Kent and Katcha by Larry and Rosemary Mild


Kent and Katcha by Larry and Rosemary Mild
Publisher: Magic Island Literary Works
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Romance, Historical, Fiction
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Larry and Rosemary Mild breach the deeper cover and higher intrigue to bring you a fictional novel full of spy-craft, espionage, and adventure drawn from Larry’s former association with real agents and their spook agencies.

The year is 1992. The Soviet Union has collapsed, but danger persists. Young Kent Brukner, a freshly trained American spy, arrives in Moscow for a high-risk mission: to infiltrate and compromise a Russian Federation Army facility. Under an alias, in a military uniform, he plies his skills—unprepared for the brutal confrontations and irrational consequences.

Kent meets the innocent and passionate Katcha, daughter of a British expatriate and a Russian dissident. Together the lovers embark on a near-impossible journey, beginning in the foothills of the Ural Mountains. Stalked by the evil Major Dmitri Federov, they must escape from St. Petersburg to Helsinki, Finland, or face life in a Russian prison.

This novel is a marvelous throwback to the early nineteen nineties, shortly after the end of the Cold War. Kent is an engaging character, an American spy, whose background is fleshed out enough for us to understand who he is and what his motivations are. The Russians capture him and throw him in prison. The situation seems hopeless.

Then, in a surprising turn of events, he manages to escape. Every step of his hopeful journey towards freedom is filled with tension. One thing after another threatens him along the path, and readers will worry for his safety. He meets an interesting lady during this time, Katcha, whose mother proposes an intriguing possibility for the young couple. It is so dangerous, so filled with a likely tragic end, and Kent only agrees with hesitation. Now, his risk has doubled. Can he and Katcha possibly survive the scrutiny and perseverance of the Russians going after him?

This book is a page-turner. The pace moves quickly but not too quickly. There is time for emotional introspection. The setting is convincingly drawn, taking readers into the era and place with ease.

This is an entertaining vintage novel readers of espionage tales with a bit of romance thrown in are sure to enjoy.

The Duke’s Proposal for the Governess by Eleanor Webster


The Duke’s Proposal for the Governess by Eleanor Webster
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Historical, Romance
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

A wedding to save her from scandal

A bride to save his heart?

After the death of his beloved brother and mother, Randolph, the Duke of Elmsend, feels his life is empty. So, he’s in no mood to entertain the rambunctious Harrington family while they’re in London. Then he meets Abigail, their governess. When her reputation is in jeopardy, he does the unimaginable—propose! But whilst Randolph can offer her a ring, can he ever offer her a real marriage?

Two people who never would’ve found each other realize they’re meant to be.

I loved this story because it showed that love isn’t conventional. Randolph wasn’t looking for Abigail when he met her. Wasn’t expecting to fall in love. But anything is possible.

I loved that this book was well-written and fast-paced. I wanted to know what would happen to the characters and couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. Abigail and Randolph are sweet and perfect for each other. They’re great characters and it was fun following their story.

If you want a happy ever after that’s not run-of-the-mill, then pick this one up. I loved it.

American Daughters by Piper Huguley


American Daughters by Piper Huguley
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

In the vein of America’s First Daughter, Piper Huguley’s historical novel delves into the remarkable friendship of Portia Washington and Alice Roosevelt, the daughters of educator Booker T. Washington and President Teddy Roosevelt.

At the turn of the twentieth century, in a time of great change, two women—separated by societal status and culture but bound by their expected roles as the daughters of famed statesmen—forged a lifelong friendship.

Portia Washington’s father Booker T. Washington was formerly enslaved and spent his life championing the empowerment of Black Americans through his school, known popularly as Tuskegee Institute, as well as his political connections. Dedicated to her father’s values, Portia contributed by teaching and performing spirituals and classical music. But a marriage to a controlling and jealous husband made fulfilling her dreams much more difficult.

When Theodore Roosevelt assumed the presidency, his eldest daughter Alice Roosevelt joined him in the White House. To try to win her father’s approval, she eagerly jumped in to help him succeed, but Alice’s political savvy and nonconformist behavior alienated as well as intrigued his opponents and allies. When she married a congressman, she carved out her own agendas and continued espousing women’s rights and progressive causes.

Brought together in the wake of their fathers’ friendship, these bright and fascinating women helped each other struggle through marriages, pregnancies, and political upheaval, supporting each other throughout their lives.

A provocative historical novel and revealing portrait, Piper Huguley’s American Daughters vividly brings to life two passionate and vital women who nurtured a friendship that transcended politics and race over a century ago.

This is an inspiring story about two women who form an unexpected friendship that transcends their different social statuses, politics, and race. It showcases historical figures that we are familiar with, such as Portia Washington the daughter of the famous educator, Booker T. Washington, and Alice Roosevelt, the President of the United States at the time, Teddy Roosevelt. The journey of these two women is a testament to their resilience and the power of friendship.

I enjoyed reading and learning about the strengths and resilience of the two fascinating women in the book. The author did a fantastic job of crafting a tale that navigated the life and friendship of Portia and Alice. It was interesting to see how their bond exceeded wealth, privilege, race, and cultural background – from their start as “Good Daughters” to their eventual “Liberation” as individuals. As I read, I saw that they were both women of intelligence, determination, and hope. Their differences were obvious but the similarities to me are what drew them together, and the bond formed from there is what forged their relationship that lasted over a century.

The book alternates between the voices of Portia and Alice. I could not help but be drawn to their strong but lady-like characteristics. Their historical significance is one to notice as it shows their influential relevance as they navigated their famous title of American daughters during their roles as wives, mothers, and women facing various relevant life issues that many of which still apply today.

Portia’s husband, Sid Pittman, was a source of trouble that I knew Portia should have avoided. Although I could sympathize with his internal struggle as his father-in-law, Mr. Washington, mentioned to his daughter, Portia about the challenges that men of color in an industry where “Negro men have never gotten to do before.” I am sure that with Booker T. Washington as his father-in-law, Sid was held to a high standard and expectations were set higher than he could achieve. However, it was difficult to understand why he channeled his anger towards damaging the spirit and minds of those who loved him. As for Alice, she is supporting her husband, Nick, during his political career as he is up to become the next Speaker of the House, and a surprise adds more excitement to her unconventional marriage of convenience.

I was glad to read American Daughters, but it did not captivate me as much as I expected. I found some slow spells of dialogue that made the story longer than necessary. Additionally, I did not think ahead of how the book would end, and I felt that all I read about was what the two ladies going through. I wanted more details of the ending that matched the energy of the earlier parts of the book. The book ended leaving me with only the assumption of how their lives would unfold after the last big reveal.

Portia and Alice were remarkable women who encountered many challenges throughout their lives. They always had each other to rely on, which was inspiring to read about. My takeaway from the book is that their beginning not only benefited them and that “motherless children must stick together” but it also changed the narrative for their daughters and their bond is a testament that will live on. This was an interesting story.

The Price Of Lemon Cake by Jennifer Ashley


The Price of Lemon Cake by Jennifer Ashley
Publisher: JA/AG Publishing
Genre: Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

When Kat Holloway approaches Lady Bobby Perry and Judith Townsend to help her discover what a young aristo is getting up to in a gentleman’s club, Bobby quickly accepts, coaxing a promise of Mrs. Holloway’s stupendous lemon cake in return.

But the investigation quickly turns into more than a simple spy mission, forcing Judith to confront a painful part her past. Both Judith and Bobby must bring their own unique skills to help Kat solve the tricky and dangerous problem.

Kat Holloway turns to her two friends Lady Bobby Perry and Judith Townsend to help her. Bobby goes into a club incognito to discover if one young man is being led astray by his brother, but instead Bobby and Judith discover a few painful secrets Judith had thought was locked in her past. Will the price of Kay Holloway’s lemon cake be enough to cover this cost?

This is the second short story in this Upstairs/Downstairs series that I have read, and I must admit I enjoyed it. Set in the late 1880s I found the historical setting to be slightly romanticized but still quite believable. I also found the plot to be a lot of fun – but a small amount of disbelief really did need to be suspended. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the story.

Despite this story being billed as part of the Kat Holloway series I was surprised but pleased this really had a lot more to do with Kat’s two friends, Bobby and Judith. Obviously, the plot couldn’t be too convoluted due to the short nature of the story, but I was very pleased with the two interweaving storylines and the way they were neatly tied up at the end. I was also glad that readers didn’t need to be familiar with the main book series – I, personally, have not read any of the full-length novels in this series – to enjoy and fully comprehend what’s happening.

For a quick introduction to the world and some of the characters this is an excellent short story. I enjoyed it and am intrigued enough to give one of the main novels a try.

The Jackal Man by Kate Ellis


The Jackal Man by Kate Ellis
Publisher: Piatkus Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

A teenage girl is strangled and left for dead on a lonely country lane in Devon. The police are baffled when she describes her attacker as having the head of a dog, but when the body of a woman is found mutilated and wrapped in a sheet, DI Wesley Peterson suspects the killer may be performing an ancient ritual linked to the jackal-headed Egyptian god, Anubis.

Meanwhile, archaeologist Neil Watson has been called to Varley Castle to catalogue the collection of an Edwardian amateur Egyptologist. Neil discovers through his research that Wesley’s strange case bears sinister similarities to four murders that took place near Varley Castle in 1903.

As the Jackal Man’s identity remains a frustrating enigma, it seems the killer has yet another victim in his sights. Someone close to Wesley himself . . .

When a local teenage girl is strangled and only a passing car interrupts what might have been an even more serious crime, DI Wesley Peterson and his team are called in to investigate. Unsure whether this links up to a similar – but less sinister attempted assault on another young woman a few weeks earlier, Wesley and his team flounder at first. When the next victim isn’t so lucky they realise their quarry is linking himself to the jackal-headed Egyptian god Anubis. Wesley’s archaeological friend, Dr Neil Watson is helping catalogue the collection of an amateur Egyptologist and Neil points out that these present cases bear a striking similarity to four murders that took place in 1903 and those were directly linked to this collection’s family. Can Neil and Wesley sort out exactly what’s going on before another young woman is murdered?

I have been greatly enjoying this British police procedural series and this book was a lovely addition. While there is plenty going on around these characters and the team members, I feel readers should certainly be able to pick this book up and enjoy it on its own merits. Aside from the fact the characters know each other and work well together, the actual plot and relationships are all very well explained within this book.

I was pleased that there was fairly clearly a strong connection immediately between the cataloguing work Neil was performing at a local castle with an Egyptian collection and Wesley’s offender who wore a cloak and a “dog mask”. I was also very intrigued that Wesely’s old boss from his days at the Met in their Art Fraud section was in town looking for some Egyptian antiquities and someone calling themselves Ra. It was all clearly linked but I enjoyed the twists and slow unveiling of what was really going on. I thought this book had a very good pace and unlike some of the others in this series I enjoyed the fact both plots were clearly woven together and were gathering speed roughly together.

Readers who enjoy some history and archaeology mixed in with their murder mysteries should find this a really enjoyable book. I enjoyed this story, and it was a lovely and comfortable weekend read.

Beyond Mortal Bounds – Memoir of a Ghost by Gina Easton


Beyond Mortal Bounds – Memoir of a Ghost by Gina Easton
Publisher: Touch Point Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Contemporary, Historical
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Heather Radcliffe, a successful author, is approached by Fiona, a ghost, to write Fiona’s memoir. What follows is a tale of love, betrayal, madness and the quest for atonement. It is the story of two women—one living, one dead—and the man they both love . . . and the issue of love’s ability to endure beyond death itself.

Death is the beginning, not the end.

The dialogue was smooth and believable. Often I could tell who was speaking before I finished the sentence because of how uniquely the two main characters were written. As much as they had in common, there were important differences between them that influenced how they spoke. It takes a lot of work to pull something like this off, so I must acknowledge the effort there and share my gratitude for it. This is the sort of flourish in a story that makes reading even more enjoyable than it already is.

I was surprised by how quickly Heather believed the ghosts who approached her for help. As much as I liked her innocent and trusting personality, there were times when I wondered why she didn’t make any efforts to verify what she was told and only spent a small amount of time trying to protect herself from anything in the spirit world that might try to attach itself to her. There was one scene that described a ritual she went through after talking to spirits in order to discourage them from sticking around. This reader was fascinated by that process and wished that the protagonist had spent more time describing it as well as taking additional precautions to protect herself from spirits she was still getting to know.

Some of the most memorable moments in my opinion were the ones that explored Heather’s previous lifetimes and how they helped to explain why her personality clicked so well with certain people she met in her most recent body. Reincarnation is an interesting explanation for why this happens, especially when it is explored in fiction that shows how those individuals knew each other in previous lives and why their fates have remained so tightly entwined. This is a trope I’m always happy to discover in books, and I thought Ms. Easton made good use of it here.

Beyond Mortal Bounds: Memoir of a Ghost was satisfying.

*The Stranger I Wed by Harper St. George


*The Stranger I Wed by Harper St. George
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group, Berkley
Genre: Historical, Romance
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

New to wealth and to London high society, American heiress Cora Dove discovers that with the right man, marriage might not be such an inconvenience after all. . . .

Cora Dove and her sisters’ questionable legitimacy has been the lifelong subject of New York’s gossipmongers and a continual stain on their father’s reputation. So when the girls each receive a generous, guilt-induced dowry from their dying grandmother, the sly Mr. Hathaway vows to release their funds only if Cora and her sisters can procure suitable husbands—far from New York. For Cora, England is a fresh start. She has no delusions of love, but a husband who will respect her independence? That’s an earl worth fighting for.

Enter: Leopold Brendon, Earl of Devonworth, a no-nonsense member of Parliament whose plan to pass a Public Health bill that would provide clean water to the working class requires the backing of a wealthy wife. He just never expected to crave Cora’s touch or yearn to hear her thoughts on his campaign—or to discover that his seemingly perfect bride protects so many secrets…

But secrets have a way of bubbling to the surface, and Devonworth has a few of his own. With their pasts laid bare and Cora’s budding passion for women’s rights taking a dangerous turn, they’ll learn the true cost of losing their heart to a stranger—and that love is worth any price.

Harper St. George knows how to write a rich and satisfying story with characters that are entertaining and interesting. I loved this enchanting historical story set in the late 1800’s so much, I never wanted it to end.

Cora, the eldest of the Dove sisters, must marry a titled gentleman to gain her inheritance, so she and her two sisters travel to England to find a groom. When Cora arrives in London, she meets an assortment of potential husbands including Devenworth.

Devenworth needs a rich bride to save his ancestral home. Although he is attracted to Cora, he ultimately marries her for her dowry. They marry first and slowly fall in love as they become acquainted with each other. The more they learn about each other, the deeper they fall. However, they are afraid to let down their guard and trust each other completely.

I loved Devenworth and Cora together and enjoyed all of their encounters. Sparks would fly whenever they were together, and I found myself immediately immersed in their story. I felt like I was right there with them, and I easily connected with all the characters.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and can’t wait to read future stories featuring the two other Dove sisters.

Mrs. Holloway’s Christmas Pudding by Jennifer Ashley


Mrs. Holloway’s Christmas Pudding by Jennifer Ashley
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Historical, Holiday, Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

December 1882

When Cook Kat Holloway is blamed when a dinner guest mysteriously takes ill after eating one of her meals, she sets out to prove she had nothing to do with the gentleman’s sickness. She discovers a whole host of people who might wish to do away with the man, and she and her friends—Daniel McAdam, Lady Cynthia, Mr. Thanos, and various members of the household staff—begin to hunt for the would-be killer.

Simultaneously tasked with crafting the perfect Christmas feast, including the pièce de résistance, the Christmas plum pudding, Kat frantically works to finish all, fearing she’ll have to choose between stopping a murderer and cherishing her few precious Christmas moments with her daughter.

When a guess of her employer falls mysteriously ill, Mrs Holloway is irritated when her food is instantly blamed – despite the gentlemen being the only member of the dinner party having an adverse effect. Determined to not let any whispers grow and cause trouble, Mrs Holloway is determined to investigate what is really occurring. Can she and her friends work out what’s going on while Kat simultaneously plans and cooks the perfect Christmas feast and also attempts to spend a few precious moments with her young daughter.

This is the third short story I have enjoyed set in this historical world by the author. I have enjoyed them all and equally enjoy the fact that other than the same time setting they can easily be read and thoroughly enjoyed on their own merits, and they aren’t really linked other than the characters connections. While a little suspension of belief is required – I simply can’t imagine a cook interacting so freely and warmly with any of the above-stairs people, nor having the freedom of movement to investigate a crime nor make speeches about who the dastardly villain really is etc – I nevertheless found this a well-paced and thoroughly refreshing read. Kat and her love interest, Daniel were vibrant and very well written characters and with a strong cast of equally engaging secondary characters there was plenty to hook any reader.

I also feel readers who usually don’t enjoy historical stories should feel comfortable giving this book a try. The mystery is fairly simple, but there were enough layers and twists to keep me engaged and while the historical setting was lovely, I didn’t feel like our noses were pushed too hard into it. I really feel the author has done a commendable job balancing the characters, the plot and the pacing of this Christmassy story. The blossoming romance between Mrs Holloway and Daniel is quite chaste – merely a few kisses – so readers more used to reading mystery shouldn’t find the romance aspect to the plot too overpowering.

Readers who are unsure whether to dip their feet into the connected full-length series should absolutely give this novella a try – for the cheaper price and shorter length I think it’s a lovely gateway into the world and series by this author and is in and of itself a thoroughly enjoyable short story. Recommended.

Double Lives by Mary Monroe


Double Lives by Mary Monroe
Publisher: Dafina
Genre: Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Since childhood, identical twins Leona and Fiona Dunbar have been getting in—and out—of trouble by pretending to be each other. Yet underneath, they couldn’t be more different. Outspoken Leona lives to break rules, have a good time, and scandalize their respectable hometown of Lexington. Fiona is a seemingly-demure churchgoing girl who is the apple of her domineering, widowed mother Mavis’s eye.

But together, the twins have fooled teachers, boyfriends, bosses, racist police—and most importantly, strait-laced Mavis. Even when Leona does jail time for Fiona, their unbreakable bond keeps them fiercely loyal. . . . So when Fiona feels stifled in her passionless marriage, and Leona is heartbroken over losing her one true love, it’s perfect timing to change places once again . . .

Leona is shocked to discover she enjoys the security of being a wife and homebody. And the unexpected spark between her and Fiona’s husband is giving her all kinds of deliciously sexy ideas. Meanwhile, Fiona enjoys being free, single, and reveling in the independence she’s never had. And the more she indulges her secret, long-repressed wild child, the more Leona’s ex-lover becomes one temptation she’s having trouble resisting . . .

As the sisters’ masquerade ignites desires and appetites they never expected, it also puts their most damning secrets on the line. Once the fallout rocks their small town, can Fiona and Leona’s deep sisterhood shield them from total disaster and help them reconcile their mistakes? Or will the trust between them become a weapon that shatters their lives for good?

Identical twins Fiona and Leona find it amusing and convenient to switch identities as it suits them, but could their harmless switching lead to serious trouble?

This 320-page historical fiction is a great example of why Mary Monroe is one of my favorite authors. Her unique writing style and engaging plots are always a guarantee that I will be drawn in for a thrilling read. The author masterfully developed Fiona and Leona’s story throughout, and lastly climaxed in a plot twist that I did not see coming.

Double Lives is a work of historical fiction that spans from 1901 to 1938 in a small, segregated country town in Alabama. Readers are introduced to identical twins Fiona and Leona Dunbar who find it amusing in ‘fooling folks’ by switching their identities. The narrative alternates between Fiona and Leona’s perspectives. The author’s signature style of creating characters that are intriguing and memorable resulting in this entertaining, and original plot. I found myself unable to put the book down, eager to see how the story would unfold.

The bond between the sisters is like no other. I found it disturbing the sacrifices Leona made for Fiona. It was even more unsettling that Fiona allowed her sister to take on a negative image while benefiting from their switching. In my opinion, Fiona was selfish, while Leona was naive and always ended up being the protector or scapegoat. This unfair dynamic between the sisters made me angry. Leona was also naive when it came to her friendship with Bonnie Sue. Bonnie Sue got on my nerves and was very much obsessed with Leona, but Leona could not see it.

Who wouldn’t want to trade places to get out of trouble or to get out of their current circumstances? Mary Monroe has written another captivating five-star book that tells the story of the Dunbar sisters’ masquerade, which ignites into something they may not be able to switch back from. I highly recommend it.

The Flesh Tailor by Kate Ellis


The Flesh Tailor by Kate Ellis
Publisher: Piatkus
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

When Dr James Dalcott is shot dead in his cottage it looks very much like an execution. And as DI Wesley Peterson begins piecing together the victim’s life, he finds that the well-liked country doctor has been harbouring strange and dramatic family secrets.

Meanwhile, archaeologist Neil Watson has discovered a number of skeletons in nearby Tailors Court that bear marks of dissection and might be linked to tales of body snatching by a rogue physician in the sixteenth century. But when Neil finds the bones of a child buried with a 1930s coin, the investigation takes a sinister turn.

Who were the children evacuated to Tailors Court during World War II? And where are they now? When a link is established between the wartime evacuees and Dr Dalcott’s death, Wesley is faced with his most challenging case yet.

DI Wesley Peterson and his team are called in to investigate when a local doctor is found shot in the front door of his cottage in what looks very much like an execution-style murder. As they look deeper into the doctor they find his family history isn’t as straightforward as one would expect. Archeologist Neil Watson is also called in when two skeletons are found by a local wanting to renovate his newly purchased piece of land. What starts with two bodies quickly grown into half a dozen and one of those is the body of a small child seemingly from the 1930s. Can Wesley and Neil each uncover what’s really going on?

I was quite pleased with this book and found even though it’s right in the middle of the series readers should feel comfortable picking this up and knowing they can enjoy a well-plotted British police procedural style of mystery with a good element of archaeology woven into it as well. While I do admit the main characters and the police team in particular have a lot of threads and history connecting them together from the previous books in the series I didn’t feel there was anything that occurred which would leave readers picking up this book along would find too confusing. The two main plots are very well contained within this book alone and I believe it can be enjoyed by itself.

That said, I also did feel a little as if nothing too unique or fresh was brought into the book. While I thoroughly enjoy the fact the police procedural aspect to the mystery is well balanced with Neil’s archaeology this books felt a little bit like a “filler” style of book to me. To my mind, no real character progress was made in the police team, and nothing much occurred in any longer running story arcs so when I’d finished I felt thoroughly satisfied by the two mystery plotlines, but felt as though nothing really had been achieved by this book itself.

Readers looking for an interesting and enjoyable murder mystery – especially those who like a bit of something different like what I found with the archaeology aspect to the plot – should find this a good read and well worth the investment. In particular this might be a good book for readers not previously exposed to the series to try and find if they like the author’s style and whether this is a longer running series they might enjoy.