Friday, August 27, 2021

The Merchant and the Rogue by Sarah M. Eden


The Merchant and the Rogue

Sarah’s historical romances are some of my favorites!

Let’s begin with the summary:

London, 1865

Vera Sorokina loves reading the Penny Dreadfuls and immersing herself in tales of adventure, mystery, and romance. Her own days are filled with the often mundane work of running the book and print shop she owns with her father. The shop offers her the freedom and income to employ and protect the poverty-stricken Londoners she’s come to care about, and it gives her father something to do other than long for their hometown of St. Petersburg. She is grateful for the stability in their lives, but she often feels lonely.

Brogan Donnelly was born and raised in Ireland, but has lived in London for several years, where he’s built a career as a Penny Dreadful writer. He has dedicated himself to the plight of the poor with the help of his sister. His membership in the secretive Dread Penny Society allows him to feel he isn’t entirely wasting his life, yet he feels dissatisfied. With no one to share his life with but his sister, he fears London will never truly feel like home.

Brogan’s and Vera’s paths cross, and the attraction is both immediate and ill-advised. Vera knows from past experience that writers are never to be trusted, and Brogan has reason to suspect not everything at her print shop is aboveboard. When the growing criminal enterprise run by the elusive and violent Mastiff begins targeting their area of London, Brogan and Vera must work together to protect the community they’ve both grown to love. But that means they’ll need to learn to trust each other with dangerous secrets that have followed both of them from their home countries.

And now, my review:

Oh, this series! Once again, I applaud the author for writing stories within these novels as she includes the Penny Dreadfuls written by her characters.

Our hero is an earnest member of the Dread Penny Society, as one of their authors and a sort of vigilante in town. He’s competent, and the others believe in him, but he's unaware of his own strengths. He’s also undercover, which means, he can’t tell the heroine he writes the books she loves so much. What a fun element!

Our heroine is a strong shopkeeper who longs for adventure and love. She’s loyal to her father and helpful to her community. And she doesn’t trust liars.

The hero comes across as lonely and kind, someone readers will root for. He has sacrificed a lot, been misunderstood, and faces more of the same—with all of its pain. We want to see him happy and repaid for all his losses.

As we follow their story, the author treats us to lilting language. Each secondary penny dreadful has its own unique voice as well.

I liked the hero’s savvy sister. There were nuggets of wisdom throughout the novel that I highlighted as I read. The tricks of speech and jargon were fascinating as well, like these: “I’d not pour rumor broth in your ear…” and “spill your budget.” (both from location 2340 of the ARC, which may vary from the final published version) You can almost hear the characters’ varied accents while you read.

I recommend beginning with the first book in this series, so readers are less lost in this unusual story world.  

Friday, August 20, 2021

This Time Around: a novella collection by Denise Hunter, Melissa Ferguson, and Kathleen Fuller

This Time Around

Love this cover! This Time Around is a compilation of three novellas by well-loved authors of Christian contemporary romance. Helpful hint: read the other books by these authors, just in case they tie in to their current series. (I was a little lost at times.)

Let’s begin with each novella’s summary:

In A Summer Detour by Denise Hunter, you’ll meet free-spirited Allie Adams, who undertakes a road trip to deliver her grandparents’ newly restored ’57 Chevy in time for their fiftieth anniversary party . . . along with Luke Fletcher, the former boy-next-door who callously crushed her heart.

Pining for You by Melissa Ferguson invites you to a cozy Virginia mountain town where Christmas tree farm owner Theo Watkins III has the opportunity to drop everything for one weekend to play farmer and potentially win back the heart of his childhood best friend, Skye Fuller. Only problem? He’s the kind of man who drives a Tesla, not a tractor.

Last but not least, He Loves Me; He Loves Me Not by Kathleen Fuller will transport you to a small town in Arkansas where thirty-five-year-old Sophie Morgan has spent years making her flower shop a success. But when this workaholic decides she’s ready to make time for dating again, she finds herself with two handsome men vying for her attention.

Whether your perfect romance involves rows and rows of Fraser firs and white pines glinting in the moonlight, childhood love that never ends, or a second chance at a happily ever after, you’re sure to find a story within this collection to warm your heart any day of the year.

And now, my review:

These are each reunion romances, thus the collection’s title. I enjoy watching characters have a second chance at love.

The heroine in A Summer Detour must prove herself to herself and to her parents. She takes on a too-big task and of course runs into tons of trouble along the way. A humorous and light summer read. The heroine can’t let her family down, and the hero can’t either, as they are his honorary family. That tie-in compelled these two to work together, which led to the romance. A couple of unfortunate ingredients: predictability, shaming, a rushed romance. However, this was my favorite novella in the group.

In Pining for You, our hero is a “fish out of water,” which was a fun twist. Plenty of humor making for another light read. One of this novella’s themes was the heroine learning to do what she chose, without letting other’s opinions paralyze her. Readers may relate as many of us worry about what others think. Another theme was facing one’s regrets with courage and hopefully, victory. I like that element. A touch of critique: Seattle isn’t on the coast, it is not oceanfront. Seattle is on Puget Sound and Lake Washington. There were several POV missteps in the advanced reader copy that may have been addressed in rewrites. I also felt I was missing something from not having read an earlier series, maybe?

I found more humor early in He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not. Sometimes it’s the random elements that make readers chuckle. I’ll be honest and say I didn’t get too far into this third story. Juvenile and contrived aspects kept me from engaging. Perhaps her full-length fiction connects to this novella? 

Overall, a light, romantic summertime collection. Well-read fans will likely connect easily with these novellas.

I wish these authors all the best.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Beyond the Tides by Liz Johnson

Beyond the Tides by Liz Johnson

Isn’t that a gorgeous cover? I love books set on or near an ocean. We’re visiting Prince Edward Island in Canada for this novel.

Let’s begin with the summary:

When Meg Whitaker’s father decides to sell the family’s lobster-fishing business to her high school nemesis, she sets out to prove she should inherit it instead. Though she’s never had any interest in running the small fleet—or even getting on a boat due to her persistent seasickness—she can’t stand to see Oliver Ross take over. Not when he ruined her dreams for a science scholarship and an Ivy League education ten years ago.

Oliver isn’t proud of what he did back then. Angry and broken by his father walking out on his family, he lashed out at Meg—an innocent bystander. But owning a respected fishing fleet on Prince Edward Island is the opportunity of a lifetime, and he’s not about to walk away just because Meg wants him to.

Meg’s father has the perfect solution: Oliver and Meg must work the business together, and at the end of the season, he’ll decide who gets it. Along the way, they may discover that their stories are more similar than they thought . . . and their dreams aren’t what they expected.

And now, my review:

Great setting! The author’s extensive research about the world of lobster fishing was obvious, and it was enjoyable learning more about the occupation. I sure don’t think I’d be cut out for those pre-dawn sails and frigid weather conditions. Not to mention handling the bait they use in the traps or seasickness. But what fun to read about it.

Our heroine is very strong. I respected her career and know-how, the fact that she was an engineer. She could rewire engines or convert electrical appliances to battery powered. It was refreshing to see her save the day. She also wants to give back to her family, to help, to be strong for them. She’ll need to learn that they can each support the others. She doesn’t have to carry everything on her own shoulders and deny her true emotions. This may be relatable for some readers who’ve felt burdened by family stresses.

The hero is a competent fisherman who is determined to prove himself, to rise above his family’s reputation, to secure his future. I respected him. He’s also honest and noble, along with that competence. I rooted for him as well.

One of the lessons in this story was making lasting memories with loved ones. So touching and relatable. Great advice for readers to take away from the experience. Another theme was family legacies. This was skillfully handled when the author mirrored a positive inheritance against the negative reputation of an ancestor.

The spiritual theme was that of leaning on God for strength and help during hard times as He is the believer’s anchor. The process of learning that will be very relatable for Christian readers. The emotional theme, that love is worth any cost, played out in several areas of the story as the author expertly displayed contrasts in a variety of relationships and situations.

I like novels where the MCs set out to prove their competence or nobility, where characters rise above their own self-doubt or family circumstances to achieve their potential. I believe readers will cheer these characters on.

I received a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinions.