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Review and Giveaway: A Sparkle of Silver by Liz Johnson

A SPARKLE OF SILVER
Georgia Coast Romance #1
by
LIZ JOHNSON
Genre: Contemporary / Romance
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: October 16, 2018
Number of Pages: 368

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Millie Sullivan plays a 1920s-era guest during tours of a palatial estate on the shore of St. Simons Island, Georgia, where her great-grandmother was a real guest ninety years ago. When Millie learns of a lost diary that may contain the location of a hidden treasure on the estate and reveal the identity of her great-grandfather, she sets out to find the truth of her heritage—and the fortune she desperately needs. But it won’t be easy.
When security guard Ben Thornton discovers her snooping in the estate’s private library, he threatens to have her fired. Still, her story seems too ludicrous to be fiction, and her offer to split the treasure is too tempting to pass up.
Get ready for a romantic escapade through dark halls and dusty corners that will have you holding your breath and sighing with delight.

PRAISE FOR A SPARKLE OF SILVER:

“A mystery, a treasure hunt, and a split-time romance—all set within a beautiful chateau. What more could we want?”—Katherine Reay, author of Dear Mr. Knightley and A Portrait of Emily Price
“A charming romance about real people triumphing over real problems. Add in a dash of mystery, a treasure hunt, and old family secrets, and you have a story that will warm every corner of your heart.”—Victoria Bylin, award-winning author of Together with You
“Lovers of history will enjoy this treasure-seeking adventure through a historic estate, and readers will appreciate a story that turns up riches of the lasting kind.”—Denise Hunter, bestselling author of Honeysuckle Dreams
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review

I had the hardest time putting this book down. It had so many details and moving parts in it that kept me reading well past my bedtime. The cover looks like your run of the mill romance set in some beautiful destination vacation spot, but it’s the quote by Denise Hunter that most clearly identifies what makes this novel different from the rest: it’s a mystery as well.

 

And it’s the mystery of who Millie’s great-grandfather is, and whether she could be the heir to a fortune, that propels our heroine and her unlikely sidekick, Ben. Actually, to be fair, Ben just thinks Millie is looking for a treasure, he has no idea that she might be an illegitimate heir from affluent stock hoping to come into some kind of an inheritance.
Kudos to Johnson for making us work for what we want to know. We are not told from the beginning that Ben and Millie are quite easy on the eyes; this is a revelation that comes to light as the two begin to trust each other and enjoy each other’s company. As each layer falls away, you can really believe that two strangers are falling in love, much like another couple that we see through old journal entries. Each story progresses nicely, maybe a little slowly with the intention of building suspense.

Johnson doesn’t hit you over the head with details, she merely inserts suggestions here and there. If you’re not reading carefully, you might miss them. I have gotten a little better with my predictions when reading mysteries, but I have to say that I missed the mark on the culprit. I actually couldn’t think of who the criminal mastermind could be. I did, however, predict the ending right. Read up and tell me if you figured it out.

 

I recommend this book to anyone who loves a good romance and/or mystery. You can cozy up to this with a warm mug of deliciousness or lay out on a beach with a cool, refreshing drink. Either way, be on the look out for book #2.

 

Liz Johnson is the author of more than a dozen novels, including The Red Door InnWhere Two Hearts Meet, and On Love’s Gentle Shore, as well as a New York Times bestselling novella and a handful of short stories. A marketing manager for a Christian film company, she makes her home in Phoenix, Arizona.
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OCTOBER 10-19, 2018

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Review & Giveaway: The Theory of Happily Ever After by Kristin Billerbeck

THE THEORY OF
HAPPILY EVER AFTER
by
KRISTIN BILLERBECK
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: May 1, 2018
Number of Pages: 288
Scroll down for Giveaway!
According to Dr. Maggie Maguire, happiness is serious—serious science, that is. But science can’t always account for life’s anomalies, like why her fiancé dumped her for a silk-scarf acrobat and how the breakup sent Maggie spiraling into an extended ice cream–fueled chick flick binge.
Concerned that she might never pull herself out of this nosedive, Maggie’s friends book her as a speaker on a “New Year, New You” cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. Maggie wonders if she’s qualified to teach others about happiness when she can’t muster up any for herself. But when a handsome stranger on board insists that smart women can’t ever be happy, Maggie sets out to prove him wrong. Along the way she may discover that happiness has far less to do with the head than with the heart.
Filled with unforgettable characters, snappy dialogue, and touching romance, The Theory of Happily Ever After shows that the search for happiness may be futile—because sometimes happiness is already out there searching for you.

PRAISE FOR THE THEORY OF HAPPILY EVER AFTER: 

“. . .the sweet will-they-or-won’t-they of Sam and Maggie’s courtship will please readers. . .”
                        —Publishers Weekly
“Billerbeck returns with a light Christian chick-lit novel just in time for the summer beach-read season, taking on stereotypes of femininity, intellect, and worth within an exciting cruise-ship setting with plenty of sunshine and gelato.”
                        —Booklist
“Billerbeck’s latest is full of memorable characters and witty dialogue. . . .The overall story reminds the reader that sometimes happiness will find you, no matter what you may do to avoid it.”
RT Book Reviews  Four Star Review
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review

Right away I could tell that I would have trouble putting this book down. So I approached reading it the way any other rational person would: I cleared my day of all commitments so that I could read without any interruptions. To be completely honest, there were interruptions despite my best intentions. I would guffaw at something, my husband would look at me questioningly, and then I had no choice but to read some choice lines aloud to him.

One of my favorite lines that I spent 5 minutes flipping through the book to find, so you have no choice but to read it: “There’s little doubt that Jake’s soaring, Lycra-wearing Tinkerbell sprinkled pixie dust in her wake and left him feeling as if he too could fly, while a scientific downer like me spread nothing but Spock-like facts and despair — covering a room with a dark, dingy feeling similar to volcanic ash.” [pp. 37-38]. So many references and imagery in one funny sentence! And the book is chock full of gems like this. Many quick, one-liners, but even some fun paragraph-long inner (and outer) dialogue full of quirks. I found myself hoping to find a friend as witty as the author one day.

I was a little surprised that this book wasn’t tagged as Christian (although Booklist did identify it as light Christian chick-lit) because there are definite references here and there that a Bible studier would catch. When faith and Christianity are discussed head on, it makes a little more sense that the story lacks the typical debauchery and maybe even a little premarital activity that you would expect to occur on a cruise ship full of singles, especially in a romance novel.

The way that Billerbeck pokes fun at her heroine’s obsession with the Hallmark channel and storybook romances makes this surprisingly chaste read anything but boring. As much as Maggie tries to paint herself as this dry, data driven nerd with librarian fashion sense (I sort of resent that!), you get a sense that she suffers from some sort of body and soul dysmorphia. Despite being flanked by two gorgeous and confident friends, she manages to take her pick of the only two charming and good-looking men on the ship. Oh, if only that were really the case in real life. Am I right, ladies?

You know me, I don’t ruin books for y’all. The after taste of this one sort of reminded of a Bridget Jones’s Diary – probably because the main character is self deprecating, yet is caught in a great love triangle, and has colorful friends. Also, even though everyone is from California or Texas, a few of the characters seem to have a slip of nationality and use words like “bin” and … ugh, I knew I should have made a list.

Either way, this is the perfect beach read. But to be honest, I can see myself cozying up with a cup of hot tea as well. It’s a feel good book whose chapter intros even include mantras from Maggie’s fictional book, The Science of Bliss. I will leave you with this particular quote that feels like equal parts Namaste, fortune cookie wisdom, and just plain common sense: “Savor the good times in life. Studies tell us people who savor happy experiences in life are more likely to be optimistic about their past outcomes and their future.” [p. 150].

Kristin Billerbeck is the author of more than thirty novels, including What a Girl Wants and the Ashley Stockingdale and Spa Girls series. She is a fourth-generation Californian who loves her state and the writing fodder it provides.
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Review & Giveaway: A Borrowed Dream by Amanda Cabot

 
A BORROWED DREAM
The Cimarron Creek Trilogy, Book 2
by
Amanda Cabot
Genre: Historical Romance / Inspirational
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: March 20, 2018
Number of Pages: 352

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Catherine Whitfield is sure that she will never again be able to trust anyone in the medical profession after the town doctor’s excessive bleeding treatments killed her mother. Despite her loneliness and her broken heart, she carries bravely on as Cimarron Creek’s dutiful schoolteacher, resigned to a life without love or family, a life where dreams rarely come true.
Austin Goddard is a newcomer to Cimarron Creek. Posing as a rancher, he fled to Texas to protect his daughter from a dangerous criminal. He’s managed to keep his past as a surgeon a secret. But when Catherine Whitfield captures his heart, he wonders how long he will be able to keep up the charade.
With a deft hand, Amanda Cabot teases out the strands of love, deception, and redemption in this charming tale of dreams deferred and hopes becoming reality.

CLICK FOR BOOK TRAILER ON ANIMOTO!


PRAISE FOR A BORROWED DREAM:

“Cabot’s sweet love story will appeal to readers of gentle romances. . .Although this title stands on its own, readers of A Stolen Heart (2017), the first in Cabot’s place-based trilogy, will be happy to revisit the folks of Cimarron Creek.” — Booklist

“The second book in Cabot’s Cimarron Creek trilogy is even better than the first, with a dash of suspense, an intriguing bit of medical history and a host of enjoyable characters.” — RT Book Reviews

PRAISE FOR A STOLEN HEART, BOOK ONE IN THE CIMARRON CREEK TRILOGY: 
“Readers will enjoy the surprising ending as well as the romance always found in Cabot’s books.”Publishers Weekly

“Moments of humor provide a nice balance to the heartwarming scenes and the mild suspense thread.”RT Book Reviews

“Cabot’s nonpreachy inspirational romance features characters who genuinely try to live honorable lives, and their story has broad appeal for readers of gentle fiction and historical romance as well as for readers of Christian fiction.”Booklist 
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review
Catherine Whitfield endeared herself to me in the same way that Lydia Crawford (now Whitfield) did in book one of the series, A Stolen Heart. And that’s because Cabot creates such wholesome and believable leading ladies. Although Catherine is the jilted, secondary character in the first book, in A Borrowed Dream she steps up as a commanding school teacher who does everything in her power to protect her students and to help even strangers who are in need.
After falling in love with Travis Whitfield in book one, you might think that you don’t have room in your heart for another man in Cimarron. But Austin Goddard is a gentle, capable man of many talents. The loving way in which he attends to his motherless daughter, Hannah, is enough to make most women swoon, but a man with a secret is all the more alluring. Despite the lack of calluses on his hands, Austin proves to be a more than capable rancher and the mothers of Cimarron are lining up their single daughters trying to tie the man down. If word ever got out what his real profession was, I imagine they would have resorted to even kidnapping to nab the widower.
Austin’s expertise makes it plausible that a dangerous man will do anything to track him down. Every few chapters, Cabot takes us to a dark place where sinister men are becoming more and more irritated when they can’t find Austin and Hannah. While you hope that they won’t succeed, you are waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Like every good romance novel, the heroine never sets her cap for the dashing newcomer that all the other women in town have their eye on. Their love blooms slowly over tiny acts of kindness that grow into a deeper understanding of one another, overcoming circumstances that test a person’s trustworthiness, and the moment when you realize that your life cannot continue happily without the other person by your side.
Austin’s daughter, Hannah, might have been seen as a pawn or an obstacle by other women, but Catherine only saw a child that needed help. And when another child, Seth, so obviously needs her aid as well, it was heartwarming to watch Catherine and Austin spring into action as a team. Before long, their budding relationship becomes evident and adds an extra layer of complication as the danger continues to loom.
The arrival of yet another stranger to Cimarron sets us up for the final installment of the Cimarron Creek Trilogy. This subplot keeps the book from being too neat and tidy, but doesn’t distract from the main story. Also, it answers some questions left hanging in the previous book. As things wrap up nicely for our heroine in the end, we know that we will see more of her in the next book. I can’t wait to get my hands on the next in the series. I know I will love the next lead heroine as much as Catherine and Lydia. Not to mention, my shelf will look wonderful with such pretty book covers being displayed.



Amanda Cabot is the bestselling author of A Stolen Heart, the first book of the Cimarron Creek trilogy, as well as the Texas Crossroads series, the Texas Dreams series, the Westward Winds series, and Christmas Roses. Her books have been finalists for the ACFW Carol Awards and the Booksellers’ Best. She lives in Wyoming. 

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2ND: Copy of A Borrowed Dream + $10 Barnes & Noble Gift Card
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Excerpt 4 & Giveaway: Beyond Scandal and Desire by Lorraine Heath

BEYOND SCANDAL
AND DESIRE
Sins for All Seasons, Book 1
by
LORRAINE HEATH
  
Genre: Historical / Regency Romance
Publisher: Avon
Date of Publication: January 30, 2018
Number of Pages: 320

Scroll down for the giveaway!

At birth, Mick Trewlove, the illegitimate son of a duke, was handed over to a commoner. Despite his lowly upbringing, Mick has become a successful businessman, but all his wealth hasn’t satisfied his need for revenge against the man who still won’t acknowledge him. What else can Mick do but destroy the duke’s legitimate son—and woo the heir’s betrothed into his own unloving arms . . .

Orphaned and sheltered, Lady Aslyn Hastings longs for a bit of adventure. With her intended often preoccupied, Aslyn finds herself drawn to a darkly handsome entrepreneur who seems to understand her so well. Surely a lady of her station should avoid Mick Trewlove. If only he weren’t so irresistible . . . 

As secrets are about to be exposed, Mick must decide if his plan for vengeance is worth risking what his heart truly desires.

PRAISE FOR BEYOND SCANDAL AND DESIRE:
“Heath builds a community of fascinating, intertwined characters that readers will be eager to get to know as they cheer for the driven hero and the spunky, smart heroine.” — Publishers Weekly
“RITA Award–winner Heath’s new Sins for All Seasons series is off to an impressive start with an unforgettable, emotionally charged love story that will dazzle and delight readers with its exquisitely crafted characters, deliciously sensual romance, and impeccably rendered historical setting.” — Booklist/ *STARRED* Review
“For the first book in the Sins for All Seasons series, Heath returns to the world of dark London — a world she understands as well as Dickens. Heath illuminates the city’s underbelly with a powerful romance of healing and redemption. Her talents for drawing readers into the era with her well-drawn, three dimensional characters and realistic dialogue sets her novels apart. The unexpected twists and turns of the plot guarantees it will be placed on your keeper shelf.” — RT Book Reviews/ “Top Pick” Review


Excerpt from Beyond Scandal and Desire

by Lorraine Heath

“Why would someone think I was worth robbing?”

 

“Because you’re dressed in finery like a lady who might be silly enough to walk around London with a thousand quid stuffed in her—” He waved his hand at her as though he thought she might have stashed it in an unmentionable area.

 

“My reticule.”

 

“Well, he’d have not stopped with the taking of it. He’d have given you a thorough search—”

 

She didn’t care to hear where he might have searched. “As I said, I did not walk. Well, except up your steps, and then there was your man to look out for me.”

 

The fury seemed to deflate out of him. “There are men around here who would kill for a thousand quid.”

 

“I suspect there are some who would cheat for it, as well. Did your bricklayer cheat while playing cards with Kipwick?”

 

“No. My people know I don’t tolerate cheating. I’d have let him go. A man who cheats at cards might cheat elsewhere, including in the work he gives me. Besides, my brothers were watching. The problem, Lady Aslyn, is that your fiancé bends his elbow as much as he holds the cards. Guzzling too much drink hampers a man’s judgment, his ability to calculate

the odds of winning.”

 

She feared drinking wasn’t the only problem Kip had. “Since he lost fair and square then, and you’ve offered to sell the items to me, tell me how much I owe you.”

 

“I told you. A pound.”

 

“I don’t believe you.”

 

He arched a dark brow over one of those beautiful blue eyes. “Are you calling me a liar?”

 

She angled up her chin. “Yes. I quite believe I am.”

 

His laughter, deep and masculine, circled around her, sent the calming butterflies back into flight. “No one has ever dared call me a liar—at least not to my face.”

Lorraine Heath always dreamed of being a writer. After graduating from the University of Texas, she wrote training manuals, press releases, articles, and computer code, but something was always missing. When she read a romance novel, she not only became hooked on the genre, but quickly realized what her writing lacked: rebels, scoundrels, and rogues. She’s been writing about them ever since. Her work has been recognized with numerous industry awards, including RWA’s prestigious RITA. Her novels have appeared on the USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists.

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Review & Giveaway: Aransas Morning by Jeff Hampton

ARANSAS MORNING
by
JEFF HAMPTON
  Genre: Literary Fiction / Family Life
Date of Publication: September 22, 2017
Number of Pages: 304

Scroll down for the giveaway!

When Sam Barnes’ high-flying life in Dallas falls apart, he flees to the coastal town of Port Aransas, Texas and fades into the life of a reclusive beach bum. But things start to change when he meets Dave, a young widower working through his own loss; Shelly, owner of the Dream Bean coffee shop; Bo, a crusty old shrimper; and Allie, Bo’s free-spirited daughter. Together they are tested and forced to confront their own issues. In doing so they discover family and community.


PRAISE FOR ARANSAS MORNING:
“Engrossing characters that keep doing unexpected things. Strong sense of place along the Texas coast and deep knowledge of the culture. This book is about relationships and how ‘family’ and ‘community’ might be redefined.”

“In this heartwarming book, Jeff Hampton took me to a place I’ve never been and captured me with his delightful characters, seaside landscape, and deft use of words to portray a small group of people who came together to create and run the Dream Bean cafe. Great summer reading.”

“I loved the characters, with their flaws and their graces. It is an honest and heart-warming story of redemption coming through community. I’m really glad I read it.”

“Really nice character development, articulating in a very comfortable and readable style the messy, complex, joyous and hopeful ways we build, break and nurture ‘community.’”
“Very quickly in the story, the characters became like friends. The book is engaging and held my interest.”


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300b2-review
For me, characters carry a book. If I don’t care about the characters or find them impossible to believe, I can’t read more than a few chapters. Hampton’s characters pulled me in; hook, line, and sinker. And there was even a beautiful pace in which each new character came along and the narrative followed them a bit.
Sam Barnes is a beatdown man who just bums around the beach. He works the odd job so he can eat canned soup in his tin can of a trailer home. Locals know who he is, but nobody really knows him. In retrospect, Sam asking a man who is staring out at the water what he sees is a bit out of character. But it’s this interaction that changes everyone’s lives.
When Hampton follows a character, he seems to write in their voice yet maintains that third person perspective. The tone shifts are truly remarkable. When we’re with Sam, sentences are short and details are sparse. Shelly’s first chapter is descriptive and the language flows. Dave’s chapter talks about the present but constantly circles back to Debby, his wife who passed away a year prior. When Sam collides with Dave, which rolls them toward Shelly, everything is set into motion. As the book progresses, it feels like a single voice has taken over the narrative; either Hampton’s alone, or all of the characters as a collective.
I found it sad that Sam was sort of a wake up call for Shelly and Dave. Neither of them wanted to end up like him, destitute and miserable, so they made big decisions to leave their old lives behind to find new ones. But happily, they wanted to share their new lives with this man who was so much more than he seemed. “He dreamed of being a king but he’d always just been a jester.” (p. 4) was a line that grabbed me.
It was amazing to watch such strong characters with fierce opinions and habits to come together and achieve a common goal. Who could foresee that this strength and ferocity would transform into loyalty, trust, friendship, and love? And I think one of the big lessons of the book is that you have to forgive yourself once you’ve already been forgiven by others. Other gems I have taken away are the importance of living your best life, handling business matters with integrity and respect, and marching to the beat of your own drum.
My only critique is that I wish Hampton didn’t spell out situations so explicitly at times. He literally tells us about a jealousy that’s not romance based- it’s pretty obvious. When there is some friction between two of the main characters, he tells us why they’re acting cold to each other when we could already glean that from the previous scene.
I highly recommend this book to people who love a good redemption or personal transformation story. I am glad to hear that there will be an Aransas Evening coming soon. I look forward to reading it.

During a 35-year career in journalism and communications, Jeff Hampton has covered and written about topics ranging from business and finance to history and faith. His bylines have appeared in publications ranging from The Dallas Morning News to The New York Times.
He attended Baylor University where he majored in journalism and was editor of the Baylor Lariat campus newspaper. He began his professional career at the Waco Tribune-Herald and has written for newspapers, magazines, businesses, non-profit organizations and government agencies.
Hampton has based his life and career in Texas where his interest in observing the people around him has led him to write essays, short stories, and novels that explore relationships and communities in their many forms.
Aransas Morning is his fifth book, following Grandpa Jack, When the Light Returned to Main Street, Jonah Prophet and The Snowman Uprising on Hickory Lane.
Watch for Aransas Evening, a sequel to Aransas Morning, in 2018. 
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Review & Giveaway: Lady Jane Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano

LADY JAYNE DISAPPEARS

by
JOANNA DAVIDSON POLITANO
  Genre: Historical Christian Romance
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: October 3, 2017
Number of Pages: 416
Scroll down for giveaway!
When Aurelie Harcourt’s father dies in debtor’s prison, he leaves her just two things: his wealthy family, whom she has never met, and his famous pen name, Nathaniel Droll. Her new family greets her with apathy and even resentment. Only the quiet house guest, Silas Rotherham, welcomes her company.

When Aurelie decides to complete her father’s unfinished serial novel, writing the family into the story as unflattering characters, she must keep her identity as Nathaniel Droll hidden while searching for the truth about her mother’s disappearance—and perhaps even her father’s death.

Author Joanna Davidson Politano’s stunning debut set in Victorian England will delight readers with its highly original plot, lush setting, vibrant characters, and reluctant romance.

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Praise for Lady Jayne Disappears:

“Emotional. Intriguing. Both haunting and romantic. . . In her historical fiction debut, Joanna Davidson Politano delivers a smart plot that navigates twists and turns with a mixture of wit, intelligent characters, and a refreshingly original voice. Reminiscent of Dickens’ classic storytelling, Lady Jayne Disappears is a debut to remember!”
Kristy Cambron, author of The Illusionist’s Apprentice

“Wonderfully unique, this compelling debut grabs you from the first intriguing line. The evocative English setting, textured characters, literary theme, and unusual romance make Lady Jayne Disappears a standout, the lovely cover offering a hint of the gem within. A must read!”
Laura Frantz, author of A Moonbow Night

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300b2-review
I am having trouble putting into words why this book grips me so. I think the cover, lovely like the cameo necklace my mother wore when I was a small child, beckoned me first. But then that opening chapter bound me in such a way that it tortured me to have to put this book down to get some sleep. I knew I should have started reading this over the weekend!
In retrospect, the first chapter reads different from the rest of the novel. Maybe it’s because of the terseness of the situation, but the tone doesn’t feel as Victorian as the chapters that follow. After allowing the characters to live in my mind these past few days, I also feel that the characterization of Aurelie is a little off. It is only in this first chapter that you will hear someone describe our heroine as “plain”. For the rest of the book, everyone describes her as ethereal and lovely like a wood nymph. There are even times that Aurelie looks in the mirror after a makeover and finds herself breathtaking.
I hope I’m not painting the girl as a narcissist, because she is anything but. Her talent for wordsmithing is the only thing that could tempt her to take pride in herself, and she’s easily deflated. For whatever reason, I can’t shake the idea that she reminds me of a Fannie Price, although she is much more resilient than that slip of an Austen girl. But just like Fannie, Aurelie struggles as she watches the man she loves fall for another woman (or does he?).
I don’t know if it’s because of the time period, but I felt a lot of Austen influence. Aurelie could be a cross between Fannie and Elizabeth Bennet. Juliette reminded me of an Emma mixed with Lydia Bennet. Jasper was a Wickham through and through but Silas was a hunky mix of Edmund, Mr. Darcy, and Colonel Brandon. I’m sure I would find more parallels if I put my mind to it, but I will stop there. I don’t know if the author had these characters in mind when she wrote Lady Jayne, but I do know that the mix of Austen characters I listed are polar opposites from each other. So no matter the similarities, Politano has achieved something truly special with her authentic characters.
I thought it was funny when Silas asks Aurelie about her reading preferences. Austen is mentioned but glossed over. The two prefer the less respectable form of serials, which reminded me of how the Northanger Abby characters were scandalously into gothic novels.
But enough Austen talk. The cast of characters in Lady Jane is, dare I say, perfect. No superfluous or unbelievable people are in this book. Nor do I feel like someone is missing from the line up. I’m pretty sure that this is one of the few books that have made me feel like that. I’m always quick to notice when someone says or does something out of turn. And I take wicked pleasure in pointing out when an author tosses in a token character that is hip at the moment. No one spoke a word or acted out of character, and yet I was anxious to see what would happen next. For a book where everything just felt right, Politano kept me guessing nonetheless.
I kept wondering if I could guess what was to come, and was delighted when the author proved me wrong over and over again. I adore this book and have added it to my rotation of books that are read several times a year.

Joanna Davidson Politano freelances for a small nonfiction publisher but spends much of her time spinning tales that capture the colorful, exquisite details in ordinary lives. Her manuscript for Lady Jayne Disappears was a finalist for several contests, including the 2016 Genesis Award from ACFW, and won the OCW Cascade Award and the Maggie Award for Excellence. She is always on the hunt for random acts of kindness, people willing to share their deepest secrets with a stranger, and hidden stashes of sweets. She lives with her husband and their two babies in a house in the woods near Lake Michigan and shares stories that move her on her website.

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Excerpt and Giveaway: The Grave Tender by Eliza Maxwell


THE GRAVE TENDER
by
By Eliza Maxwell
  Genre: Women’s Fiction / Psychological Suspense
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Date of Publication: April 11, 2017
Number of Pages: 248
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A chilling psychological suspense novel, The Grave Tender explores the dark boundaries people cross to save loved ones, and the limits of family bonds tested by the deepest of betrayals.
Endless questions from a shadow-filled East Texas childhood haunt Hadley Dixon. People said her mother, Winnie, was never quite right, but with one single, irreparable act, life as Hadley knew it was shattered. The aftershocks of that moonlit night left her reeling, but the secrets and lies had started long before.
When a widowed and pregnant Hadley returns years later, it’s not the safe harbor she expects. The mysteries surrounding a local boy’s disappearance remain, and the townspeople still whisper about Hadley’s strange and reclusive Uncle Eli—whispers about a monster in their midst.
But Hadley’s father and grandmother, the cornerstones of everything safe in her world, avoid her questions. If Hadley stays here, will she be giving her children the family they need or putting their lives in danger?
The hunt for answers takes a determined Hadley deep into the pine forests, in search of sunlight that will break through the canopy of lies long enough to reveal the truth.
“The Grave Tender will grasp you in its hooks from the beginning as you try to figure out the truth behind each character, because no one is truly what they seem … Addicting, easy to read, and hard to put down.”Shelbi LeMeilleur, Insite Magazine
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4a231-excerpt

Most people, if asked, would tell you that Cooper Abbott had surely had some sort of accident.  Maybe he’d been bitten by a snake, or fallen into the river and hit his head on a rock.  There were as many rumors as people to spread them, and a thousand possibilities to choose from.

The one thing they all agreed on was that tropical storm Jolene had been a true misfortune, carrying off any clue to finding the boy.  Probably carrying off the boy himself, down the river toward the Gulf of Mexico.

No one suspected anything more sinister.

Not at first.

By Thursday night the skies had cleared.  On Friday, the clean-up began.

The Dixon’s power was still out, as it was in many places across town, but Hadley didn’t care.  She was happy to be outside, helping to haul downed branches into a pile and picking up dropped nails while Walker took the boards off the shutters.  Light slowly came back into the dim house.

It was just after lunch when the Sheriff’s car pulled slowly up the drive, gravel crunching under the tires all the way.

Ben Hammon was an old friend of Walker’s.  They’d gone to school together way back when, and still met up for poker night every other Friday.  But it wasn’t a social call that brought Sheriff Hammon out to the Dixon house that day.

The Sheriff wasn’t alone.  One of his deputies got out of the passenger side of the car.  The deputy looked forbidding in his brown uniform and hat, his eyes scanning the trees behind their home.  But he smiled and gave Hadley a wink when he caught her watching him.

“Hey, Ben.  Any news on the Abbott boy?” Walker asked.

The Sheriff shook his head.  “Nothing yet.  We’ve picked up the search again, but frankly Walker, I don’t expect to hear anything until we get a call from somewhere downriver.”

Walker cleared his throat and motioned in her direction.

“Hadley, you remember Sheriff Hammon, don’t you?”

She knew good and well the reminder was for the Sheriff, so he wouldn’t say anything else that meant something.  Cooper is my friend, Hadley thought, tired of being treated like a baby.

“Actually, Walker, we’d like to speak with Hadley, if you don’t mind.”

Walker’s eyebrows shot up.

“What’s this about, Ben?”

“Dan Abbott was in to see us soon as the weather let up,” the Sheriff said.  “He says the kids had a run in with your brother last weekend.”

The camp out.  An image of Eli looming over them in the doorway of the tent filled Hadley’s mind.

“Eli?” Walker asked, glancing down at Hadley, clearly confused.  She’d never told him what had happened last week, and so much had happened since.

“What’s Eli got to do with anything?”

The Sheriff tipped his hat back and scratched his head, not looking entirely comfortable in his own skin.

“Probably nothing, to tell you the truth.  But a boy is missing, Walker, and we have to do our jobs.”

All three men turned to Hadley then.  Her eyes went wide.

Walker squatted down next to her.

“Hadley, honey, you don’t have to be scared.  You’re not in any trouble.  Just tell the men here what happened.  Nobody can be hurt by telling the truth.”

Hadley knew that wasn’t true.  If it were, her father wouldn’t look so worried.  But she couldn’t see another option, so she did as he asked.  She told the truth.

 

Eliza Maxwell lives in Texas with her ever patient husband, two impatient kids, a budgie named Sarah, and a bird dog who lives a tortured existence.  She’s an artist and writer, an introvert and a British cop drama addict.  A former bookseller with a lifelong love of the written word, she can often be found barefoot on the front porch lost in a good cup of coffee and a great book.
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