Monday, June 21, 2021

Paint and Nectar by Ashley Clark


Paint and Nectar by Ashley Clark

Paint and Nectar is book two in the Heirloom Secrets series. Book one is called The Dress Shop on King Street.

Here’s the summary:

In 1929, a spark forms between Eliza, a talented watercolorist, and William, a charming young man with a secret that could ruin her career. Their families forbid their romance because of a long-standing feud over missing heirloom silver. Still, Eliza and William's passion grows despite the barriers, causing William to deeply regret the secret he's keeping . . . but setting things right will come at a cost.

In present-day Charleston, a mysterious benefactor gifts Lucy Legare an old house, along with all the secrets it holds--including enigmatic letters about an antique silver heirloom. Declan Pinckney, whom Lucy's been avoiding since their disastrous first date, is set on buying her house for his family's development company. As Lucy uncovers secrets about the house, its garden, and the silver, she becomes more determined than ever to preserve the historic Charleston property, not only for history's sake but also for her own.

And now, my review:

Oh, goodness! Following three timelines (the prologue included) is a feat. Generally timeslip novels have two timelines. Readers miss out, I think, when there are two many main characters to follow. We don’t get the advantage of a deep dive into any one character’s life/story/emotions. We stay at a surface level, which was a sacrifice that didn’t help me engage with this story or care about these characters. Thankfully the author/publisher (at least in the ARC) included dates at the opening of new scenes. But I felt like I needed a chart on hand. 

Perhaps if I’d read book one in this series, that would have helped me not feel so lost. (I have no idea how tied together they are.) Having given up trying to track everyone and every time frame, I broke my rule and read an online review about this book as I was formulating my own feedback. As a general practice, I avoid doing that because I like sharing my own opinions without being swayed. Here's what I found: another reviewer mentioned being confused by the characters and she said, in her opinion, the timeslip element didn’t quite work in this novel. Perhaps I wasn’t the only reader to feel that way. I also admit, this author is new to me, so I was unfamiliar with her voice. That fact doesn’t always keep me from connecting with a work, but perhaps that played a part here.

Though this book wasn’t for me, I wish the author and publisher all the best. 

I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, June 18, 2021

The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz

Let’s begin with the summary:

When colonial Williamsburg explodes like a powder keg on the eve of the American Revolution, Lady Elisabeth "Liberty" Lawson is abandoned by her fiancé and suspected of being a spy for the hated British. No one comes to her aid save the Patriot Noble Rynallt, a man with formidable enemies of his own. Liberty is left with a terrible choice. Will the Virginia belle turned lacemaker side with the radical revolutionaries, or stay true to her English roots? And at what cost?

And now, my review:

Sometimes reading historicals feels like embarking on a long, intensive journey. It’s immersive, or can be, because some of the terms, locations, and certainly the timelines are foreign to us. If you’ve hung out here at my blog very long, you’ve probably noticed I most often read and review contemporaries. A lot of my close writing buddies enjoy historicals, and they highly recommend this author, so I gave this book a try. Unfortunately, it didn’t grab me.

Even now, trying again to read it, I checked Amazon to see if this is book two or later in a series and perhaps that was why I wasn't connecting with these characters. From what I saw, there aren’t earlier books. I definitely felt at a disadvantage, like I was missing earlier character development. 

I liked the occupation of lace making. My great-grandmother was a tatter. Thankfully, she taught my older sister how to tat before she passed. The skill lives on. Very intricate work, and a fascinating choice for our heroine.

The political conflicts were also interesting, as this was a key historical season in American history.

Since I couldn’t get into the story, I’m going to move on with my TBR pile and let this one go. I wish the author and publisher all the best.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Is It Any Wonder by Courtney Walsh


Is It Any Wonder by Courtney Walsh

Courtney is an excellent writer! As you can see here at my blog, I've been on a kick lately, reading her work. This is book two in her Nantucket Love Story series.

Let’s begin with the summary:

Can a promise made as kids bring them back together as adults? In this Nantucket-set beach read, “master of the genre” (Midwest Book Review) Courtney Walsh delivers a sparkling inspirational romance about first love and second chances.

Twelve years ago, Cody Boggs and Louisa Chambers made a pact that no matter where their lives took them, they’d return to Nantucket Island’s Brant Point Lighthouse on July 30, their shared golden birthday, and continue their tradition of exchanging birthday wishes. But that was before a tragic accident upended both of their lives, irrevocably pulling them apart.

Their worlds collide just months before that particular day when Louisa’s fledgling event planning company is hired by the local Coast Guard station, where she discovers Cody has recently returned to the island as the second in command. As they plan a regatta fundraiser, hoping to promote positive PR in the community, neither can deny the fireworks each encounter ignites. But working together also brings up memories of the day Cody’s father died, revealing secrets that have Cody and Louisa questioning everything they thought they knew and felt about their families and each other.

And now, my review:

I really enjoyed book one of the Nantucket Love Story series, which is called If for Any Reason. See my review here. It’s no wonder (ha!) that Courtney is known as a “master of the genre.” She writes an excellent romance, book after book.

Our hero is quiet, but feels things deeply. He carries huge regrets. The heroine’s conflict intersects  because she carries the same regret. I loved that the hero is a Coastguardsman. He’s courageous and strong and noble as he faces the force that took his father.

I admired the heroine’s strength. She’s a competent business owner who knows her niche and pursues her dreams. But not without insecurities. She’s a people person, so she wants to see folks get along, especially her favorite folks—even if they’re all carrying the same burden from the past. Every character in the story is layered and flawed, and I rooted for most of them. The author kept me hooked the whole time, though this is a long book. So worth it.

I loved that this was a reunion romance—one of my favorite types. The hero and heroine share a birthdate and their golden birthday (the birthday that matches the day of the month they were born—the 30th) carries extra weight. I liked this original aspect. It was also very interesting to see two intuitive main characters (Myers-Briggs personality category). I haven't seen that element often enough. 

Courtney uses sarcasm and humor to keep things from getting to heavy. So well done.

One of the themes was how truth impacts lives—whether kept or shared. Truth can set you free, but it can also hurt. I felt for these characters.

Beaches are my favorite setting, so that aspect really appealed to me. The way Courtney wrote this story, I could see it playing out as a movie. It’s very cinematic. I could not only see the scenes unfolding, but they felt "big"—movie worthy. Courtney's A Match Made at Christmas, which came out last fall, is being made into a movie and I really hope her Nantucket books get the same opportunity. (Read my review for that Christmas novella here.)

(A side note: I noticed several similarities to my 2017 Friday Harbor novel, which I’m sure is a coincidence. There were multiple differences as well, of course.)

My TBR (to-be-read) pile is overflowing, but I could definitely read this novel again. Very enjoyable!

Highly recommended!