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Review: In The Shadow of Croft Towers




by Abigail Wilson

About the Book

 From debut author Abigail Wilson comes a mysterious Regency tale of secrets and spies, love and treachery.

Orphaned Sybil Delafield jumps at the opportunity for a position at the mysterious Croft Towers. She believes she was hired to act as companion to a dying woman, but a highway robbery and a hostile welcome from the Chalcroft family cause her to wonder if she was actually hired to help someone spy for France.

An unsolved murder adds intrigue to this already secretive family, and Sybil recognizes Mrs. Chalcroft’s handsome grandson as one of the infamous highwaymen who robbed her. Sybil must determine if this man's charming smile and earnest eyes speak the truth or if he is simply using her like others in the house. Everyone seems to have something to hide, and Sybil must decide who to trust while also coming to terms with the truth about her own past.
 

My Thoughts

Austen and Brontë meet in this sparkling debut, culminating in a thrilling Gothic mystery that Regency fans won’t want to miss.

With an atmosphere as mysterious as its plot, In the Shadow of Croft Towers transports readers to Regency England with a story of mistaken identity, espionage, and murder. The mystery slowly unfolds, taking many twists and turns over the course of the book. Just when you think you’ve figured everything out, another truth is revealed, another layer to the mystery is uncovered.

The characters are as layered as the mystery. I found Sybil to be a likeable heroine, and was hoping the best for her throughout the novel. I also loved Mrs. Chalcroft. Mr. Sinclair was a mysterious hero indeed, whom I wasn’t very sure about in the beginning. Yet by the end of the story, I found him to a be a good hero and was happy with the way things played out between him and Sybil.

There are influences of beloved authors like Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë, ensuring fans of these timeless authors will love this book, yet Wilson’s is a distinct voice all her own, making her an author I expect will be in demand for years to come.

All opinions expressed in this review are my own. Many thanks to Thomas Nelson for the complimentary copy of this thrilling novel.

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books of 2018





Today’s topic: Best Books I Read in 2018

Making lists of my favorite books read throughout the year is always difficult for me. It’s so hard to choose which books to feature, because there are just so many great books out there! This year was no different, but I narrowed down a list full of wonderful reads that I loved and that I would recommend to anyone.



I don’t know that a book could have a more stunning backdrop than a train ride through the Pacific Northwest in fall. This short and sweet romance is just the thing to curl up with on a rainy day.



This was such an enjoyable devotion. I love all things Jane Austen, which is what caught my attention. Yet this book is not about Jane; rather her life and written prayers are used as examples. I really liked the congenial style in which the book is written. It’s perfect for not only Janites, but anyone looking for a cozy devotional to read each day.



Marvelous read! I love the mystery, the setting, and the references to classic literature, but Hamish and Reggie are what stole my heart. They’re just lovely, endearing characters and I am so looking forward to revisiting them in the next book!



I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. Of course, when I found it, I thought it seemed like something I would enjoy, but I hadn’t expected it to be a 5-star read for me. It really kept me guessing and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. The characters were lovely, as well.



This was a great book. It’s one of my favorite Julie Klassen novels. I love the setting of a small village in Regency England and it reminded me a lot of Cranford. All the characters were charming. It was an all-around great read.



To sum up this novel in one word: cute. Light, sweet, and charming, it was just the pick-me-up I needed.



This is by far my favorite novel by Sarah Sundin to date. I loved the characters and enjoyed getting to know them, and I loved the English setting. Can’t wait for more in this series!



Liz Johnson’s newest offering was a fun and lovely start to a new series that I am so excited about. I loved the bookish couple, Millie and Ben, and found their adventures a treat to read about. There was suspense and a mystery that gently unfolded, a beautiful château, and snippets from a journal from the 1920s. When I heard about this book I knew it sounded right up my alley, and it did not disappoint.



I loved this book! It was such a nice Christmas story that I hated to see end. Great characters, a lovely plot, and a fantastic setting made for the perfect read.



The cat’s meow! I absolutely loved this book. The Roaring ‘20s is one of my favorite time periods and I loved Marjorie and her friends. I loved the message of grace portrayed in this fun book. Such a great book.



This is definitely my favorite book by Roseanna M. White. Like most other readers, I thought Peter was one of the best heroes I’ve read about in a while. But I also really like Rosemary. And the story itself is just really lovely. I love the message of hope and mercy portrayed in each book of the Shadows Over England series and I found Rosemary’s salvation story to be very beautifully written.



Of all the books I read by Jen Turano this year, it was hard to choose just one for my top ten list. But this one was just extra special to me. Arabella was such a lovely heroine that I could relate so much to. Jen Turano has carved a spot on not only my list of favorite authors, but also as one of the best authors in Christian fiction.

And there you have my top ten books of 2018. What were some of your favorite books from this past year?

Wishing you a happy New Year filled with great books!

–Miranda Atchley

Review: The Christmas Heirloom





About the Book

 In Kristi Ann Hunter's "Legacy of Love," Sarah Gooding never suspected returning a brooch to an elderly woman would lead to a job . . . and introduce her to the woman's grandson, a man far above her station.

In Karen Witemeyer's "Gift of the Heart," widow Ruth Albright uses the family brooch as collateral for a loan from the local banker. But the more she comes to know the man behind the stern businessman, the more she hopes for a second chance at love.

In Sarah Loudin Thomas's "A Shot at Love," Fleeta Brady's rough-and-tumble childhood means she prefers hunting to more feminine activities. She never expected her family's brooch might be how a fellow hunter turns her attention from competition to romance.

In Becky Wade's "Because of You," Maddie Winslow has spent years in love with a man whose heart was already spoken for. When a church Christmas project brings them together and she stumbles upon an old family brooch, might it finally be her turn for love?
 

My Thoughts

I love Christmas stories no matter their setting. Whether they’re Victorian (my favorite), WWII, contemporary, or any period in between, I just enjoy a good Christmas tale. The treat of this collection from Bethany House is that we get four unique stories set in different eras throughout history. And while each novella is written by a different author, each one connects as they tell the stories of true love spanning generations of the women in a family.

Kristi Ann Hunter’s Regency novella might have been my favorite. I’m a big fan of that era and I loved getting to see another side of that world as our heroine was a companion to Lady Densbury. I found Sarah to be a likeable and relatable character who I love to befriend and share a piece of cake with.

Karen Witemeyer’s western might not have been my favorite novella in the collection, but I did find it to be well written with a swift pace.

Sara Loudin Thomas’s novella had me intrigued. I like reading about the 1950s and Appalachian stories and so I did enjoy that part. The gunsmith aspect wasn’t my cup of tea, but I did like heroine Fleeta.

Becky Wade’s novella was a sweet offering of true love and learning to live with grief. Leo was my favorite hero from this collection. You can’t go wrong with a bookish hero.

All in all, I think The Christmas Heirloom has something for everyone. If you’re a fan of inspirational romance and Christmas stories, there is a novella for in this collection.

All opinions expressed in this review are my own. Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for the chance to read this collection of Christmas love stories that span generations.

Review: The Bride of Ivy Green




by Julie Klassen

About the Book

 Much has happened in idyllic Ivy Hill in recent months, and while several villagers have found new love and purpose, questions remain--and a few dearly held dreams have yet to be fulfilled.

Jane Bell is torn. Gabriel Locke is back and has made his intentions clear. But Jane is reluctant to give up her inn and destine another man to a childless marriage. Then someone she never expected to see again returns to Ivy Hill. . . .

Mercy Grove has lost her school and is resigned to life as a spinster, especially as the man she admires seems out of reach. Should she uproot herself from Ivy Cottage to become a governess for a former pupil? Her decision will change more lives than her own.

A secretive new dressmaker arrives in the village, but the ladies soon suspect she isn't who she claims to be. Will they oust the imposter, or help rescue her from a dangerous predicament?

In the meantime, everyone expects Miss Brockwell to marry a titled gentleman, even though her heart is drawn to another. While the people of Ivy Hill anticipate one wedding, an unexpected bride may surprise them all.

Don't miss this romantic, stirring conclusion to Tales from Ivy Hill.
 

My Thoughts

The Tales From Ivy Hill series has been my favorite offering from Julie Klassen. I love the small village setting and the cast of characters that are so reminiscent of Gaskell’s Cranford, one of my all-time favorite novels. And while this was the last book in the series and you got that feeling of the author tying up loose ends, there was still suspense that kept me guessing and introductions to some new faces.

I love that the story offers happy endings and some that come in unexpected ways. Jane was a lovely heroine and I was glad to see her happy and reconcile with her father. Rachel wasn’t as much a part of the story as in past novels, and rather her sister-in-law played a big role in her portions of the story. I really came to like Mercy in this novel and continually guessed at which suitor she would chose. And I loved Madame Victorine, the new seamstress in Ivy Hill. Her character and the bits of her past that are portrayed in the book added a whimsical element that added an extra layer to the charm of Ivy Hill.

All in all, The Bride of Ivy Green was a charming end to a lovely series. Fans of Regency fiction will enjoy a final trip to Ivy Hill to see the happily-ever-afters of endearing characters.

All opinions expressed in this review are my own. Thank you to Bethany House and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this lovely finale to a charming series.

Release Day! | The Christmas Book Shoppe


This is a very exciting day for me, because today my novella, The Christmas Book Shoppe is available.



About the Book

Keeping her book store might take a Christmas miracle…

Trudy Gallagher is quite content with her simple life. For the past five years, she has lived and worked at The Christmas Book Shoppe, a new and used book store formerly owned and operated by her great-aunt. She loves nothing more than spending her days in the Victorian house filled with books, surrounded by her cat and loved ones. As Christmas, her favorite day of the year approaches, she begins the season with her usual verve and excitement.

Yet when her landlord threatens to sell The Christmas Book Shoppe, she is devastated. She cannot imagine life without the book store she calls home. As she struggles to create a plan to keep the book store open, it seems as if her whole world is turned upside down and her every attempt to save the store fails.

Can she find a way to keep the store she loves?

Enjoy an Excerpt from
The Christmas Book Shoppe


As she placed the last ornament on the Christmas tree, Trudy Gallagher stood back and looked at her handiwork with a gratified smile. It was the Monday after Thanksgiving, and she had spent the majority of the day decorating The Christmas Book Shoppe for the holiday. Like every other year, she and her assistant Marge had placed the six foot artificial Christmas tree before the front window in the foyer, and Trudy had happily wrapped it in lights and tinsel, placing book themed ornaments along the branches.
“A little early to be putting up a Christmas tree, don’t you think?” Mr. Scranton, a regular patron at the book store–and the town’s resident curmudgeon–asked when he came to donate yet another stack of used books.
“Well, Thanksgiving was last Thursday,” Trudy replied in the kindest tone she could muster. It was tradition at The Christmas Book Shoppe to decorate for the holidays the Monday after Thanksgiving. After all, they were The Christmas Book Shoppe, a store that carried a mix of new and used books, housed in the historic district of a small town called Christmas, Arkansas–which was named for the town’s settler as opposed to the holiday, as most out of towners understandably believed. They had to embrace the spirit of Christmas, just like most other businesses in town did. Yet there was always someone who accused them of decorating too early. Trudy couldn’t help but wonder; what would Mr. Scranton say if he knew that she had decorated her apartment on November first?
Scoffing at her, Mr. Scranton turned and went on his way, his pace slow as his cane assisted him. Trudy could have sworn she heard him mutter “bah humbug” under his breath as he exited through the front door, his harsh tone clashing with the twinkling bell above the door. Though that could have simply been her imagination, which, given all the novels she read, was usually quite overactive.
Trudy shrugged as she placed the two heavy plastic bags full of moldy paperbacks on the desk and began to sort through them.
Really, who could blame her for embracing the Christmas spirit as fully as she did? After enduring long humid Arkansas summers that often started as early as April and boasted weeks of temperatures in the high nineties and low hundreds, it was a relief to have cooler weather. When the heat of summer was too much to bear, she often daydreamed about the Christmas season just to distract herself from the reality of living in such a humid climate.
But it wasn’t just the cold weather she enjoyed. She loved everything about Christmas. Watching classic Christmas movies, drinking hot cocoa while reading a light and cheery Christmas novella, and listening to Christmas songs all December were some of her favorite things. And there was just something about all the pretty decorations and lights that made the whole town of Christmas, Arkansas look like the inside of a snow globe…minus all the snow. It was simply a magical time of year.
“I’m glad you enjoy decorating the tree so much,” said Marge as she made her way back to the front desk. With a deep sigh, she added, “Putting that tree up just wears me out.”
Looking up from the copy of Thoreau’s Walden she’d been inspecting, Trudy offered a smile and said, “Well, I’m happy to do it.”
With raised eyebrows, Marge shook her head. “I can certainly tell.”
Marge was a middle aged woman who had been working at The Christmas Book Shoppe for the last few years. While she was a good employee, she didn’t share Trudy’s excitement about literature and holidays and found her boss’s enthusiasm rather tiring. It was amazing that the two got along as well as they did.
Trudy once again smiled and then took the newly arrived books and began to shelve them. It was a little curious that Mr. Scranton had donated so much as of late. Counting what he’d brought in today, he’d donated a total of ten bags full of books in two weeks. Trudy wondered how many books he had in that old, somewhat off-putting house he lived in on the top of a hill at the edge of town.
After the donations were situated on the shelves, Trudy took to straightening the bookcases, and in the process she found herself somewhat distracted, reading the synopsis scrawled on the back covers of titles that caught her attention. She often found herself similarly sidetracked while working here at the shop and realized that this was one reason why her to-be-read pile was growing entirely out of control.
When she found a particularly interesting novel set in the Edwardian era, she flipped open the cover and read the first few pages. Soon her mind was thousands of miles and a hundred years away, caught up in a world of lords and ladies.
“That a good book?”
With a gasp, she slammed the book shut. Looking up, she saw her friend, Reed Thornton. A roughish smile twisted his mouth, making him look more like Downton Abbey’s Tom Branson than ever.
“You scared me to death,” she said, taking a deep breath in an attempt to steady her heart rate. “And yes, it is a good book. I think I’ll keep it for myself.”
In his hands, she saw a stack of books, all bearing familiar titles. The Great Gatsby, Wuthering Heights, Persuasion. In Trudy’s world, it was unusual for most guys to even like reading. But for a guy to pass up science fiction and thrillers for classic literature? That was just unheard of.
“Looking for a good romance, are we?” she asked as they made their way back to the front desk.
He gave her the same exasperated expression he offered each time she made a wise crack about his reading habits. “It’s required reading for my classic lit class.”
Trudy smiled skeptically. She knew Reed had in fact enrolled in a class dedicated to the classics at the university after recently going back to college in order to earn a master’s degree in literature. Yet she also knew that Reed had always been a sucker for the classics, just like her. They’d taken literature classes in high school together and their mutual love of the classics was one reason why they’d been such good friends for most of their lives.
“You know there isn’t any shame in guys reading romance novels, right?” With a snort she added, “I mean, look at Nicholas Sparks. His novels have been giving women false hopes for years now. And Fitzgerald was a guy, and he wrote The Great Gatsby. Besides, haven’t you already read that?”
“When we were seniors in high school,” he said with a half frown. “But that was a long time ago. I’ve read too many books since then to remember all I need to know about it for this class.”
“Well, it is a pretty good one to revisit,” she said as she rounded the corner of the front desk.
As she scanned the barcode on Persuasion, she cocked an eyebrow at Reed.
He sighed as he dug his wallet out of his back pocket. “It’s the only Austen I haven’t read yet.”
She chuckled as she placed the stack of books in a bag bearing the store’s emblem.
“Do you give all your customers this hard of a time?” he asked as he accepted the bag.
She simply laughed in reply.
“You know, I could just buy my books on Amazon. I’d get a lot less cheek if I did.”
“Yeah, but you’d pay a lot more. Plus, you wouldn’t get this sparkling customer service that brings in customers from miles around.”
Chuckling, he rolled his eyes, took his bag and left.


Giveaway

One winner will receive a Kindle download of The Christmas Book Shoppe. Open internationally to anyone who can receive a Kindle download via email. Must be 18 or older to participate.

a Rafflecopter giveaway http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/393c8dbf4/?


If you read the book, please consider leaving a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. It would mean a lot to potential readers and the author alike.

Thank you for stopping by to read about this book. I hope you enjoy it. Merry Christmas!

–Miranda Atchley

Review: Yes, Carol...It's Christmas!




by Cindy Vincent

About the Book

As the top salesperson for Pfunn Party Supplies, Carol Frost doesn’t exactly know how to have fun herself these days. Though she wasn’t always such a humbug. Once upon a time, she was famous for hosting Christmas parties that were filled with everything from laughing guests and luscious hors d’oeuvres, to artfully iced sugar cookies and creatively decorated Christmas trees. To top it off, she even wrote a bestselling book that became the authoritative tome on Christmas party entertaining at the time—The Complete, Total, Ultimate, Everything-You-Might-Possibly-Want-to-Know Guide to Hosting the Best Christmas Parties Ever.

Yet that was long ago, before her life changed and she stashed her tinsel and twinkle lights away once and for all. And while Carol soon learned to settle for her boring but comfortable existence, an old friend knows that Carol isn’t really living up to her potential. An old friend who . . . well . . . now enjoys her eggnog in the afterlife, you might say. To goad Carol into going back to her former party-hosting ways, said friend sends three of her specter pals to pester Carol. Then, much to Carol’s annoyance, she is visited by the Ghost Hosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future on a plane filled with plenty of holiday revelers. And though Carol only wants to be left alone, the Ghost Hosts have other plans. Instead, they take her on an adventure that wasn’t exactly on her itinerary . . . or printed on her ticket stub. From that moment on, Carol’s life will never be the same. Provided, of course, she survives the jingle-bell rollercoaster of a ride and makes it home in time for Christmas . . .

My Thoughts

I found this novella to be a snappy, slightly quirky holiday read. I loved the nods to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Full of sass and heartwarming moments, this novella moves at a swift pace. While at times Carol was a little hard to like, I found her to be a mostly relatable character. I think that most people in her situation would feel like a Scrooge around the holidays. Yet as the tale moves along and Carol is transported to Christmases past, present, and future, she learns to leave her Grinchiness behind and gets back to the heart of Christmas. The message of spending the holidays with friends and families is something I think most readers can appreciate.

All in all, if you’re a fan of contemporary chick-lit and love Christmas stories, this book is for you.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Yes, Carol...It's Christmas! Blog Tour




I love a good Christmas story. A nice cozy holiday read is always a nice way to pass off the long nights of winter. And if you’re like me, then you’ll definitely want to check out the book I’m spotlighting today. Cindy Vincent has penned a contemporary tale inspired by Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol. Read further to find out more about this fun Christmas novella!



About the Book

As the top salesperson for Pfunn Party Supplies, Carol Frost doesn’t exactly know how to have fun herself these days. Though she wasn’t always such a humbug. Once upon a time, she was famous for hosting Christmas parties that were filled with everything from laughing guests and luscious hors d’oeuvres, to artfully iced sugar cookies and creatively decorated Christmas trees. To top it off, she even wrote a bestselling book that became the authoritative tome on Christmas party entertaining at the time—The Complete, Total, Ultimate, Everything-You-Might-Possibly-Want-to-Know Guide to Hosting the Best Christmas Parties Ever.

Yet that was long ago, before her life changed and she stashed her tinsel and twinkle lights away once and for all. And while Carol soon learned to settle for her boring but comfortable existence, an old friend knows that Carol isn’t really living up to her potential. An old friend who . . . well . . . now enjoys her eggnog in the afterlife, you might say. To goad Carol into going back to her former party-hosting ways, said friend sends three of her specter pals to pester Carol. Then, much to Carol’s annoyance, she is visited by the Ghost Hosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future on a plane filled with plenty of holiday revelers. And though Carol only wants to be left alone, the Ghost Hosts have other plans. Instead, they take her on an adventure that wasn’t exactly on her itinerary . . . or printed on her ticket stub. From that moment on, Carol’s life will never be the same. Provided, of course, she survives the jingle-bell rollercoaster of a ride and makes it home in time for Christmas . . .




About the Author

CINDY VINCENT, M.A. Ed., was born in Calgary, Alberta, and has lived all around the US and Canada. She is the creator of the Mysteries by Vincent murder mystery party games . She is also the award-winning author of the Buckley and Bogey Cat Detective Caper novels and the Daisy Diamond Detective series. She lives in Houston, Texas with her husband and an assortment of fantastic felines.




Giveaway!

Put together your own best-ever Christmas party with this fun “party in a box” giveaway! Enter for a chance to win a package with the following prizes: a signed copy of Yes, Carol…It’s Christmas! by Cindy Vincent, two Betty Crocker sugar cookie mixes, two cookie cutters, a four-pack of sprinkles, a strand of Christmas lights, and two glass ornaments. Due to shipping costs and varying international laws, this giveaway is open to US residents (age 18 or older) only. Void where prohibited. Good luck!

Come back tomorrow for my review of Yes, Carol…It’s Christmas!

–Miranda Atchley