A Preview of The London Restoration: A Novel, by Rachel McMillan

The London Restoration by Rachel McMillian 2020Hey-ho Janeites! Did you know that in historical fiction the fabulous fifties are the new forties? Yes, after years of WWII stories, novels set during the post-war years are now being published more frequently. I adore the Granchester mysteries series by James Runcie, and later this month The Jane Austen Society, by Natalie Jenner releases on May 26th. To add to the list, I am happy to introduce you to another forthcoming historical set in this time-frame releasing this summer. The London Restoration, by Rachel McMillan, is one of those atmospheric books that will take you away to another time and place, immerse you in history and wrap you in romance.

Set in post-World War II London, it features architectural historian Diana Somerville who is rebuilding her life and her marriage after five years of a devastating war. Blitzed London, Russian spies, and an ancient Roman artifact stir the plot.

If you are up for adventure, espionage, and romance, check out the book description and the exclusive excerpt that has been generously supplied by author Rachel McMillian. The London Restoration releases on August 18th, 2020, so be sure to add it to your TBR list.

Determined to save their marriage and the city they love, two people divided by World War II’s secrets rebuild their lives, their love, and their world.

London, Fall 1945. Architectural historian Diana Somerville’s experience as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park and her knowledge of London’s churches intersect in MI6’s pursuit of a Russian agent named Eternity. Diana wants nothing more than to begin again with her husband Brent after their separation during the war, but her signing of the Official Secrets Act keeps him at a distance.

Brent Somerville, professor of theology at King’s College, hopes aiding his wife with her church consultations will help him better understand why she disappeared when he needed her most. But he must find a way to reconcile his traumatic experiences as a stretcher bearer on the European front with her obvious lies about her wartime activities and whereabouts.

Featuring a timeless love story bolstered by flashbacks and the excavation of a priceless Roman artifact, The London Restoration is a richly atmospheric look at post-war London as two people changed by war rebuild amidst the city’s reconstruction.

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Being Mrs Darcy, by Lucy Marin—A Review

Being Mrs Darcy, by Lucy Marin 2020From the desk of Katie Jackson:  

In Regency-era novels, which are popular for their promotion of proper behavior and swoon-worthy romantic declarations, forced-marriage tropes spice up the angst and the inevitable, slow-burn romances that result. It is satisfying to read of gentlemen doing the right thing, marrying not for love but as their duty to protect a lady’s reputation, and it is equally satisfying to observe the couple’s meandering journey to an ultimate love match. As a Pride & Prejudice enthusiast, my curiosity was piqued when I discovered this forced-marriage situation between two beloved characters, in a location only referred to in hindsight in the original story. Pride and Prejudice variations are like choose-your-own-adventure stories that take readers through various what-if scenarios, making them ponder how a single decision might entirely change the destiny of their characters. Debut author Lucy Marin reveals an unusually bleak beginning for Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy in her Pride & Prejudice variation, Being Mrs Darcy.

This variation’s prologue opens on the August morning of Elizabeth’s forced marriage to Darcy, as they are traveling from Hertfordshire to London with his sister, Georgiana, and cousin, Sterling. Darcy is brooding, and “Elizabeth’s sense of dread grew with each successive mile they travelled.” (Kindle location 25) The situation worsens when they arrive at Darcy House. “Only the housekeeper and butler greeted them, and Elizabeth tried not to feel the slight; the entire household should be there to meet their new mistress.” (Kindle location 37) Darcy himself merely goes through the motions of his duties, dining with her and spending a short time in her company afterward, although almost entirely in silence. Elizabeth knew “he was unhappy about the marriage and despised her, as he had shown repeatedly in the six weeks of their acquaintance.” (Kindle location 58) She ends her wedding day in hopeless tears, haunted by her single fateful decision on a July night in Ramsgate that marked the point of no return. Continue reading

The Jane Austen Project: A Novel, by Kathleen A. Flynn —A Review

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A Flynn 2017Hey-ho Janeites. I hope that you are all coping during this crazy time. I am on lockdown here at Woodston Cottage trying to be productive while immersing myself in audiobooks and rom-com movies. It is Spring and the birds are singing, and the flowers are blooming. I have much to be grateful for.

Right now, we are all in need of some escapism, and what better way than with a time travel novel. The Jane Austen Project has been in my reading queue for a few years and seemed like the perfect choice given the current climate of high anxiety and uncertainty. Talk about the ultimate fantasy. What Jane Austen fan would not want to travel back in time to meet their favorite author? Heck yeah! So, let’s put on our best Regency frock and head on over to the local time machine and see what author Kathleen Flynn has created up for us. Here is a description of the book from the publisher.

London, 1815: Two travelers—Rachel Katzman and Liam Finucane—arrive in a field in rural England, disheveled and weighed down with hidden money. Turned away at a nearby inn, they are forced to travel by coach all night to London. They are not what they seem, but rather colleagues who have come back in time from a technologically advanced future, posing as wealthy West Indies planters—a doctor and his spinster sister. While Rachel and Liam aren’t the first team from the future to “go back,” their mission is by far the most audacious: meet, befriend, and steal from Jane Austen herself.

Carefully selected and rigorously trained by The Royal Institute for Special Topics in Physics, disaster-relief doctor Rachel and actor-turned-scholar Liam have little in common besides the extraordinary circumstances they find themselves in. Circumstances that call for Rachel to stifle her independent nature and let Liam take the lead as they infiltrate Austen’s circle via her favorite brother, Henry. Continue reading

A Preview of All Stirred Up: A Novel, by Brianne Moore

All Stirred Up by Brianne Moore 2020I have been watching several romcoms lately to offset the stress and anxiety generated from a world health crisis. Last week I enjoyed Father of the Bride (1991), Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), Made of Honor (2008), and The Wedding Date (2004). Do you notice a theme here? No, well they are all romances set during a wedding, an event ripe with comedic possibilities.

In my reading life, I have been searching for lighthearted romantic comedies too, so when a publisher sent me a contemporary romance inspired by Jane Austen’s novel, Persuasion, I leapt with joy. All Stirred Up is a forthcoming romcom novel set at a failing Edinburgh restaurant named Elliot’s. It retells the second chance romance plot of Jane Austen’s classic steeped in the famous culinary community in Scotland with tons of food, tears, and laughter. The author has generously shared an exclusive excerpt for my readers to give you a taste of the narrative and tone.

All Stirred Up is the debut novel by Brianne Moore, so let’s all give her a Janeite welcome by giving her charming novel a try when it releases on September 8, 2020.

Susan Napier’s family once lived on the success of the high-end restaurants founded by her late grandfather. But bad luck and worse management has brought the business to the edge of financial ruin. Now it’s up to Susan to save the last remaining restaurant: Elliot’s, the flagship in Edinburgh.

But what awaits Susan in the charming city of Auld Reekie is more than she bargained for. Chris Baker, her grandfather’s former protégé–and her ex-boyfriend–is also heading to the Scottish capital. After finding fame in New York as a chef and judge of a popular TV cooking competition, Chris is returning to his native Scotland to open his own restaurant. Although the storms have cleared after their intense and rocky breakup, Susan and Chris are re-drawn into each other’s orbit–and their simmering attraction inevitably boils over.

As Chris’s restaurant opens to great acclaim and Susan tries to haul Elliot’s back from the brink, the future brims with new promise. But darkness looms as they find themselves in the crosshairs of a gossip blogger eager for a juicy story–and willing to do anything to get it. Can Susan and Chris reclaim their lost love, or will the tangled past ruin their last hope for happiness?

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A Preview of Persuaded to Sail: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men (Book 3), by Jack Caldwell

Persuaded to Sail, by Jack Caldwell 2020Raise your hand if you agree that the “half agony, half hope” love letter written by Captain Frederick Wentworth to Anne Elliot in Jane Austen’s Persuasion is the most romantic love letter in literature. If not, by the time you get to the “you pierce my soul” line, you will be a convert.

At the conclusion of the story after Frederick and Anne are reunited and agree to marry, Austen asks us, “Who can be in doubt of what followed?” The reader is left in suspense wanting more. Well, we are happy to share that a sequel to their life together at sea has been written by Jack Caldwell. Persuaded to Sail will be available on May 11, 2020, from White Soup Press. It is the third book in the popular Jane Austen’s Fighting Men series.

A companion novel to the first two books: The Three Colonels (2012) and The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel (2016), Persuaded to Sail also takes place during the 1815 Hundred Day Crisis and the Battle of Waterloo. Those familiar with Jane Austen’s novels will see familiar characters from Persuasion, Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice in all three novels.

You do not have to have read the first two novels in the series to enjoy Persuaded to Sail, nor do you have to read them in order, however, doing so could enhance your enjoyment.

I hope this preview will tempt you to give it a try.

The long-awaited sequel to Jane Austen’s final novel, Persuasion.

After an eight-year separation and a tumultuous reunion, Anne Elliot marries the dashing Captain Frederick Wentworth. The pair looks forward to an uneventful honeymoon cruise aboard the HMS Laconia.

But the bride and groom find the seas of matrimony rough. Napoleon has escaped from Elba, the country is at war with France again, and the Admiralty imposes on Wentworth a mysterious passenger on a dangerous secret mission. The good captain is caught between duty to his country and love for his wife.

All eyes are trained for enemies without, but the greatest menace may already be on board…

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Rakes and Roses: A Mayfield Family Romance (Book 3), by Josi S. Kilpack—A Review

Rakes and Roses by Josi S Kilpack 2020From the desk of Katie Patchell:

What do you think of when you hear the word “rake”? Do you think of a rogue, face and heart scarred, but with a devilishly attractive smile? Do you think angry thoughts, with words like “cad” and “bounder” (and maybe some unprintable ones) flashing through your mind? Or maybe you think of the gardening tool that sits in your shed? Regardless, rakes are tricky creatures, capable of evoking a passionate response. Josi S. Kilpack’s latest novel, Rakes and Roses, tells a story of the transforming power of mercy and love, one that’s reminiscent of the beloved legend of Beauty and her Beast.

Born the illegitimate daughter of a duke in a society where that detail matters greatly, Sabrina Carlisle has gotten used to turning a brave face to the world. When an older, titled man proposes, Sabrina accepts, happy to finally have peace and security. Her dreams are shattered soon after the wedding. Abusive physically and verbally, her husband makes her life a living hell. Unable to leave him permanently, she seeks reprieve one fateful night during a tense dinner party. While hiding in the bushes outside, Sabrina prays that no one notices her. Her prayer isn’t answered…but not in the way she fears.

Young, handsome, and reckless, Harry Stillman is already in training to be a rogue. When he takes a moonlight stroll in his host’s gardens with a beautiful woman on his arm, he doesn’t expect to see a face staring out at him with terror from the local flora. Steering his companion away from her is a small mercy — but returning to find out what the mysterious woman was afraid of is true kindness, a small act Sabrina never forgets.

Years pass; Sabrina and Harry find themselves in vastly different circumstances. Sabrina’s husband is dead and fear is no longer her constant companion. Harry, no longer carefree and wealthy, spends sleepless nights drinking and gambling. Consequences catch up to him in the form of thuggish moneylenders…but then the unexpected happens. An unknown person going only by the name “Lord Damion” offers him a chance at freedom. When Sabrina (through her pseudonym) finds the opportunity to save Harry from being killed by moneylenders or from drowning in his addiction, she jumps at the chance. The only question is—does he want to be rescued, as she did years ago? Continue reading

A Stroke of Malice: A Lady Darby Mystery (Book 8), by Anna Lee Huber—A Review

A Stroke of Malice by Anna Lee Huber 2020From the desk of Rachel McMillan:   

Though locked room mysteries are a trope often revisit in the genre, it takes an immense amount of talent for an author to convince you that theirs is, indeed, the first of its kind. At once an homage to a classic trope and an immersive gothic romance A Stroke of Malice is a compelling historical romance that is not only atmospheric but eerily relevant. Lady Kiera Gage (nee Darby) and her husband, inquiry agent Sebastian Gage long familiar with the gothic and macabre, are put in close quarters with a puzzling corpse when a revelry turns deadly. The prospect of a holiday at the Bowmount’s Estate in Scotland is welcome for the investigative couple, but nothing could prepare them for one of the most baffling of their many cases together.

Almost six months’ expectant, Kiera is looking forward to a warm, inviting, and seasonally riotous Twelfth Night party at a crumbling Scottish manor house: perhaps her last opportunity before her confinement. Herein, with an eerie Poe-like setting of crypts and cloisters, dead friars and monks, and things that go bump in the night, Kiera and Gage must decide whether what they are seeking is foul play or far more sinisterly supernatural. The masked festivities, dancing, merriment libations of the cold December night culminate in the demand by the chosen Lord of Misrule for a ghost tour. Thus, Kiera and Gage attend a forbidden part of the manor house that takes them several steps back in time. Things go amiss when their ghoulish tour leads to a body far more recently deceased than the skeletons tucked into the ancient stones. Thus, the lady and lord of the manor are eager to make good on the Gage’s reputations for solving the most sinister of crimes.

The mystery deepens as no one is missing from the manor or its surrounding area, there are no personal possessions and no distinguishing features. In addition, the regal Lady Eleanor’s husband has been absent in Paris for a long while with seemingly no communication, leading Gage and Kiera to wonder if the deceased is Lord Hemswick. Continue reading

Fortune & Felicity: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Monica Fairview—A Review

Fortune & Felicity by Monica Fairview 2020From the desk of Debbie Brown:

Hunsford Parsonage is a popular jumping-off spot for Pride and Prejudice variations. This is when Mr. Darcy makes his ill-phrased marriage proposal to Elizabeth Bennet, is soundly refused, and presents her with a letter the following morning to defend himself against her accusations. It’s the seminal event of the book, making it an ideal spot to imagine “what if” things had happened differently there. That is where we begin in Monica Fairview’s newest variation, Fortune & Felicity.

The Prologue shows an agonized Darcy struggling to write that important missive. When he accidentally spills ink over the finished letter, he decides it must be fate intervening. Consequently, he consigns his night’s work to the fire, leaving Elizabeth ignorant of its contents.

The surprise here is that, unlike most variations, the book then skips ahead seven whole years.

During that time, the Bennet family fared poorly. Lydia did run away with Mr. Wickham who, predictably, abandoned her. Mr. Bennet paid dearly to marry her off. He subsequently died, resulting in Mrs. Bennet’s removal from Longbourn to a simple cottage provided by her brother Mr. Gardiner. Jane is married, but not to Mr. Bingley. Her husband, Mr. Grant, is a tradesman whose business is struggling, and they have four children with another on the way. Elizabeth lives with them, having married Thomas Heriot, a naval officer who died at sea three years ago and left her a penniless widow.

Darcy bowed to Lady Catherine’s wishes immediately after that terrible night seven years ago and married Anne de Bourgh. “He had done it in a moment of anger against the world, a moment of supreme indifference to his own fate.” It was not a happy marriage for many reasons. Continue reading

To Have and to Hoax: A Novel, by Martha Waters—A Review

To Have and to Hoax by Martha Waters 2020From the desk of Molly Greeley:

A young lady and gentleman are discovered (gasp!) alone on a balcony during a ball, and he must either propose or allow her reputation to be ruined—despite their having met each other only minutes earlier. In her debut novel To Have and to Hoax, Martha Waters takes this time-honored Regency romance trope and uses it deftly to not only throw her hero and heroine together in the first pages of the book but as the fulcrum upon which the rest of the plot turns.

The opening scenes, in which we meet both Lady Violet Grey and Lord James Audley, do a lot of work to establish both their characters in a short space. Violet, who has allowed herself to be led outside the crowded ballroom and onto a deserted balcony by the Marquess of Willingham, a known rake, bears little resemblance to the shy flower for which she’s named. She reads novels clandestinely and speaks up for herself rather than shrinking meekly back into the shadows when she and Willingham are discovered. It is James who discovers them, and though James and Willingham might be good friends, it is clear that James doesn’t approve of kissing virginal young ladies on darkened balconies. But when Willingham departs, James finds himself, despite his scruples, unable to walk away from Violet, who is similarly fascinated by him. They share a scandalous waltz in the darkness of the balcony before her mother’s arrival forces their swift engagement.

When we meet them again, Violet and James have been married for five years, four of which they have largely spent not speaking to one another. Violet spends her days in their London home, entertaining friends, cataloging the library books, writing poetry, and sending letters to the editor of various journals under a male pen name. James, like any well-born Englishman, enjoys time at his club with his friends, but much of his days are also spent managing the lucrative stables his father gifted him upon his marriage to Violet. These stables, we learn early on, have long been a source of tension between the newlyweds; from the earliest days of their marriage, Violet has worried about James’ safety around the unbroken horses and resented the amount of time he spends at the stables. James—who has some serious issues with his frankly horrible father—wishes she could understand that he took the stables both to show his father that he is capable of more than his father gives him credit for and to create extra income, so he could lavish her with a country house. Continue reading

First Comes Scandal: A Bridgerton Prequel, by Julia Quinn—A Review

First Comes Scandal by Julia Quinn 2020From the desk of Pamela Mingle:

Reading a Julia Quinn novel is like spending time with an old friend. The relationship is comfortable, contented, not too demanding. Her latest, First Comes Scandal: A Bridgerton Sequel, is the story of Georgiana Bridgerton (sister of the doomed Edmund) and Nicholas Rokesbury. Their families are neighbors and longtime friends.

The book opens with Nicholas, who has received an urgent message from his father to come home immediately. This is inconvenient, since he’s a medical student in Edinburgh, and his family lives in Kent. His father didn’t give an explanation, and Nicholas is missing lectures and examinations to make the journey. Once there, his parents ask him—although it’s more like an order—to offer for Georgiana Bridgerton. It seems she was kidnapped by a suitor, who attempted to take her to Gretna Green to elope. She kicked him in a most sensitive place, tied him up, and with the help of a young Lady Dansbury (a fixture in the Bridgerton novels), made her escape. But alas, the damage is done. In the eyes of Society, she’s ruined.

Though sorry for Georgie, Nicholas is angry that his parents expect him to make this sacrifice. How can he finish medical school with a wife? And “It would be like marrying my sister,” he argues. He excels at his studies and “is his own man in Edinburgh.” He doesn’t refuse outright, however, and after sitting next to Georgiana at a dinner party, he begins to appreciate her wit and cleverness, not to speak of her enticing womanly qualities. Nicholas makes up his mind to propose. After all, he can’t leave a dear friend in such dire straits. Continue reading

Lakeshire Park, by Megan Walker—A Review

Lakeshire Park by Megan Walker 2020From the desk of Katie Patchell: 

There: on the horizon stands elegant, grand Lakeshire Park. It is a prize for women seeking church bells and thrown rice…and of course, a large income. If you too choose to step over its threshold, you’ll find yourself facing scheming debutantes, protective older brothers, and one very determined woman trying to navigate through it all. Beyond its doors lies a world where wealth matters, an ill-timed kiss can ruin one’s future, and where “the course of true love never did run smooth” could be nailed to the wall as a warning and as a challenge to eager young lovers…and equally to you, Lakeshire Park’s future reader.

Enter Amelia, our “one very determined woman.” She has good reason to be so. Her beloved father’s death, her mother’s remarriage to a man who despises Amelia and her sister, Clara, and recently, her mother’s passing, has all made her resilient and cautious about loving again. After her cruel stepfather’s flat refusal to be connected to her and her sister anymore, Amelia searches for a means to save them both from destitution. Her good fortune is that she is not alone to face the world–Clara is her closest friend, and Amelia would do anything for her. This “anything” includes accepting an invitation to a house party hosted by none other than the man who Clara had a tendresse for in the previous Season. There’s only one problem: another woman seeks his attention, and she also has an older sibling who is fully devoted to her happiness. With time running out, what’s a woman to do? The answer is obvious: to make a deal with the devil – Amelia’s counterpart, Peter Wood, the stubborn, cunning man who from the very first moment of meeting has tried to ruin all her plans.

Unfortunately, Amelia’s plot to get him out of the way quickly unravels. His quick smile, sparkling eyes, and ready wit make her respond in kind. Rivalry and war turn to a mock battle for one-upmanship, and before Amelia knows it, her heart is involved. With her stepfather’s threats weighing on her mind and Peter’s sister’s devious plans against Clara, Amelia must make her most difficult choice yet: to choose her sister’s future happiness over her own. Continue reading