Thursday, February 28, 2019

HFVBT Cover Reveal: Gold Digger by Rebecca Rosenberg

Gold Digger by Rebecca Rosenberg

Publication Date: May 28, 2019
Lion Heart Publishing
eBook & Paperback; 312 Pages
Genre: Fiction/Romance/Historical/American
One look at Baby Doe and you know she was meant to be a legend! She was just twenty years old when she came to Colorado to work a gold mine with her new husband. Little did she expect that she'd be abandoned and pregnant and left to manage the gold mine alone. But that didn't stop her! She moved to Leadville and fell in love with a married prospector, twice her age. Horace Tabor struck the biggest silver vein in history, divorced his wife and married Baby Doe. Though his new wife was known for her beauty, her fashion, and even her philanthropy, she was never welcomed in polite society. Discover how the Tabors navigated the worlds of wealth, power, politics, and scandal in the wild days of western mining.

Praise for Gold Digger

“Rosenberg’s rollicking Western adventure strikes gold with a gutsy, good-hearted spitfire of a heroine and action aplenty.” —THELMA ADAMS, bestselling author of Bittersweet Brooklyn and The Last Woman Standing "Gold Digger tells the true story of Lizzie 'Baby Doe' Tabor, a beautiful young woman who in 1878 marries the son of a wealthy miner in order to save her family from penury. Shrewd and stubborn, Lizzie fights back-biting Victorian society, wins and loses vast fortunes, and bests conniving politicians in her larger-than-life story. A twisting tale worthy of Mark Twain, with a big-hearted heroine at the center." —MARTHA CONWAY, author of The Underground River

Amazon | Barnes and Noble

About the Author

A California native, Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where Jack London wrote from his Beauty Ranch. Rebecca is a long-time student of Jack London’s works and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian London. The Secret Life of Mrs. London is her debut novel. Rebecca and her husband, Gary, own the largest lavender product company in America, selling to 4000 resorts, spas and gift stores. The Rosenbergs believe in giving back to the Sonoma Community, supporting many causes through financial donations and board positions, including Worth Our Weight, an educational culinary program for at-risk children, YWCA shelter for abused women, Luther Burbank Performing Arts Center to provide performances for children, Sonoma Food Bank, Sonoma Boys and Girls Club, and the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home. For more information, please visit Rebecca’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Goodreads. Visit the Facebook page for The Secret Life of Mrs. London.

Cover Reveal Schedule

Thursday, February 28 A Bookish Affair Diana_bibliophile Clarissa Reads it All Oh the Books She Will Read Friday, March 1 T's Stuff A Chick Who Reads Cheryl's Book Nook Orange County Readers Saturday, March 2 Maiden of the Pages Suzy Approved Book Reviews Sunday, March 3 100 Pages a Day Passages to the Past Monday, March 4 The Lit Bitch Pursuing Stacie History From a Woman's Perspective Tuesday, March 5 CelticLady's Reviews The Book Junkie Reads Wednesday, March 6 Comet Readings Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots Thursday, March 7 Coffee and Ink Donna's Book Blog Lisa-Queen of Random

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

TLC Book Tours Review: American Duchess: A Novel of Consuelo Vanderbilt by Karen Harper

Title: American Duchess: A Novel of Consuelo Vanderbilt
Author: Karen Harper
Format: ARC
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publish Date: February 26, 2019 (Yesterday!)
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins

What's the Story?:

From "On a cold November day in 1895, a carriage approaches St Thomas Episcopal Church on New York City’s Fifth Avenue. Massive crowds surge forward, awaiting their glimpse of heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt. Just 18, the beautiful bride has not only arrived late, but in tears, yet her marriage to the aloof Duke of Marlborough proceeds. Bullied into the wedding by her indomitable mother, Alva, Consuelo loves another. But a deal was made, trading some of the vast Vanderbilt wealth for a title and prestige, and Consuelo, bred to obey, realizes she must make the best of things.

At Blenheim Palace, Consuelo is confronted with an overwhelming list of duties, including producing an “heir and a spare,” but her relationship with the duke quickly disintegrates. Consuelo finds an inner strength, charming everyone from debutantes to diplomats including Winston Churchill, as she fights for women’s suffrage. And when she takes a scandalous leap, can she hope to attain love at last…?"

My Two Cents:

"American Duchess" is the fascinating story of Consuelo Vanderbilt of the American Vanderbilts (yes, those ones!) who already lives a fairy tale life in the United States as part of one of the storied families of the Gilded Age. When she marries the Duke of Marlborough, her star rises even higher on both sides of the Atlantic. But this rise also feels more like a gilded cage than a gilded opportunity and Consuelo will have to work hard to cut out the life that she desires for herself. 

Consuelo is a great character and I love that the story was told from her perspective. This really brought me into the story and made me care for Consuelo as a person. I had heard a little bit about her before reading this book but it was great to get more detail about her life. I thought the author did a really good job of balancing detail in the book but I wanted more. 

I really enjoyed this book. The writing was good but there were definitely places where I wish there would have been some greater detail. It felt like we were only getting a taste of some of the subjects that could have used a little more investigation. This book was still satisfying but I definitely would love to read more about Consuelo in the future!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

TLC Book Tours Review and Giveaway: Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah

Title: Where the Forest Meets the Stars
Author: Glendy Vanderah
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: March 1, 2019
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "After the loss of her mother and her own battle with breast cancer, Joanna Teale returns to her graduate research on nesting birds in rural Illinois, determined to prove that her recent hardships have not broken her. She throws herself into her work from dusk to dawn, until her solitary routine is disrupted by the appearance of a mysterious child who shows up at her cabin barefoot and covered in bruises.

The girl calls herself Ursa, and she claims to have been sent from the stars to witness five miracles. With concerns about the child’s home situation, Jo reluctantly agrees to let her stay—just until she learns more about Ursa’s past.

Jo enlists the help of her reclusive neighbor, Gabriel Nash, to solve the mystery of the charming child. But the more time they spend together, the more questions they have. How does a young girl not only read but understand Shakespeare? Why do good things keep happening in her presence? And why aren’t Jo and Gabe checking the missing children’s website anymore?

Though the three have formed an incredible bond, they know difficult choices must be made. As the summer nears an end and Ursa gets closer to her fifth miracle, her dangerous past closes in. When it finally catches up to them, all of their painful secrets will be forced into the open, and their fates will be left to the stars."

My Two Cents:

 In "Where the Forest Meets the Stars," all Jo wants is peace and quiet to continue her field study of birds after a harrowing fight with cancer at a very young age. A cabin in the woods seems like the perfect place to hide away from the world. When a strange lost little girl named Ursa finds Jo and comes to stay, Jo's world will be turned upside down. Not only does she find an unbreakable bond with Ursa but she'll share that bond with Gabe, a young man fighting his own demons and living his own isolation. This story will break your heart and enthrall you! This debut is a powerhouse!

I am such a sucker for damaged characters. Each of our main characters is damaged in a different way. Jo is still trying to figure her way through the world. Gabe is happy with his small corner. Ursa is hiding a past that could have broken a weaker person easily. I loved seeing these three characters together. They can't help but to be drawn to each other and each one seems to bring out the best in the others. I loved seeing how their relationships grew and changed with each other throughout the book. Their relationships are warm and real. I especially liked seeing how much Jo and Gabe lift Ursa up.

I'm also a sucker for books that ask you to suspend your disbelief in a real way. Ursa's backstory had me guessing throughout the book. I don't want to give anything away but her back story definitely requires the suspense of disbelief. The juxtaposition of a guise of fantasy against characters dealing with really difficult things was so good. I loved this mix and I loved how the author did a good job of keeping the guise going so that you want to keep wanting to read.

This was a really good debut and I'm excited to see what the future holds for Vanderah!


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Monday, February 25, 2019

Review: Sweet Bitter Cane by G.S. Johnston

Title: Sweet Bitter Cane
Author: G.S. Johnston
Format: eBook
Publisher: MiaRebaRose Press
Publish Date: February 20, 2019
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From "One woman. Two men. A war.

Twenty-year-old Amelia marries Italo, a man she’s never met. To escape an Italy reeling from the Great War, she sails to him in Far North Queensland to farm sugarcane. But before she meets her husband, she’s thrown into the path of Fergus, a man who’ll mark the rest of her life.

Faced with a lack of English and hostility from established cane growers, caught between warring unions and fascists, Amelia’s steady hand grows Italo’s business to great success, only for old grudges to break into new revenge. She is tested by forces she couldn’t foresee and must face her greatest challenge: learning to live again.

Sweeping in its outlook, Sweet Bitter Cane is a family saga but also an untold story of migrant women – intelligent, courageous and enduring women who were the backbone of the sugarcane industry and who deserve to be remembered."

My Two Cents:

In "Sweet Bitter Cane," Amelia is married off to Italo while she is still in Italy and he is in Australia working a sugar cane farm. She doesn't know what to expect in leaving everything she knows in Italy for the untamed frontier of Australia but she knows that this marriage will be a ticket away from the first World War sweeping through Europe. She knows that she must learn to love Italo but her heart is torn in many directions when she meets Fergus, the son of the man who originally owned Italo's land. I really enjoyed this sweeping family saga, filled with details of a history I knew little of.

So many of the historical fiction about the two World Wars seem to be about those that stayed in Europe, either by their own volition or by force. It was refreshing to get a story of someone that left. Through Amelia, we see how hard it was for her to leave Italy even if Australia was safer. She still yearns for Italy in more than one way and this may hurt her in the long run as you shall see (I don't want to give anything away).

The historical detail in the book is a real treat. The author does a great job of capturing what life on a sugar cane farm would have been like at the time. He shows the hard work that must go into it and the blood, sweat, and tears the entire family will shed. Although the Italians seem to want to contribute to their new land, they are still looked at as outsiders and as the Italians seek to protect themselves and look toward a fascist group to help them hold on to their old ways, the differences are quite clear. The connection between the immigrants and the shifting politics in Italy was something that I definitely didn't know about. I did wish that we would have gotten to see more of what Amelia and Italo thought about what they saw when they visited Italy. That detail would have been nice.

I have to mention the family saga. I loved all the twists and turns these characters went through. The relationships between Amelia and Italo and Amelia and Fergus were definitely interesting to read about. The love triangle was well done. We see the echo it has through the two generations that the book involves. I won't get too far into that as to not give anything away.

Overall, this was a good story with good writing. I loved all of the detail and this made for a good read!


Friday, February 22, 2019

Review and Giveaway: Winter Sisters by Robin Oliveira

Title: Winter Sisters
Author: Robin Oliveira
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publish Date: February 27, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "New York, 1879: An epic blizzard descends on Albany, devastating the city. When the snow finally settles, two newly orphaned girls are missing. Determined not to give up hope, Dr. Mary Sutter, a former Civil War surgeon, searches for the two sisters. When what happened to them is finally revealed, Dr. Sutter must fight the most powerful of Albany's citizens, risking personal and public danger as she seeks to protect the fragile, putting at risk loves and lives in her quest to right unimaginable wrongs."

My Two Cents:

"Winter Sisters" is the story of Mary Sutter, a Civil War surgeon, who now finds herself entangled in the mystery of what happened to two young sisters, Emma and Claire when they disappear during a blizzard. Mary will be thrown into some difficult circumstances as she uncovers what happened to them and how to help them recover.

This book is the second book in Robin Oliviera's Mary Sutter series. It takes place quite awhile after the first book. I have not read the first book and was able to pick this book up just fine. I really enjoyed this book though and would like to go back and read the first book now.

Be warned - what happens to Emma and Claire is difficult to read and may turn off more sensitive readers. If you can get past those difficult parts, you get a good thriller with a smart heroine at the helm. I especially liked the parts about how Mary tries to help the girls both during the disappearance and after they are found. Finding the girls is the first step but there has been so much damage done that Mary really has her work cut out for her. I really enjoyed how the author inserted so much detail about the uphill battle that Mary, Emma, and Claire all face as they seek justice.

This was a riveting book and the action certainly kept me on my toes. I really enjoyed this story!


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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Review: Dear George, Dear Mary: A Novel of George Washington's First Love by Mary Calvi

Title: Dear George, Dear Mary: A Novel of George Washington's First Love
Author: Mary Calvi 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: February 19, 2019
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Did unrequited love help spark a flame that ignited a cause that became the American Revolution? Never before has this story about George Washington been told. Crafted from hundreds of letters, witness accounts, and journal entries, Dear George, Dear Mary explores George's relationship with his first love, New York heiress Mary Philipse, the richest belle in Colonial America.

From elegant eighteenth-century society to bloody battlefields, the novel creates breathtaking scenes and riveting characters. Dramatic portraits of the two main characters unveil a Washington on the precipice of greatness, using the very words he spoke and wrote, and his ravishing love, whose outward beauty and refinement disguise a complex inner struggle.

Dear George, Dear Mary reveals why George Washington had such bitter resentment toward the Brits, established nearly two decades before the American Revolution, and it unveils details of a deception long hidden from the world that led Mary Philipse to be named a traitor, condemned to death and left with nothing. While that may sound like the end, ultimately both Mary and George achieve what they always wanted."

My Two Cents:

"Dear George, Dear Mary" is the story of George Washington and his first love, Mary Philipse. Usually we see George Washington as the war hero and the stoic President. We don't often to get to see him as a romantic figure. This book is an interesting take on why Washington was so involved with the American Revolution. Was it for country or was it for love?

I love when historical fiction can get you to see a different side of a famous historical figure like we do in this one with George Washington. Before reading this book, I had never even heard of Mary but I had heard a lot of George Washington. It was so interesting how the author brought both of these characters to life. The author packs in a lot of detail from historical letters and documents that really made the book come to life. There were a few places where it could have been streamlined but overall the detail was nice.

I did have some difficulty with suspension of disbelief in this book with regard to what pushes Washington towards the revolution. The story of his drivers and involvement is very well known. Perhaps love was a factor but it was not a singular factor and it was hard for me to buy in to that without forgetting the well known stories.


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Review: 125,000 Ways to Say I Love You: Mix and Match Love Notes by Pia Frey

Title: 125,000 Ways to Say I Love You: Mix and Match Love Notes
Author: Pia Frey
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publish Date: January 15, 2019
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "If you’re celebrating an anniversary, Valentine’s Day, or just trying to make someone smile, skip the cookie-cutter greeting card. This beautifully designed gift book will help you say “I love you” over and over again: you can mix and match the 3 panels into 125,000 unique combinations.

Mad Libs meets Instagram-worthy poetry in this unique book that lets you craft the perfect one-liner for your special someone. Plus, the book is designed to stand up on its own, so you can proudly display your creations—and switch it up anytime for a gift that keeps on giving. With 125,000 Ways to Say I Love You, you’ll never run out of creative ways to say those three little words.

My Two Cents:

"125,000 Ways to Say I Love You" is a sweet book to share with your love during this month of love. Filled with mix and match phrases, you can either create very sweet or very funny ways to say "I Love You." My husband and I have had fun coming up with the silliest phrases. This would be a great book to give in lieu of a card or along with a present. It would definitely make a great gift!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

TLC Book Tours: Golden Child by Claire Adam

Title: Golden Child 
Author: Claire Adam
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: SJP for Hogarth
Publish Date: January 29, 2019
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "Rural Trinidad: a brick house on stilts surrounded by bush; a family, quietly surviving, just trying to live a decent life. Clyde, the father, works long, exhausting shifts at the petroleum plant in southern Trinidad; Joy, his wife, looks after the home. Their two sons, thirteen years old, wake early every morning to travel to the capital, Port of Spain, for school. They are twins but nothing alike: Paul has always been considered odd, while Peter is widely believed to be a genius, destined for greatness.

When Paul goes walking in the bush one afternoon and doesn't come home, Clyde is forced to go looking for him, this child who has caused him endless trouble already, and who he has never really understood. And as the hours turn to days, and Clyde begins to understand Paul's fate, his world shatters--leaving him faced with a decision no parent should ever have to make."

My Two Cents:

"Golden Child" is the story of two very different twins. Peter is gifted in school. Paul has always struggled and has a learning disability. Having twins myself, I have always been drawn to stories about twins. Through this book, you can see the unique bond that Paul and Peter have. Although they are twins, they are very different. Their story is set against the backdrop of 1980s Trinidad, a place fraught by violence and danger.

The family dynamics in this book really drove the story. We get to know the twins' parents, Clyde and Joy. They want the best for their sons. They also struggle with how to help each son meet their potential when they are so different. The relationship between the brothers was also really interesting to read about. I know from seeing my own twins, there is nothing like the twin bond. All of these relationships take lots of twists and turns throughout the book.

The storytelling in the book was solid but very much focuses on descriptions of characters and their innermost thoughts about different things. This book took me awhile to get into but overall it was enjoyable.

I really liked the setting of the book. I really didn't know much about Trinidad before reading this book and definitely did know anything about Trinidad in the time period that the book takes place in. The politics of the country during that time were really interesting.  

Review: The Secret of Clouds by Alyson Richman

Title: The Secret of Clouds
Author: Alyson Richman
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: February 19, 2019 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Katya, a rising ballerina, and Sasha, a graduate student, are young and in love when an unexpected tragedy befalls their native Kiev. Years later, after the couple has safely emigrated to America the consequences of this incident cause their son, Yuri, to be born with a rare health condition that isolates him from other children. Maggie, a passionate and dedicated teacher agrees to tutor Yuri at his home, even though she is haunted by her own painful childhood memories. As the two forge a deep and soulful connection, Yuri's boundless curiosity and unique wisdom inspires Maggie to make difficult changes in her own life. And she'll never realize just how strong Yuri has made her — until she needs that strength the most..."

My Two Cents:

"The Secret of Clouds" takes place in two times: the 1980s in Ukraine and the late 1990s on Long Island, New York. Katya and Sasha are a young couple in Ukraine. They have a chance to leave Ukraine due to Sasha's Jewish heritage and they take it but not before the Chernobyl disaster happens in the country. It takes the Soviet government THREE DAYS before they tell anyone about what is going on. It's enough time to leave many affected by the radiation floating in the air. In the late 1990s, Maggie is a teacher charged with tutoring Yuri, Katya and Sasha's son. Yuri must stay home because his heart is too weak to attend school. His parent believe that his heart defect is due to the the fallout of Chernobyl. This was a powerful and warm-hearted story.

I have really enjoyed Alyson Richman's historical fiction books so I was interested to see how she wrote in more contemporary settings. This book definitely has a different feel than the other books that she has written. I really liked all of the descriptions that she uses in the sections that talk about life in Ukraine leading up to and just after the Chernobyl disaster. It was amazing to read about just how anemic the government's response to the disaster was. So very scary!

This book is a love letter to teachers and to the ability that teachers have to impact those that they teach. I loved seeing how the relationship between Yuri and Maggie evolved throughout the book. It takes Maggie a bit to find out how to connect with Yuri but soon discovers that she can talk about baseball all day long with him. Through that connection, she is able to bring something really special out in Yuri. Overall, this was a good read.  

Friday, February 15, 2019

HFVBT Review: We Shall See the Sky Sparkling by Susana Aikin

Title: We Shall See the Sky Sparkling
Author: Susana Aikin
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Kensington Publishing
Publish Date: January 29, 2019
Source: HFVBT

What's the Story?:

From "Like other well-bred young women in Edwardian England, Lily Throop is expected to think of little beyond marriage and motherhood. Passionate about the stage, Lily has very different ambitions. To her father's dismay, she secures an apprenticeship at London's famous Imperial Theatre. Soon, her talent and beauty bring coveted roles and devoted admirers. Yet to most of society, the line between actress and harlot is whisper-thin. With her reputation threatened by her mentor's vicious betrayal, Lily flees to St. Petersburg with an acting troupe--leaving her first love behind.

Life in Russia is as exhilarating as it is difficult. The streets rumble with talk of revolution, and Lily is drawn into an affair with Sergei, a Count with fervent revolutionary ideals. Following Sergei when he is banished to Vladivostok, Lily struggles to find her role in an increasingly dangerous world. And as Russian tensions with Japan erupt into war, only fortitude and single-mindedness can steer her to freedom and safety at last.

With its sweeping backdrop and evocative details, We Shall See the Sky Sparkling explores a fascinating period in history through the eyes of a strong-willed, singular heroine, in a moving story of love and resilience."

My Two Cents:

"We Shall See the Sky Sparkling" is the story of Lily, a young woman. Instead of getting married and starting a family, Lily dreams of being on stage. Actresses are very much looked down upon during this time period and Lily confronts the stereotypes of what an actress is (and more so what she will do) at every turn. Her dream career and her love will take her to places she has dreamed of and those that she never could have imagined. This is a great story with a lot of rich detail!

I am always drawn to fish out of water stories. Lily is a well-bred girl that dreams of being an actress. I was not very familiar with what life as an actress was like at the time so I loved getting insight into it through Lily's eyes. She is a spunky character who knows what she wants out of life. As we see in this book, when she commits to something, she really commits to something even when it might be challenged by society or incredibly difficult. We also see this side of her in the romance in the book. Ohhh, I don't want to give anything away but the romance in this book gave me life and kept me turning the pages.

The book takes place at the turn of the 20th century and the detail is oh so good. I absolutely love books set in England but there is something so exciting to find one set in Russia. I love historical fiction set in Russia, especially when it's set right when this book is set. Russia is very much an evolving place during this time period and as Lily finds out, it can be both kind and cruel in equal measure. 

This was a great book!

Review: The Matchmaker's List by Sonya Lalli

Title: The Matchmaker's List
Author: Sonya Lalli 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publish Date: February 5, 2019
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Raina Anand may have finally given in to family pressure and agreed to let her grandmother play matchmaker, but that doesn't mean she has to like it--or that she has to play by the rules. Nani always took Raina's side when she tried to push past the traditional expectations of their tight-knit Indian-immigrant community, but now she's ambushing Raina with a list of suitable bachelors. Is it too much to ask for a little space? Besides, what Nani doesn't know won't hurt her...

As Raina's life spirals into a parade of Nani-approved bachelors and disastrous blind dates, she must find a way out of this modern-day arranged-marriage trap without shattering her beloved grandmother's dreams."

My Two Cents:

In "The Matchmaker's List," all Raina wants is to be free to mend her still broken heart with Dev, the man who she thought would be her forever. Her beloved grandmother, Nani, has a different opinion and is committed to finding Raina a husband. Raina loves her grandmother and so she goes along with the plan while trying to forget Dev, who she still very much cares for. This was a sweet romance where new cultures meet and tussle with each other. Will Raina find true love? 

Raina is a great character. She is smart and fun. She knows her mind but is devoted to her grandmother. I really liked following her through this book. Nani is the real scene stealer here though. She loves Raina so much and wants her to be happy and she thinks the best way that she can do that is by getting her married to someone who Nani considers an eligible bachelor (and they are really all disasters). It was so funny to watch!

The writing was pretty good. The point of view changes from first person to third person throughout the book. This felt a little bit distracting. I really liked the chapters that Raina narrated. She has a great voice and I loved following her through all of the adventures in dating that her Nani sends her. 

Overall, this was an enjoyable read!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Review: The Chef's Secret by Crystal King

Title: The Chef's Secret
Author: Crystal King 
Format: ARC
Publisher: Atria Books
Publish Date: February 12, 2019 (Yesterday!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "When Bartolomeo Scappi dies in 1577, he leaves his vast estate—properties, money, and his position—to his nephew and apprentice Giovanni. He also gives Giovanni the keys to two strongboxes and strict instructions to burn their contents. Despite Scappi’s dire warning that the information concealed in those boxes could put Giovanni’s life and others at risk, Giovanni is compelled to learn his uncle’s secrets. He undertakes the arduous task of decoding Scappi’s journals and uncovers a history of deception, betrayal, and murder—all to protect an illicit love affair.

As Giovanni pieces together the details of Scappi’s past, he must contend with two rivals who have joined forces—his brother Cesare and Scappi’s former protégé, Domenico Romoli, who will do anything to get his hands on the late chef’s recipes.

With luscious prose that captures the full scale of the sumptuous feasts for which Scappi was known, The Chef’s Secret serves up powerintrigue, and passion, bringing Renaissance Italy to life in a delectable fashion."

My Two Cents:

In "The Chef's Secret," Crystal King returns with a great historical fiction full of family mysteries, secret romances, and delicious food. I loved her book "Feast of Sorrows" and was so looking forward to this book. I was definitely not disappointed! In this book, she takes us to Rome in the 1500s. Giovanni is the nephew to great chef Bartolomeo Scappi, famed chef to the popes. Giovanni is Scappi's apprentice and dreams of being able to someday create the great feasts that his uncle does with ease. When Scappi dies, Giovanni will be thrown into questioning everything he knows about his own origins.

This book sucked me right in! Between the great historical detail, deliciously described food, and a fantastically wrought mystery, this book was great. I love a good family mystery and I don't want to give anything away here but what I will say is that King does a great job of keeping us guessing as well as providing glimpses into Scappi's earlier life in order to create a mystery that readers will love following. 

The detail in this book is great and definitely kept me reading. I loved reading about the Vatican as well as the sort-of palace intrigue that goes on throughout the book. As with "A Feast of Sorrows," this book has some really good descriptions of this food (warning: don't read this book on an empty stomach!!!). This was a good read to drive away the cold of winter!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

TLC Book Tours: The Sisters Hemingway by Annie England Noblin

Title: The Sisters Hemingway
Author: Annie England Noblin
Format: ARC
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: February 12, 2019 (Today!)
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "The Hemingway Sisters of Cold River, Missouri are local legends. Raised by a mother obsessed with Ernest Hemingway, they were named after the author’s four wives—Hadley, Pfeiffer, Martha, and Mary. The sisters couldn’t be more different—or more alike. Now they’re back in town, reunited to repair their fractured relationships.

Hadley is the poised, polished wife of a senator.

Pfeiffer is a successful New York book editor.

Martha has skyrocketed to Nashville stardom.

They each have a secret—a marriage on the rocks,  a job lost, a stint in rehab…and they haven’t been together in years.

Together, they must stay in their childhood home, faced with a puzzle that may affect all their futures. As they learn the truth of what happened to their mother—and their youngest sister, Mary—they rekindle the bonds they had as children, bonds that have long seemed broken. With the help of neighbors, friends, love interests old and new—and one endearing and determined Basset Hound—the Sisters Hemingway learn that the happiness that has appeared so elusive may be right here at home, waiting to be claimed."

My Two Cents:

"The Sisters Hemingway" is the story of Hadley, Pfeiffer, and Martha: three sisters who had a tragic life. After losing their parents and their younger sisters, the sisters were raised by Aunt Bea, their great aunt. Time and old wounds have torn the sisters apart and now they barely see each other. Each of them is holding their own secrets when they are called back to their hometown for Aunt Bea's funeral.

I am super close to my sisters and so I have always been fascinated by the bonds and relationships of sisters. The Hemingway sisters do not get along and spend a lot of time picking at each other. I was turned off by this at first, especially when they're called back to their hometown for such a sad occasion. As the book goes on, you begin to see why they have such bad relationships with each other. The author does a good job of showing her cards slowly.

This book also has a great family mystery at the center of it that I really liked. We get a glimpse of Aunt Bea's life through her old journal entries that the sisters find hidden in the house. We quickly realize why the pages are well-hidden. I don't want to give anything away but I loved how this mystery unravels and how it pushes the sisters back together again. It really worked for this story!

Overall, this is a perfect pick for those looking for a story about messy families and even messier family secrets and those that realize that love really does conquer all.


Monday, February 11, 2019

Giveway Winner: Annelies

I am very happy to announce the winner of the Annelies giveaway today!

Congratulations to:
Rhonda L.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Reading Challenge Update!

We're at the end of the first month of my reading challenge and so far it is going very well.

As a reminder, I am aiming to read a book from or set in each country the Department of State recognizes, which is 195 countries!

I read books from this many countries this month:

You can check out my progress on my map or see a list of where and what I'm reading here.

I focused on trying to find book recommendations for what I think is going to be one of the hardest continents for me: Africa. I found a lot of good choices but I'm definitely going to need to do a lot more digging, particularly for some of the smaller countries, which also seem to be the harder countries to find selections for.

For the next month, I'd like to continue to focus on some of the areas that I think are going to be difficult. Aside from Africa, I know that I am really going to need help with selections in the former Soviet satellite countries. If you do have suggestions for these regions or any other countries where I haven't read yet, please, please let me know in the comments!

Friday, February 1, 2019

#authorinterview : Jessica Lauryn, Author of A Sultry Performance

I am so very pleased to welcome Jessica Lauryn here to A Bookish Affair today. Jessica is the author of "A Sultry Performance," which I reviewed here yesterday.
1.   What inspired you to write "A Sultry Performance?"
I drew on a number of different elements for A Sultry Performance, several of which come back to the same idea. Heroine Victoria Morrow was forced to become an exotic dancer as a young woman, as a means to survive. As someone who has always had the support of a loving family, I’m greatly inspired by women like Victoria, who may not have been as lucky as I was and yet manage, through their strength and determination, to find true love in spite of the odds. I wrote this Cinderella-style romance because I believe everyone can have their happily ever after, and even the most challenging of road-blocks can’t keep us from achieving it, when we’re determined enough.
Hero Chris Gordon, whose wife, Evelyn, was murdered by a hit and run driver, is determined to get justice. He’s recently learned that Evelyn was having an affair and he suspects the man she was involved with, Oakley Sutherland, is her killer. He ignites a plan to ensnare Oakley, working through Oakley’s fiancée and the leader of the exotic dancing team at his night club, Victoria Morrow.  Of course, I wanted to write this story because it contains so much juicy conflict! But more so, like Victoria, Chris has gone through something unimaginable and he still manages to find happiness under the most unlikely of circumstances. Though I’m fortunate to have never gone through anything nearly so horrific, I find it encouraging to create a character who can beat the odds and find love for the 2nd time. I was drawn to the setting of the exotic night club where the story is primarily set, Sultry & Sensational, as I’ve led a rather clean-cut life but have often wondered how the other half lives, so to speak.
2.    What drew you to setting your story in the Rabourn Theater?
Though A Sultry Performance contains a number of scenes which take place at Sultry & Sensational, it is indeed a part of the Rabourn Theater Series, and everything in this series always leads back to Rabourn Theater. I was drawn to the idea of creating a series about a theater by my love of Phantom of the Opera. I love how the mysterious phantom, who is thought to be so unattractive on the outside, becomes obsessed with something beautiful (opera, theater) and it is his obsession which ultimately drives him to madness. I created Augustus Nathanson, the main villain in the Rabourn Theater Series, with the intention of exploring this idea further, showing all of the mayhem which may come as the result of one man’s actions and how, in the case of this series, it deeply affects the lives of 5 would-be couples, who find love in spite of every odd. All of the couples are connected to Rabourn Theater in some way and this beautiful, romantic setting plays a major part in all of their stories.   
3.    Who is your favorite character in the book?
My villains are often my favorite characters, especially so because I’m often preparing to reform them in an upcoming story. But in this case, I’d have to say that my favorite character is Victoria. I’m being a bit redundant perhaps, but I really do admire the way that she holds herself together while being under the thumb of an abusive man, and the collateral damage of another, something she isn’t even aware of.  Though Chris attempts to play the role of the savvy seducer where she’s concerned, Victoria isn’t having it, and their witty banter makes me laugh out loud, even though I wrote it and have read it over about a million times. I’d like to think that I’d possess Victoria’s same strength if I were in her shoes and though our lives could not be more different, I do believe she contains some part of me, as all of my characters probably do.
4.    What was your indie-publishing experience like for this book? What made you decide to go that route?
Having published my first 7 novels with Siren BookStrand, I thought it might be fun to try something different. I worked with Killion Group to publish A Sultry Performance, and they were amazing. I’m big on small details when it comes to the appearance of my books and I was blown away by all of the little touches they provided me with, a cover of my choosing, a step-back image, (something I’d never had before) and beautiful font heading my chapters and throughout the book. Their design was so in-line with my own desires. They really did a nice job!
5.    If you could bring three people to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?
It would be difficult for me to live on a desert island, as I’ve become something of a social butterfly, but I would bring my mother, who is my best friend and favorite person to watch the soaps with, my father, who is my mentor and business partner in my day-job and my fiancé Bill who’d have us all laughing day in and day out even if we never returned from that island!

A Sultry Performance Blurb:
Chris Gordon, stage manager at Rabourn Theater, suspects his late wife’s hit-and-run was never an accident. He believes the man she was having an affair with, Oakley Sutherland, was responsible and he vows to get Evelyn justice, igniting a plot to ensnare Oakley, working through Oakley’s fiancée, Victoria.

A well-known exotic dancer by night, Victoria Morrow has been fighting to make a better life for herself, and she won’t be taken advantage of. But when the most handsome man at Rabourn Theater takes an interest in her, she finds herself spiraling down a path she never expected to. Can Victoria resist Chris’s charms? Or will both of them fall prey to the danger that lurks in the wings?

“I’m fine.” Victoria hid her eyes.
Chris tucked a disheveled wave behind her ear. “You don’t look fine. You’re trembling, and you look as though you’ve been crying.”
Victoria did her best to hold it together, like she always did. But seeing the compassion in Chris’s eyes, compassion that ran deeper than anything she had ever been on the receiving end of, the emotions welled inside of her. As the tears spilled down her face Chris took her into his arms. His strength surrounded her. He brought her inside of it, brushing one strong hand up and down her back.
“Victoria,” he whispered, “why are you marrying that man?”
Victoria tried, but couldn’t think of a single reason why she was. For years, she’d been telling herself that she was humoring Oakley, biding her time with him until she could approach him from a position of power. But the more time passed, the more she questioned whether that day would ever come. The night Oakley had asked her to marry him, there hadn’t been any question in her mind that she was going to say yes. Such had been the way of their disgusting farce of a relationship. She presented a hard-edged front to the world, but when it came to the man who’d been manipulating her for half her life, it was as though she had no power at all, as though she might just as well be nothing more than a mouse.
Avoiding Chris’s eyes, because she couldn’t possibly hide the truth from him if they were looking at each other head-on, Victoria simply said, “I love him.”
Chris’s arms stiffened and Victoria froze in turn, barely breathing as he took her by the shoulders, saying, “Victoria, that man just embarrassed you in front of two hundred people. He berated you, he manhandled you and he exploits you every night of your life. How could you possibly love a man like that?”
Victoria gnawed her lip, completely at a loss for words. She had no defense for the man in question and by aligning herself with him she was sacrificing more of her identity every day. Not that the life she’d led had made her crazy about relationships in general, but she wasn’t even opening herself to the possibility of another man’s companionship, to his soothing words and soft touch. Was it so wrong to want these things, so impossible to have them? Bringing Chris into the middle of her relationship with Oakley was liable to prove dangerous for both of them. But Chris was strong. He had to be, to have survived the loss he had.
Cautioning herself not to allow her thoughts to get away from her, knowing that Oakley would probably kill a man he perceived to be a serious enough threat to him, Victoria lifted her chin. “I know what it looks like, but I couldn’t count the things Oakley has done for me over the years. He’s protected me, and I sleep soundly at night knowing that no one is going to hurt me. He makes me feel safe.”
She realized right away that she shouldn’t have put things in those terms because the twinkle in Chris’s eyes told her exactly what his reply was going to be. She ought to run. He was giving her a chance to do just that, but her legs refused to stand. Instead, they eased sideways, leading the way like the smokestack on a train as her body leaned helplessly into that of the man sitting beside her.
“Tell me, Victoria—” Chris looked into her eyes, “does Oakley Sutherland make you feel like this?”  

#1 BookStrand bestselling author Jessica Lauryn has been writing since before she could hold a pen. Her days of storytelling through the art of playing with dolls inspired her to write romantic suspense novels The Romance Reviews describe as having "Just the right amount of passion and romance!" Villains often reform in Jessica's stories, and just may become heroes themselves! Jessica is an avid antique collector, as well as a proud member of Romance Writers of America and her local chapter, New Jersey Romance Writers.

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