Tag: history

Book Review: The Matrimonial Advertisement, by Mimi Matthews

The Matrimonial Advertisement

The Matrimonial Advertisement
Image belongs to Perfectly Proper Press.

Website:  Title:   The Matrimonial Advertisement
Author:   Mimi Matthews
Genre:   Historical romance
Rating:   4 out of 5

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.)

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Book Review: The Phantom Tree, by Nicola Cornick

the phantom tree
Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

Title:   The Phantom Tree
Author:   Nicola Cornick
Genre:   Fiction, fantasy, historical
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

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.)

Book Review: The Love Letter, by Rachel Hauck

Love-Letter_Cover-Comp

Title: The Love Letter
Author: Rachel Hauck
Genre: Historical, Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5

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.)

Book Review: The Lion of the South, by Jessica James

Lion-of-the-South-ebook-Cover-Large-200x300
Image belongs to Patriot Press.

Title:  The Lion of the South
Author:  Jessica James
Genre:  Fiction, historical, romance
Rating:  4/5

Julia Dandridge grew up in Virginia. On the estate of her father’s friend, she ran wild, learning to ride and fish from Landon, who finally made Julia feel she was part of a family. Until she turned sixteen and Landon’s mother shipped her off to an aunt and uncle she’d never met, where she grew to adulthood in Washington society. Amid the Civil War, everything changed.

Now Julia is back, desperate to escape the prying eyes that keep tabs on her in Washington. She is also eager to see Landon, but finds the bitter, drunken man a far cry from the compassionate, noble young man she knew.

With everyone desperate for news of the Lion of the South—a heroic figure whose daring exploits bring hope to the Confederacy—Julia finds herself forced to choose between loyalty to the society she grew up in and the brother she adores.

The Lion of the South is set during the Civil War, but it leaves the issues behind the war  strictly alone, focusing instead on the lives affected by war and its impact on society. This is a simple, sweet novel that reminds me rather strongly of The Scarlet Pimpernel. The book is a bit predictable but is a light and easy read nonetheless.

Jessica James is an award-winning author. The Lion of the South is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Patriot Press in exchange for an honest review.)

 

More reviews at <a href=” https://tamaramorning.com/”>Tomorrow is Another Day</a>

Book Review: White Chrysanthemum, by Mary Lynn Bracht

wc
Image belongs to Putnam Books.

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.

Mary Lynn Bracht is American, of Korean descent, and lives in London. White Chrysanthemum is her new novel.

(Galley provided by Putnam in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Book Review: Firebrand, by Sarah MacTavish

firebrand

Way back in…March, I think…I went to a local author event, mainly because Rachel Caine was going to be there, and I love her writing. I’d heard her speak before, and was pleased to have another opportunity. There was another author there, Sarah MacTavish, and I really enjoyed her talk as well. So, I ended up buying her debut novel, Firebrand. And it’s been sitting in that particular TBR pile until last week. Yes, I stockpile books…and then don’t have a chance to read them for months. I have a problem, okay?

When I did pick it up, I finished reading it in less than 24 hours. It was that good. It’s set right before the Civil War, and its about two young abolitionists and the struggles they face. I like historical fiction, but I thought this YA historical was extremely well-written, and I found myself rooting for the characters. (Also, I’m from Texas, not too far from where part of the book is set, and I had no idea about some of the things in the novel.) This book deals with difficult events and topics, but it’s history:  if we don’t learn from it, we’re doomed to repeat it.

Saoirse Callahan and her family are struggling to survive on their small Texas farm that’s a far cry from their home in Ireland. Tempers are short, and after the death of one of her brothers, the whole family seems on the verge of collapsing. Then a series of fires sweep the region, and rumors of a slave uprising spread, leaving vigilante justice in their wake. Saoirse is desperate to find out what really happened, but her questions land her family in even deeper trouble.

Westleigh Kavanagh is safely an abolitionist in Pennsylvania, until he realizes his father’s new boarder is a runaway slave. Westleigh is determined to keep the man’s secret, even from his father, who, as sheriff, is bound to uphold the law, no matter what his personal beliefs are. Then Westleigh finds an old journal, and uncovers secrets his father has long kept hidden from him, secrets that lead him to the Callahans in  Texas.

Book Review: The Indigo Girl, by Natasha Boyd

the indigo girl
Image belongs to Blackstone Publishing.

 

In 1739, Eliza Lucas is sixteen years old when her father leaves her in charge of the family’s three South Carolina estates so he can go chase his dreams of a military career. With the estates floundering on the edge of ruin, Eliza decides that producing indigo is the family’s only hope.

But not even her family wants her to succeed, and no one will share the thousand-year-old secret to making indigo dye, so Eliza must form a forbidden friendship with a slave who promises to teach her—if she breaks the law and teaches the slaves to read. Eliza is on her own as she fights against tradition and the law, except for the friendship of an aging horticulturalist and the married lawyer who is a friend of the family.

Somehow, I did not realize The Indigo Girl was historical fiction until I finished reading it. Though the issues of slavery and women’s rights in the book bothered me, that stuff happened, and erasing history means we won’t learn from it. Eliza was a wonderful character—and the fact that the character is at least partially based on a real-life woman who fought tradition and oppression is even better—strong, determined, and with the courage to stand up for what she believes in and fight even her family to do what’s right. This is a great read!

Natasha Boyd was born in Denmark, lived all over the world, and now lives in the United States. The Indigo Girl is her newest book.

(Galley provided by Blackstone Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Sixth Victim, by Tessa Harris

the sixth victim
Image belongs to Kensington Books.

Tessa Harris is a journalist who writes crime fiction set in the past. Her newest novel is The Sixth Victim.

Jack the Ripper stalks the street of the Whitechapel district of London, leaving women afraid to be on the streets at night. Constance Piper fears the Ripper, but she has other worries as well, like the odd things that have been happening to her, making her question all she’s ever known. If only her mentor, Emily Tindall, was around to give her advice.

But Emily is gone, returned to Oxford, they say, so Constance is on her own to deal with the sudden influx of clairvoyants, all offering to talk to the murdered girls. The gossip is about the latest horrifying remains found, and a lady tracks Constance down and asks for her help, afraid the latest victim is her missing sister. Constance agrees, and soon finds herself on the receiving end of help that makes her question everything she ever thought she knew about the world around her.

The Sixth Victim is a well-researched look into the famous serial killer of the 1800s. It depicts the squalor of Whitechapel, through the eyes of a character who wants more than the life she’s living, and who finds out that what she thought of the world isn’t quite true. At turns creepy and gruesome, the novel explores one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in history.

(Galley provided by Kensington Books.)

Book Review: A Twist in Time, by Julie McElwain

 

a twist in time
A Twist in Time,
by Julie McElwain. Image belongs to Pegasus Books.

Julie McElwain’s newest novel is A Twist in Time, part of the Kendra Donovan Mysteries series.

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.

(Galley provided by Pegasus Books via NetGalley.)

The Orphan’s Tale, by Pam Jenoff

the orphan's tale
Image belongs to harlequin/Mira.

Pam Jenoff is a lawyer and former government employee who now teaches law school. She is an award-winning author, and her newest novel is The Orphan’s Tale.

Noa’s family kicked her out when she became pregnant by a Nazi soldier. She was forced to give up her baby, and took a job cleaning a rail station. When a boxcar full of Jewish infants headed for a concentration camp stops at the station, Noa finds herself stealing one of the babies and escaping into the snowy night.

A German circus takes Noa in, and she’s forced to learn the trapeze to earn her keep and so she can blend in. Her presence puts the entire circus at risk, and she butts heads with the lead aerialist, Astrid, who must train her. Soon, she and Astrid forge a strong bond, as the threat to the circus looms larger, and the two women must overcome the secrets between them if they—and the rest of the circus—are to survive.

I was supposed to read this last month, and somehow skipped over it. I’m so glad I figured that out and read this! It’s a dark book, set in one of the bleakest periods of human history. World War II-era Germany was a terrifying place to be Jewish, and this danger snakes through every page of this book. The tragedies faced by both Noa and Astrid are harrowing, at best, and the way they fight to overcome them and reach for a brighter future is both inspiring and sad. This is a great read, but not for someone looking for a book that’s light or happy—despite being set in a circus.

(Galley provided by Harlequin/Mira.)