition will be spectacular, demonstrate her understanding of people and her trust in Charlie even though he no longer trusts himself.  The fact that she is secretly paddling away below the surface to keep herself financially afloat is all the more admirable.  An unusual but engaging story to read late into the night.

Art and Soul on Amazon UK

Huston

Claire Huston lives in Warwickshire with her husband and two children. Art and Soul is her first novel.

A keen amateur baker, she enjoys making cakes, biscuits and brownies almost as much as eating them. You can find recipes for all the cakes mentioned in Art and Soul at www.clairehuston.co.uk along with over 100 other recipes. This is also where she talks about and reviews books.

As well as her website, you can find her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Goodreads: linktr.ee/clairehuston_author

Death by Windmill by Jennifer S Alderson Travel Can Be Murder 3 #TuesdayBookBlog

windmill

A Mother’s Day trip to the Netherlands turns deadly when a guest plummets from a windmill. Was it an accident or a murder? For Lana Hansen, the answer will mean freedom or imprisonment for someone close to her…

Wanderlust Tours guide Lana Hansen and her mother, Gillian, haven’t seen eye to eye in over a decade, ever since Lana was wrongly fired from her job as an investigative reporter. So when Lana’s boss invites Gillian to join her upcoming Mother’s Day tour to the Netherlands, Lana is less than pleased.

What could be worse than spending ten days with her estranged mother? Lana is about to find out…

Death by Windmill is the third mystery to be solved by tour guide Lana Hansen, but this time its personal. Lana is just beginning to make up with her estranged mother when another guest on the tour in the Netherlands reveals a secret that could lead Lana herself into committing murder.  The theme is Mothers and Daughters but most of them seem at odds with each other.  While visiting some interesting sites in Amsterdam and the stunning Keukenhof Garden, we meet a number of people linked to the McGruffin company back in Seattle, many, including Lana, having been treated unjustly by its management. As the women are taken from one fascinating location to another, resentment and anger rise to the surface.

After one of their party dies, Lana must discover if it was an accident and who might have wished the victim to die. Her spirits are raised when she meets Alex, the perfect date, but will she be able to see him again? Another fast moving cozy mystery by Jennifer S Alderson which gives the reader a wonderful introduction to a holiday destination.

Miss Tavistock’s Mistake by Linore Rose Burkard #RegencyRomance #RBRT

Tavistock

Young Miss Tavistock is promised in marriage to Captain Rempeare by the wish of her dearly departed papa. But the captain’s been at sea for a decade. When she finally meets him, tempestuous sparks fly, and she impulsively adopts a daring false identity. Going by “Lady X,” she vows never to marry such an infuriating man.

Captain Gabriel Rempeare is prepared to fulfill his duty and marry Miss Tavistock—if only he can clap eyes on her. One circumstance or another keeps them apart, though he cannot seem to avoid the beautiful, maddening, Lady X. When fate throws them together in London, Miss Tavistock discovers the real nature of the captain, and regrets her subterfuge. But can such a noble man forgive deceit? Or has her mistake already cost her everything?

My Review

Feodora Tavistock is an exuberant heroine, who despite living as a ward of the aging Duke of Trent on a remote estate, shows enthusiasm for whatever life offers. When Mrs Filbert arrives as companion to the 19-year-old girl, she embraces her as friend despite the fact that she is middle aged.  One day life for Feodora (or Margaret as she prefers to be called) will change, for she is betrothed to her cousin Gabriel who showed her great kindness when she was first orphaned ten years earlier. But Gabriel Rampeare has spent most of the intervening years in the navy and he has scarcely written to her at all.

With Mrs Filbert’s collusion Margaret persuades her guardian to allow her to join the London Season so that she can enjoy one summer of balls, parties and frivolous gowns before her marriage. In the meantime, Gabriel and Margaret meet under unfortunate circumstances, not recognising each other and his behaviour is so despicable she determines to refuse the marriage.  Unfortunately, they are thrown together in London although Captain Rempeare believes she is “Lady X” the Inamorata of his elderly uncle.  The secrets, lies and misunderstanding are a perfect basis for an amusing, exciting plot.

For me, Captain Gabriel Rempeare is the perfect hero. A career sailor he misses the sea, but intends to do his duty by his betrothed, yet he is hampered by the necessity to cover the debts and appalling behaviour of his brother. Miss Tavistock lacks experience of life so makes foolish mistakes and is prepared to give up her chance of happiness rather than confess her falsehoods to Gabriel.

The author knows the era very well. Her descriptions of the ballroom with its chalked floor, of the sumptuous dinners provided and the extravagant fete at Carlton House are filled with authentic detail and her account of naval battles in the early 19th century, ring true. My only complaint would be the rather sudden ending when I would have liked a little longer to enjoy the inevitable conclusion.

Miss Tavistock’s Mistake on Amazon UK

Linore

Linore Rose Burkard ( L.R.Burkard) is a serious watcher of period films, a Janeite, and hopeless romantic. An award winning author best known for Inspirational Regency Romance, her first novel (Before the Season Ends) opened the genre for the CBA. Besides historical romance, Linore writes contemporary suspense (The Pulse Effex Series, as L.R. Burkard), contemporary romance (Falling In), and romantic short stories (ie., “Three French Hens”). Linore has a magna cum laude English Lit. degree from CUNY which she earned while taking herself far too seriously. She now resides in Ohio with her husband and family, where she turns her youthful angst into character or humor-driven plots.

#BookReview: A Song for Summer by Eva Ibbotson

Ibbotson Song        Ibb Chant

When Ellen Carr abandons grey, dreary London to become housekeeper at an experimental school in Austria, she soon knows she has found her calling. She never expected the Hallendorf school to be quite so unusual. Her life back in England with her suffragette mother and liberated aunts certainly couldn’t be called normal, but buried deep in the beautiful Austrian countryside, Ellen discovers an eccentric world occupied by wild children and even wilder teachers and a tortoise on wheels. But it is the handsome, mysterious gardener, Marek, who intrigues her – Marek, who has a dangerous secret. As Hitler’s troops march across Europe, Ellen finds she has promises to keep, even if it means sacrificing her future happiness.

My Review

I discovered Eva Ibbotson through her amazing children’s book A Journey to the River Sea written in 1998, when she was 73. I then selected her adult romances, often promoted for Young Adults. The cover pictures for A Song for Summer pitch it as a romance, which it is, but it is so much more than that. As Ellen, an educated young woman from a suffragist household, travels to 1930s Austria, we see this idyllic country knowing that it will soon be plunged into turmoil. Spurning her chance for an academic life, she yearns to visit the country of her unofficial grandmother and to cook and care for a group of needy children in an extremely eccentric school. Never judgemental, she spreads happiness and sorts out problems and this school has many.

The other adult trusted by the children is Czech handyman, Marek, who carries two secrets; one a dangerous mission to help people escape from the Nazis and the other a wonderful talent and fame. But he is a flawed hero, impulsive and easily roused to anger and circumstances are bound to separate him from those he cares for.

There are many amusing characters in this story, such as Tamara, the passionate Russian ballet dancer, who is actually Beryl from England, Hermine a pretentious eurythmics teacher with her baby Andromeda, tucked down the front of her smock and the dire, Kendrick Frobisher, who adores Ellen but is scared of his mother or any involvement in real life.  And yet, the awful consequences of the advancing fascists are also addressed within the plot so that we hope Ellen can survive but do not expect a happy ending.

For me this was a perfect read for the present time.

Eva Ibbotson

Eva_Ibbotson

Eva Ibbotson was born to Jewish parents in Vienna in 1925. When she was nine Eva moved to London to join her mother, a successful novelist and playwright, who had fled Vienna in 1933 after her work was banned by the Nazi authorities. Other members of Eva’s family also escaped Vienna and settled in England, and their shared experiences later influenced Eva’s writing, with the themes of home, refugees and immigration running through her books.  Eva studied Physiology at Cambridge University and later trained as a teacher. She started to write in her thirties and her first children’s book, The Great Ghost Rescue, was published in 1975 when she was fifty years old. Despite her late literary start, Eva went on to write more than twenty books for children and won the Smarties Prize for her novel Journey to the River Sea in 2001. She also wrote seven books for adults. She died at her home in Newcastle in 2010, aged eighty-five.

 

Foxden Acres (The Dudley Sisters’ Saga Book 1) by Madalyn Morgan #BookReview

Foxden Acres

It is 1939 and Bess is looking forward to completing her teacher training in London.  Then she must decide whether to look for a post in the city or return home to the countryside near Rugby.  Her happy childhood was spent playing and riding on Foxden Acres estate where her father works but her affection for James, son of Lord and Lady Foxden is unlikely to be returned since she is not of his class.  Returning to London, her handbag is stolen, but she is rescued by Natalie Goldman and her husband Anton. They talk to her about the increasingly dangerous situation in Germany for Jewish families and they become good friends.

On the outbreak of war, life is turned upside down for Bess, her family and her friends. When the school where Bess teaches is evacuated out of London, she is asked by James to return to Foxden Acres to help organise the conversion of the estate into arable land with the assistance of a team of Land Army girls. James has joined the RAF as a pilot while her brother Tom has signed up as a soldier.

This novel gives a wonderful picture of wartime life for families and those who served on the Home front.  Long hours of hard work are interspersed with the tragedy of air raids and the loss of dear friends.  The best and the worst of humanity is revealed in the events of the plot.  It is both inspiring and upsetting but is also a tribute to love and friendship.  I can’t wait to read about the other Dudley sisters.

Foxden Acres on Amazon UK

The Winter Companion (Parish Orphans of Devon Book 4) by Mimi Matthews #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog #NewRelease

Winter Companion

A winter reunion for the orphans brings romance for Neville Cross in Book 4 of Mimi Matthews’ USA Today bestselling Parish Orphans of Devon series.

She Needed to be Seen…

As a lady’s companion, Clara Hartwright never receives much attention from anyone. And that’s precisely how she likes it. With a stormy past, and an unconventional plan for her future, it’s far safer to remain invisible. But when her new employer is invited to a month-long holiday at a remote coastal abbey, Clara discovers that she may not be as invisible as she’d hoped. At least, not as far as one gentleman is concerned.

He Wanted to be Heard…

Neville Cross has always been more comfortable with animals than people. An accident in his youth has left him with a brain injury that affects his speech. Forming the words to speak to his childhood friends is difficult enough. Finding the right things to say to a lovely young lady’s companion seems downright impossible. But Miss Hartwright is no ordinary companion. In fact, there may not be anything ordinary about her at all.

During a bleak Devon winter, two sensitive souls forge an unexpected friendship. But when Clara needs him most, will Neville find the courage to face his fears? Or is saying goodbye to her the most heroic thing he can do?

My Review

Mimi Matthews is, in my opinion, quite the best author of historical romance writing today. The stories in the Parish Orphans of Devon, complement each other in the way that the friendship of the four young men also does. Each has noble qualities and failings, with which their new partners will support them. At first Neville Cross might seem a less dynamic hero than his former friends but his strong physique and gentle relationship with horses make him very attractive. In contrast our heroine, Clara, seems confident and highly intelligent. But each have problems to deal with. After a traumatic accident, Neville struggles with communication while Clara must earn a living to support her brother at university.

This novel unites all the Parish Orphans of the previous books at Greyfriar’s Abbey, the home of Justin Thornhill, for a Christmas celebration together. As Clara is a lady’s companion and Neville, a groom they are slightly distanced from the other three orphans and their wives. Despite incredible chemistry between them, it seems unlikely that Clara and Neville could have a future together. Neville believes he cannot strike out on his own, while Clara feels duty bound to her brother because of a previous indiscretion. While Neville does his best to care for a Dartmoor pony in foal, Clara becomes aware that her brother is in trouble but soon it appears that they will be cut off by bad weather.

This is an excellent conclusion to the series, showing us love overcoming personal difficulties and a new future which might not have been possible without their mutual commitment.

The Winter Companion can be pre-ordered at Amazon UK

I highly recommend Mimi Matthews’ informative and beautiful website 

The Strictly Business Proposal (Freshwater Bay Novel Series Book 1) by Nell Grey #BookReview #Romance

Business Proposal

Is Beth Barnes a beautiful con artist or the genuine friend of Evan Morgan, an elderly Welsh chef?

When Evan dies, he hands talented London chef Beth her big break. She has the chance to realise her dream and run her very own restaurant in a village on the wild Welsh Celtic coast. But there are strings attached. Can she comply and gain her inheritance, her dream? Accused of being a gold digger by the family, Beth’s welcome to Wales is not quite as warm as she’d hoped for.

Burned from a recent divorce, the last thing on architect Gareth Morgan’s mind is another wedding. If he wants to realise his development dreams, he must marry.

It’s a strictly business proposal. But can Beth and Gareth really stick to the terms

My Review

My first impression of this novel was not good. Reading the first paragraph of a book by a British author I didn’t expect to read,” busting her ass,” and “snuck out,” but perhaps this was to appeal to readers across the pond. Certainly, the vocabulary soon settled into recognisable English and I began to enjoy following the story of chef Beth Barnes and the handsome Welsh architect Gareth Morgan with whom she agreed a business contract.

Both Beth and Gareth are passionate about their careers and neither intend to become entangled in a relationship but in order to achieve their dreams of a successful restaurant on the Welsh coast and an eco-holiday village they must agree to a partnership which involves marriage. Of course, there is misunderstanding, anger and disappointment but this is more than just chick-lit. Gareth’s family are well-rounded interesting people with their own back stories and Beth’s friendship with local girl, Ariana promises more about this artistic jewellery maker.

In addition to some torrid love scenes, we are treated to two complex but likeable characters and a fascinating location in Freshwater Bay. This is the first of four books in the Freshwater Bay series so I shall certainly be following it to learn more about the Morgan bothers. An easy, enjoyable read.

The Strictly Business Proposal on Amazon UK

A Convenient Fiction (Parish Orphans of Devon Book 3) by Mimi Matthews #NewRelease #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT

Convenient Fiction

She Needed A Husband…

It’s been three years since Laura Hayes’s father died, leaving her and her invalid brother to subsist on the income from the family’s failing perfume business. But time is swiftly running out. What she needs is a husband, and fast. A noble gentleman who can rescue them all from penury. When a mysterious stranger arrives in the village, he seems a perfect candidate. But Alex Archer is no hero. In fact, he just might be the opposite.

He Wanted a Fortune…

Alex has no tolerance for sentiment. He’s returned to England for one reason only: to find a wealthy wife. A country-bred heiress in Surrey seems the perfect target. But somewhere between the village railway station and the manor house his mercenary plan begins to unravel. And it’s all the fault of Laura Hayes–a lady as unsuitable as she is enchanting.

From the beaches of Margate to the lavender fields of Provence, a grudging friendship slowly blossoms into something more. But when scandal threatens, can a man who has spent his entire life playing the villain, finally become a hero? Or will the lure of easy riches once again outweigh the demands of his heart?

My Review

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife,” but for Alex Archer the opposite is true. He has come to Surrey in search of an heiress. Such a man doesn’t sound like a hero, but Alex has hidden depths. He is one of a group of boys from an orphanage who grew up to achieve success but in his case his life has not given him happiness.

Laura had a happy childhood but after her father’s death, she and her sickly brother have a limited income, maintaining respectability while submitting to the patronising charity of local heiress, Henrietta.  Laura is a capable, determined woman.  She does her best to extricate the family’s once successful perfume business from a wily solicitor but her position as a single woman means she has little power.

The tumultuous relationship which develops between Alex and Laura promises no happy ending, since each aim for a different conclusion to their problems but their conversation and interaction is fascinating to read.  We come to realise that such independent thinkers are well matched, but fate seems to be against them.

For those who have read the previous books in this series, there is an interesting meeting with the other parish orphans, but it is not necessary to have read those books first.  The books of Mimi Matthews are unique. Although historical romances they do not follow the usual template.  With a nod to Jane Austen, these frank, determined heroines break down their heroes’ reserve causing the men to admit their true feelings. There is an immediacy about this story which makes easy reading for a modern reader.  Another delightful book by this talented, knowledgeable author.

A Convenient Fiction can be found on Amazon UK

My review of The Matrimonial Advertisement Parish Orphans of Devon Book 1