A Study in Treason

study in treasonAuthor: Leonard Goldberg

Series: Daughter of Sherlock Holmes #2

Publisher: Minotaur

Release Date: June 12, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

My interest in Sherlock Holmes has been renewed by this new series!

After a top-secret document outlining the treaty between England and France to stand against Germany disappears, Dr. John Watson is solicited to assist England in finding the document.  Dr. Watson agrees on one condition, that his son Dr. John Watson, Jr. and his wife Joanna assist in the investigation.  Joanna is the daughter of Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler and she is just as astute as her father, if not more.  As they assist Scotland Yard in the investigation, evidence starts to point in the opposite direction of the investigation, which brings out more questions than answers.  As with her father, everything must be cut and dried with no middle ground.  With an apparent hurry up investigation, the trio attempt to work out the facts to solve the case and restore the document.

If you enjoyed Sherlock Holmes, then this new series is a must.  Told from the perspective of Dr. John Watson, Jr, a new mystery has surfaced that resembles the volumes of work that his father documented for Sherlock Holmes.  The story line is very interesting and told in a way that keeps the reader engaged.  Just as things seem to be wrapping up, a new curve is thrown into the mix that resets all the knowledge gathered so far.  Goldberg does a great job leading readers down the path, but keeping them right where he wants them.  Scotland Yard still bumbles a bit and is too hasty to wrap up investigations, but Joanna mimics her fathers’ antics from pacing to smoking while deep in thought.

Even though this is the second in a series, it easily reads as a standalone.  However, it garnered enough of my interest to go get the first book to fill in any blanks that I may not have noticed.  If you’re a fan of Holmes or just love a good mystery, give this a try!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions express within are my own.

A Bound Heart

a bound heartAuthor: Laura Frantz

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 1, 2019

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

Laura Frantz introduces readers to Lark MacDougall, a Scottish maid, and Magnus MacLeish, a Scottish lord.  Growing up, the two were inseparable as Lark’s maid raised her alongside Magnus after Lark’s family castle crumbled with the loss of the family’s power.  Lark was forced to become a servant, but because of her family ties to Magnus, she had opportunities uncommon to her new class of citizen.  Lark becomes the castle gardener/herb grower and is responsible for making healing poultices and potions out of the herbs and honey she collects from her bee skeps.  She and Magnus maintain a strong bond even though he eventually marries a woman of means and high rank in society.  Unfortunately, his new wife, Lady MacLeish, is unable to have children, and one night, in a fit of despair, she gets into Lark’s herb cabinet.  There she drinks a potion that alters her mental state, resulting in her falling off a cliff to her death.  Despite the cabinet being locked and her not even being present, Lark is charged with Lady MacLeish’s death, and for defending her, Magnus is charged as well.  Both lives are spared; instead of most likely dying in jail or being hung, the pair is put on a convict ship headed for Virginia.  The majority of the story follows the lives of Magnus and Lark as they reach their new homes.

A romance with a great deal of fact woven into it, A Bound Heart fascinates and captures the hearts of readers through adventure, romance, tribulation, and faith.  Lark is a good girl who doesn’t have much experience in the world outside of her herb gardens, but she is fortunate to be taken under the wing of the kindly woman who oversees the plantation where Lark has been indentured.  Lark is given a job tending to the flowers and herbs, and it suits her just fine.  Magnus faces an uphill battle against a slave-owning culture in sugar cane fields.  After being transported to the Caribbean Magnus finds himself as a field manager on a sugar plantation.  Used to being the one in charge, he now has to follow the orders of landowners despite knowing from experience that working with the laborers is more effective than working against them.

The characters develop as the book progresses, and the historical significance keeps interest while educating.  Several tertiary characters provide more story development and conflict to make things much more exciting.  Frantz uses common Scottish dialogue throughout the book, especially at the beginning when they are still in Scotland, to provide authenticity.  It’s difficult to understand at first, but is explained enough and is used with enough frequency that readers should not have any trouble understanding the story.  The development from arrest to sea voyage to the new life for each moves along at a pace that does not seem slow; rather, things seem to happen quickly enough that a lot transpires in a short amount of time.  I sped through this book and enjoyed every minute, never wishing that I was further along than I was.

A Bound Heart offers something for historical fiction and romance readers alike: adventure, star-crossed lovers, complications, separations, and facts about a new place.  I enjoyed it immensely and believe that readers of this genre will as well.

As a word of caution, I must mention that there are some topics that require consideration.  There are some threats of sexual violence as well as physical violence.  Language is often harsh, but never downright profane.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

We Hope for Better Things

we hope for better thingsAuthor: Erin Bartels

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 1, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Three significant stories all woven together through a common theme of racial tension.

Elizabeth Basalm is a reporter for the Detroit Free Press who has just gotten a strange request from James Rich.  An elderly man, Mr. Rich asks Elizabeth if she is related to a Nora Basalm, as he has something of hers that needs to be returned.  It is a camera that has been in police evidence since the 1960s riots.  Elizabeth has never heard of Nora, but she has been trying to pin part of the riots activity on the elusive Judge Sharpe.  If these pictures have incriminating evidence, she might just be able to punch her ticket to major headlines.  But to do so will mean opening doors that some people want to be left closed.

Nora Basalm lives in Detroit’s Bloomfield Hills, which is all upper class and all white.  In the 1960s, even though the north doesn’t have the Jim Crowe laws, there is still natural segregation.  While at an art expo, she stumbles on a photograph of her father looking angry and hateful, she finds the photographer and asks if he will take down the picture.  He agrees, but only if she buys him a new camera since the man in the photograph smashed his.  After she meets him again with the camera, she begins to learn more about the man that she might even have feelings of love.  But to fall in love and marry him might mean career and social suicide.  It seems neither race wants to see this relationship succeed.

The civil war has just broken out and Mary Basalm’s husband Nathaniel has decided to enlist leaving her behind at the family farm.  As she frets over his wellbeing, his trunk and a letter arrive one day.  Terrified of the worst, she opens the trunk to reveal a runaway slave named George has been packed inside of it.  As the war progresses, George and Mary become equals on running the farm and managing the affairs in Nathaniel’s absence.  Mary becomes to rely on George more than anyone else in her life, which begins to cause a huge rift between her and everyone she knows.

This was an incredible debut novel that tackles a subject that has been sensitive for centuries.  Bartels weaves three different stories that all center around racial tensions at three different time periods: present day, civil rights era, and the civil war.  The main characters of each story are involved in different interracial relationships, one in marriage, one in dating, and one that is completely forbidden.  Each story addresses the situation of the time period, but also shows how strong the main female characters are.  The entire book is educational, historical, entertaining, and unfortunately, sad.  All of the stories are also centered around a family farm house.  It’s sad to think of all the stories within a house that have occurred but have been forgotten over time.

I highly recommended this book for people who enjoy reading about controversy as well as about the time periods included.  Great book to start off the year!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions express within are my own.

Top Historical Fiction

Another great category as the year comes to a close is historical fiction.  This topic covers anything from a few years ago to ancient civilization.  It’s easy to get lost in these terrific reads.

Sold on a Monday1. Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris

It was easy to pick the top book of the year in this category.  Set in the great depression, an innocent photo to depict the hardships turns into a horrible mess that may destroy the lives of several people.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

Between the Lies2. Between the Lies by Cynthia A. Graham

Another fantastic read by Graham.  This is set in Arkansas during the civil ri. ghts movement in a battle between sheriffs of neighboring counties over the innocence of a young colored boy charged with murder.  Fair warning though, the ending is going to get you!

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

Women in the Castle3. The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

This is one of those books that  has garnered a lot of buzz in the short time it h as been  on the market, and it’s easy to see why.  Each character is complex, and while maybe not likeable, relatable.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

The Lost Castle4. The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron

Three different stories encompassing three different time periods all set at the same castle compose this masterpiece.  You’ll have trouble deciding which of the stories you are more looking forward to continuing as you read!

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

Missing Isaac5. Missing Isaac by Valeria Fraser Luesse

A terrific novel that explores both the prejudice and the classism of the 1960s southern era.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

jerusalem queen6. Jerusalem’s Queen by Angela Hunt

As always, Hunt’s novels are rich with history and this is no exception.  We always have to research the events that take place in her book to learn more.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

Jerusalem’s Queen

jerusalem queenAuthor: Angela Hunt

Series: The Silent Years #3

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: November 6, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

As the silent years continue, an unlikely leader emerges to guide the Jewish nation.

Salome Alexandra has spent all of her six years of life in the small town of Modein. But when her father and sister are killed in an accident, she and her mother’s lives are on the brink of change.  A distant relative from Jerusalem has come to claim them to live in his house.    He is the son of the high priest and they will have a good life.  As the time draws near for them to come to Jerusalem, the high priest and two of his sons are murdered and the relative that claimed them has now become high priest.  When they arrive in Jerusalem, Salome begins to get educated and is given a personal attendant.  These two women, slave and free, begin to realize they are merely pawns in a man’s game and neither are truly free.  But God works in mysterious ways and Salome was always told that she had a purpose in life for which God had set her aside.

I think my favorite part of reading historical fiction by Angela Hunt is that she picks characters that I know nothing about and gives me a history lesson. She makes me go research the characters so that I can compare sources I can find against her work and I love it.  I love the research she does to make these past figures come back to life and I love the research she makes me to do learn more about it.  This book was no exception.  I had not heard of Salome Alexandra before, but I know about her now.  Told between viewpoints of Salome and her attendant Kissa, this story unfolds tragedy, growth, forgiveness, and purpose.

I recommend this book to historical fiction lovers, biblical fiction lovers, and people who enjoy Hunt’s work!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

A Dangerous Duet

Dangerous DUetAuthor: Karen Odden

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: November 6, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Odden composes a delightful mystery!

Nell Hallam has a dream to study piano at the Royal Academy in London, but since her father passed, it will be difficult to earn the tuition. She and her brother Matthew live in Mayfair, which is a nice area of London, and he is an inspector at Scotland Yard.  Determined not to trouble her brother with her dream, Nell has developed an alias as a man named Ed Nell and lands a gig playing the piano at the Octavian, a music hall in Soho.  She knows her brother wouldn’t approve, but fortunately he works late into the night and she is always able to make it home before he arrives.  One night on her way home, she finds one of the performers beaten and left for dead.  Soon, other murders start to occur throughout the Soho district.  The more that she is immersed in the world of the Octavian, the more she finds that people aren’t what they seem on the outside.  Performing is all just an act, but will Nell be able to separate the people who are guanine and who are criminals?

This is by far one of my favorite historical fiction reads of the year. I was pulled into this book within the first two paragraphs and couldn’t let it go until the end.  I struck up a quick friendship with Nell and she tugged me along through late 1800s London.  I loved getting to meet the characters at the Octavian and see how everyone performed.  I shared all of Nell’s emotions and loving heart that made her extremely genuine.  I fell for Jack’s character as I got to know him and learned that things aren’t always what they seem.

The suspense throughout this book stayed very tight and kept me tearing through the pages. There were a few surprises thrown in for good measure that you might not expect, but it was well worth reading.  I’m glad that I got a copy of this book as a new author has found a place on my shelf.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

River to Redemption

River to RedemptionAuthor: Ann H. Gabhart

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: July 3, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A story not only redemption but also of the courage and spirit it takes to do what you know is right even when you are alone in your thinking.

Adria Starr is on her own after her family dies in the cholera epidemic of 1833. She is found by a slave named Louis who is more faithful than anyone else in his position would ever be.  He has had plenty of opportunities to leave and find his freedom while his masters fled the epidemic and left him in charge of things.  Instead of running, Louis decided to stay around and help tend to the sick and bury the dead.  Twelve years go by and he is about to be sold and all his loyalty seems to matter to no one, except Adria who has never forgotten what he did for her and so many others.  Adria has always abhorred slavery and wants to try and buy Louis his freedom.  Being in Kentucky, she doesn’t have many that think like her but doesn’t let that stop her from following her heart and doing what she knows is right, no matter the cost.

Reading about this topic can be difficult, especially knowing that it is based on a true story. The story itself had several characters that stood out for me.  First was Adria showing what she stood for and refused to back down.  Then Louis, he is just a character that you can’t help but like.  And of course Matilda, even though she wasn’t in the story as much as some of the other characters she still made a big impact.  With these characters being able to touch the heart and the story being based on true events, readers will have a hard time not connecting and being fully immersed in every page.  I loved the way Gabhart made these connections and let the story flow.  This was different from her past novels I have read, but still a very enjoyable read.  I recommend this to fans of Gabhart and readers that enjoy historical fiction with a little romance.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.