THE INVENTION OF SOPHIE CARTER by Samantha Hastings
Synopsis Identical twin sisters take turns swapping places over the course of a summer in order to pursue their secret ambitions in Samantha Hastings’ Victorian YA romance.
1851. Bounced from one begrudging relative to another their whole lives, orphaned identical twins Sophie and Mariah Carter have always relied on each other for love and support, even though the sisters couldn’t be more different.
Brash Sophie wants to be an inventor, and demure Mariah wants to be an artist. Both long to visit London for the summer—Sophie to see the Queen’s Great Exhibition and Mariah to study the world’s finest collection of paintings. But when their cantankerous aunt answers their letter pleading for a place to stay, she insists she only has time and room to spare for one of them.
So, Mariah and Sophie hatch a clever scheme: They will travel to London together and take turns playing the part of “Sophie”.
At first the plan runs like clockwork. But as the girls avoid getting caught by increasingly narrow margins and two handsome gentlemen—both of whom think they’re falling in love with the real Sophie Carter—enter the equation, the sisters find they don’t have the situation quite as under control as they thought.
With all sorts of delightful Parent Trap-style identical twin hijinks, The Invention of Sophie Carter is the perfect light-and-sweet palate cleanser.
My Review Set against the backdrop of the London Exhibition in 1851, THE INVENTION OF SOPHIE CARTER is the story of two identical twins sharing a single identity in London society. Sophie seeks an apprenticeship, something unheard of for women at the time, and her twin, Mariah, seeks a husband. With only one of them interested in romance, what could possibly go wrong? Enter Ethan, the wealthy son of factory owners who captures Sophie’s heart. But since things aren’t going to go smoothly, Mariah’s heart belongs to her aunt’s ward, Charles, though her aunt has warned her to not engage his interests. As the two pursue their individual goals, entanglements get messy until things come to an inevitable head. This lighthearted historical romance is full of humor, heart, and cutting edge technology, Victorian style.
Plot The plot is forked with each sister having her own goal and her own arc. We get dual third-person point of view getting deep into both Mariah’s and Sophie’s heads. As each sister chases her own goal, the are also deeply affected by the events that impact the other. Though they are unique individuals, they are tied together by more than just blood and identical DNA, since they are pretending to be the same person. This is my second novel by Samantha Hastings and she is excellent at plotting and brings her historical world to life both accurately and in a way that makes even nearly 200 years ago feel fresh and familiar.
The Characters All of the characters are amazing. From the selfish, vile adults who treated the girls so poorly as children, to the rich cast in London, from the super wealthy to the average citizens, fro, eccentric artists to snooty aunts. The story is inhabited by amazing, three-dimensional personalities that made this an easy, engaging read.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed About THE INVENTION OF SOPHIE CARTER 1. Mariah. She’s the softer of the two sisters and loves art. She’s a talented self-trained artist with dreams of her own beyond just finding a husband.
2. Sophie. She’s tenacious, driven, and stubborn to the core. She is me if I would have been born in Victorian times.
3. Charles. He’s hot and cold, but there is so much more underlying his aloof facade.
4. Ethan. It’s evident from the beginning that he is the perfect match for Sophie. I love that he never gives up.
5. Victorian London. The setting is as much a character in this story as its human counterparts.
Bottom Line A wonderful historic romance with breathtaking characters against a colorful backdrop.
About the Author Samantha Hastings has degrees from Brigham Young University, the University of Reading (Berkshire, England), and the University of North Texas. She met her husband in a turkey sandwich line. They live in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she spends most of her time reading, eating popcorn, and chasing her kids. She is the author of THE LAST WORD, THE INVENTION OF SOPHIE CARTER, and A ROYAL CHRISTMAS QUANDARY.
Synopsis Stepping through a time portal into 1716, historian Penny Saunders didn’t expect to get stranded in the past. Five years later, now a pariah to the townsfolk of Three Star Island, she endures solitude and ridicule until a hurricane tosses a dangerous castaway onto her shores.
William Payne’s history precedes him. Pirate, outlaw, and ruthless captain, he’s a monster among men. . . or so it seems. Desperately seeking redemption for his blood-soaked past, he upends Penny’s world by showing her a passion she’s never experienced.
But time is closing in on them; the governor of the Carolinas has rescinded his pirates’ pardon, the locals are growing suspicious of Penny’s new houseguest, and she can’t keep her secrets from William forever. When everything falls apart, she must use both wits and weapons against lawmen and pirates alike to save the one man who would tear down the world for her.
My Review If you’re a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER, you will fall in love with Kat Caulberg’s THREE STAR ISLAND. Set on a small island off the coast of Carolina in the early 18th century, Penny is literally centuries ahead of her time. An historical researcher, she was understandably drawn to a time gate, having traveled too and from this time period before getting stuck in the past for nearly five years. While she waits for the gate to open once more, desperate to return home, she stumbles upon a victim of the recent hurricane and nurses him back to health. She finds him alluring, sexy even, before realizing he’s the subject of much of her research; a pirate with a wicked reputation. But his renown doesn’t fit with the man she’s getting to know and before long, the two are battling an attraction to one another that is ultimately an unwinnable fight for both of them. Always a bit of an oddity around town, Penny sticks to her island as much as possible, but now that Will is by her side, she ventures into town, unleashing a series of events that will seal both of their fates forever.
Plot Penny is just biding her time until she can return to her own era. After rescuing a man on the beach, she finds herself drawn to him, until she discovers his true identity. With equal parts fear and attraction, Penny gets to know Will for who is beyond the history books. And the more she learns, the more she fears history has done him wrong. But the secrets she’s keeping are as dangerous to her as they are to any budding romance with the dashing pirate. The author tells a compelling tale of love set in Colonial America between a modern day time traveller and a man with attitudes well ahead of his time. There’s danger, steamy romance, and a hefty dose of historical reality that keeps things anything but easy.
Characters Penny is fantastic as a woman out of time, trying to survive on her wits and anonymity. But a woman alone in the early eighteenth century makes keeping to herself nearly impossible. Will is swoony as they recovering pirate with a sordid past. The rest of the cast rounds out nicely, within the confines of the era they inhabit.
What I Loved About THREE STAR ISLAND 1. The Romance. It’s hot, steamy, burning, but oh so romantic.
2. Time Travel. It’s my favorite sub-genre of all. And while no actual time travel takes place during the book, the fact that she brought a bit of the future to the past with her, adds to the story as well as the world building.
3. History. I’m a fan of historicals, but what I love even more is one that places a modern day hero into a historical setting and watching them navigate this foreign world.
4.Will. He’s no Boy Scout, but he’s got a heart of gold and would do anything for Penny.
5. Penny. She’s fiery and passionate and is anything but a damsel in distress.
Bottom Line A steamy time-traveling historical romance. Everything I love all bundled in one great story.
About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
About the Author For as long as she can remember, Kat Caulberg has been obsessed with history and the paranormal. Somewhat to the dismay of her parents, her interests led her into both museums and graveyards as a child, a trend which has continued into her adulthood. This has influenced her reading tastes and her writing, whether it be a good ghost story, thrilling tales of time-travel, or devouring endless volumes of ancient warfare.
She signed a contract with Soul Mate Publishing in 2018 for her first novel, Three Star Island, a time-travel story set in 1721. She enjoys writing strong, quirky heroines, and has a weakness for cheeky heroes who have as much compassion as they have flaws.
Kat currently lives in North Carolina with her Englishman and a few cats.
Synopsis Set against the smoky, gaslit allure of Victorian London, this sweetly romantic historical debut is full of humor and stars a whip-smart female heroine ahead of her time.
Where one story ends, another begins.
1861. Miss Lucinda Leavitt is shocked when she learns the author of her favorite serialized novel has died before completing the story. Determined to learn how it ends, Lucinda reluctantly enlists the help of her father’s young business partner, Mr. David Randall, to track down the reclusive author’s former whereabouts.
David is a successful young businessman, but is overwhelmed by his workload. He wants to prove himself to his late father, as well as to himself. He doesn’t have the time, nor the interest, for this endeavor, but Lucinda is not the type to take no for an answer.
Their search for the elusive Mrs. Smith and the rightful ending to her novel leads Lucinda and David around the country, but the truths they discover about themselves—and each other—are anything but fictional.
Chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads, The Last Word by debut author Samantha Hastings is a fun yet intellectual romp through Victorian London—the perfect book for book-lovers.
My Review Reminiscent of Jane Austen, THE LAST WORD combines neoclassicism and romanticism along with a healthy dose of humor and wit to bring Lucinda’s and David’s story to life. The two are childhood friends who meet again after a four-year separation to find the other both the same and yet infinitely different than the person they remember. Throw in a big misunderstanding and a young woman ahead of her time, constricted by the customs of 19th century England, and sparks fly higher than between Emma and Knightley or Elizabeth and Darcy, but with the underlying warmth of Elinor and Edward. The two dance around a mutual attraction while Lucinda fights against society’s dictates for her. Fresh out of finishing school, she wants nothing to do with being a proper lady, but rather to use the brain that God gave her to work in her father’s counting house. A natural talent with numbers, she helped him when she was younger but now is expected to do needlepoint instead of auditing.
If there’s anything Lucinda hates more than sitting around and waiting for someone to call on her, I don’t know what it is. Not having been born to a high-class family, her social standing comes from the wealth her father has amassed. His goal is to marry her to a man of higher social standing. Lucinda has less than zero interest in that plan. She managed to get through the long boring hours by reading. But her favorite author died before finishing her last novel, leaving Lucinda desperate to find out how it ends, as if her own ending will somehow reveal itself in those final pages. With the help of her father’s business partner and her longtime friend, David, she sets out to find anyone who may know how the story ends. But the more they dig, the more she’s left wondering, before a tragedy forces both of them to reevaluate what really matters. And what doesn’t.
Plot The main plot focuses on the budding romance between Lucinda and David, but Lucinda’s desires to work in business and find out the ending of her beloved novel are strong subplots that drive most of the action. The conflict derives for the social norms of the time, status and who is allowed to associate with whom. Women’s options and their carefully guarded reputations only further bind Lucinda in a world she finds too restrictive. Her father withdrew into himself after her mother’s death years before and their strained relationship underlies everything. The author does a phenomenal job of keeping the reader in Victorian England through scene setting, language, fashion, and customs. There is both a whimsical and sweeping cinematic feel to the places Hastings sets her characters in, drawing the reader right along with them.
Characters If you love any of Jane Austen’s characters, you will love these! From the narcoleptic Mrs. Patton to the eccentric woman in the half-built estate they visit in their quest, the characters are a delight. Lucinda is utterly relatable as a young woman who wants so much more from life than the world wishes to allow her and David is a man after my own heart, both seeing Lucinda as an equal, and treating her with that respect. The American girl, Persephone, who befriends Lucinda, is a delightful, although often inappropriate, breath of fresh air.
What I Loved About THE LAST WORD 1. Everything. Seriously, the entire book was just amazing. It was a joy to read.
2. Lucinda. I love that she’s independent and strong and refuses to be confined by rules of society.
3. David. He is also a man ahead of his time with his ability to see Lucinda as more than just an accessory.
4. Language. I love the way they speak and the words the author chooses to tell the story as if it were written as a contemporary in 1861.
5. Romance. It isn’t angsty or intense, even though Lucinda and David are both teens, but it’s perfect for the time.
Bottom Line A stunning coming of age story in a time long gone with amazing characters and beautiful storytelling.
Disclaimer I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author Samantha Hastings has degrees from Brigham Young University, the University of Reading (Berkshire, England), and the University of North Texas. She met her husband in a turkey sandwich line. They live in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she spends most of her time reading, eating popcorn, and chasing her kids. The Last Word is her debut novel.
THE DEVIL’S REVOLVER (The Devil’s Revolver #1) by V. S. McGrath
Synopsis She is Hettie Alabama — unlikely, scarred, single-minded, and blood bound to a revolver forged by a demon.
The first book in an epic, magic-clad series featuring the Wild West reimagined as a crosscultural stereoscope of interdimensional magic and hardship, The Devil’s Revolver opens with a shooting competition and takes off across the landscape after a brutal double murder and kidnapping — to which revenge is the only answer. Hettie Alabama, only seventeen years old, leads her crew of underdogs with her father’s cursed revolver, magicked to take a year off her life each time she fires it. It’s no way for a ranch girl to grow up, but grow up she does, her scars and determination to rescue her vulnerable younger sister deepening with every year of life she loses.
A sweeping and high-stakes saga that gilds familiar Western adventure with powerful magic and panoramic fantasy, The Devil’s Revolver is the last word and the blackest hat in the Weird West.
My Review I’m a huge fan of the SyFy show Wynonna Earp, so fresh off of a trip to Comic-Con this seemed like something right up my alley. I was not disappointed. This is one of the most unique books I’ve ever read. Set more than a hundred years ago in the old west, it follows the story of seventeen-year-old Hettie Alabama as first tragedy befalls her family, then she begins to discover dark secrets about them and herself. With her young sister missing, Hettie is convinced she’s alive and will do anything to get her back. Anything includes imprinting on the Devil’s Revolver, known as Diablo, a gun with an endless supply of ammunition, never needs to be reloaded, and oh yeah, every time Hettie kills someone with it, she grows another year older. Surrounded by a colorful cast of characters, Hettie attempts to stay one step ahead of those who want Diablo and remain alive long enough to find her younger sister, Abby. Beyond that, she has no plan, so when everything starts to fall apart, Hettie lurches one from ill-conceived idea to the next. Filled with magic, history, and a mix of cultures, this is one of my all-time favorite reads.
Plot The plot centers around Hettie’s search for her missing sister, Abby. But there’s so much more going on. Dark family secrets, a band of ruthless gangsters hellbent on getting their hands on Diablo, Hettie’s recurrent sudden aging, the fight for survival, and more. The author does a masterful job of taking us into a can’t-win situation, only to find a way to just barely survive, then knock us back yet again. Every time I thought Hettie was finally close to getting what she wanted, V.S. McGrath would tear it away from her again.
The Characters The characters are nearly as fascinating as the plot. Each one is unique, with complex backstories, vivid characterization, and fully-developed goals and motivations. Hettie is by far the star of the story, and she’s so thoroughly developed, she could carry the story on her own. But the people who surround her bring more than just support to their roles. Even those who only show up in a handful of scenes are just as detailed and vivid as the characters who accompany Hettie throughout her journey.
Top Five Things I Loved About THE DEVIL’S REVOLVER 1. Expert plotting. One of only a handful of books I’ve read this year that I couldn’t put down.
2. Magical elements. I’m not usually one for fantasy or paranormal, but the way the author wove these aspects into the story felt natural. Although the magical elements are a big part of the story, I was still rooted in the natural world in a way a lot of fantasy doesn’t allow me to be.
3. Hettie. One of the all-time best fictional characters.
4. Diablo. The gun is nearly a character all its own and its powers drive some of the best plot points.
5. Scene setting. The author creates such vivid scenes, bringing the reader in with all five senses, I’ve no doubt this story will stick with me for a long time.
Bottom Line One of my favorite books of 2018 with amazing characters, an exhilarating plot, and unique aspects that make it unlike anything I’ve read.
About the Book Title: THE DEVIL’S REVOLVER Series: The Devil’s Revolver #1 Author: V.S. McGrath Publisher: Brain Mill Press LLC Release Date: September 5, 2017 Pages: 323 Genre: Young Adult Historical Western Dark Fantasy/Paranormal Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars Links:Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo
Author V. S. McGrath
About the Author Vicki So, writing as V. S. McGrath, is a published romance author (as Vicki Essex) and has six books with Harlequin Superromance: Her Son’s Hero (July 2011); Back to the Good Fortune Diner (January 2013), which was picked for the Smart Bitches Trashy Books Sizzling Book Club; In Her Corner (March 2014); A Recipe for Reunion (March 2015); Red Carpet Arrangement (January 2016); and Matinees with Miriam (November 2016). She lives in Toronto, Canada.
Synopsis From the beloved author of Comeback Love and Wherever There Is Light, comes a novel about the life-changing journey of a young man who travels from New Jersey to Khrushchev’s Russia and the beaches of Southern France as he finds love and discovers the long-hidden secrets about his heritage.
In 1950s New Jersey, Michael Daniels launches a radio show in the storage room of his Russian-Jewish grandmother’s candy store. Not only does the show become a local hit because of his running satires of USSR leader Nikita Khrushchev, but half a world away, it picks up listeners in a small Soviet city.
There, with rock and roll leaking in through bootlegged airwaves, Yulianna Kosoy—a war orphan in her mid-twenties—is sneaking American goods into the country with her boss, Der Schmuggler.
But just as Michael’s radio show is taking off, his grandmother is murdered in the candy store. Why anyone would commit such an atrocity against such a warm, affable woman is anyone’s guess. But she had always been secretive about her past and, as Michael discovers, guarded a shadowy ancestral history. In order to solve the mystery of who killed her, Michael sets out to Europe to learn where he—and his grandmother—really came from.
Featuring Peter Golden’s signature “vivid characters and strong storytelling” (The Washington Post), Nothing Is Forgotten changes our understanding of the impact of World War II on its survivors and their descendants, and will appeal to fans of novels by Anita Diamant and Kristin Hannah..
My Review NOTHING IS FORGOTTEN is currently in my top five favorite books of all time, joining A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY, SHE’S COME UNDONE, GONE WITH THE WIND, and MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA. At times, the book is a thriller, others a mystery, and still others, a romance, but at all times, it’s captivating, emotional, and incredibly well told. The story opens in Michael’s childhood and reads like a memoir until his grandmother is killed, and then it takes off like a thriller wrapped in a mystery as Michael tries to figure out who killed his grandmother and why. His search for the truth takes him to Europe and Russia where he meets and falls for Yuli, a smuggler and defacto spy. Together they seek clues about the death of Emma, which only raises more questions and puts them both in danger.
Plot Impeccably researched, there is as much history as there is storytelling going on between the pages. The story is expertly plotted and moves along at a steady rate. The pace picks up speed at the climax and keeps it up until the very end. And that ending…wow. For me, it’s perfect. Yes, I want to know what happens next, but I don’t need to know. It’s such a satisfying conclusion with just the right amount of uncertainty to allow me to imagine what comes after without feeling frustrated.
The Characters The characters are a masterpiece. Michael, Yuli, Der Schmuggler…they’re deep, nuanced, and intriguing. Throughout the story, Emma goes from being an enigma to someone fully fleshed out as the reader learns through Micheal’s research who Emma really was. The characters seem so much a part of the era (late 1950s to 1960s), that I never once questioned the setting.
Top Five Things I Loved About NOTHING IS FORGOTTEN 1. Yuli. She was by far my favorite character. She’s so complex, strong and vulnerable, proud with fits of guilt, having lived through the horrors of the second World War, she’s hard to identify with, but so easy to root for.
2. Michael. His optimistic Americanism is the polar opposite of Yuli’s Eastern European post-war hopelessness. His quest to uncover the truth is both reckless and admirable, making him an absolutely fascinating protagonist.
3. History. I love history, but even more when it serves as a backdrop to a compelling story. The author’s meticulous attention to detail made history come alive, leaving me wanting to learn more about the events of that time.
4. The ending. One of the best endings ever.
5. Storytelling. The way the story unfolds kept me glued to the pages, but the characters made me care about what happened.
Bottom Line One of my all-time favorite novels. I will be reading more by Peter Golden.
I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author Peter Golden is an award-winning journalist, historian, and novelist who has written nine books and interviewed Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Bush (41); Secretaries of State Kissinger, Haig, Shultz, and Eagleburger; Israeli Prime Ministers Rabin, Peres, and Shamir; and Soviet President Gorbachev. His first novel, Comeback Love, was praised by the novelist and reviewer Caroline Leavitt as an “extraordinary debut.” Wherever There Is Light, his second novel, was featured in New York Magazine’s Fall Preview issue, widely reviewed, and selected by the New Jersey Star-Ledger as one of the best books of 2016. His third novel, Nothing Is Forgotten, which explores the connection between the Holocaust and the Cold War, will be published on April 10, 2018.
Synopsis Peace demonstrations, sit-ins, and burning the U.S. flag following the escalation of the Vietnam War are leading to a catalyst known to the world as the Sixties. A musical revolution, flower power, hippies, marijuana, and drugs are carrying the generations—young and old—into a new decade. All the while sixteen-year-old Mary Monroe is caught between being an innocent good girl and an autumn of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.
When her brother offers a solution to her dilemma in the form of a little pill, Mary ignores the rumba in her brain and takes a walk on the wild side. Plunged into popularity and a life she’s only imagined, she meets Michael Covington, the hot newcomer, and she’s instantly drawn in by his less than flawless exterior and bad boy sex appeal. Caught up in the danger and excitement as they drift from party to party, into underground fight clubs, and through a series of drug and alcohol fueled adventures. Mary follows her new crush into a world where young girls are never truly safe from the predators lurking in the shadows and where young men are hiding from the harsh reality of war.
Feeling buzzed and as if her life is spinning out of control, Mary is assaulted by an unknown man at a party, and she’s left questioning if the enigmatic Michael is truly her hero or if he is the face behind the terrible attack. With every piece of information Mary learns about Michael, her doubts grow deeper, but with every minute she spends in his presence, so does her love.
With the war and her fear threatening to separate Mary and Michael forever, only the death of a friend, a crushing confession, and her own sensibilities can carry her over the threshold between adolescence and adulthood.
My Review I didn’t know what to expect going into this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. The story is a timeless teen romance that could have been set during any decade. So much of it felt contemporary but with a throwback to the days before cellphones and the internet. Sixteen-year-old Mary has it bad for new hottie, Michael, but so does a girl from her social circle who also happens to be the queen bee. To complicate matters, one of her brother’s best friends has a massive crush on Mary, but her feelings are purely platonic. This creates enough angsty drama even without the backdrop of the Vietnam War. But that simmering tension serves the plot well, and again, there is something very current and relatable about it.
As Mary and Michael dance around their mutual attraction, Mary balances her social status by keeping him at arm’s’ length. Underlying it all is a fear for her brother who is willing to risk the draft by not going to college at a time when too many boys are coming home in boxes. I adored the story and the characters, but the writing was a little strange. There was odd phrasing and the misuse of so many words throughout, it was impossible to overlook. I think a pass by a decent editor could make this a 5-star book for me.
Plot The plotting was fantastic. The author does an amazing job of foreshadowing everything. Nothing happens without reason and while it’s not a thriller or even a suspense novel, the story still moves at a clipped pace. It centers primarily around the relationship between Mary and Michael, but it also involves subplots regarding Mary’s relationship with her dysfunctional family, her former nerd friends, and the higher social circle she now travels in, thanks to her brother’s relationship with one of the “it” girls at school.
Characters Michael and Mary are extremely well developed. The rest of the characters are there to support them, but they’re developed enough to be more than just fluff. However, this is Mary’s story, and she’s fantastic. The author handles her homelife in such a realistic fashion, I never doubted for a minute that Mary is who she is in large part because of this.
World Building Everything from the music to the fashion, to the lack of current technology felt so true to the time. The events took place before my time, but growing up the 80s wasn’t all that much different. We had cars with keys instead of remotes, we didn’t have our own phones, and we certainly didn’t have social media. And even with all of these details painting a picture of go-go boots and harvest gold appliances, there was something very modern about the story that made it easy to identify with.
What I Enjoyed About INCENSE AND PEPPERMINTS 1. Mary. She was so sublimely naive in a way that made her endearing instead of annoying.
2. Michael. He’s far more complex than we’ll ever know, but the glimpses we see of him from Mary’s eyes is enough to tell us he’s got a lot going on under the hood.
3. World Building. The story both brought me deep into another time and still managed to feel current.
4. Angsty Romance. My favorite kind, done sixties style!
5. The Music. So much of the music of the time served as an undercurrent to the story, including the title of the book.
Bottom Line I absolutely loved this story and with tighter editing, it could be magical!
Disclaimer I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author Cathrina Constantine is the Best Selling author of Don’t Forget To Breathe. Her book won Readers’ Favorite International Book Award for 2015 and The Literary Classics Seal of Approval and Literary Classics Gold Award. Her Paranormal Fantasy, Wickedly They Come has been awarded the 5 Star Seal from Reader’s Favorite. Tallas from her dystopian series received Literary Classics Silver Award and Literary Classics Seal of Approval.
Cathrina resides in Western New York with her husband, five children, two Labrador Retrievers and her cat, Bones. Author @chbbpublishing. Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly. When not attached to her computer, she likes to take long walks in the woods with her dogs, drink way too much coffee, and is an avid movie watcher. She loves music and doesn’t need a dance floor to shake a leg.
Synopsis Teenager Ingrid Liebschreiber is devastated when her parents move the family from their native Munich to Los Angeles in the late 1950s. Homesick, she accepts a neighbor’s offer to get her a job as a showgirl in Las Vegas. Intent on earning enough money to return to Germany, she must grow up quickly in the neon jungle — where she is pursued by high rollers and headliners, including a vacationing Elvis.
Life’s twists and turns land Ingrid in New York in the Swinging 1960s — where she is romanced by Armand: a strong, quiet, handsome businessman in “construction.” Most girls dream of Mr. Right, and Ingrid’s hard-won independence is challenged when she falls in love.
Will she find true romance — a man who can love her as much as she loves him? Or is “happily ever after” just a crazy fairytale?
My Review The book covers two plus decades of young Ingrid’s life over 400+ pages. From Germany to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami, Manhattan, and back to LA through Vegas, Ingrid begins as a naive teen, a pawn in scheming men’s games, eventually becoming her own woman. The story is engaging, filled with a lot of intriguing characters and historical events told through the eyes of a German immigrant. But the main character, Ingrid, lacks a moral compass most of the time, making it very difficult for me to like her. She’s loyal, but only to a certain point. She has no qualms about sleeping with married men, although I do think she’d draw the line at a friend’s husband. And yet she has the nerve to be scorned when the same married men sleep with other women who aren’t their wives. Yeah, no sympathy from me, there.
She serves her own ends first and foremost, although, as I said, she is loyal to those she loves. Her mother, whom she calls Mutti, her close friends, the men she’s sleeping with (all of them I’m pretty sure have wives, but there might have been one or two that didn’t), and ultimately her son. But the way she lies and schemes to get what she wants for her and those she loves makes her unsympathetic. However, as much as I didn’t care for her character, I did find her absolutely fascinating and couldn’t help but read her story. I didn’t hate her, either and never found myself hoping she’d get a taste of her own medicine. But when she finally did, I didn’t feel any kind of satisfaction. I just felt sad for all parties involved.
Maybe because I was too young to appreciate the swinging sixties, barely a toddler at the height of it, I couldn’t fully engage in the world in which Ingrid inhabited. I was too young to understand how the Kennedy assassinations changed everything, or the true ugliness of segregation. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading about it.
This is almost exclusively a character-driven story. The plot is very loose. The basic story question is whether Ingrid will find lasting love before the final page. But there’s a lot that happens in the intervening 429 pages, none of it dull. The story unfolds like a great American roadtrip from the 1970s. You never know what the next day or adventure will bring, but if you’re open to anything, you might not be disappointed. Ingrid’s life wends and flows around curves, introducing her to new sights, experiences, and lots and lots of risky sex, that wasn’t really considered risky back then.
Characters The characters are interesting, even if some of them are stereotypical. Most of them are rather self-absorbed and egotistical, but that doesn’t make them boring. They’re well-developed and all serve a purpose. About the only thing I noticed that bothered with me is the way they all sounded exactly the same with the exception of the mobbed-up guys in New York. They all had the same speech patterns. They all sounded like Ingrid. And considering she was telling the story and it comes through a filter of bilingualism, it may have actually been intentional on the author’s part, but I noticed it a lot, and it took me out of the story and made me think about it more than it should have.
What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The story is long and it took me a while to get into it. I really became engaged once Ingrid got into her backstory in Germany. That might have been a better place to start than with her first Elvis encounter.
2. There wasn’t a lot of character growth. It would have been great in a story that was this character driven to have Ingrid grow more than she did. She was less naive by the end, more determined to get what she wanted, but I didn’t find a lot of likeable growth in her.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Love Target 1. The settings were authentic and fantastic. Either the author did her homework or she grew up in that world. After reading her bio, I’d say she spent a fair amount of time in the locales she writes about and it shows.
2. Behind the scenes experiences. It was cool to be able to see what goes on behind the Vegas shows, beyond the glitz and glamor. Those were probably some of the most fascinating parts of the story for me.
3. The social hierarchy. It was definitely a different time back then and the authenticity the author brought with societal stigmas, racism, women’s rights, and even the Manhattan pecking order was really interesting to read about, although it made me cringe at times.
4. The pacing was solid. Even though this was no nail-biting thriller, the story moved well other than a slow opening.
5. Mutti. I love her devotion to her daughter. She’ll do anything for her, as any good mother would.
Bottom Line Love Target is an epic story of one German girl’s journey across America, from ingenuine to a woman who knows what she wants and how to get it.
Disclaimer I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book Title: Love Target Author: Heidi Loeb Hegerich Publisher: Forever Young, LLC Pages: 439 Category: Young Adult/New Adult Historical Romance/Chick Lit Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Author Heidi Loeb Hegerich
About the Author Heidi Loeb Hegerich — whom friends describe as “a hella bad bitch” — has lived in places as varied as Munich, Las Vegas, Miami Beach, New York, Los Angeles, Squaw Valley and Reno. She has worked variously as a showgirl, business executive, entrepreneur, interior designer and real estate developer. She has traveled to six of the seven continents, and vacationed in spots as different as the French Riviera, the Andes and Afghanistan. She counts among her hobbies weight training, shooting assault rifles, and racing sand rails; she found skydiving entertaining but not as much of a rush as other pursuits. A philanthropist for the arts, among other causes, Hegerich is now embarking on her own artistic quest as an author. Love Target is Heidi’s debut novel..
Return Once More (The Historians #1) by Trisha Leigh
Synopsis If you could learn the identity of your one true love—even though you will never meet— would you?
Years have passed since refugees from a ruined earth took to space, eventually settling a new system of planets. Science has not only made the leaps necessary to allow time travel, but the process engineered a strange side effect—predicting your one true love.
If you could save your one true love from an untimely death, would you be able to resist?
Sixteen-year-old Kaia Vespasian is an apprentice to the Historians—a group charged with using time travel to document the triumphs and failures of the past—and she can’t resist a peek at her long-dead soul mate in Ancient Egypt. Before she knows it, she’s broken every rule in the book, and the consequences of getting caught could destroy more than just her new romance.
Or would you have the strength to watch him die?
But when Kaia notices a fellow classmate snooping around in a time where he doesn’t belong, she suspects he has a secret of his own—and the conspiracy she uncovers could threaten the entire universe. If her experience has taught her anything, to changing history means facing the consequences. The Historians trained her to observe and record the past, but Kaia never guessed she might have to protect it— in a race across time to save her only chance at a future.
My Review I’m a sucker for time travel. Young adult time traveling romances? Yeah, that’s like my trifecta right there, so I eagerly snatched up this gem from talented author, Trisha Leigh. I was sucked into her Cavey Files, and had high hopes for her take on the time travel genre. This is such a unique twist that it really stands apart from any other I’ve read. The book is set in the future, after Earth’s destruction. Kaia is a Historian, someone who travels back through time to study historic events and learn so they can avoid making the mistakes that led to the demise of Earth.
One of the side benefits of their futuristic science and technology is they’ve discovered they can identify everyone’s soul mate. The one person who is your perfect romantic partner, regardless of when and where they were born, even if the soul mates were never destined to meet. It’s mostly just something done for fun, but when Kaia learns of her soul mate, she breaks all the rules to meet him. Just to find out what it would feel like to see the boy who is her perfect match. The love-at-first-sight aspect of this plot point requires a little faith on the part of the reader, but it’s not so over the top given that they’re soul mates.
I really only have two problems with the book that kept it from being a full five stars. The first is that it takes awhile to develop. I picked it up and put it down several times before I got to that point where I was thoroughly engrossed. The second is that it ends in a cliffhanger. I’m not a big fan of those, particularly when there is a long wait for the next book.
Plot The plot is intricate and layered, with a lot going on. Since this is the first in a series, many questions are left unanswered, but everything does move forward. Some to conclusion, others not. And because of the cliffhanger ending, a huge question is raised in the very last sentence of the book. Other than a slow start, the plotting keeps up a steady pace through the middle until the end.
Characters Kaia, her soul mate, and Oz, another historian, are well-developed and interesting. I got much less of a sense of the rest of the characters, though. But, because the plot centers on these three, it’s important that they’re fully fleshed out, and they are. I had a hard time connecting with Kaia in the beginning, but as the story unfolded, she becomes more likable and sympathetic and by the end, I was twisted up inside for her. Her choice is heartbreaking and I felt her pain and anguish as she struggled to find the right path.
Aside from the cliffhanger aspect, the ending is gut-wrenching, emotional, and wraps up many of the plot lines, leaving more for the next book.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed about Return Once More: 1. Time travel. I never get tired of this genre.
2. Oz. He’s a tough egg to crack and I can’t wait to find out more about him.
3. Scene setting. Trisha Leigh does an incredible job of painting such a vivid picture of the scenes, it’s hard not to believe you’re actually there..
4. Forbidden love. In a unique twist on a common trope, this is one of the most well-done subplots in the book.
5. Impossible choices. Never knowing what was going to happen kept me turning the pages.
Bottom Line Return Once More is an engaging time travel scifi romance with an intricate plot and intriguing characters.
Disclaimer I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher. This in no way influences my review.
About the Book
Title: Return Once More Series: The Historians #1 Author: Trisha Leigh Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark Pages: 289 Category: Young Adult SciFi/Time Travel/Romance Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Links: Goodreads | Amazon |Barnes and Noble | Bloomsbury
About the Author Trisha Leigh is a product of the Midwest, which means it’s pop, not soda, garage sales, not tag sales, and you guys as opposed to y’all. Most of the time. She’s been writing seriously for five years now, and has published 4 young adult novels and 4 new adult novels (under her pen name Lyla Payne). Her favorite things, in no particular order, include: reading, Game of Thrones, Hershey’s kisses, reading, her dogs (Yoda and Jilly), summer, movies, reading, Jude Law, coffee, and rewatching WB series from the 90’s-00’s.
Her family is made up of farmers and/or almost rock stars from Iowa, people who numerous, loud, full of love, and the kind of people that make the world better. Trisha tries her best to honor them, and the lessons they’ve taught, through characters and stories—made up, of course, but true enough in their way.
Trisha is the author of THE LAST YEAR series and the WHITMAN UNIVERSITY books. She’s represented by Kathleen Rushall at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.
Frederick, Duke of Falconwood, has vowed never to marry, instead dedicating himself to protecting his country.
But when he’s caught in a very compromising position with a coquettish debutante, Freddy does the only thing that will salvage her reputation—he proposes marriage!
Even though Minette Rideau craves the stoic duke’s touch, she knows she can’t become his wife.
For giving in to her desires will reveal a shameful secret, putting much more than her virtue in jeopardy…
My Review Other than the Outlander series, this is my first historical romance, and if this is what the genre is about, sign me up for more! The Duke’s Daring Debutante was equal parts romance and intrigue. When French debutante Minette Rideau has her sights set on retrieving something personal from a man named Moreau, she needs Freddy, the Duke of Falconwood, to help her. With his connections, he can get her into places she can’t go alone.
When they’re discovered in a compromising situation, Freddy’s sense of honor has him proposing to Minette, and her reputation and need to get to Moreau first, have her accepting. But what should be a relationship of convenience becomes something much more, making things more complicated than ever.
There are two main plots running in parallel, twisting and intertwining, becoming one. The first is the search for Moreau. Both Minette and Freddy are after him for very different reasons. The second plot line is the romance. But the two become one with the staged betrothal. Their common goal forces them to spend time together, and feelings of lust and longing become something more.
World Building I’m not even sure exactly when the story takes place, although I suppose if I knew my British and French history, it would probably be clear. My best guess would be somewhere in the eighteenth or nineteenth century, but I don’t think the year is all that important. What matters are the details the author brings to the book, the cultural differences between France and England, the political implications, the societal norms for the day, and those are all vividly woven into the story.
Characters I found all of the characters to be well-developed, and Minette and Freddy, especially so. Their growth over a short time felt rushed at times, but not so much that it didn’t ring true. Minette is bold, clever, loyal, and loving, making her quite complex. Freddy harbors deep wounds from a painful past that have him keeping everyone at arms’ length. Watching these two break down one another’s walls was quite satisfying.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed About The Duke’s Daring Debutante 1. Minette. She’s wild and free, strong, independent, and not afraid to go after what she wants. Minette is a woman who transcends time and genre.
2. Freddy. He’s got a dark side, but watching him twist the dark and light sides together and seeing the light win was fun.
3. Nicky and Gabe. They are the perfect couple. I’d love to read their story some day.
4. Ballroom Dancing. It never gets old, no mater the century.
5. Espionage. I loved this thread in the story and only wish there was more of it.
Bottom Line The Duke’s Daring Debutante was a thoroughly engaging read, one that has whetted my appetite for more historical fiction.
Disclaimer I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book Title: The Duke’s Daring Debutante Author: Ann Lethbridge Publisher: Harlequin Release Date: June 16, 2015 Pages: 288 Category: Historical Romance Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Links:Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Author Ann Lethbridge
About the Author An army brat born in England and now living in Canada, Ann grew up loving history, but majored in business, with history on the side. She has a husband and two lovely daughters and a Maltese Terrier called Teaser, who likes to sit on a chair beside the computer while she works.
Her love of the past and the stories in her imagination led her to write her first novel in 2000, a never-see-the-light-of-day-effort, and after having her first book published in 2006, she knew she’d found her niche.
She loves the Georgian era, and within that, the period known as the long Regency. She also adores happy endings.
You will find her books in bookstores in the month of issue, as well as on line at Mills and Boon or E-harlequin.