Ballybucklebo is an Irish village in the countryside. Christmas is barely over when a fire destroys the cottage of Donal Donnally, but the family escapes unharmed. Now the village will have to rally around the family if they are to get back up on their feet. But at least the family—including the three young daughters and the dog—have each other.
Family is everywhere in Ballybucklebo.
Young Doctor Laverty and his wife, Sue, would love to start their own family, but haven’t been so blessed yet, so they turn to modern medicine in their search for a solution. Doctor O’Reilly must be very careful as he advises a married patient on how to avoid another dangerous pregnancy—the church frowns on such things.
This is the second book in this series I’ve read, and, granted, I love to read anything (well, within reason) set in Ireland, but this series is so peaceful. Set in the mid-1900s, it’s a genuinely different world—and one that seems so much better than our world now. An engrossing, quiet novel, full of vivid characters in a setting I’d love to visit.
Patrick Taylor was born in Northern Ireland and now lives in British Columbia. An Irish Country Cottage is his newest novel.
(Galley provided by Macmillan-Tor/Forge in exchange for an honest review.)
Ex-army captain Justin Thornhill needs someone to make his life a little bit easier. Orphaned and growing up in poverty, he’s spent 20 years paying back old grievances, making his fortune, and getting tortured in an Indian prison. Now he just wants to get along with the local villagers and have someone run his isolated household. A matrimonial advertisement seems the perfect way to accomplish that.
Helena will do anything to escape London, even traveling to the back of beyond and marrying a stranger. It’s a small price to pay for her freedom. She even starts to think she and Justin can be happy together. But when secrets from her past show up, will Justin keep her safe? Or will he listen to his own fears and walk away?
Occasionally I’ll read a book marketed as romance. Not often. And only if the premise and characters sound fairly unique and promising. Which is why I picked this one up. I’m glad I did. Helena’s secret was perfectly horrible and completely believable, given what I know about her era, but I loved her strength. Justin is deeply wounded, but so willing to help everyone around him. I loved how their relationship grew and developed.
Mimi Matthews writes about 19th century English history, historical romances, and she’s a lawyer. The Matrimonial Advertisement is her newest book.
(Galley provided by Perfectly Proper Press in exchange for an honest review.)
When Alison Bannister stumbles across an old painting while browsing in an antique shop, she knows the subject isn’t Anne Boleyn, as it claims. Instead, the painting is of Mary Seymour, taken to Wolf Hall as a child in 1557, and later presumed dead. Alison knows the painting is of Mary—a friend from her own childhood in 1557.
Alison has spent years in the present searching for clues to Mary’s disappearance, hints of the son Alison never knew, and a way to return to her own time and find him. The painting might just be the clue she needs.
But the man who discovered the painting stands in Alison’s way, and she must deal with her past—both in 1557 and now—if she’s ever to find the answers she seeks.
Time travel novels aren’t too uncommon, but this is the first time I’ve read one about someone who comes forward in time and makes a life. Alison is an interesting character, and I loved the dual timelines for her, as well as the dual narrators, with she and Mary both speaking. The mystery of what happened was both sad and compelling, and I enjoyed every page.
Nicola Cornick is a writer and historian with a master’s degree in history from Oxford. The Phantom Tree is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by in exchange for an honest review.)
In 1990s Columbia, Pablo Escobar, drug lord, reigns through violence and cleverness as the police struggle to apprehend him. Violence and drugs are everywhere, and the threat of kidnapping by guerrillas looms over daily life.
Seven-year-old Chula and her sister, Cassandra, lead a mostly-sheltered life in their gated community, but sometimes outside events encroach on their happiness. Then Petrona comes to be their live-in maid. Petrona is from the slums, where the guerillas are, and she’s desperate to provide for her family, willing to do anything to keep them safe.
Chula and Petrona form an unlikely bond, as Chula struggles to unravel Petrona’s secrets, while Petrona fights to keep the darkness in her life from destroying everything that’s beautiful.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree is told in the alternating viewpoints of Chula and Petrona. It was a little bit slow to get going, but then I found myself engrossed in the vibrant culture of Bogota. The differences between Chula’s life and Petrona’s were startling, and sad, but the girls’ friendship was uplifting.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras is an award-winning author and a teacher. Fruit of the Drunken Tree is her new novel.
(Galley provided by Doubleday Books in exchange for an honest review.)
Chloe Daschle is known in Hollywood for being the actress to play a convincing death scene. But she’s tired of dying. She wants to live. When she hears about the role of Esther Kingsley in a historical film, she decides to go for it.
The script is based on a one-page love letter written by screenwriter Jesse Gates’ ancestor, Hamilton Lightfoot, but Jesse would far rather write about romance than try his hand at it…again. When Jesse and Chloe meet, they both must re-think their views on love—and their pasts.
During the Revolutionary War, Esther longs to be with Hamilton, her friend from childhood, but Hamilton is torn between his love of peace, and his desire to fight for the land he calls home. He’s afraid his thirst for revenge over the death of his father will motivate him—not the cause he wishes to fight for. And Esther must choose between her beloved father, a British Loyalist, and the rebel Hamilton, the man she loves.
I expected a light romance in The Love Letter but got so much more than that. Chloe is an intriguing character: she grew up in Hollywood and has a past as one of those behaving-badly starlets caught on tape to live down. She’s changed, and now she wants so much more out of life, but Hollywood has her in a tidy box she’s not sure she can escape. Until she meets Jesse, who does things his way, not buckling to threats or even friendly advice. With Esther and Hamilton’s story woven throughout, The Love Letter was an engrossing, lovely read.
Rachel Hauck is an award-winning and best-selling author. Her newest novel is The Love Letter.
(Galley provided by Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.)
Shy Imogene Chively hated the Season, but she had a successful one, gaining a serious suitor, Ernest Steeple. Now the aspiring artist just wishes to get to know Ernest better before he proposes. When Ernest and his brother, Ben, arrive earlier than expected for their visit, Imogene finds herself in over her head.
While Imogene and Ernest get to know one another, charming Ben reveals his dark secret: he’s an architect apprentice who can’t draw. Fortunately, Imogene is an apt teacher, and the two work together as Ben learns to draw.
But a series of suspicious accidents lead them to believe that someone is out to get Ben. The only suspects are Imogene’s friends and family, so Ben, Ernest, Imogene, and her friend, Emily do their best to uncover who means Ben harm. Along the way, Imogene realizes she has feelings for the wrong brother—feelings that could break Ernest’s heart and alienate her from her demanding family.
Suitors and Sabotage was a fun, light read full of sassiness, humor, and romance. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! It had the feel of Jane Austen mixed with a modern romcom, but the characters showed some surprising depths and the identity of the saboteur surprised me completely.
Cindy Anstey loves to travel and write books inspired by Jane Austen. Suitors and Sabotage is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Swoon Reads in exchange for an honest review.)
In 1960s Atlanta, Lillian Carlson was swept along in the Civil Rights Movement; listening to Martin Luther King speak and working to see change. She fell in love with Henry, a photographer intent on capturing the impact of solitary moments, but violence tore them apart. Heartbroken, Lillian moved to Rwanda to run an orphanage, making a difference in the lives of children.
Nadine is a young Tutsi woman whose life was shattered by the Rwandan genocide. While she seeks to make her dreams come true, the violence of the past haunts her present and her future, and the secret she keeps could endanger everyone around her.
Rachel is Henry’s daughter, reeling from the loss of her mother and her baby, and desperate to find the father who abandoned her years ago. She knows she needs to heal, but she doesn’t expect to find so much hope in a country scarred by hatred and violence.
This book. This book. It started out slowly, but I kept reading because of the characters. I loved all three women and wanted to see each of them find peace and happiness. The Rwandan culture comes to life on the pages, as the author delves into the horrors that happened between the Tutsi and the Hutus—and the survivors’ search for peace. I knew almost nothing about the genocide before reading this, so that part of it horrified me, but there is so much hope in this novel, and the beauty of Rwanda fills the pages.
Jennifer Haupt is a journalist and an author. In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills is her first novel.
(Galley provided by Central Avenue Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)
In Korea, 1942, Hana is a haenyo, a diver who provides for her family by what she finds in the sea. Her heritage makes her proud, and she’s fiercely protective of her family. Then Hana saves her younger sister from a Japanese soldier. As a result, she is sent to Manchuria to become a “comfort woman” in a Japanese military brothel. When other girls surrender and give up, Hana’s pride as a haenyo keeps her going. She will make it home.
In South Korea, 2011, Emi has been searching for her sister for over 60 years. She hasn’t forgiven herself for being the reason her sister was taken away, and she wonders if she can find Hana and gain forgiveness for herself. But Emi has been hiding the truth from her children, and she must shine light into the dark places of her life if her children are ever to heal their own wounds from the war that scarred Emi’s home and family forever.
White Chrysanthemum was not an easy, fun book to read. This book tells the harrowing story of untold numbers of Korean women, and the horrors inflicted on them in the 1940s. Told from Hana’s and Emi’s viewpoints, this story is emotionally wrenching and sad, but beautifully written and moving. Very much worth reading.
Former FBI agent Kendra Donovan’s efforts to return to the 21st century fail, leaving her stranded in 1815. Her protector, the Duke of Aldridge, believes it’s because she must help save his nephew, Alec, who’s been accused of brutally murdering his mistress.
The trail of the bizarre murder—Lady Dover was found stabbed with a stiletto, her face carved—leads straight to the Ton, London’s elite class, where things are never as they seem. As Kendra uncovers Lady Dover’s relationships with various men, sordid details about her past also emerge, leading a crime boss to threaten Alec. Now Kendra must learn the truth about the murder—before Alec is found guilty of a crime he didn’t commit.
A Twist in Time was an entertaining, fun read. I have not read the first book in the series, but I would, gladly. Kendra is a great character—tough, smart, and independent—stuck in a society where women are treated like property incapable of intelligent thought. I cannot imagine her frustration with the culture and with society, but the similarities she finds to modern times are disturbing, showing that our culture is not necessarily the better of the two.