Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Book Review: Lady Takes the Case by Eliza Casey

Pages: 304
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: November 26, 2019
Publisher: Berkley 
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "When a dinner party turns deadly, the feisty Lady Cecilia Bates and intuitive cat Jack are on the case, in this first entry to an exciting new historical-mystery series.  England 1912. Danby Hall is the only home Lady Cecilia Bates has ever known. Despite the rigid rules of etiquette and her mother the Countess of Avebury's fervent desire to see her married off, Lady Cecilia can't imagine life anywhere else. But now, with an agricultural depression sweeping the countryside, the Bates family's possession of the hall is suddenly in peril.  A possible solution arrives in the form of the imperious American heiress Annabel Clarke. The Earl and Countess of Avebury are determined that Cecilia's brother, Patrick, will win Annabel's hand in marriage--and her fortune along with it. To help the lackluster Patrick in this pursuit, the Bates and their staff arrange a grand house party upon the heiress's arrival.  When a guest dies after sipping from a glass meant for Annabel, it's clear the Bates have a more poisonous problem on their hands than a lack of chemistry. As the scandal seizes Danby, Cecilia sets out to find the culprit, with help from Annabel's maid, Jane, and Jane's curiously intelligent cat, Jack.  After the poison that someone had stashed away inside the manor is discovered, Cecilia is left with two possibilities: Either a resident of Danby snapped and tried to kill the arrogant heiress, or the threat is coming from one of their guests, who would love to see the Bates family's decline become permanent."

While Danby Hall is a beautiful estate, it's upkeep is a difficult undertaking, which is the situation regarding most of the grand estates in England. There's only one way to save Danby and it's American money. Many of the British aristocracy married American heiresses in order to save their family's estate and that's the hope of Lady Avebury.  She hopes that she can arrange a marriage between her son, Patrick, and the American heiress, Annabel Clarke. When Annabel comes to visit Danby, they are hoping she will be enamored with its grandness and its history.  However, during a  dinner party, disaster ensues.  One of the guests, a famous world explorer, falls ill during the dinner party and dies. Everyone is a suspect, especially Patrick who has a laboratory filled with herbs, plants, and the like. When the Inspector starts questioning Patrick, Lady Cecelia Bates, Patrick's sister, gets concerned, because knows that Patrick wouldn't harm anyone.  Lady Cecelia forms a friendship with Annabel's maid, Jane, and together, along with Jane's cat, they figure out who is responsible for this horrific dinner party murder.  Having a friend like Jane, Cecelia is privy to the goings-on downstairs as well as the details surrounding the new footman.  Lady Takes the Case by Eliza Casey is a cozy historical mystery that's perfect for fans of Downton Abbey as well as Jane Austen.

Lady Cecilia is an interesting and unconventional character in Lady Takes the Case. She is already "out" in society, but hasn't had any offers. So, she throws herself into figuring out who is responsible for the murder of traveler, Hayes.  There are many suspects--Annabel, the new footman, someone else from downstairs or could it be.....her brother? It does raise a red flag that he was hesitant to get married to an American and also he has a laboratory where he does a variety of expeiments using various concoctions. Things aren't looking promising for Patrick, which is why Cecelia gets involved with the help of Annabel's maid, Jane.  Normally someone of Cecelia's social set wouldn't be involved with a lady's maid, but Cecelia marches to the beat of her own drum, which I appreciated.  

All of the secondary characters in Lady Takes the Case were a lot of fun. They were mysterious, interesting, and reminiscent of an Agatha Christie novel.  I wasn't quite sure who the murder could be and enjoyed going along the ride with Cecelia.  This wasn't an edge of your seat murder mystery though; it was more of a cozy read that's perfect for the holiday season.  

The whole upstairs/downstairs vibe in Lady Takes the Case along with the great family estate is also similar to Downton Abbey, especially with the quest to find an American heiress in order to keep the estate up and running.  I think this new hysterical mystery series will definitely be a hit with fan the show.

So, if you like to cozy up this holiday season with a mystery that won't give you high blood pressure, but rather make it feel like you are watching your favorite Masterpiece TV show, I urge you to pick up Lady Takes the Case.  I look forward to book two as the ending of book one left me gasping!

Monday, December 9, 2019

Blog Tour and Giveaway: The Glittering Hour

You guys know I love historical sagas, so I have had my eye on The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey, which comes out tomorrow! I hear this novel is all about lost love and family secrets. I can't wait to read it! Who doesn't love a sweeping historical romance, especially during the holiday season.

About the Book:

"An unforgettable historical about true love found and lost and the secrets we keep from one another from an award-winning author.  Selina Lennox is a Bright Young Thing. Her life is a whirl of parties and drinking, pursued by the press and staying on just the right side of scandal, all while running from the life her parents would choose for her.  Lawrence Weston is a penniless painter who stumbles into Selina's orbit one night and can never let her go even while knowing someone of her stature could never end up with someone of his. Except Selina falls hard for Lawrence, envisioning a life of true happiness. But when tragedy strikes, Selina finds herself choosing what's safe over what's right.  Spanning two decades and a seismic shift in British history as World War II approaches, Iona Grey's The Glittering Hour is an epic novel of passion, heartache and loss."

If you can't wait to get your hands on a copy, you can buy The Glittering Hour at  AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-a-MillionIndie Bound or Powell's.  To learn more about Iona Grey, visit her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter

About the Author:

IONA GREY is the author of the award winning Letters to the Lost. She has a degree in English Literature and Language from Manchester University, an obsession with history and an enduring fascination with the lives of women in the twentieth century. She lives in rural Cheshire with her husband and three daughters. 

The Giveaway:

Thanks to St. Martin's, I am hosting a giveaway to celebrate the release of The Glittering Hour. One lucky winner will receive a copy! This giveaway is open to US and Canada only.  Please refer to my giveaway rules.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

So, is The Glittering Hour on your TBR list? Let me know what you think!

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Introduction to Cultures Around the World Holiday Prize Pack

Teaching children about our world is so important! I love to read books with my sons that ask them to imagine what it would be like if you lived in another part of the world and they enjoy learning about different customs.  

With the holiday season coming up, I am sharing a great giveaway that's perfect for the budding globe trotter and traveler in your life.  I've teamed up with The Children's Book Review and Carole P. Roman to share with you guys a fantastic giveaway for Carole P. Roman's Introduction to Cultures Around the World prize package that includes a $100 gift card!

One lucky grand prize winner will receive an autographed set of the If You Were Me and Lived series, which includes 22 books! The grand prize winner will also receive a $100 Amazon gift card.

Three other winners will receive an autographed set of the If You Were Me and Lived series (22 books!)

Learn More About the Books:

"It’s never too early to start teaching children about the world around them. Embraced by educators, parents, and children, the series gently and respectfully introduces the subjects of periods, cultures, and customs. Parents, grandparents, and teachers alike will love opening their children’s eyes to the world around them in a fun and easy way—and they’ll be happily surprised when they end up learning a few things themselves. It is the simplistic and positive way that award-winning author Carole P. Roman, a former social studies teacher, delivers the text that makes this series appealing. The books are short and to the point and just what you want when you’re introducing geography and culture to the youngest reading set."

Books in the Series: 

Ages 4-10 | CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

About the Author:

Carole P. Roman is the award winning author of the nonfiction series of children’s books, If You Were Me and Lived in … . The first title in the collection, If You Were Me and Lived in…Mexico, won the Pinnacle Award for Best in Children’s Nonfiction in 2012. If You Were Me and Lived in…Russia and If You Were Me and Lived in…France were finalists in the Indie Fab Foreword Review Book of the Year. Norway and South Korea have also been named as Book of the Year with Rebecca’s Reads and Children’s Reader’s View Book of the Year. Roman has also found success with her Captain No Beard children’s books. Her debut, Captain No Beard: An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate’s Life, was named a Kirkus Best of 2012, received a Star of Exceptional Merit, and won the Pinnacle Award in 2012. Roman lives on Long Island with her husband and very near her children.
You can learn more about Carole P. Roman by visiting her website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The Giveaway:

The giveaway ends December 18, 2019, at 11:59P.M. PST.  The giveaway is open to legal residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia, who are eighteen years of age or older in their state or territory of residence at the time of entry.  Void where prohibited by law.  Carole P. Roman is responsible for prize fulfillment.  Good luck!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Blog Tour: The Clergyman's Wife

This time of the year is perfect for Jane Austen inspired novels and one that has been on my radar is The Clergyman's Wife by Molly Greeley.  I am very excited to be a part of the blog tour today and I'll be sharing with you guys an official excerpt from the novel.  This book is perfect for fans of Pride and Prejudice as it is all about Charlotte Collins and her life after the conclusion of the novel. You guys remember her, right? She is the sensible and smart woman from that's friends with Elizabeth Bennet.  Poor Charlotte ends up marrying the loathsome Mr. Collins. Ugh.  I don't know about you, but I have always wondered what happened to her and thankfully, Molly Greeley has continued her story.  Maybe things aren't as dreadful as I imagined?

Goodreads says, "Charlotte Collins, nee Lucas, is the respectable wife of Hunsford’s vicar, and sees to her duties by rote: keeping house, caring for their adorable daughter, visiting parishioners, and patiently tolerating the lectures of her awkward husband and his condescending patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Intelligent, pragmatic, and anxious to escape the shame of spinsterhood, Charlotte chose this life, an inevitable one so socially acceptable that its quietness threatens to overwhelm her. Then she makes the acquaintance of Mr. Travis, a local farmer and tenant of Lady Catherine. In Mr. Travis’ company, Charlotte feels appreciated, heard, and seen. For the first time in her life, Charlotte begins to understand emotional intimacy and its effect on the heart—and how breakable that heart can be. With her sensible nature confronted, and her own future about to take a turn, Charlotte must now question the role of love and passion in a woman’s life, and whether they truly matter for a clergyman’s wife."

Excerpt from The Clergyman's Wife:

Mr. Collins walks like a man who has never become comfortable with his height: his shoulders hunched, his neck thrust forward. His legs cross great stretches of ground with a single stride. I see him as I pass the bedroom window, and for a moment I am arrested, my lungs squeezing painfully under my ribs, the pads of my fingers pressed against the cool glass. The next moment, I am moving down the stairs, holding my hem above my ankles. When I push open the front door and step out into the lane, I raise my eyes and find Mr. Collins only a few feet distant. 
Mr. Collins sees me and lifts his hat. His brow is damp with the exertion of walking and his expression is one of mingled anticipation and wariness. Seeing it, the tightness in my chest dissipates. Later, when I have time to reflect, I will perhaps wonder how it is possible to simultaneously want something so much and so little, but in the moment before Mr. Collins speaks, as I step toward him through the fallen leaves, I am awash in calm. 
On the morning of my wedding, my mother dismisses the maid and helps me to dress herself. Lady Lucas is not a woman prone to excessive displays of emotion, but this morning her eyes are damp and her fingers tremble as she smooths the sleeves of my gown. It is only my best muslin, though newly trimmed at the bodice with lace from one of my mother’s old evening dresses. My father went to town the other day, returning with a few cupped hothouse roses, only just bloomed, to tuck into my hair this morning. He offered them to me, his face pink and pleased, and they were so lovely, so evocative of life and warmth even as winter grayed and chilled the landscape outside, that even my mother did not complain about the expense. 
“Very pretty,” my mother says now, and I feel my breath catch and hold behind my breastbone. I cannot recall having heard those particular words from her since I was a small child. I look at my reflection in the glass and there see the same faults—nose too large, chin too sharp, eyes too close together—that I have heard my mother bemoan since it became apparent, when I was about fourteen, that my looks were not going to improve as I grew older. But the flowers in my hair make me appear younger, I think, than my twenty-seven years; I look like a bride. And when I look into my mother’s face now, I find nothing but sincerity. 
My mother blinks too quickly and turns away from me. “We should go down,” she says. She makes for the door, then pauses, turning slowly to face me again. “I wish you every happiness,” she says, sounding as though she is speaking around something lodged in her throat. “You have made a very eligible match.” I nod, feeling my own throat close off in response, a sensation of helpless choking. 
I am largely silent during the long, rocking ride into Kent. My new husband speaks enough for both of us; he has an astonishing memory for minutiae and discusses the wedding ceremony in such great detail that I find myself wondering whether he remembers that I was also in attendance. We left for my new home directly from the church; my family and a few friends all crowded, shivering in their cloaks and muffs, outside the entrance, waving as we were driven away. Maria, my sister, cried as I left; my brothers looked solemn, my father beamed, my mother smiled a tremulous smile. My friend Elizabeth’s smile looked as if it had been tacked in place, like a bit of ribbon pinned to a gown but not yet properly sewn on. 
Mr. Collins’s awkward height is emphasized by the cramped conditions of the coach. His long legs stretch out before him as far as they can go, but he still appears to be uncomfortable. The hair at his temples is moist, despite the cold, and I have to glance hastily away, feeling a lurch in my stomach that has nothing to do with the jolting ride. 
He is very warm beside me in bed. I watch him sleep for a time, tracing the relaxed lines of his face with my eyes and thinking how different he seems without the rather frantic energy he exudes in his waking hours. There is a tension about him, much of the time, that I did not recognize until this moment, until sleep removed it. 
He introduced me when we arrived to the housekeeper, Mrs. Baxter, who is broad and pleasant, and to the gruff, graying manservant, John, whose powerful shoulders are built from years of labor. The parsonage itself is exactly as Mr. Collins described it: small, but neat and comfortable, with surrounding gardens that he assured me would be beautiful come spring. His eagerness to please me was matched by his inability to believe anyone might find fault with his home, and I found his manner at once endeared him to me and irritated me thoroughly. 
Throughout the tour, he pointed out improvements here and there that had been the suggestion of his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. There were rather a lot of them. 
At our bedchamber he paused with his palm against the door. “I hope . . . it suits,” he said, then opened the door and bowed me in. 
The room was much like the rest of the house: comfortably furnished, if a trifle small. “Charming,” I said, and pretended not to notice the flush on his cheeks. 
We ate dinner together. I had little appetite, despite the novelty of eating a meal in my own home that I had had no hand in preparing. Afterward, I considered suggesting we adjourn to the parlor but found I could not face the intervening hours between then and bed. Tomorrow I would unpack my books and my embroidery. I would write letters. I would meet Lady Catherine, for Mr. Collins assured me that lady had vowed to have us to tea when we returned to Kent; and I would begin to learn the duties of a clergyman’s wife. But tonight—I wanted only for tonight to be over. 
“I am tired,” I said. “I think I will retire early.” Mr. Collins rose from his chair with alacrity. “A fine idea,” he said. “It has been a long day.” And to my consternation, he followed me up the stairs, his footsteps behind me a reminder that it will forever be his right to do with me as he pleases. 
It is not so terrible, I think after, lying in the quiet dark watching my husband sleep. At my insistence, he allowed me time to change into my nightdress in private. And the rest was vaguely shocking, dreadfully uncomfortable, and far more mess than I had anticipated, but bearable. Mr. Collins, at least, seemed vastly pleased at the end, murmuring affectionate nonsense against my neck until he drifted off to sleep. 
I wake before dawn, and for a moment I imagine I am still at home. There is a presence beside me in the bed, warm and heavy against my back, and I think it is my sister, Maria, until it lets out a gusty snore against the nape of my neck. My eyes open and I find myself staring at an unfamiliar wall covered in delicate floral paper. For a moment, I am held immobile by the weight of all the ways in which my life has changed. And then Mr. Collins— William—shifts in his sleep, one heavy arm reaching over my hip, his long fingers brushing my stomach, and I go rigid for the barest of instants. A moment later I force the stiffness from my body, allowing my spine to relax back against my husband’s chest. Exhaling the breath I had been holding, I wait for him to wake. 
I will, no doubt, grow accustomed to mornings begun beside William. This is, after all, the life I chose."

The Clergyman's Wife just came out yesterday, so be sure to keep your eye out for it at bookstores and keep it in mind for any holiday gifts, especially for the Janeite in your life.  To learn more about Molly Greeley, visit her website or follow her on Twitter.  You can also purchase the book at Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. 

So, Jane Austen fans, what do you guys think? Is The Clergyman's Wife on your TBR list? I think it sounds like the perfect novel to cuddle up with this holiday season, especially if you've been wondering what happened to Charlotte Lucas from Pride and Prejudice. It would be nice to hear things from her point of view! Let me know what you think in the comments below. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Book Review: The Wicked Redhead by Beatriz Williams

Pages: 432
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: December 10, 2019
Publisher:  William Morrow
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: A Certain Age A Hundred Summers, 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "New York City, 1998: When Ella Gilbert discovers her banker husband is cheating on her, she loses both her marriage and the life she knew. In her new apartment in an old Greenwich Village building, she's found unexpected second love with Hector, a musician who lives upstairs. And she's discovered something else, just as surprising—a connection to the mesmerizing woman scandalously posed in a vintage photograph titled Redhead Beside Herself.  Florida, 1924: Geneva "Gin" Kelly, a smart-mouthed flapper from Appalachia, barely survived a run-in with her notorious bootlegger stepfather. She and Oliver Anson, a Prohibition agent she has inconveniently fallen in love with, take shelter in Cocoa Beach, a rum-running haven. But the turmoil she tried to leave behind won't be so easily outrun. Anson's mother, the formidable Mrs. Marshall, descends on Florida with a proposition that propels Gin back to the family's opulent New York home, and into a reluctant alliance. Then Anson disappears during an investigation, and Gin must use all her guile and courage to find him.  Two very different women, separated by decades. Yet as Ella tries to free herself from her ex, she is also hunting down the truth about the captivating, wicked Redhead in her photograph—a woman who loved and lived fearlessly. And as their link grows, she feels Gin urging her on, daring her to forge her own path, wherever it leads."

Things pick up where they left off in The Wicked City.  Oliver and Ginger are hiding out in Cocoa Beach with the Fitzwilliams and the year is 1924.  If you read Cocoa Beach, you are familiar with these characters.  Oliver and Ginger are escaping the horrible fight they had with notorious bootleggers, including her wretched stepfather, Duke Kelly.  Oliver leaves Ginger behind to go pursue some business and requests that she wait for him in Florida.  Gin isn't someone who waits around and when Oliver's mother suggests she returns to New York City with her in order to help Oliver's brother, Billy, who is recovering from the fight.  The problem is Billy still thinks that Gin is his fiancĂ©e, so things are starting to get a little complicated for Gin.  She feels guilty about Billy's injury as it's her stepfather who is responsible, so Gin returns to New York to help him out.  Then there's a parallel storyline featuring Ella in 1998.  If you remember from The Wicked City, her husband cheated on her and she moved out.  While at her new apartment, she met Hector, who she has hit it off with tremendously, but things aren't quite over with her ex-husband.  Conflicts ensue. Ella and Gin are linked and readers find out exactly how as the story progresses. The Wicked Redhead by Beatriz Williams is a fun sequel to The Wicked City. If you like the Prohibition era mixed in with rumrunners, romance, bootlegging, a strong heroine, and a ton of adventure, you will especially appreciate this historical tale.

Ginger is such a fun character in The Wicked Redhead. She is feisty, courageous, and a sharp-shooter both physically and verbally. I really enjoyed getting to know her more in this sequel; in fact, I liked her even more than in book one.  Her relationship with the two brothers was a bit convoluted, but readers know she has stronger feelings for Oliver and it's over with Billy. I did feel badly for Billy though as his situation isn't easy. His mother, who is extremely domineering, is in charge of his recovery and she gets Gin caught up in her plan to pull the wool over Billy's eyes in order to get him better and to give him something to live for.  In return, she will do something for Ginger.  But readers can help but wonder what Oliver will think of this when he returns from his trip.  Cue the drama.

Ella is a likable character in The Wicked Redhead. I loved her relationship with Hector and there's no doubt that they are better suited together than with her ex-husband. I don't want to give too much away, but things aren't quite over with the ex despite the fact that Ella is ready to move on. I really enjoyed her family drama and her relationships with her various family members. Readers are able to figure out the link between Ella and Gin, which made the two seemingly different narratives flesh together a bit more.  

I enjoyed all he adventure in The Wicked Redhead.  There's bootleggers, beautiful locations, romance, adventure,  rumrunners, and so much more. I was undoubtedly entertained.  In fact, I rarely like a sequel more than I like the original story, but that is the case with this novel. 

Be forewarned, the first quarter of The Wicked Redhead is slow going. It took me awhile to remember the plot in The Wicked City and reacquaint myself with all the characters, but once things got moving, I really enjoyed it. So, stick with it, because who doesn't love a good Jazz Age adventure? 

Monday, December 2, 2019

What I'm Reading Next (28)

There's nothing better than snuggling up with a good book during the holiday season. I am not sure how much time I'll have, but here are the books I am hoping to read this month.  

Dangerous Alliance by Jennieke Cohen
I love Jane Austen retellings or Austen inspired stories, especially during the holiday season. This one sounds like a fun mystery!

The Glittering Hour by Iona Gray 
I've heard some great things about this historical novel that takes place right before World War II.  I hear it's a swoon-worthy love story.  

Meet Me on Love Lane by Nina Bocci
This seems like an adorable romantic comedy.

Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly 
I never got around to reading Lilac Girls, but I am very curious about this one, especially since it's on many lists for one of the best historical reads of the year. 

Husband Material by Emily Beldon
This one seems like a fun, light novel that's perfect for the holiday season.  

What do you hope to read this month? Are any of these books on your TBR list? Let me know in the comments below. 

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Stacking the Shelves (111)

Can't Wait Wednesday: The Book of Longings 
Book Review: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

It's a busy week coming up on the blog. I am hosting a children's book giveaway, I'm part of a blog tour for a Jane Austen inspired novel and I'll be sharing my thoughts on The Wicked Redhead by Beatriz Williams.  I really enjoyed this second book in The Wicked City series, so keep your eye out for my review! 


A Week at the Shore by Barbara Delinsky - Thanks to St. Martin's and NetGalley 
Husband Material by Emily Beldon - Thanks to Harlequin and NetGalley


Sanditon by Kate Riordan and Jane Austen - Thanks to Grand Central Publishing
The World of Sanditon by Sara Sheridan - Thanks to Grand Central Publishing

Have you read any of these books? Are they on your TBR list? Let me know your thoughts. This meme is hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer. Thanks for visiting!

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