Tag: Romance

#ThrowbackThursday | A Lady in Disguise by Sandra Byrd

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m sharing a review I originally wrote for Suspense Sisters Reviews in May 2017. Most of the romantic suspense novels I’ve read have been contemporary, but A Lady in Disguise is set in Victorian London, a great setting!

My Review

I wasn’t sure what to expect from A Lady in Disguise—the title didn’t seem to match the description (and the description ranges between somewhat misleading and coming uncomfortably close to revealing major plot points, in my view).

No matter. The review is of the novel, not the Amazon description.

And the novel was excellent. The balance was more on suspense than romance, partly because Gillian was never sure who she could trust—with good reason, because there were a lot of untoward events occurring and a few too many ‘coincidences’. The plot was complex, with many unpredictable yet satisfying twists.

The real strength of this novel was the research.

This struck the perfect balance between comprehensive and unobtrusive. The setting was perfect in terms of details about the social customs and social issues of the time. Some of the descriptions brought back fond memories of my own time in London—it’s a city steeped in history, and it’s easy to imaging Gillian walking through Victoria Station or along Drury Lane.

Every detail was spot on, and a testament to the level of care taken in the planning, writing, revising and editing of the novel, and the importance of good first readers: Byrd thanks two English readers who “edit the work to ensure the characters sound English and not American, Victorian and not twenty-first century”. The effort is noted and appreciated, and made the novel a pleasure to read. I wish more American authors would take this level of care when writing historical fiction set outside the USA. (Or am I the only one who gets distracted by details which are inconsistent with the supposed setting?)

I also found the writing strong.

I like the intimacy of first person point of view, although I know many readers don’t. The entire novel is from Gillian’s point of view, and she is a strong and intelligent character. I enjoyed the supporting characters as well, especially the irrepressible Ruby, who I feared for as much as Gillian did.

Overall, an excellent novel, and recommended for those who enjoy historical suspense.

Thanks to Howard Books and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Sandra Byrd

Author Photo: Sandra ByrdBestselling author Sandra Byrd has published more than fifty books over an editing and writing career spanning better than twenty-five years. Her traditionally published books include titles by Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster, Tyndale House Publishers, WaterBrook Press, and Bethany House. She’s also an independent author; Redemption Press will soon publish many of her established indie titles.

Sandra’s series of historically sound Gothic romances launched with the best-selling Mist of Midnight, which earned a coveted Editor’s Choice award from the Historical Novel Society. The second book, Bride of a Distant Isle, has been selected by Romantic Times as a Top Pick.

Sandra is passionate about helping writers develop their talents and their work through content coaching and line editing, and has been a working editor for more than two decades. She mentored hundreds of writers through the Christian Writers Guild and continues to guide developing authors toward success each year.

You can find Sandra Byrd online at:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

About A Lady in Disguise

In this intriguing novel of romance, mystery, and clever disguise set in Victorian England, a young woman investigates the murder of her own father.

After the mysterious death of her father, Miss Gillian Young takes a new job as the principal costume designer at the renowned Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. But while she remembers her father as a kind, well-respected man of the Police Force, clues she uncovers indicate he’d been living a double life: a haunting photograph of a young woman; train stubs for secret trips just before his death; and a receipt for a large sum of money. Are these items evidence of her father’s guilty secrets? His longtime police partner thinks so.

Then Gillian meets the dashing Viscount Thomas Lockwood. Their attraction is instant and inescapable. As their romantic involvement grows, Gillian begins to suspect even Lockwood’s motives. Does Lord Lockwood truly love her? Or is his interest a front for the desire to own her newly inherited property? And what should she make of her friend’s suggestion that Lockwood or men like him were involved in the murder of her father?

Soon Gillian is convinced that her father has left evidence somewhere that can prove his innocence and reveal the guilty party. But someone wants to stop her from discovering it. The closer she comes to uncovering it, the more menacing her opposition grows. With her life on the line, Gillian takes on an ingenious disguise and takes on the role of a lifetime to reveal the true killer—before it’s too late both for her and for those that she loves.

You can find A Lady in Disguise online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

You can read the introduction to A Lady in Disguise below:

What’s your favourite book featuring Valentine’s Day?

Bookish Question #45: What’s your favourite book featuring Valentine’s Day?

I’m a romance reader and writer, so I should have a stack of books I’ve read and enjoyed that feature Valentine’s Day. Yet I can’t think of a single title.

I suspect there are two reasons why.

First is that Valentine’s Day isn’t the big deal in New Zealand that it is in the US. Well, it wasn’t when I was a child. I remember reading US books as a child and teenager where Valentine’s Day was a big thing, where children made Valentine’s Day cards in school for all the children in their class.

That was completely foreign—perhaps because 14 February is only two weeks after the start of the new school year, and teachers want to teach while the children are still fresh and keen to learn. There will be plenty of time for crafts later in the year, when everyone is tired.

Later, the reason became the commercialisation of Valentine’s Day even here in New Zealand. It places unnecessary pressure on singles and couples. And it places unnecessary emphasis on a single day, which isn’t enough. Love and marriage are for a lifetime, not a day.

So I don’t have a favourite book featuring Valentine’s Day. What can you recommend?

Book Recommendation | The Hearts We Mend by Kathryn Springer

It’s Throwback Thursday, which means it’s time to repost one of my older reviews.

This week it’s The Hearts We Mend by Kathryn Springer, the second book in the Bannister Falls series, following The Dandelion Field. The Hearts We Mend is a finalist in the ACFW Carol Awards, in the Romance category.

This review first appeared at Iola’s Christian Reads on 22 March 2016.

About the Book

Planning and Post-It notes are the epitome of Evie’s life. But when she meets Jack, her life gets more than a little complicated.

Thirteen years ago, Evie’s firefighterhusband was killed in the line of duty, leaving her to raise their young son, Cody, alone. Now, Cody is marrying the love of his life, and as he packs up his belongings, the house feels as empty as Evie’s heart. But for all her planning and mad organizational skills, Evie could never have anticipated the dramatic shift her life is about to make.

Tattooed, rough-around-the-edgesJack raises quite a few eyebrows in the tight-knit community of Banister Falls. Where Evie’s life is stream-lined, Jack’s approach to living is moment-by-moment. But as Evie gets drawn into Jack’s world—a world that isn’t as safe or predictable as the one she’s worked so hard to create—he challenges her to open her eyes to the problems outside the walls of the church.

Jack doesn’t make Evie feel comfortable, but he definitely makes her feel something. Something she hasn’t felt since Max passed away—or, maybe ever. Because even though Jack isn’t anything like her late husband, he just might be everything she needs.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | ChristianBook | Goodreads

My Review

One of the challenges of writing a series must be around how much of the early books you include in later books in the series. I’ve read some truly awful examples, including one which shall not be named where the author spent the first half of the novel (yes, over 150 excruciatingly boring pages) rehashing the backstories of characters I already knew from the first 22 books in the series.

At the other end of the spectrum are novels where the author must assume readers will recall every minute detail of the earlier book/s, because nothing is explained. It’s equally excruciating, because it’s like finding yourself at a party where no one introduces you to anyone because everyone assumes you know everyone else, except you know no one.

The Hearts We Mend initially felt like the party.

Actually, it did begin at a party, but I didn’t know anyone although it was obvious I was supposed to. Too many characters too quickly, and I couldn’t work out who was who, and who was meant to be important. Yes, I had read—and enjoyed, and recommended—The Dandelion Field, the first of the Banister Falls series, but that was more than a year ago. I’ve read a lot of books since . . .

Yes, Chapter One of The Hearts We Mend was beyond awkward.

But it improved with Chapter Two, because we got to meet our hero, Jack Vale, and he’s new in town so felt as lost as I did. And the book suddenly got a whole lot better. As time went on, I remembered Evie from the first novel: she’s the widowed mother of Cody, who is getting married to his pregnant girlfriend despite them both being a mere eighteen (as Cody tells Evie, the age she was when she married).

A lot of romance readers are looking for novels about “older” couples.

I’m not convinced Evie and Jack count as older—they’re both in their mid-thirties, scarcely older than the first-love couples in many novels (especially romantic suspense novels). But Evie is about to become a grandmother, which certainly places her ahead of me in terms of life experience category, if not years.

Anyway, Jack is new in town, here to look out for his deadbeat brother and his family. He’s got a temporary job at the church where Evie is director of women’s ministries, which brings the two of them together a lot. They’re opposites in many ways: he’s never married and never had children, she’s widowed and about to become a grandmother. He’s from a rough upbringing and his family have had more than a few brushes with the law. She’s not had an easy life, but none of it involved excess alcohol or drugs, and her relationship with the law is as friends, not foe.

But they find they have things in common.

They have their faith, their concern for Lily, Jack’s niece, and their attraction for each other. Evie’s faithful friends aren’t going to make it easy for Jack, and nor is he.

I thought The Hearts we Mend was excellent, a great sequel to the challenging and recommended The Dandelion Field. I loved all the characters, especially Lily, and Jack’s unorthodox neighbours. And Jack was the perfect hero, the way he brought Evie out of the shell no one even realised she was in. I especially liked the way the Christian themes were shown in the way Jack reached out to his neighbours. Recommended.

Thanks to Zondervan and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About the Author

Kathryn SpringerKathryn Springer, winner of the 2009 ACFW Carol Award (Family Treasures), grew up in a small town in northern Wisconsin, where her parents published a weekly newspaper. As a child, she spent many hours sitting at her mother’s typewriter, plunking out stories, and credits her parents for instilling in her a love of books – which eventually turned into a desire to tell stories of her own.

After a number of busy years, when she married her college sweetheart and became a stay-at-home mom, Kathryn rediscovered her love for writing. An unexpected snow day from school became the inspiration for a short story, which she submitted to Brio magazine. She went on to publish over a dozen more short stories for Brio, but it wasn’t until her youngest child started school that she decided to pursue her dream to write a novel. In August 2004, her Love Inspired® debut novel, Tested by Fire, was published.

Encouraging women in their faith journey is the reason Kathryn loves to write inspirational fiction. She hosts a women’s Bible study in her home and volunteers in a local MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) ministry. When she isn’t at the computer, you’ll find her curled up with a good book, spending time with family and friends or walking on the trails near her country home.

Website | Facebook 

Read the Introduction

Introducing First Line Friday | The Two of Us

First Line Friday (#FirstLineFriday or #FLF) is the baby and brainchild of Carrie Schmidt aka Meez Carrie at Reading Is My Superpower. It’s a fabulous name for a book blog, and I only wish I’d thought of it!

The premise is simple:

#FirstLineFriday

I will have to adjust that a little, as the “book” nearest me is most often my Kindle. The real books are usually either books on writing craft, or the Bible (sharing Genesis 1:1 each week could get boring).

I’ve been following the meme for a while, and I have noticed participants do tend to share the first lines of novels—specifically, Christian novels.

Today I’m sharing from The Two of Us by Victoria Bylin.

Mia Robinson couldn’t take her eyes off the man in a cowboy hat working a claw machine game, the kind where a child—or a boyfriend or father—put in a dollar and tried to grab a toy in thirty seconds or less.

I’ve played those games … and failed. But the man Mia is watching doesn’t fail … Does that whet your appetite? Keep an eye on the blog, because I’ve got a full review for The Two of Us coming up soon.

About the Book

Heartwarming and Touching New Contemporary Romance from Victoria Bylin

After two broken engagements, nurse practitioner Mia Robinson is done with dating. From now on, she only trusts herself and God, and she’s focused on her eighteen-year-old sister, Lucy, and caring for patients. Just as she applies to work for an international aid organization, a phone call from Lucy, who’s pregnant and running off to marry her twenty-one-year-old boyfriend, throws a wrench into all of Mia’s plans.

Jake Tanner may have recovered from the physical injuries he sustained on the job as a police officer, but his heart has yet to heal from losing his former partner in the tragedy. He’s poured himself into starting a camp for the sons of fallen officers and mentoring Sam, the adult son of his deceased partner, who’s asked him to be his best man at his wedding.

Mia is expecting a mess when she arrives to sort out the situation with Lucy, but she wasn’t expecting Jake. And Jake, who can’t help envying Sam and Lucy, doubts he’ll ever experience their happiness for himself. But maybe Jake’s courage and Mia’s caring spirit are just what they need to bring them a lifetime of healing and a forever kind of love …

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Goodreads

You can check out what some of these lovely FirstLineFriday bloggers are sharing today:

Bookworm Mama | Singing Librarian Books | Faithfully Bookish

Radiant Light | Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

All the Book Blog Names are Taken | Robin’s Nest

Fiction Aficionado | Bibliophile Reviews | Kathleen Denly

Lauraine’s Notes | With A Joyful Noise | A Baker’s Perspective

Joy of Reading | C Jane Read | Moments Dipped in Ink

Molly’s Cafinated Reads | Romances of the Cross

Reading Is My SuperPower

If you would like to join FirstLineFriday, contact Carrie at Reading Is My SuperPower.

Share your first line in the comments, and happy reading!

‘My Daughter’s Legacy’ Blog Tour, Author Chat Party, and Giveaway

Meet two women in different eras but both with unfailing conviction in Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould’s new book, My Daughter’s Legacy. Therese Jennings cannot abide the thought of owning slaves. But when trouble befalls her family, can she reconcile her obligations with her beliefs? Nicole Talbot’s life is back on track after years of substance abuse. But when facts she uncovers cast doubt on her family’s legacy, she must risk all that she’s gained—her fresh start, her family’s trust, and her growing relationship with a new man—to unlock the secrets of the past.

Celebrate the release of Mindy and Leslie’s new book by entering to win the $75 Visa Cash Card Giveaway (details below) and by attending their author chat party on August 1!

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • One copy of My Daughter’s Legacy
  • One $75 Visa Cash Card

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 1. The winner will be announced at the My Daughter’s Legacy Facebook party. RSVP for a chance to connect with Mindy, Leslie, and other readers, as well as for a chance to win other prizes!

RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via social media and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 1st!

My Review

My Daughter’s Legacy is a split timeline novel with elements of both romance and suspense. It starts in the present with Nicole Talbot, who has just finished her first year of college … after a long stint in rehab. She is now going home for the summer, staying with her sister, and working as an equine therapy intern at a nearby equestrian centre.

A secret, a body, and a missing manuscript.

Nicole has a secret—something her deceased grandfather said she could never tell anyone. She knows it’s time to tell the truth, but she’s also worried that no one will believe her, especially not Nana, the family matriarch. As an ex-drug addict, she has a well-earned reputation for lying.

When she gets home, Nicole finds she’s not the only one with secrets. Her sister and aunt have been undertaking some family history research which may shed light on Nicole’s secret … but unearths a whole new set of questions about the body they found as children, which subsequently disappeared.

We then switch to the Civil War era.

This is Therese’s story (Nicole’s great-great-great-great grandmother. Plus or minus a great). Therese lives in the South, but her father was a prominent abolitionist, and she shares his views. She takes a job as a governess in Richmond. She also undertakes volunteer work at the local hospital where her friend, Polly Talbot, volunteers. Here she meets Polly’s handsome Northern cousin, Dr Alec Talbot, and also comes into contact with Polly’s brother, Michael, her teenage crush.

Although My Daughter’s Legacy is part of the Cousins of the Dove series, this is the first book I’ve read.

There were references to past events that read as though they’d been covered in more detail in previous books. I haven’t read them (although now I want to!), and I don’t think that was any loss, as I found it easy to pick up the story. There was also a nice summary at the end which rounded out the series.

A dual timeline story can be hard to read.

This is simply because there is one character or story I enjoy better than the other. I often find it hard to relate to the modern character. This is usually because the modern character has some issues that are self-inflicted, but there is no real acknowledgement that they are the author of their own problems:

My Daughter's Legacy

That was the thing I liked about Nicole. She knew she had problems. And she knew whose fault the problems were. Her own. And she was working hard to overcome those problems.

In contrast, many of Therese’s problems—internal and external—were the result of the Civil War and not knowing who she could trust. These are common conflicts in Civil War-era fiction, and meant it took me a little longer to warm to her as a character. What kept me engaged were the fascinating insights into Civil War America. For example the concept that working in a hospital was men’s work, and that hospitals were only for the destitute. Gentlemen were looked after at home.

But in the end, both stories delivered both in terms of suspense and in terms of romance.

Now I’m off to buy the first two books in the Cousins of the Dove series: My Brother’s Crown, and My Sister’s Prayer.

Thanks to Harvest House, Litfuse Publicity, and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.