#TopTenTuesday No.8 | Top Twelve Authors Who Deserve More Recommendation (feat. their characters I loved discovering!)

Posted Tuesday, 8 October, 2019 by jorielov , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 6 Comments

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[Official Blurb] Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature / weekly meme created by The Broke & the Bookish. The meme was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke & the Bookish. We’d love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your Top 10 Lists! In January, 2018 this meme is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

[ Topic of 8th October, 2019:
Character Traits I Love;
Personality Traits I Love to See In Book Characters:
Things That Make Me Love a Character ]

Which works brilliantly into a Top Ten Tuesday post
I originally wrote to coincide with the Topic of 2nd July, 2019:

We needed to discuss *characters!* with an OPEN THEME/CHOICE:

Top Ten Authors Who Deserve More Recommendation
(and their characters I loved discovering!)

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Today’s entry was inspiring to me for the following reasons:

As avid readers, we meet so many dearly incredible characters throughout our bookish journeys – it would make sense, somewhere over the score of time – we are going to come across authors & characters who leave imprinted impressions on our bookish hearts which not just effect us through time and space but they leave such a distinction of presence on our readerly lives. Sometimes they never quite leave us – as there is a part of them inside us still – all these hours after they’ve left our thoughts, because for each character we’ve met in a story, their life and their experiences have bled into our own; their memories are now our memories as for each story we read, there is a potential there to live another life, through another person’s shoes irregardless of their gender; their essence affects us because we’ve breathed in their life.

It is hard to even speculate which characters in the *six years!* I’ve blogged have staid with me the longest and which stories I ache the most to re-read and re-visit alongside – those are goals and dreams I have for Winters long spent by fireside cosy nooks of space where knitting needles, hot tea and scones await me as cats linger in dreamscapes and snow gently falls outside frozen windows. Until then, when I’m granted the joy of a seasonal experience outside of volcanic Summers and blink-you-missed-it Winters, I happily appreciate the hours I have to spend with the characters as their stories ‘greet’ me on the pages their writers left me to find.

As a genre dancer – it is even harder to pin down the characters I regularly interact with as they could be a fantastical creature, a science fiction adventurer, a Magical Realism time bender or they’re living Contemporary or Historical lives – they could be young, old, or somewhere between; sorting out their lives or re-defining a second career or tackling adversity inasmuch as they are giving love a second chance. I love stories and for all the lovelies I regularly read there are still so many more horizons out there in the literary realms I desire to explore further, read harder and read particularly closer to the eras of time I love exploring most.

Whilst at the same time, if I can disappear into my favourite eras such as the Victorian, Regency & Edwardian periods of England – the Highlands of Scotland and criss-cross through a time portal which skips round the historical past from Ancient times to present-day on all the continents of curiosity and interest; wells, you can see where the well of possibilities deepens greatly!

Narrowing down this list of choices was a bit of a curiously serendipitous experience – I went with the inspiration at the moment and as this was originally composed in July, I dearly had to break the 11 references into 12 as – oh, my dear sweet bookish heavens – those Spinsters have left me hungering for more of their stories! I cannot wait to re-invest into their lives as I move into the second novel having consumed (er, devoured?) the first and fourth!

It goes without saying but I will remind you: brew your favourite cuppa & get comfy as this is a seriously long post about the stories and authors I hope might encourage a few new choices on your TBR Lists!Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

DUE NOTE: all the books featured on this Top Ten Tuesday post were complimentary books sent to me for review consideration and/or were sent in exchange for an honest review at some point or another over the past few years. I received them from publishers, publicists, authors and/or blog touring companies. I was not obligated to feature them on this Top Ten Tuesday post but wanted to feature them due to how incredibly attached I became to their narratives, characters and the immersive experience I felt as I read their stories.

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K.B. Laugheed’s duology

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The Gift of the Seer by K.B. Laugheed

As soon as I first read the opening bridge into The Spirit Keeper – I knew I had stumbled into an author who was going to emotionally affect my readerly life. There was something uniquely different about how Laugheed approached writing her novel and somewhere along the tides of how it ebbed and flowed through this arduous journey into the Native American culture and religious traditions of a society wholly separate from the European settlers the lead protagonist had been bourne into – you found the beauty of the message(s) Laugheed was attempting to impart to her readers.

This was a thinking man’s story – the layers of which were not fully understood until you shifted into The Gift of the Seer which offers a co-anchouring effect of re-bridging you into Katie’s world with the juxtaposition of how her world and the world of her beloved’s were affected by the prejudices of their era and the misunderstandings between their cultural heritages.

Laugheed re-establishes our understanding of her Native characters by giving us small gestures of the truthfulness of how they lived their lives. There are customs and traditions as much as there is the craft of telling stories and of being actively conversational in order to make connections to those you’ve just met. I love the details she’s included but also, the level of continuity from The Spirit Keeper to The Gift of the Seer – if these are the only two stories in the series (and I believe they are) – the series is a duology of dramatic Feminist Historical Fiction.

Feminist driven due to the level of hard-won courage on Katie’s part and the ingenuity of leading by heart and instinct rather than of a fortitude sparked out of knowledge. Katie was traversing a culture without a rudder of understanding towards the larger scope of what their beliefs were and it was in her naivete she accomplished the most. This is another nod of how genre-bent this series is as it strikes a hearty balance between all the influences which inform its context.

Laugheed continues to be poignantly connected to nature, the natural order of life and the truths of all mankind wherein everyone can find an entry into her text. (such as the spirit within us all) This is a story that self-evolves as you read it – from one installment to the next, it is a perfected narrative of exploring the dimensions of a human soul, the emotional baggage of a lived life and the joyfulness of giving into the moment our lives bring us unexpected happiness.

I read this in one sitting – where night folded into morn, and where morning slipped into afternoon – i knew i could not tear my eyes from its text, it is unputdownable due to the nature of its strength to be a realistic story about persons who are as real as their living composites and whose lives you shall never soon forget for having crossed your heart & your imagination,.. Laugheed has blessed us all.

*The Gift of the Seer* is the film which takes all the Academy Awards at the Oscars – for me, this novel hit all the right notes you’d want it to from a sequel within a duology and it re-elevated the message of the first novel by extending the self-growth and maturity of the lead character. The fact that this duology is a multicultural story which anchours European thought with Native American spirituality is quite brilliant but its the journey you take with Katie & Hector which roots you into the novel(s). You could not have asked for a better sequel by an author you wished was not as *under appreciated!* as she is because she truly gave her heart & spirit to the readerly world who love dramatic Historical Fiction with a strong sense of centre & self.

I will *cherish!* the hardback copy of “The Gift of the Seer” and I am still going to attempt to host a readalong for this duology come New Year, 2020 via my bookish chat @SatBookChat – do leave a comment or tweet me there to let me know your keen on joining the RAL as I had to abandoned hosting this in both Summer and Autumn, 2019.

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Katie & Hector | two characters you’ll be thankful you’ve walked alongside:

I became so entwined into reading The Gift of the Seer, I began to savour my time with Katie and Hector; knowing full well, their story, this continuation of their journey was one I was appreciating to take again. I’ve grown quite a bit as a reader from my first year to my nearly sixth year as a book blogger – even as I re-read the initial passages of The Spirit Keeper, I did not shy away from some of the scenes my younger self glossed over instead. Not that they were easy to digest, those kinds of scenes are chilling and brutal for a reason but I was able to handle them in a different way than I had previously. Similarly, as I was caught inside the flow of the narrative within The Gift of the Seer, I re-experienced the alignment I had originally – where Katie’s voice and word usage felt as natural to me as it had in 2013. Almost as if re-shifting back into her thoughts was as easily as recalling a former half of my readerly life; re-drawing the portrait back together and resuming where I had paused in my walk with Katie. As all of us who read are living through the character we’re reading – thus, for me, I saw the growth in us both whilst I continued her story.

One of the beautiful graces of Laugheed’s styling of historical narrative is how she’s etched out the eclipse of Katie’s immersion into Native American life. It isn’t just the fact she’s crossed into a different life – she’s embodied their language, their views, their traditions and with that – there is an authenticity to how this is written. Laugheed stated one very pivotal observation very early-on in The Gift of the Seer when she had Katie explain to the reader: thinking Indian, writing English. She’s no longer an Englishwoman – her transformation into a new cultural heritage is complete. She is like an ex-pat whose fully embraced their new country, adopted their new language and hasn’t looked back in regret due to how thankful they are for their new life. I feel this is true of Katie – even though I know she has a lot weighing on her soul in regards to her mission as a Spirit Keeper – personally, she’s made choices she has resolved in regards to what those choices meant for her biological family of the past and what it meant for her biological children of the future.

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Rachel Amphlett for the Kay Hunter series

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Quote banner from my review of "Call to Arms" (Kay Hunter, book five) by Rachel Amphlett made by Jorie in Canva.

I never would have expected to find myself so enthused with a hard-boiled police procedural such as this series featuring Kay Hunter if the timing had been altered from whence it entered my life. I think (looking back) the key reason this series hit a thread of interest in my bookish heart and Crime Fiction wanderings is because I was seeking a dramatic crime series – one which could be a Contemporary set world (rather than my normal wanderings in the historic past) and one which might be at the upper limits of my bookish tolerances for crime narratives. This one truly pushed me a bit outside my zones of comfort as a reader but what anchoured me into the series overall were two key ingredients: the wonderfully intuitive writings of the author Rachel Amphlett and the highly intuitive narrating genius of her narrator Alison Campbell!

I also know without listening to this series, I might not have felt as deeply attached to Kay Hunter or the series in general because Alison Campbell *brought!* something uniquely pivotal to this role – she breathed life into Kay Hunter and the ensemble cast in such a way as to bridge these characters into our imaginations as if they were bonefide members of our lives. I know this is the goal of all audiobook – but this one in particular really solidified that experience for me! Whenever I would turn my ears towards Ms Campbell’s narration of Kay Hunter, I never had to second guess which character was coming into scene – I instinctively remembered how she voiced the main and supporting cast, how she would intuit and emote for us the layers of emotional anguish and angst permeating throughout the series whilst giving us such a strong grounding of characterisations at the heart of her performances.

She quickly rose to the top of my short-list of most beloved narrators just under Jake Urry by the very first performance I listened to her bring #TeamKayHunter to life!

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Kay Hunter | the detective who emotionally & viscerally is brought to life by her narrator Alison Campbell – so much so, you transmorph into her shoes:

Amphlett never fails to knit her continuity tightly anchoured to the previous installments – it is one of the wicked best reasons why I love listening to to this series, as she honestly never lets you forget the moments in her characters’ lives which are intimately important to remember. Herein, when she was having Kay reminisce about her miscarriage you felt immediately drawn back to the installments which discussed this and how it was such an upheaval for Kay and Adam. Of how they drew closer together, how they tried not to let their family try their patience and how putting the pieces together to move forward was one small step at a time. Still, like any tragic loss – her grief lingers, even years on as there are small reminders everywhere about how others can enjoy the blessings of motherhood whilst she cannot. It was a simple inclusion right in the midst of the workday but it was important because it owned the truth of who Kay Hunter is and of how intricately connected this series becomes to her sense of self, her psychological state of mind and how she emotionally processes her job.

It wasn’t until lateron when Adam was brought into scene where we pulled back the layers of Kay’s healing and recovery (as it wasn’t simply a miscarriage which affected her heart, soul and mind) – where we peer into how hard it has been for her to continue to transition beyond what afflicted their lives. They were both emotionally distraught not just to the loss of a child but due to everything during that period of time which not only frayed their nerves but nearly overtook their ability to survive. Adam and Kay have a very strong marriage but even a strong marriage can have a breaking point – Amphlett has never shied away from honing in on the honesty of their marriage and for showing the realistic ways in which a couple comes back from the loss of their child.

These are the moments I love most – where Kay and Adam are seen being a couple, unwinding after hard days on their respective jobs and finding ways to lift each others’ spirits. They have a knowing familiarity about how each of them have different needs at different times; where an encouraging hug and a comforting meal is just what is needed in the moment to cast-off darker thoughts and memories which won’t shift. Theirs is a relationship based on mutual respect, love, trust and a companionable walk through grief.

What I loved about this installment were the interactions between Kay, Barnes, Sharpe, Gaven and the rest of the team – they keep drawing closer together, re-forming the bonds they share as a ‘found family’ and prove that despite the high risks associated with their job, they truly care about one another. There are lovely details towards exploring this bond they have – such as the pizza party, the breakfast food runs and the ways in which they look out for Kay, understanding her emotional traumas and how as a family unit they never leave anyone behind.

Bridge to Burn also focused more intuitively on Kay’s Mum, Dad and sister – there was a family emergency which took Adam and Kay outside their routines over a weekend to where they had to travel over six hours to reach the family. During this sequence, Amphlett re-highlights the strain Kay has with her mother, the closeness she shares with her sister and how her father gives her unconditional support. A lot of what was fracturing the relationship with Kay and her mother are explored more in-depth as well – a lot of which surprised me, as I never thought Kay’s Mum would be open to meditation but you find out why she came to that new stage of reconciliation as something pushed her towards that goal with Kay. They’re not entirely on solid footing – as they have a chasm as wide as the Grand Canyon between them but ooh! You don’t want to miss their exchanges of dialogue — listening to how Ms Campbell approached their scenes nearly makes you want to reach for the tissues!

By far this is one of my favourite endings of the series – it brings us back to centre – to Kay and Adam and the realistic ways our lives are interlinked through love and how love is the best healer all of us can choose to accept. It is emotionally gripping but it is honestly real which is why you simply want to reach out and give Kay and Adam a big hug; hoping in some small way you can let them know you support them.

-quoted from my review of Bridge to Burn (from February, 2019)

I recently found out the eighth novel of the Kay Hunter series [Cradle to Grave] is about to become released into audiobook – as I happily signed on to the Audiobookworm Promotions blog tour to  help promote this lovely new installment of the series which has captured me so dearly and completely, I have trouble pulling out of the stories as I ache for more information about the characters who feel like family now. I am hoping to have Scribd back in time to listen to this for the blog tour – however, I might have to listen to it off-tour. I’m just thankful to continue to be able to cheer on this series and draw more eyes onto the brilliance of Alison Campbell as Kay Hunter!

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E. Chris Garrison for the Tipsy Fairy Tale series

On my connection to Ms Chris (aka E. Chris Garrison):

I first discovered the style of Ms Chris’s story-telling when we both appeared on the Star Chamber Show, which is a weekly podcast on BlogTalkRadio sponsored by the publisher Seventh Star Press. Since our first encounter with each other, we’ve developed a friendship I am blessed to have and I appreciate getting to know a bit more about an author whose not only developing a unique style in the world of Fantasy but is receptive to the thoughts readers have as they gain impression by reading the stories themselves.

I am disclosing this, to assure you that I can formulate an honest opinion, even though I have interacted with Ms Chris through our respective blogs, the twitterverse, the podcast world, and privately. I treat each book as a ‘new experience’, whether I personally know the author OR whether I am reading a book by them for the first time. For more information, I disclosed a bit more on my first 10 Bookish, Not Bookish Thoughts (read No.7!). You can learn more about her writing style on the special vlog interview I hosted during one of her blog tours.

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I’ve come to love how Ms Chris combines the supernatural with the fantastical – of how she has her own unique style for giving us Urban Fantasy with heaps of quirkified humour wherein the cosier bits of horror which are sometimes laced inside her stories never truly feel oppressively horrific. She keeps the tempo light in her craft but there are keen moments of seriousness abounding in them as well. She hits on harder topics, delves into the emotional and psychological lives of her characters but at the heart of her narratives are rag-tag families who choose to be together (strangers turnt friends who become bonefide family) to take-on whatever sinister forces are out to drag them down.

You get the benefit of having all the lovelies you love out of Fantasy intermixed with supernatural entities which could leave a few hairs standing on end – as they are brilliantly conceived and have their own nod of realistic intensity about them but you also know, your in for one wild and wicked awesome ride of a story! You can easily get caught up walking alongside her characters, seeing what they see and experiencing a bit of their lives as you do. They’re ordinary people who have had the extraordinary enter into their lives without too much interference on their end to jump-start the veils between the worlds to disappear. It’s keen how she writes the stories as if everything happening inside them is as natural to occur to her characters as meteorological phenoms.

-quoted from my SERIES Review of Road Ghosts

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Blue Spirit by E. Chris GarrisonRestless Spirit by E. Chris Garrison

Garrison interweaves such a clarity of insight for regular life in-between the fantasy bits, that your never quite sure if your reading fantasy or a contemporary spin on modern life with a few eccentricities thrown in for good measure! I like this because it keeps the material fresh and approachable – you never know when the story will take a left or right turn, and it’s the suspense of waiting for it to happen that makes it the most enjoyable to read.

There is something to be said for ANY author who can whet a thirst of wicked excitement by garnishing a hidden niche of joy for their readers. For me, what Ms Chris accomplished with this series [the Tipsy Fairy Tales] is merge my love of Urban Fantasy + the fey with the best comedic timing of satire and humour within a Speculative Fiction world! She has the instincts for comedy but also knows how to layer in the dramatic side of her character’s lives. Skye might seem on the surface a well put together character but she’s harbouring secret vices (one in particular which could become her doom if she’s not careful – which FYI is going to be explored in the third installment!) which seek to undercut her sense of well being and the confidence she has to bridge the two worlds of hers – the contemporary one she lives inside and the ‘otherworld’ where the Speculative ingenuity of Ms Chris shines through with imaginative joy!

It is also the kind of series where you know going in it’s going to be a sweet ride of Fantasy – where you aren’t entirely sure which characters you can trust and which characters are more ominous in their inherent natures. One thing is for sure, as you pull back the layers and seek out the heart of where Ms Chris is leading you as you wanderabout this series, you’ll find the purpose behind Skye’s journey and the ragtag team of friends and acquaintances who round out the series with a perfected sense of self-directed destinies.

Skye – the unexpected heroine you come to love:

Skye has a unique gift wherein she can see between the veils of her world and the world which exists outside of the naked eye from observing. This is partially what makes me wicked happy to read her tales – she is nearly able to whisk off into an adventure simply by what she sees rather than what she learns of that uncharted world because Minnie is quite insistent about when she needs to take-up the charge and make good on what has gone wrong or nearly is about to go wrong.

Little bits of cheeky references to exasperation in regards to Minnie on behalf of Skye and Skye’s particular take on her co-workers, the ordinary life she leads whilst it intersects with the extraordinary, and the manner in which the curious creatures she interacts with whilst the rest of us are oblivious is quite golden folly! She exhumes a particular knack for knowing exactly what to express within a scene and what to stitch inside it as far as everyday observations which inherently become social clues towards the timescape in which the story is set around. You can pick up the nuances of pop culture whilst finding a clear definition for writing in her own style for fantasy elements that spin themselves so organically inside this world.

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The author is transgender which gives her an inside edge towards how to write stories that are highlighting characters like Skye who are trying to lead lives without their sexuality, gender or orientation leading to prejudicial exclusions inside their everyday lives. This is quite apparent when the laws currently in place in the author’s home state are mentioned in one chapter in regards to marriage equality as well as the perceptions of how some of Skye’s friends or friends of her friends view the relationship she has with Annabelle.

I consider this series pro-positive for both LGBTQIA+ and Allies alike, as everything pertinent to this side of Skye’s life is told organically and shifts between being humourous and serious, depending on the nature of the exchange or the situation at hand. This is positive I think as it has a very realistic vibe attached to it. Skye is not afraid to speak her mind or to live her authentic truth, even if others are not as prepared to accept her on her terms, she still lives her life owning the truth she has within her and that’s something to applaud. She has her faults (who doesn’t?) but her strengths are her willingness to take-on challenges head-on and remain faithful to those she cares about whilst sorting out mysteries of the unexplained.

-quoted from my reviews of Blue Spirit and Restless Spirit

There is a third installment pending for this trilogy – I know a bit about what it will involve as Ms Chris and I are friends (as previously disclosed) – however, I purposely didn’t want to have the whole plot spoilt for me as a reader, so I’ve only asked a few questions between my readings. Mostly in a very abstract general way – one unexpected joy for me this Summer was being given the chance to have the audiobook version of Blue Spirit arrive for review consideration. I am eagerly going to be listening to this lovely first installment of the series in conjunction with my participation in Sci Fi November (@SciFiMonth) whilst Ms Chris herself is going to be a guest author featured during my @SatBookChat on the 16th of November!

In many different ways, parting from this series is going to be a bit bittersweet for me – mostly as I feel like I’ve been involved with Skye’s life since I first started blogging – as in effect, I discovered the publisher who publishes these stories in [2013]. I know Skye might find her way into new stories – shorts, novellas or maybe a spin-off series – but there will always be something wickedly special about the Tipsy Fairy Tales for me!! I even have my special token from the Transit King to keep me half anchoured inside this lovely world — I can only hope others will soon start to discover the charm of Ms Chris’s style and laugh, smirk and adventure along with us!

There is a more serious sideline to the Tipsy Fairy Tales – as it is not all fun and games – there is a more dramatic arc evolving through the series which does address and highlight the effects of alcoholism and the inability to control a habit which becomes a vice for the character:

I had wondered if the excessive amount of drinking (of Skye’s) would become a greater issue moving forward in the series; this was hinted at in the response Ms Chris gave me to my guest feature on this blog tour, but it’s how she wrote the evolving concern for Skye’s health that proved to be quite heartfelt. Skye has had some seriously complicated situations happening in her young life – first her boyfriend Stuart is killed, then Phil takes a liking to her whilst she falls for Annabelle and the whole balance between mortals, fairies and the world of Shadows falls into disarray quite quickly thereafter. There are forces working against Skye and creatures who are living their lives indifference to Skye’s influence and power on their worlds as a whole. Skye can insert herself into the affairs of those who’d rather she not muddle in circles they feel she doesn’t belong, but the truth of it is, Skye understands more than they realise. Even her connection to Frannie is interesting as they both were ‘altered’ and ‘brought back’ from potential death by those who would first do them harm.

In some ways, you can see the valid point Skye needs to be a bit tipsy to ‘see’ what isn’t quite believable to most, but on the other hand, as Barton warned her, she can go past the point of what is necessary and fall into a state of unwellness far too easily. It’s when she’s between states that she’s most vulnerable and most likely to muddle things between her closest friends; she tends to isolate herself when she’s smashed on liqueur because she acts more impulsively and doesn’t let herself think before she speaks either. This is definitely an issue for her and one that is broached but not overly so, as it’s almost as if the author is letting Skye test the waters of how far she’s falling vs when she needs an intervention so to speak. At this point, it’s her emotions and her past baggage with those no longer in her life that proves to be the most difficult to rectify in her heart.

The balance between the fantastical, the dramatic and the self-evolving state of Skye’s life is a credit to Ms Chris who makes all of this seamless and organic for the reader to follow. She takes you into the highs and lows of Skye’s self-evolution – both as a paranormal investigator and as a girl who is simply trying to sort out her identity, her sexuality and the curious way her need for alcohol in order to peer into the world of the fey isn’t quite what once was cracked up to being – this is a set-up of course for the final installment of the trilogy wherein Skye has to slay her personal demons once and for all.

I had a feeling the third story would be the most critical of the three – I am unsure if it is still called Mean Spirit – but I do know this – it is going to be an emotional ending for me!

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Jennifer Lamont Leo for the Roaring Twenties Novels

You're the Cream in my Coffee by Jennifer Lamont LeoAin't Misbehavin' by Jennifer Lamont Leo

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It was a wicked sweet moment of random joy when this series alighted into my life – curiously though – the book covers for this series have changed through the years but my personal preference are these covers – the originals! They inhabit the quirkiness of the series and the joyfulness of the era they are representing. For some odd reason, whenever I see the real-life models showcasing the covers nowadays, I feel like they’ve become a bit cheesy round the edges or cheapen the motif of what the series represented on these covers. For me, the illustrations helped sell the point of interest I had in the series and thereby re-aligned me into the stories.

There is something to be said for a novelist who can write about the 1920s in such a strong fashion of enlightenment as to never get you to question which era you’re reading about or the legality of what is happening within the tales themselves! I get so caught up in the antics and social lives of Lamont Leo’s characters, I can hardly notice the clock when I’m reading these stories! I feel so dearly uplifted by Marjorie Corrigan and her bestie Dot, I honestly hope this series will continue for quite a few more years into the future. I am uncertain of course how many installments are planned but whenever I enter them, I feel like I’ve come home and set my TARDIS to the right era in which to reside for a happenstance holiday amongst beloved friends!

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Marjorie Corrigan – the 1920s heroine we all needed in our corner!

As we get carried into the life of Ms Corrigan, we find a mid-twenties woman on the brink of marriage yet her heart hasn’t recovered from the loss of her true love during the war. She finds joy in watching the pictures as her cinema house gets them, but the delays in new releases does vex her a bit, as she likes the reprieve. Not that it entirely helps with what is quite dear on her mind and heart; she has felt a bit of a vacuum since her beloved was lost – including a pulling back from her walk in faith. She goes through the motions surely (including weekly Sunday visits courtesy of her step-mother) but if she were to be honest, she’s still hurting from the pain of losing Jack. Concurrent to her woes of sorting out her heart, her younger sister is ribbing her a bit for attention and earnest sisterly advice whilst the prospect of being a doctor’s wife is less than appetizing to Ms Corrigan; if her current course of action were to take root.

Contrary to what her step-mother (although not identified as such initially but implied, as she is referred to as ‘her father’s wife’ rather than as her own Mum) believes, sometimes a winning match isn’t what a girl prefers for herself. Mix in a rise in status in the community and Ms Corrigan was truly betwixt what is that she truly wanted not only for herself but for her sister Helen. As you gather the feeling that whatever she chooses to do with her life will have a direct impact on her younger sister, too. She is also a woman in-decided about her walk in faith – half of her wishes she could have the solace you would feel whilst you walked in the light of your faith and half of her heart was uncertain how to repair the distance she was accruing bit by bit each fraction of a moment where she felt more turnt away than close to her spiritual balance of years past. She didn’t exactly relish in this truth about herself, as Ms Lamont Leo illustrates a broad stroke towards ferreting out what has caused the spiritual insurrection and how Ms Corrigan wishes to approach re-aligning her mind and heart with her spiritual well-being. It is another layer of honesty where realistic truism of everyday life takes a serious turn of being highlighted throughout the journey Ms Corrigan embarks on inside this riveting debut!

The author underpinned the evolving drama of Ms Corrigan’s life with humble and authentic moments of individual discovery. There was a beautiful scene at the Art Institute in particular – where it is one part an expose of artistic interpretation and one part spiritual intervention. The gentleness in which the author handled this scene made it feel a bit more real somehow, as if you could insert yourself into Ms Corrigan’s shoes and sense everything she was feeling in that particular moment. What it started to yield is the turning point in the character’s life; an unwinding of etiquette and expectations and a beginning of personal vindication.

Ms Corrigan is a woman coming into her own skin – Chicago was a place where she could own her own choices whilst sorting out exactly what those choices should be. It wasn’t that she didn’t have her own thoughts back in Kerryville; but the small towne had stifled her ability to trust her own instincts and set her mind on what she truly felt was right or best for her own life. Chicago was tempting on many levels, especially for a swell gal like Ms Corrigan caught up in it’s tides; but she was resolute and firm in her morals. She also brightened up a bit under the tutelage of Dot, who took her under wings – setting her up in a job at Marshall Field’s and encouraging her to ‘live a bit’ before committing to eternity in matrimony. She had a good point, as Dot was noticing the more time her new roomie spent living her life as if she hadn’t had a future tethered around her, the more calm she became and the more open she was to new experiences.

-quoted from my review of You’re the Cream in my Coffee

As soon as I started reading this series, I knew I had found a series set in the 1920s I would be gushing over as readily as I do the Lillian Frost and Edith Head Mysteries! What is quite charming about it is how Lamont Leo writes the stories – she encourages you to go back into the earlier bits of the 20th Century – where life was a bit slower, a bit calmer and a bit more innocent. Yet, it wasn’t without its hiccups and hangups! You really can’t help yourself – you fall in love with Ms Corrigan’s antics and the curious way she gets herself into more pickles than she can talk herself out of! Laughs. It is one of those delightfully feel-good-as-you-read novels you hope has so many installments there will be a new one right when you need it most!

I learnt this first novel had gone into an audiobook edition a few years ago – I had hoped to review it for the author but somehow that didn’t stitch together. I still intend to gather the audiobook myself at some point – as I am dearly curious how a narrator would approach the characters; if done right, the audiobook would be an equal match to the version of the characters in my own imagination.

I haven’t had the chance to check-in on the author’s newsletters which arrive in my Author’s Newsbox every so often – to see if there is a third installment awaiting me; the first two I was blessed to receive as they went on blog tours, however, I never take that blessing for granted. For this series or any of the lovely series I am receiving for review as at some point I know I will need to gather the next installments on my own and/or request them through my local library ahead of the day I can bring them home to my personal library.

The only criticism I have on this series are the new book covers – I am showing the covers on the original editions I received as a book blogger who reviewed the series. I just don’t feel the new ones do the characters justice and I am definitely disappointed the third and successive installments will feature the newer versions of the artwork and thereby, I will have two which will be mismatched. This doesn’t often happen either but in this particular case it was a sad revelation for me.

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The Contemporary Romance writers from Harlequin Heartwarming

The beauty really are the authors Harlequin has within Heartwarming and Love Inspired – they know how to write the drama within the romance but also how to write compelling series with realistic characters & narratives which are a joy to be reading. I get quite giddy whenever there is a new author to read from Heartwarming or Love Inspired – whilst having the chance to participate on one of their blog tours is quite icing on the romantic cake! I love celebrating authors who are writing the STORIES which give me a heart full of blissitude to be #amreading – thus, for the past two years I’ve been hosting PRISM’s blog tours, I’ve been doubly blessed to become acquainted with the Heartwarming imprint and their series!

Return of the Blackwell Brothers Collage Badge provided by Prism Book ToursSeasons of Alaska series by Carol RossShores of Indian Lake series collage provided by Prism Book Tours

My love of Harlequin Heartwarming was shared within this tweet s/o! And, this one!

I don’t have a graphic for the Rocky Mountain Cowboys series – however, it is also included in this list of series I have thoroughly enjoyed reading by Harlequin Heartwarming.

The novelists behind Harlequin Heartwarming are writing the kinds of relationship-based romances my heart swoons to find! I also like the fact that unlike with ChocLit novels, there is one small difference which makes me feel a bit at ease seeking out the Heartwarming line a bit more frequently – the absence of strong language! There were a few Heartwarming stories where the language went strong but it is nothing compared to having to blink out a lot of language which are more inclusive to ChocLit novels. I’m just not that kind of girl – I’d much prefer to read a wicked awesomesauce romance without strong language than to have it peppered to death! I still have my favourite ChocLit authors who’ve touched my heart with their stories, their characters and their series – blessedly over the years, they know how fond I am of their writing styles – however, overall, I noticed a distinctive change in the direction of the ChocLit line of Romance.

Most of the Heartwarming stories are also set in small townes rather than large cities – this brings me to my second favourite bit of seeking them out – and let’s face it, there are so many lovely series in this Harlequin imprint, I could be seeking them out for the rest of my life just to read through them all and finding my top favourites! The small towne effect is something close to my bookish heart because instead of reading a one-off, you get the pleasure of joy of ‘staying with the characters’ as the stories not only evolve forward through the natural progressive evolution of their lives but such as you observe in Rankins with Ms Ross’s Seasons of Alaska – the towne and community grows behind them, too!

This 6th Year of mine is still a progressive journey towards readerly balance but also a renewal of celebration for seeking out Contemporaries which give my heart a burst of joy and a keen sense of readerly satisfaction knowing I’m finding the writers who make my heart swoon and give me that wicked good uplift for having read their romances! Here’s to a wonderful new year of romance and small towne fiction! I am overjoyed to have found this new imprint of bookish joy from Harlequin and I hope my showcases on my blog help encourage other readers seeking the same relationship-based romances I am to take a chance on these authors!

-quoted from my 6th Blogoversary post (celebrating Harlequin Heartwarming)

Recently, I lamented on Twitter exactly why the Heartwarming imprint has touched my life in such a sweet and personal way (see this tweet) – the truth of the matter is exactly as I relayed it. I was attempting to seek out a certain styling of Contemporary Romance narratives in the mainstream as I already knew I *adored!* them in the INSPY side of literature. That goes without question! However, when it comes to mainstream Romances – I was struggling – I have a particular preference about what I like inclusive in my Contemporaries and although, I am sure most would have suggested I stick to reading INSPY, the fact of the matter is I believe the mainstream authors existed out there *somewhere!* who were going to give me a) an uplifting read and b) were not going to include the bookish turn-offs I was finding a bit more common than infrequent!

The beauty of Heartwarming is how each of the romances you read are tender-hearted, gently written and have the tendency to focus on a) family, b) friendships, c) community and d) re-growth and/or second chances. They are realistic written for our modern world parlaying into heady topics and subjects that befit our generation and the issues we have today (similar to the Love Inspired Suspense imprint, to be honest!) yet they are written without explicit violence, language and love scenes which push the envelope for those of us who would like to stick on this side of the romantic ledger without crossing into territories outside where Contemporary Romances should tread.

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To break it down further,
here is what truly captured me by each of the series:

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The Rocky Mountain Cowboys: (Karen Rock)

Be sure to read this tweet first! And, this one second! Third!

Ooh still my heart – I can’t *believe!* I was lucky enough to be on *both!* Karen Rock’s blog tours this year — her Rocky Mountain Cowboys give me such incredible #bookJOY I can barely wait to dive into the books as soon as my #bookmail arrives by Post! Honestly – she truly understands why I love family centred small towne fiction – especially in Contemporary Romance whilst she also writes the grittier bits of realistic Contemporary Fiction into the background of her stories. Meaning – life can happen but if it happens in a small towne where community & family still have strong ties to how a person can re-invent or repair their lives, it is the blessing of Rock to give you a wicked good story in which you can cheer for her characters as you observe how their lives become altered through the everyday blessings the Rocky Mountain Cowboys series is built upon.

Ms Rock does a great job of taking you into the heart of addiction – first through the opinions of family who feel they are being helpful but in reality their falling a bit short with a few good observations. Secondly, she takes you into an NA meeting to hear the stories of other addicts who are struggling just like Sofia to quash their innermost doubts and to remain above the pains of addiction whilst re-setting their lives free of the substance of their choice. It was in one of those meetings where Sofia felt both ashamed to be present and rather awkwardly at first, comfortable amongst those who she could relate too.

Ms Rock also highlights what it is like to have a controlling personality – someone who is unable to yield or bend – this was spoken about in regards to Sofia’s father but in the present time-line of the series it is mostly directed towards James who has a definitive way of ‘taking over’ and claiming roles he was not meant to lead because doing so would jeopardise another person’s sense of self.

One of my favourite parts of the story is how closely Sofia and Joy (the Cade siblings mother) bonded over being in such close quarters whilst she was recuperating. Joy still had quite a bit of spunk left in her and she had a right to want to keep living her life to the fullest she could. Sofia inspired her in equal measure of Joy inspiring Sofia to take new risks and to keep bettering herself for her future and her son’s (Javi). Javi was an impressionable child but he also understood what was important in his young life. I can see why Sofia stressed about how he might react around James and why being around James for both of them was proving to be a bit too difficult.

One of the beautiful things about this series is how redemption and second chances permeate through the stories. Erstwhile, you are becoming closer in acquaintance with the Cade family themselves – the ranch they live on becomes the anchour to their lives, the place where they gather and they grow; where love nurtures their present and where it breathes hope into the future. Each installment of this series builds on the last story in sequence – thereby, by the time you start at A Cowboy to Keep whilst reading each new story thereafter, you are given a wonderful portrait of a resilient family. A family whose honest about the hardships in life and where good or bad, this is a family who remains evermore true of themselves.

Everything comes full circle in the Rocky Mountain Cowboys series – you get to see where loose ends knit back together and the one beautiful thing about this series is you get to have continual updates about all the characters you’ve loved reading about in prior installments! If you take the title of this one for a second to ruminate – you’ll find the word “pride” speaks volumes towards understanding where this story was leading you to venture. It isn’t just the pride of the current cowboys in the Cade-Loveland families but of all the cowboys within their mutual lineages who led to the current heroes of the series.

One of the things I admire most about how Ms Rock writes her stories is the continuity aspects of her series – where you can move from one installment to another in a seamless transition. I’ve started reading this series from the prequel into the first and second novels – before arriving into the fourth ahead of the third. I almost thought that was a mistake on my part, as I wasn’t sure if this fourth installment would pick up directly out of the third or return to an earlier conflict. The beauty of reading this series slightly out of sequence is how compelling it was for the feud to take precedent and thereby allowing me to continue the continuity I have been appreciating by reading this fourth novel.

The feud itself was established in the earlier stories – setting down the foundation of how both families are at war with each other – not just over the water rights (though those are a valid reason for the ill will between them) but it goes back to a matter of principle and honour. Of the circumstances relating to the original feud’s origins and how unsettling it is for the details which have remained behind paint a rather dark portrait of their ancestor’s lives.

Through all of this, Ms Rock has rooted us into the Cade and Loveland families – showing us how human each of the families are and how vulnerable the members of their families are to the adversities of life. In many ways, both the Cades and Lovelands have each endured a lot of obstacles and have made their own sacrifices over the years – over and beyond the feud which has always stood between them. Ms Rock makes this a living reality for us as readers – as you don’t have to get too far into the stories to feel the tension coming the Cades or the Lovelands – their natural reactions to each other is out of spite and anger; fuelling the feud and deepening the chasm between them.

-quoted from my reviews of “Christmas at Cade Ranch”,
“Falling for a Cowboy” and “A Cowboy’s Pride”

There is *one!* book I haven’t yet had the joy of reading and *one!* book I still need to grab in order to complete my collection – I am hoping to find a copy of “A Cowboy to Keep” via Thrift Books this year whilst I can’t wait to dive back into the series after I acquire it as I want to re-read the books and *this!* including a reading of “Bad Boy Rancher”!! She has another on the horizon and I just hope I have time enough to fetch “A Cowboy to Keep”!!

Her series just gives you this burst of happiness to read because of the consistency of how she’s crafted the series together. She even has dual families being represented in the series – wherein each of the siblings have the tendency of being featured in one of the novels but it is also how those two families interact and co-habitat as neighbours where the real drama begins! If you love family centred romantic fiction – this is definitely a series for you!

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Return of the Blackwell Brothers: (Multiple Authors)

Be sure to view this tweet first! And, this one second!

This is a series that is both redemptive as it is empowering – as it is about ordinary people who are having these tiny interruptions sprinkled into their lives to where they can choose which direction they wish to take next – do they make a life altering choice or do they play it safe? Do they risk their heart or do they risk something more? I felt fully anchoured every bit of the journey with the Blackwells because each of the writers were bridging the gaps between installments with ‘just enough’ continuity to make this not just believable but realistically compelling. It is the kind of Western dramatic romance series you can’t put down and you hunger after new installments that might never arrive.

This is my second favourite Harlequin Heartwarming Western Romance series – the first anchoured in admiration to this one is the Rocky Mountain Cowboys series by Karen Rock; also under the Heartwarming imprint. I am blessed to be a hostess with Prism Book Tours – as I was given the grace of joy finding these authors and their stories whilst continuing my adventurous journey as a book blogger.

-quoted from my review of The Rancher’s Homecoming

When I undertook this review tour for the five installments of the Return of the Blackwell Brothers, I must admit, I had NO IDEA how attached I would become to this series! It sort of snuck up on me in some ways – one story lead into the next, whilst by the time I read the fifth story, I was left with QUESTIONS not full resolutions! I even broached the idea of a SEQUEL series to this lovely run of stories involving the Blackwell Brothers – never thinking – that it could be a plausible goal!

Then rather unexpectedly, one of the authors of whom I was reading this year outside of the Blackwells left me a note on my blog to tell me – yes! there is in fact a sequel series and it will focus on the sisterly side of the ledger! Imagine!? I was properly gobsmacked but considering I still have a bone to pick with Big E for leaving his family in such a lurch of circumstances, I truly hope by the end of the NEXT series of Blackwell stories we can finally feel as if we are satisfied in how Big E either a) returns to the family or b) remains a reclusive shadow outside of it.

I remember when we left off in the fourth installment – there was a glimmer of insight into where Big E actually had planned to be all along. He was in the background of the series – ever so slightly connected to each of his grandsons and yet, firmly removed from their current affairs at the same time. He was manipulating their present lives from afar, giving them nudges to seek out transitions and changes none of them were prepared to undertake – hence why this series settles into your heart. As each writer builds on what was left behind in the previous installment – we are gaining full knowledge of the Blackwells, changing our perspectives and our understanding of their family’s dynamic whilst also being privy to what is motivating Big E’s choices. The most frustrating bit though is the distance Big E was placing on his boys. In so many ways, one of the harder things to reconcile is his choice to remain elusive, to be kept ‘away’ and to let his grandsons determine for themselves how they would react to the new circumstances evolving through their lives.

This is also one of the first times I’ve had the chance to focus on a multi-author series where I get to become acquainted with their unique signature styles of narrative and scope of developing characters alongside their abilities to collaborate and unite a series of five individual novels as if they wrote them as a team instead of in a round robin style of release! I was most impressed by how they handled the back-histories of the characters, the changing shift in the narrative scope of the Blackwell Brothers (as a series and as characters moving in/out) inasmuch as the fact the continuity levels are so dearly high in this series, you can’t help but cheer for the authors!

Blogging about this series was an absolute joy as a reader and as a book blogger – you will find I am rather gushy about this series as I have to admit it arrived at a point in my readerly life I needed as series like this one to focus on! I had so many delightful hours of joy – ruminating over the characters, their lives and the series overall, I am hopeful those words I’ve left behind on all the reviews will help readers pick up the series!

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Seasons of Alaska: (Carol Ross)

Be sure to visit this tweet first!

I truly have become attached to this particular series – it is definitely one I want to seek out the other installments to have in my personal library, as similar to my love & affection for the Rocky Mountain Cowboys + the Return of the Blackwell Brothers, I want to be able to tuck inside this series again… re-live those memories of their lives and see new scenes to reflect upon which I might have missed or overlooked the first time round. You know, those kinds of re-readings you can have during a blizzard or in the middle of a fierce thunderstorm? Where hours can wick off the clock and no one cares because your lost inside a beloved series?

-quoted from my review of In the Doctor’s Arms

Something quite special happened earlier in the year – when my library still had their ILL services (inter-library loan) – I was able to request ALL the stories within the Seasons of Alaska series to read ahead of my review for In the Doctor’s Arms. This gave me a very unique perspective on the series itself as I bundled my reviews into groups of two – each in turn providing more takeaways and insights into the town of Rankin itself but also into the evolution of the characters who reside in this close-knit Alaskan seaside community!

Your heart immediately grows attached to Rankins – not just because of how the whole community relies on each other but because of how Ross has etched out the Alaskan frontier and seaside living experiences in such a realistic manner of approach. She gives you an open door to experiencing Alaska as it would be lived if you left the lower 48 and for that, I was especially blessed by this series because I have had a curiosity about Alaska for a long, long time.

When Ross starts to describe Rankins – from how the water moves into the bay and how the hardwoods reach into the meadows surrounding the town and the mountains behind it – you can feel yourself immersing into the background of an Alaskan experience. These depictions of Rankins also are reminiscent of why I was drawn into the canvas of Alaskan townships and cities – there is a pull for the natural environment Alaska has on tap – how the ecosystem is syncronised in harmony where both wildlife and man can co-habitat on the same land but still find themselves with plenty of room to roam? Except for some of the places where the wildlife and our homes have the tendency of having blurred lines of boundaries – I’ve read and heard a lot of stories where moose and bear have the unfortunate disadvantage of not knowing when their presence is unwelcome. Evenso, as Ross describes it – Rankins is a towne which understands itself and its position.

She is also one of the authors attached to the Return of the Blackwell Brothers – so to begin reading a series which is wholly her own outside of that collaboration was quite exciting, too! I have come to appreciate knowing that I love her stories and her style of writing series – both as a collaborative writer and as a singular author. I am dearly itching for more stories out of both series and look forward to what might be coming next down the line!

Rather than focus on individual characters as this is very much a community of characters and hearts – as you come to become invested in each of their lives in turn of appearance – here is a cursory view into what you will discover if you let Rankins into your readerly life:

When Ross starts to describe Rankins – from how the water moves into the bay and how the hardwoods reach into the meadows surrounding the town and the mountains behind it – you can feel yourself immersing into the background of an Alaskan experience. These depictions of Rankins also are reminiscent of why I was drawn into the canvas of Alaskan townships and cities – there is a pull for the natural environment Alaska has on tap – how the ecosystem is syncronised in harmony where both wildlife and man can co-habitat on the same land but still find themselves with plenty of room to roam? Except for some of the places where the wildlife and our homes have the tendency of having blurred lines of boundaries – I’ve read and heard a lot of stories where moose and bear have the unfortunate disadvantage of not knowing when their presence is unwelcome. Evenso, as Ross describes it – Rankins is a towne which understands itself and its position.

The fact she set this one in Alaska is wicked brilliant as I have a personal affection of interest in the state and I also like how she brought current events and environmental issues into the foreground of the story itself. Ross has a true gift for bridging you into the lives of persons who have a very dramatic life – they’re going through this epic life shift and sometimes, they are not even aware of how much change is about to enter into their lives until their living through it. I find this to be the most relatable aspect of her writing style as she knits in real world situations into her characters lives in such a way as to be not just believable but honestly compelling. You start to feel for her characters – the unresolved angst, the anguish of striving towards something they feel they need to prove and the overwhelming odds stacks against them – you take this incredible journey alongside her characters and along the way, your spirit soars with their triumphs and their heartaches.

I was hoping #SeasonsOfAlaska would be family centred as much as #ReturnOfTheBlackwellBrothers and I was not disappointed! Bering has such a close-knitted family – you can’t help but become caught inside his love for his nephews which are in-scene with both Emily and Bering whilst they babysat the boys together. It was lovely finding young boys not just articulate in a Contemporary Romance but also very matter-of-fact and interesting just like their composites would be IRL. The two were a bit opposite of the other – one was intellectual and the other was more game oriented but the blessing was how much admiration they had for their Uncle Bering. I loved finding this thread of familial connection inside the Seasons of Alaska series and I was definitely intrigued at how the series would progress forward – would it remain within Bering’s family or extend to other families in the towne?

-the last two passages were quoted from my review for Mountains Apart

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Shores of Indian Lake: (Catherine Lanigan)

Be sure to visit this tweet first! And, this one second! Third!

Fire waits for no man. Neither does Ms Lanigan waste time settling us into the scene where a fire is slowly arching its way towards Beatrice and her youth camp. You feel as if you’ve travelled straight into the fire itself – seeing what Beatrice and her staff are seeing, dampening down your fears, swallowing your anxiety and acting on instinct to protect the children. In other words, Lanigan knits you so close to the reality of how fast a fire can erupt out of nowhere, you do not have time to pause to think about the implications because you feel as if she’s placed you squarely into Beatrice’s shoes and are living this nightmare in real-time.

The quickening pace to outwit a fire is quite real – you don’t have to rely on television series or films to know how dangerous a fire can become. Anyone who lives near a forest (which is let’s face it nearly most of us!) to any degree of acres knows how dire it is for rangers and keepers of the forest to maintain the vegetation and undergrowth during the dry seasons where moisture is absent and lightning is a devil’s wand of chaos which ignites within seconds of a strike. Though in truth, even controlled burns give my heart and chest a flutter of anxiety – if the wind were to shift or the burn itself were to outgrow its perimeter, whose to say what would become of the fire line?

I truly loved how Langian was giving us choices – to consider both sides of this developing relationship whilst we countered it against our own thoughts on the topics being broached. How would you handle a high risk job factor in your potential partner? What would hold you back from seeking a relationship even if you knew your trust was well placed but your heart couldn’t skip over their profession? The harder layers of the novel are dealing with risk and assessment – how it is not just the person who is risking their lives on a job which inherently is risky but it is how we each individually deal with the risks we take in our own lives.

I truly hope there are more stories coming soon in this series – the two installments I’ve read have solidified my joy of reading about the Shores of Indian Lake, as their rooted in real world problems, where honestly authentic lives are being lived and where hearts are attempting to both heal and move towards each other with the acceptance that comes out of forgiveness. Sometimes the best forgiveness is the kind we give back to ourselves as it grants us a freedom to live in a way that might not have been possible previously. This is why I have an attachment to the Heartwarming line of stories inasmuch as the Love Inspired – both are seeking the stories which talk about our human condition and the fuller scope of how romance arrives rather unexpectedly through a door we never realised we’d left open for it to blossom.

– quoted from my review of Rescued by the Firefighter

I never know which stories and which authors will leave lingering impressions on me – nor do I realise ahead of reading a new Contemporary Romance, which writer is going to be giving me what I am looking for in Contemporary Fiction. When I first took a chance on the Harlequin Heartwarming imprint of relationship-based romances – I had no idea how quickly I would become attached to their authors, their series and the characters who have charmed me over the past few years! However, Ms Lanigan’s style quickly became one of the stand-outs and her Shores of Indian Lake is one of the blog tours I eagerly await seeing come back round to host as I know what I will find inside her stories.

By the time this story concludes, you feel as hugged inside Indian Lake as your first visit – Lanigan has created a close-knit community where neighbours become extensions of your family and where friendships thrive against the backdrop of the love and warmth only a small towne can provide. I enjoyed watching how Josh grew out of the desperation he was facing as a racer – as a lot of what plagued him on the track was internal and emotionally dimensional to his past. He found a new lease on life in a place he would hardly have considered if life hadn’t intervened and that is what makes this such a sweet second chance romance – as it wasn’t a second chance relationship but rather of carving out your own niche of living in a place which took you by surprise.

I personally am attracted to ‘found families’ and the concept of how families can become stitched together in unconventional ways. This is why I liked how Lanigan highlighted that just because you either a) lost your biological family early-on or throughout your life or b) never had the chance to build your own family as an adult doesn’t necessary negate the fact everyone needs family in their lives. This can be from friends who are closer than your blood connected relations or the eclectic people who have become more important to your life than those who are generally included in your biological past. For Josh Stevens, Lanigan showed how a former foster youth could develop close connections to those persons he choose to trust and come to love having involved in his life.

In true Lanigan fashion, there is always something a bit extra bubbling beneath the surface of her characters – by the time you sort through the kind of childhood Josh Stevens had lived and the traumatic deaths he had endured from his family, you can see a margin of reason towards his recklessness now as an adult. It wasn’t an excuse for his choices but it was a reason of intention behind them which softened your ire against him. He wasn’t just a reckless driver for the benefit of the joy in the height of driving without limitations – there was more to it than that and this is what made him an interestingly flawed character to read about as the story evolved.

-quoted from my review of Hers to Protect

I am truly blessed this Autumn as I just received some #bookmail by post and guess what novel is winking at me from my shelf? The next Indian Lake novel! Home for Christmas! There are a few other Heartwarming novels coming up on tour this Autumn and Winter alike – I am still awaiting word if I made the tours – be sure to keep hugged to my feeds on my blog and Twitter to see which ones are going to be arriving soon to be read!

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Individual Authors who have stood out
& their series I wish to continue reading:

Tara Randel and her Meet Me At the Alter series:

Be sure to visit this tweet first! And this one second! Third!

Dear hearts, you might have noticed – I’m the kind of reader who likes to feel emotionally attached to characters – so much so – if I find a wicked good writer (such as Ms Randel, FYI I will be back-reading this series post haste this year!) who can develop the emotional depths of a character’s soul such as we have here in Zoe – this is a writer I appreciate reading because they instinctively understand why readers love to feel as if they’ve lived a lifetime in a character’s shoes! It’s the same with motion pictures, tv movies and tv serials – we like to feel as if we’ve left our reality and our time-line and crossed forward into someone else’s journey if only for a short reprieve from our own. By attaching ourselves through the emotions of a character, it’s quite easily transformative to see how this character is moving in and out of their circumstances or finding the courage to seek out a new beginning or survive an adverse moment of their lives. Emotionally speaking – this is how we connect to each other – both IRL and in fiction.

Quite early-on (even before Chapter Two!) I felt like I could connect with what Zoe was attempting to process of her life. She was caught between the hopes she had for her marriage, the anguish of losing a husband she felt she had lost long before he went missing and the joys of motherhood with the unexpected renewal of seeking out a bloke who not only understood her but wanted to be in her life in this new chapter of her personal journey. It was almost as if we were walking to the fork in the road for Zoe – of where she needed to decide which way to trust her heart and what was most important for her to do at this intersection on her life’s path to decide for herself which course of action was best for her and Leo.

As an aside, I was happily surprised to see the author enclosed a lovely snowman post-it which exclaimed quite merrily: Merry Christmas! It would have been the best time to read this lovely story, as it’s about finding redemption and forgiveness along with a hearty girth of renewal in the unexpected – however, I was full-on into the virus but I never forgot how this arrived in time for wish me a Happy Christmas! Also, the postcard with all the titles in the series was a sweet touch of joy as it gave me a road map of which stories I need to seek out in order to back-read the whole sequence! I used this postie as the ‘bookmark’ whilst I read the novel, too! Top cheers of gratitude to Ms Randel!

I look forward to reading more of her stories – I love her Contemporary style – the same way I love Ms Browne (Sheryl Browne) as both women are knitting together Realistic Contemporary Rom stories which feel like a brilliant bridge into why I love Women’s Fiction; the stories are full of heart, soul and the depth of how muddy life can become whilst it’s being lived but you have to find the will to dig a bit deeper and run straight into tomorrow even if the dramas of today seek to scuttle your spirits. How fitting then, I read this ahead of my second reading of Ms Browne which will be The Rest of My Life wherein I’ll be sharing my thoughts coming up this Saturday!

The other two authors which immediately come to mind are Brenda S. Anderson (see also Reviews) and Mary McNear (see also Reviews) – both of whom I need to follow-up with their series; of the two, I am finishing my readings of the Coming Home series between the end of January and early February – as I am taking the time to re-read both the prequel and the first novel, leading directly into the third and fourth novel which rounds out the series!

-quoted from my review of His One and Only Bride
(The Business of Weddings series, Book Six)

Ms Randel was one of the first Harlequin Heartwarming authors I was sorting out befit my preferences for Contemporary Romances – which is why I was quite happy to reveal other authors I enjoyed reading for similar reasons when I first began reading her series. This year – closely read to my readings of the Blackwell Brothers, I had the chance to read a new series by Ms Randel – there was another story ahead of the one I read but I wasn’t able to get a copy of it – therefore, it was one of those moments where I went into a series a bit blind to understanding the fuller extent of how it was established. This isn’t my personal preference for reading serial fiction, as I always attempt to read series in order – however, one saving grace of Harlequin Heartwarming is how you can easily transition into a new installment even if the series is well progressed past the initial five installments (such as Shores of Indian Lake) or like this one, is just getting off the ground.

I was quite chuffed this new series I am reading involves brothers, as previously mentioned I had just concluded another Harlequin Heartwarming series about the Blackwell Brothers! In this series, Randel has four brothers to keep her busy with their stories! Deke and his brothers, Dylan, Dante and Derrick were all law enforcement blokes with a dedication to their Mum. It was heartwarming to note how dedicated they were to their mother and to what lengths they were willing to take to ensure her safety and security. In this way, Randel had started to lay down a compelling foundation to this series – even though this is the second chapter of their lives rather than the first. She gives you quite a bit of back-story on the brothers but I am sure there was quite a bit more in The Lawman’s Secret Vow.

One of my favourite discoveries in this novel was seeing the ample time given for each character to introduce themselves – as you would expect to find them living their life. Meaning, when we were in the office with Grace, she held nothing back but revealled her strengths and a few of her faults; like the spiced tongue she had when she felt uncomfortable and let her spunk emerge to the point of turning people away. As we spent time with Deke, we learnt how close he is to his brothers but it didn’t feel like his section was being narrated through the lens of feminine perspective. It’s hard not to let that happen, especially as most of these kinds of stories are written by women. I always appreciate those who can keep either a dual focus spilt between their heroine and hero and/or allow their men to sound as you would envision them to sound as your reading. It brings more realism to the stories I think and it was lovely to see being done in His Honor, Her Family.

-quoted from my review of His Honor, Her Family

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Cathy McDavid and her Sweetheart Ranch series:

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What I noticed straightaway is how McDavid places us into the heart of the drama as it is unfolding – the curious bit there is you get to see her characters off-guard and out of confidence from who they are when things are going right. It leads to seeing their faults a bit earlier on in the story-line but also, to see their hearts and what makes them individualistically centred. For Molly and Bridget might have different personalities, there is no denying their sisters. Each of them helps compliment the other by what they are able to do in the pinch of a moment where life throws them a few curve balls! For this, I appreciated the choices McDavid was making on their behalf – as she was guiding us into where their lives shifted into the chaotic before giving us a path back to the serenity they once had known.

I look forward to seeing what develops through the series – being a quartet, I can imagine the POV is going to switch back and forth from characters we’ve become introduced too already in this first installment and newer characters we might meet in future ones. The best part of how this series was founded though is that McDavid kept family center-most of importance but also, how sometimes you have to encourage yourself to see life from different angles. Similar to how Bridget kept trying to encourage her sister Molly. It is one thing to see life from one perspective all the time but if you give yourself a chance to exchange one view for another, the surprises it affords could make the biggest differences.

-quoted from my review of A Cowboy’s Christmas Proposal

I will fully admit that I have a soft spot for ranches & farms – which is mostly why you will find me actively seeking out a heap of lovely stories which either are in our contemporary world of cowboys & ranching fiction or are set in another century where the homesteaders and Western states are still on a bit of the wilder side of living on the open frontier! When it came time to soak into this series what truly left me itching for more stories within it was the sense of familiarity with the ranch itself, the purpose behind the ranch and how McDavid encouraged your heart to take the journey with her characters.

Earlier in 2019, I had the chance to read the second novel in this sequence – where we get to see how the Sweetheart Ranch is continuing to be developed as the wedding venue of its region. It doesn’t surprise me at all that this was one of my transitional reads off another bad migraine! As mentioned on this post – I have the tendency of seeking out Harlequin Heartwarming stories due to the fact I receive the larger print versions for reviews and that makes my shift back into reading a heap easier on my head!

What I love most about the Sweetheart Ranch is how it is a family-run enterprise – spilt between a grandmother and her granddaughters. Everyone had a distinct role to play and they each built on what their strengths were to the point where the Ranch was not just successful but it was starting to thrive under their care and attention. By the time Bridget had her selection of breakfast sorted, my stomach wasn’t just growling it was eagerly disappointed I couldn’t sample her wares!!

All of the Harlequin Heartwarming authors are writing about relationships – in different stages of growth and this is another reason I appreciate the stories as much as I do. Each writer has her own spin on how to approach developing the relationship itself or how she wants you as a reader to take the time to see what is stalling the relationship before it can begin or why their characters have such keen issues in trust.

McDavid gave me this to ponder as I read the latest Sweetheart Ranch:

I liked how McDavid drew the reader’s attention to the perception of relationships or rather even, the perception of what women think about relationships prior to actually having them vs what is readily in front of them if they could put down their thoughts for a minute and see past their expectations. Sometimes a person’s expectations can cloud their own assessment of a person’s worth as they are only seeing a person through one particular lens of thought. If you re-examine what is important for you in a partner your seeking out, than perhaps Grandma Em’s sound advice would make better sense – at least, that is what I was hoping Bridget might sort out for herself as so far, throughout the course of knowing Ryan she’s short-changing her future against the neat and tidy dream she has for her future.

One of the best life lessons to put into the background of a Contemporary Romance is not being hung up on your own pretenses about what a relationship needs in order to be successful. This theme is played out in different ways but at the root of the story, you find two characters who need to learn to ‘let go and let live’ whilst giving themselves a chance to breathe into a relationship they both were putting the brakes on from beginning. For Ryan, the brakes weren’t as visible as Bridget’s but they were still there – leftover from the concerns he had whenever he cross-compared his own future against his parent’s past. The hard part in life is knowing when to let go of your own self-doubts and worriment’s to just embrace what is in front of you.

-the last two quotes were from my review of The Cowboy’s Perfect Match

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Beth Carpenter and her Northern Lights series:

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This was another series I began in the middle of its sequence – the fifth book, actually, and I was quite chuffed by how easily it was for me to get as hugged inside the rhythm of the community! Usually when you reach the fifth novel of any series – it is harder to adjust and feel like your not out of your depth in regards to the setting, the past characters who were showcased or even the relevancy of understanding where the series is headed as you enter into that newest installment! Not so with Ms Carpenter’s series – a bit of a happy lark of a surprise!

I will fully admit that what charmed me into wanting to read a *second!* Harlequin Heartwarming series set in Alaska is because of how much *wicked sweet fun!* I had residing in the Seasons of Alaska series by Carol Ross! (big smiles) I hadn’t realised Ms Carpenter was a native of Alaska when I joined the blog tour nor did I fully read the synopsis for the novel – honestly, I saw two things that piqued my attention: the name of the publisher and the fact this is set in Alaska!

Carpenter puts you front and centre on the action within her medically focused Contemporary (Sweet) Romance wherein you get to see first-hand what first responders go through in Alaska when their patients live rather remotely. Even the first case she presented in the novel wasn’t routine as it was a woman who had hypertension and it was causing issues with her pregnancy – I did give a bit of a pause of thought as to what would have happened if Volta and Scott hadn’t been there at that particular moment in order to intervene on the woman’s behalf. A credit to what Carpenter had already established about how due to how lean the state is on medical facilities and how the support staff in the more rural areas were limited to aides; you can see how Alaska can become a medically adverse state in which to live.

I definitely will be seeking out the rest of this Northern Lights series as I liked the pacing and the presentation of how Carpenter implores us to want to know more about this world she’s created for us to find! She hugs us so close to the hearts of her characters, it is easy to feel what they’re feeling and live a period of time in their shoes rather than our own. In essence, I love that this is another small towne series focused on family, hearth, home and a wicked dollop of romance! Best of all, she gave me a new reason to venture back to Alaska and that was the icing on the cake!

-quoted from my review of Sweet Home Alaska

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Claire McEwen and her Heroes of Shelter Creek series:

Be sure to view this tweet first! And, this one second!

As this is my first novel I’ve read by Ms McEwen, I truly appreciated the emotional density of the story-line – you truly get a strong feeling for where her characters are at the beginning of the novel; still in the process of healing and recovery from their losses whilst they still sort out how to move forward with their lives. That’s the compelling part of how she writes – she pulls you into their lives as if you were meant to follow them all along but with the fuller benefit of having just enough details to have empathy and understanding for why their lives have become so arduously difficult in the past few years.

Emotionally gutting and realistic in both the delivery of the story and the build-up behind the character’s lives is what truly staid with me as I read Reunited with the Cowboy. Rather than a traditional story-line involving ranching and cowboys, this novel tucks closer to the realities of returning home from service and of how sometimes a homecoming isn’t quite what you’re prepared to face if you’ve gone through an experience which has taken a lot out of your soul just to survive.

I appreciated how McEwen wrote this story – as she’s taken a lot of realistic real world situations and beautifully crafted them into the background of the series she’s written with such a heart of purpose that you can’t wait to read the next installment! I loved too, how she fused Jace’s story into Caleb’s because it gave you a hearty measure of excitement to read his story next as the series continues in After the Rodeo. Whilst his role in this story also worked on another layer of insight – about how to best help your friends who are struggling to put the pieces of their lives back together and when to realise you have to take a full step back from aiding them if their not in the right place to accept assistance. I truly felt Jace had more to share about his life long before I knew he had the next story in the series – his character was as fully conceptionalised as Caleb’s and I knew it would be a wicked good sequel to read!

McEwen has put a lot of growth into the novel – from the perspective of her leading characters but also from the supporting cast. Everyone is in the middle of evolving in this story – where the community recognises they need to do more and be better involved in each other’s lives to where Caleb and Maya recognise their at a crossroads themselves. This is the kind of series where you feel connected to their journeys and truly rally behind their efforts to find the strength and courage to do what they need to do in order to overcome the moments of their lives which brought the most adversity.

McEwen excels at writing emotionally convicting stories like this one because of how she tempers the emotional passages with the community of Shelter Creek. In a lot of ways, the title of the series is a key note towards understanding the evolution of where I believe the series might take us as readers- this is a place where you don’t just shelter your heart but a place where you can find a shelter to weather the storms of life. A place to find renewal and to find healing – right in the moments where life feels slightly out of your control and where you need a place to have a community to support you as you work through whatever life has dealt you. This is what I am hoping Shelter Creek will be about as we move forward as it already has developed into this kind of place now in the debut Reunited with the Cowboy.

-quoted from my review of Reunited with the Cowboy

This was a novel I wasn’t entirely sure was going to become developed into a series but one which I had hoped dearly it would be! I learnt lateron after I read and posted my review this has thankfully become greenlighted for more stories! I am unsure how I would have reacted if there wasn’t any hope of future installments as this first novel was such a strong entrance into the series! I could readily see how it could continue to develop, grow and evolve – something that is hard to process when your just beginning a book and there is a question mark about if it is merely a one-off or a serial debut. Thankfully this year, I had more than one happy surprise announcement involving the Harlequin Heartwarming line!

At this point along in my readings of Heartwarming, I sincerely doubt anyone is going to question my loyalty to cowboys & ranchers! Laughs.

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Virginia McCullough and her Back to Bluestone River series:

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Ruby is the kind of woman who likes to see the potential in life rather than the sour lemons that can upset your plans. She wouldn’t be the first to admit that losing a job she believed in struck her in the heart and was effectively difficult to re-group after due to how much of herself she put into the belief her job was one that had mattered. Instead, she put on the kind of brave face you hope will soak through you the longer you wear it and decides to re-settle into her hometowne of Bluestone River! This coming off the suggestions of her bestie Emma kept nudging her with photos of the open prairie grasses, the calming scenes of wildlife and the potential of what Ruby might find once she arrived. I think the key word there is how Ruby might find something she hadn’t planned to find and thereby, finding a new way forward when life felt like it was falling apart. That’s a sentiment I think most can relate too when things go south and you have to rebuild your life.

Counter to Ruby’s woes are Emma’s concerns for her own health – as she has a serious condition that requires not just surgery but loads of patience as the recovery isn’t an easy one. These are two woman at cornerstones of their lives seeking comfort and shelter together if only to weather the storms and find a way to come through them a bit less affected than if they were to ride them out alone. Although the same could be said for Mike and his young son Jason; as they were two warriors riding into their own storm as well. Mike was the kind of father who was not just committed to his son but he was an encourager of random joy. He liked to keep the legacy of how he was raised in the growing years of his son Jason, even if his own childhood and his son’s held a few stark differences between them. For instance, when Mike was growing up he wasn’t struggling with PTSD like his son but there was solace in being back in Bluestone River. The area held a calmness over it – where the natural world in of itself had the best calming effect on the residents and perhaps, a healing effect as well.

I liked how McCullough took her time in allowing Jason to come round to others; how he interacted with his father, his teacher and even new persons he was just starting to meet like Ruby and Peach (the dog). His behaviour matched what you would expect from a young child who was struggling with the issues he had and yet, each time he was in-scene, it felt organic, honest and real. Nothing felt forced and I appreciated the realism and the extra touches of honesty threading into how Jason was portrayed.

One of the more complicated plots I’ve read in a Contemporary Romance is entangled inside A Family for Jason – as it isn’t just a story about infidelity and tragedy; its about how the actions of others can wreck the futures of people who are secondary victims of the trauma. McCullough threads us through the past as readily as she does the present; owning to the complications of their mutual back-histories, Ruby and Mike are at different exit points to where their past re-aligns with their present. They each have their own spin on the events, the revelations and the after effects of how their lives were driven apart. The sad bit there is that neither of them are on the same page in regards to the emotional upheaval that the tragedy caused because they never had the proper chance to shift through that cascading turbulence of angst.

And, of course what didn’t help matters for them is how some members of the community have memories like elephants and without the benefit of letting the past lie where it rests. Some people like to stir up trouble for the sake of it and others apparently like to keep you rooted where you were in the past. I noticed that for all the good it was giving Ruby and Mike a chance to resolve their complicated past between them, there were others who wished to keep the divide and even tried to encourage the issues which once led them apart. In essence, some people can heal from the past and others refuse to move forward which makes healing hindered when your at the centre of what happened to drive the original wedge between different community members.

There is an ease of awareness and of setting here – you can tell McCullough has taken her time to develop this series, of giving us a well-rounded and well-thought out plotting to where the foundation of the series can build out of this first installment. It is a place that isn’t entirely without its prickles of angst but it has a heart-centred feel to it which gives you the hope of what could happen if people allow themselves to forgive the past and to seek a future without allowing the past to dictate how your life is meant to be lived.

-quoted from my review from A Family For Jason

This another example of a Heartwarming series I was thankful to read at the start of it’s conception as too often I am finding the series a bit late and have to start somewhere in the middle. This did not used to be an issue for me as I could borrow the back-issues of the series through my local libraries and/or their ILL services but moving forward – I am unsure when that will become a reinstated service! I do have a bit of hope though – I found that the book website Thrift Books has a substantial selection of gently used copies for Harlequin Heartwarming – so as time shifts forward, I can start to ‘add’ the volumes of the series I am reading and missing from my personal library from this online book shoppe!

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The authors of whom I am just starting
to seek out outside of the Blackwell Brothers:

Cari Lynn Webb and her City by the Bay series:

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The most guttingly realistic emotional arc was centred on Brooke – Webb anchoured us intrinsically into her psychological spiral. We felt what she bleed out of her heart – she was beyond the point where she could process what was emotionally overwhelming her as she had suffered a loss beyond words. How do you process seeing your home incinerated? How do you prepare yourself for rebuilding when you can barely breathe and choke past your emotional response to what has just happened? Webb takes you into her internal world – of where she second-guesses her ability to find strength out of hopelessness and how courage was on holiday because she didn’t feel an ounce of it whilst trying to believe in the goodness of those who are coming to her aide.

This is an emotionally intensive novel – from both Brooke and Dan; Webb takes us closer to both of their struggles as they both have found this methodology of surviving which works for them. They don’t want to alter the routines that have given them a false sense of normalcy in case they discover that the fragile confidence they’ve held inside that routine proved to be a shadow of their fears to where everything they were afraid of happening might suddenly begin to unravel the very last nerve they have left. Webb writes with an intuitive layer of understanding – of what happens when your trying to rise above your circumstances and how hard it is to work through the emotional upheavals you cannot prepare for in life.

-quoted from my review of Single Dad to the Rescue

I was used to her style within the Blackwell Brothers series – however, when I had the chance to read one of her installments from her own series, whoa! I was not quite prepared for what I found as she is a seriously dramatic novelist! I loved how she took you emotionally deeper than you thought a Harlequin Heartwarming novel could move you and at the same time, she curated this world to entreat into that had such a profoundly strong message to impart to the readers who found it!

This is another series in-progress where I entered it on the fourth story – it is my intention to get caught up with the past stories before the fifth is released but whether or not I can do that without being able to ILL the stories right now is a work-in-progress. I seriously MISS my inter-library loans!! They were the best for seeking out this imprint as they were regularly purchased by different libraries throughout the state and/or libraries within the states wherein I could borrow them across state lines.

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Amy Vastine and her Grace Notes Records series:

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I, personally would have called Uncle Hal several steps before it accelerated this out of control but then again, Kelly is a stubbornly independent woman who doesn’t like to lean on someone if she can handle her crises herself. Admirable but in this instance, not quite the wisest course of action to take when you have a stalker. By the time her Uncle sticks Detective Donovan on her to keep her safe, you have had enough time to get to know what makes both of them annoyed with her uncle! Donovan just wants to get back to his life as a cop whilst Kelly wants to keep believing she can take care of whatever life throws at her without any interference; from friends or her extended family on the force.

When we first met Donovan’s teenage nephew, I flashed back to watching Ties that Bind which was a series which only received two years but I was wicked thankful it could be streamed last year via Hallmark Movies Now. The drama was centred round the fact two parents had to forfeit raising their teenaged children due to being in trouble with the law whilst the Aunt and Uncle tried to pick up the pieces. The final episode unfortunately left me on a cliffhanger and an emotional one at that – however, it was how their lives were being positively intervened upon by their Aunt and Uncle which grounded the series. The Aunt was a detective just like Donovan and that is why I started to remember the series as I was reading Falling for Her Bodyguard. As a side note, the father of the teenagers in the series was Luke Perry.

Donovan and Kelly are like oil and vinegar in the beginning – she doesn’t like his interference in her life and he would rather she’d alter her plans at her job to make his assignment to protect her easier. The irony of course is how because they are two active persons in their own careers, you can’t just expect them to merge their lives together. Kelly doesn’t like to rely on others and Donovan is just as thick-headed as she is in that regard. He doesn’t even take criticism or suggestions well when it comes to his parenting skills. Even when the person doing the suggesting has some honest answers about the situations he’s going through, he’d rather be bullish and just plough through them like he has all the answers.

At some point you just have to laugh at them a bit because Donovan and Kelly never yield; even when one of them is trying to help the other, they’d rather not hear the advice! Except of course, when you start to see them letting their defences down when Donovan decides to let Kelly be round Avery and Graham. The children find a way to repair some of the angst happening between Donovan and Kelly; a lot of which, I felt was connected to the stresses of their situation and had a lot less to do with their potential in pursuing a relationship.

There was something wholesome and sweet about how this story resolves itself; as Vastine lets you take the adventure with Donovan and Kelly. In many instances, they were more caught inside the hours they spent with Avery and Graham; where they were laying down the foundation of a relationship but moreso to that, they were setting down a foundation for a family. Those hours were the most special of the story, as it is where you saw the barriers of grief and anguish starting to tumble down and where true healing could emerge. The kids needed someone as a mediator between themselves and their Uncle Donovan whereas where Kelly excelled at understanding what it was like to have a cop in the family, she also softened Donovan’s heart to accept that sometimes life brings unexpected circumstances that are good for the soul.

-quoted from my review of Falling for Her Bodyguard

This is another of the series I need to back-read in order to better understand everything that is happening inside it – though for me, the joy was getting another chance to ‘meet’ one of the Blackwell Brothers novelists outside that series and to re-align with her individual style. I also couldn’t help myself – I quoted different tv series this novel reminded me of I’ve happily streamed in recent years and more than one reference to my current beloved series from Hallmark Channel which is Chesapeake Shores!

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Brenda S. Anderson for the Coming Home series

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Quote from my review of Chain of Mercy feat. on Chain of Mercy banner by Brenda S. Anderson

Read my review for Chain of Mercy

Brenda S. Anderson has the same humbling roots as I do as a writer – she was a book blogger before she was a published novelist. I’ve been thankful to be following her before her career started and to be a member of her Street Team.

Even though, over the past few years due to personal circumstances and health afflictions, I’ve not been able to keep my posts alighting on my blog in a sequence of frequency as much as I would have preferred – I am thankful all the same to be one of her book cheerleaders because I believe so very strongly in her approach to the craft and to the realistic story-lines she’s creating for her readers.

As soon as I’m able to I’ll be finishing my readings of the Coming Home series before I move into her second Contemporary INSPY series Where the Heart Is – as I have my eyes on the Potter’s House series of stories thereafter. I might be a few years outside the main readings of her Street Team but my passion for her stories and her artistry as a novelist has remained fiercely supportive.

You can feel the emotional pull on Debbie and her husband Jerry as soon as you open the first page, Ms Anderson has such a cleverly intuitive pen, she knows instantly how to grab your emotional conviction within a short expanse of narrative! This I remember well from her debut novel, Chain of Mercy and why ever since I finished reading it, I hungered to devour the rest of the series directly! Of course, back then, the series was still a good year or so from being completed! Imagine the joy in knowing the books are all published and in print? Go Jorie!

One of the graces I feel any author can etch into the foundation of their stories is the truism of real-life; I have been blessed to have stories touch and move me with such affirmative clarity of realism, I could distinctively feel everything a character was internalising. One of these authors is Ms Anderson – as one of the hardest scenes to write convincingly is the ‘heart-clutch’, where within a singular nanosecond you have heightened fear, choking anxiety and that line of doubt of unknowing before the crucial bit is revealled to either unwind your nerves on hyper-speed or draw them further to a climax! There is a classic moment between the end of Chapter Two and the start of Chapter Three where you will cleverly observe how Ms Anderson ‘nails it!’ once again! My hat’s off to her for the depth of the moment being reverberated through Debbie’s stilling raw emotional responses!

I also appreciated how Anderson continues to actively paint both sides of emotional turmoil from equal grounds of gender perspective as too often I feel it’s only one sided (or bent towards) revealling the emotional lives of women (across markets & genres) wherein there is a loss for understanding what men go through as they too, have to work through their own emotional baggage as life presents different challenges where their faith is tested as well. It is one more strength in her writerly toolbox to provide realistic stories for our contemporary world where all of life is explored; the gritty bits alongside the spiritual highs and lows of living on faith and anchouring ourselves to light and hope tied together with love.

Readers will love the continuity and the gift of the first Chapter excerpt for Chain of Mercy at the conclusion of Pieces of Granite if this is their first reading of an Anderson novel! I loved how she tied everything together as if this story was written and released before Chain of Mercy! That’s a gift for having a story-telling eye and a keen insight into how serial fiction ought to be threaded together in perfect harmony! You truly love spending time with her characters and although the settings are contemporary by timescape, you simply want to entreat inside the locales as you find people you’d love to call friends whilst visiting a second home of your own!

-quoted from my review of Pieces of Granite

The last time I’ve been able to read the Coming Home series was in [2016] – I fiercely believe I need to re-read the series in order to best read the final two installments – as at this point along, I cannot honestly say I remember all the pertinent detail as well as I should. I also wanted to re-affirm the continuity I once had with the series and if I can finalise my readings round the holidays this year, I would be quite a thankful reader as the fourth installment has a bit of a holiday plot to it!

Afterwards, I will have to sort out how to bring either more of Ms Anderson’s novels home for my personal library and/or make requests at my local library – leaving them to be gathered lateron. I don’t want to miss a chance to continue reading her novels and therefore, I can see [2020] being a lovely year of re-activating my joyful participation of her Street Team wherein I can start to once again regularly read, support and be one of her book cheerleaders. She has long since become one of my favourite Realistic INSPY Contemporary novelists and she shall remain on my shortlist of #mustread favourites due to how intuitively she hones in on writing convicting INSPY Fiction for today’s modern reader.

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Jackie Gamber for the Leland Dragons series

Leland Dragon series by Jackie Gamber
Artwork Credit: Matthew Perry

Read my Series Overview for the Leland Dragons

Including Jackie Gamber on this list is part homage to the Leland Dragons series and part optimistic hopefulness of a reader who still feels there is a *missing!* piece of this trilogy’s story! I will forever be longing for either a) fourth installment or b) a series of novellas which will finally address my dearly beloved Murkens! I felt the only part of the series that truly didn’t resolve for me were the Murken’s murky and rather cliffhangery ending at the conclusion of Reclamation. It is because of this particular series and the film series of How to Train Your Dragon, I have had the most difficult time in re-adjusting into other author’s visions for their #dragonfiction!

I loved the exploration of Murkens within Murk Forest, because Gamber has such a gentle hand in giving you reason to draw a breath of pause whilst drinking in the more fantastical elements of her narrative! The Murkens by definition are shapeshifters, but it’s how they are presented that delighted me the most! They are as akin to the natural world as the dragons, living in a quandary of a balance that even they do not fully understand. There is always a hidden depth to the story, which I appreciate more than I may even let on! My mind is always rampant to explore the wholeness of the trilogy whilst caught up in one of the installments!

Gamber forces you to look internally and introspectively as you read her stories, especially in regards to prejudicial inclinations which can do the most harm if they are not seen for what they are. Jastin Armitage’s character goes through the most catalytic changes over the score of the saga. He is the classic hero whose soul was entrapped by rage and prejudice without the foundation of understanding what prompted his innermost hatred. She explores the depth of his character’s ability to emerge out of the darkness and back into a path towards the Light. For me, this is one of the quintessential elements she stitched into the fabric of the Leland Dragons series. To not only present war but to take the harder road as a writer to endeavour to uncover what provoked it from all sides, angles, and hearts. War doesn’t begin on the battlefield afterall, nor does war end in battle.

I am particularly particular about my dragons, you see, and somehow Ms Gamber simply tapped into the kind of dragon fiction stories I was seeking to read! My love of this series knows no bounds but I also know, the truthfulness of how Gamber already told me she put this series to rest and that (at the time) she wasn’t planning on re-opening the door to the world itself. I was heart-broken in many regards… but I had to respect her choice. Still. I ache to know about the Murkens and also, truly what the ‘next chapter’ of this world’s future might have evolved into after we concluded the third installment of what I felt at the time was a quartet.

The theory of time’s fragile fabric knitted together with the internal clockwork of their known world’s pulsebeat was refreshing as it insinuates that all action has its consequences on a higher plane. A bit how in our own realm of living within the sphere of Earth is jolted and disintegrated by industrialism and shifting powers. There is an internal balance to how a living sphere of a world can function and thrive. The more outside influences which disrupt the habitat and makeup of that sphere’s natural origins, the more precarious the situation can grow! We are meant to be caretakers and caregivers of the land bestowed to us, rather than the bullied force of brutality and harshness the land and environs flinch and shirk away from once our presence is known.

quoted from my review of “Reclamation”

The Leland Dragon series is a story which breathes a lifeblood of humanity into a story of dragons & humans. The breaches of peace and times of war are only a mere small token of what is found inside the trilogy as a whole. Enter the pages whilst ready to transcend through a portal into a world you will not wish to leave.

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Larry D. Sweazy for his Marjorie Trumaine series:

See Also Murder by Larry D. SweazySee Also Deception by Larry D. SweazySee Also Proof by Larry D. Sweazy

If there was ever a dramatic crime novelist who knew how to shatter the heart of his readers, it is Mr Sweazy! Before I read the Marjorie Trumaine series, I quite literally had never met an author who knew how to emotionally anchour me into a series and then shatter everything I expected out of the series thereafter! Meaning – do NOT get emotionally attached to characters inside this series as you just “never know” what is going to happen next! And, yet that is part of the allure – because there literally is no reason to fear where you will go with this series.

Despite the heartache of having to ‘let go’ of beloved characters it is the intrinsic way he’s developed Marjorie Trumaine and the world in which she lives which speaks to you the most. This is real life as it is being lived in this particular generation of insight – the rawness of what she has to face and transition out of is written as if you are living through those moments yourself – making the best choices you can whilst doing a bit of good on the site in your community.

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Marjorie Trumaine : why I love reading about her!

Trumaine is a woman who speaks her living truth quite easily – revealling bits of facts at first glance and warms you to her humble life by viewing her in her element – her life at the farmhouse where the hours are a succession of nursing her husband, indexing books and trying not to watch time march off the clock whilst others are caught up inside their own lives; a step removed from her own. A woman who has a keen sense for checking facts and sorting books into an index that logically makes sense, she comes across as someone with a strong sense of self-assurance for tackling the impossible. Part of this was gleamed out of circumstances but I think a greater stroke of truth might be it was an innate gift.

What endeared me the most about Marjorie is how Sweazy gave her such an honest representation of a woman who loves being self-taught and self-educated! It’s rare in today’s modern world bent on University to have a character step outside tradition and be wholly confident in her mind as Marjorie Trumaine is within this series! I loved how Sweazy broached the topic about how due to all her curiosities and readings she’s accumulated such a large repository of knowledge – a tome of loveliness to recollect, but one that is oft-times hard to share with others who do not understand how you can know a bit of something about a whole of lot of everything! My, how I could personally relate to this woman! She is seriously a well-conceived character and one I am blessed to have discovered!

She’s not one to give into hardship nor is she one to focus too hard on what isn’t able to be changed; she’s resolute in her heart to carry forward to a tomorrow on her own terms. One of the best blessings she had was the friendship of the local Sheriff who Sweazy has placed in Marjorie’s life in such a natural way to give a leeway for how he encourages Marjorie to start sleuthing. It wasn’t someone who regularly meddles in on crime and the affairs of a police station; no, this was a kind request by a dear friend who simply wanted a sharp mind to take a look at things with a fresh perspective. Such an organic vein of entrance to a series!

Marjorie Trumaine is a woman whose independent sensibility has done her a few favours, as it’s allowed her to buckle down through the worst adversity for anyone to go through in a marriage to a sweetheart they could barely recognise anymore. Her logical mind helped ease the burden of her hardships by allowing the comfort of list-keeping to off-set the proportional stress factors that try to push her spirit too far past it’s tipping point. Her thoughtful interludes on events outside of her own control is what granted the most pleasure in reading her story – you want to curl up inside this series and not let the story go until you’ve read the very last page! Marjorie is such an agreeable character because of her steadfast honesty and her uncanny way of bringing humble and spiritual perspectives to ordinary hours which give us the most adversity to shift past.

Marjorie’s best friend is the librarian who she helped challenge to think outside the monotonous routine of being a small towne librarian, where both women could flex their minds to pursue knowledge to help with Marjorie’s book indexing projects. In some ways, this reliable vehicle of income for Marjorie has passed forward kindnesses to others along the way; including giving her friendship in a time when having someone to talk too was a joy beyond words. Most of her lifelong friends abandoned her after the wake of her husband’s tragic hunting accident – rather than succumb to the shattering reality as her Hank had done himself, Marjorie found ways to redefine herself and her life’s purpose. Calla’s only negative influence on Marjorie is her chain smoking, but Sweazy has a classic style of giving Marjorie clever ways to articulate her mind on such matters – when she started to cross-compare how a cigarette smelt and what those aromas reminded her directly of is truly classic! He keeps the honesty flowing through each chapter, stitching Marjorie’s tapestry to be well-rounded and keenly insightful whilst giving me more smiles than tears! This is truly an uplifting story despite the brevity of events which forever changed the lead character’s life.

I especially liked how Marjorie chose to handle Raymond, her academic cousin who thinks he’s better in intellectual pursuits moreso than Marjorie as he doesn’t take kindly to ‘self-educated’ women. I smirked seeing their exchanges, because it’s such a well-worn argument between both sides of the ledger! She truly took the high road, seeking the information she needed to take her to the next level of her investigation into Nordic Mythology, whilst not giving her Cousin Raymond any leeway towards knowing he was irking her ire!

-quoted from my review of See Also Murder

I began reading this series when Seventh Street Books was still part of Prometheus Books and I am looking forward to continuing to read this now that the publisher has merged into Start Publishing. I still have one novel in the series – the third – which is awaiting to be read, as it was unfortunately placed on my backlogue due to health afflictions which prevented me from reading it when it was first sent. I regretted that dearly as I truly have felt a deep connection to this series as you become so emotionally involved in Ms Trumaine’s life! You even rally behind her as she’s attempting to make good on her book indexing career and having to juggle all the worries and concerns at home and in the community.

The best way I can explain why I love how Sweazy writes this series is to give another insight from my review of the first novel See Also Murder:

Sweazy has a lovely tone of delivery inside his stories – especially in regards to See Also Murder, as he takes his time introducing his characters whilst giving you the strength of their lives up front. His gentle manner of allowing his characters to warm to you is what granted me the most joy in curling inside the novel – I could tell I was on the fringe of rallying behind Marjorie Trumaine straight out of the gate! His poetic glimpses of farm life in the Dakotas, of singling out moments of paused reflection were a delight to entreat inside because they earnestly told living truths about the lifestyle the Trumaine’s lived. I appreciated the way the novel started to become such an enjoyable feast of words, expressions and observational nuggets of the author’s impressions on behalf of his world.

Mr Sweazy injected such heartache inside his character’s heart, but he etched out the hard lines with feather kisses of hope and an underscored will to survive in the face of so much uncertainty. In the character Marjorie Trumaine he created the strength of a woman who was an equal to the natural environ of her home – the Dakotas have such fierce weather patterns, they alone can strengthen your resolve (or break it if your unable to deal with the influx of change on such a high frequency); but it’s how he’s given her something to focus on with an orderly task within the publishing industry that fused her will to her lifeline of hope that I felt was most fitting of all. It spoke to her true nature and to the spirit of the young girl she once was who found solace in stories.

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Susan Spann for her Hiro Hattori series:

On my connection to Susan Spann:

I started visiting the chats hosted by @LitChat in the latter months of 2013, as it was around the time of the conference at The Betsy in which I started to cross paths with regular chatters, amongst whom were Natalia Sylvester (début novelist of “Chasing the Sun”) and Susan Spann. I am unsure which month I first started to notice Ms. Spann as a friendly presence who always reminded me of myself — someone who provided cheerful commentary, engaging questions for each visiting guest author, and a wicked knowledge base on a variety of topics. Generally speaking, I always click-over to read a person’s Twitter profile, but whilst engaged in those #LitChat(s) I felt like it was this magical rendezvous for the bookish and those who are attuned to bookish culture.

In this way, it wasn’t until I learnt of Blade of the Samurai was going on a blog tour that I decided to discover a bit more about her! In so doing, I learnt who she was ‘behind the curtain’ so to speak! I always considered her one of my ‘friends in the twitterverse’ but I never disclosed this to her until I was on the (Blade of the Samurai) blog tour in September 2014! Such serendipity as the tour brought us a bit closer and I am grateful that Twitter is a social-positive method of reaching past our distances in geography to connect to people who share a passion for the written word. We have continued to remain in touch although we do not get to ‘meet-up’ on Twitter as often as we once did due to our schedules in recent years.

I am disclosing this, to assure you that I can formulate an honest opinion, even though I have interacted with Ms Spann through our respective love & passion of reading inside the twitterverse whilst attending #LitChat or in private convos. I treat each book as a ‘new experience’, whether I personally know the author, whether I am reading a book by them for the first time or continuing to read their series in sequence of publication.

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Claws of the Cat by Susan SpannBetrayal at Iga by Susan SpannTrial on Mount Koya by Susan Spann

I have followed this lovely series to three different publishers – though in truth, the second and third are one of the same; the only different is Seventh Street Books went through an acquisition and merger. I did not know that much about 16th Century Japan when I first came to learn about the Shinobi Mysteries by Susan Spann. Ironically, at the time – I hadn’t connected the dots to the chatty participant I liked to engage with during #LitChat either – nor she to me, being the book blogger who was receiving her books (at the time, it was for the Blade of the Samurai blog tour wherein I also received Claws of the Cat to understand the continuity of the series). Imagine our happy surprise in realising who we ‘were’ to each other? Laughs with mirth.

I have become quite attached and fond of Ana, Father Mateo and Hiro as well as Hiro’s cat Gato (that’s a riddle in of itself that will tickle your funnybone!) to such a level I eagerly appreciate finding them once more occupying the story’s central heart. I think the ending of this one was quite special indeed because it brought out things that might have been elusively just outside our knowledge in the previous installments but are now fully present and centred. These characters are a ragtag family of whom are precious and dear to each other, even if they don’t always sound like they love each others’ company! Now that their embarking on a new beginning, I long to see what will be waiting for them at their destination! What fun!

From those initial moments of entering into the timescape of Ms Spann’s vision for Father Mateo and Hiro Hattori – I was both captivated by her sense of historical vision for the series but also the accuracy for the series itself as it follows a very distinctive time-line in Japanese history. Although I consider these to be Cosy Historical Mysteries – the scenes of the crime are a bit more hard-boiled than cosy though only ‘just so’ to where I still place them in my personal category of “Cosy Historical” as they are not overtly graphic to where the violent sequences would make me feel nausea. They are what they are given the situations and circumstances within there sequencing – and of course, you can’t quite alter those scenes to be anything but what they are given why they are the way they are represented. Not that that lost any of my readers in how I’m attempting to talk about scenes without spoilers! Laughs.

Ms Spann keeps you keenly invested in being aware of not only the current plot thickening before your eyes, but the concurrent story-lines which came prior to the one your reading! You have to keep observant and the wicked challenge is piecing all the lovely clues together which add into the depth of where the series is grounded. I love finding an author whose symmetry for carrying a series forward is never overshadowed by an installment but rather brightened by how all the stories within the series broaden the appeal of how far reaching the series has become! It’s a special treat, as you get to dig deeper into the background of where the Hiro Hattori novels are set and how everything is fused together properly through the characters who populate the series directly.

Spann etches in lessons of mortality and a fine line of ethics into her stories, which is one reason they appeal to me as much as they do. She doesn’t just want you to read a mystery for the sake of it, but to truly think about the complications each crime brings to the community or have one death can involve many different lives in ways that is not as easily to see from the offset. It is this attention to the details that grants you the joy in reading the Hiro Hattori novels – each story is a further glimpse into the evolving story where the fuller arc of the series begins to bloom forward into view.

-quoted from my review of The Ninja’s Daughter

If I had to contemplate how readily easy it was for me to become passionately involved with 16th Century Japan, I daresay, I might have not believed it! Yet, the way the era and century is interwoven into the background of this series – combined with the signature attention to period details, political upheavals as well as the fashion, food and cultural traditions of the timescape itself – you feel as immersed in the 16th Century as if you had a relative who lived back then and had given you a journal of his days to inherit! Each new installment of this series i am reading leads me closer to understanding the fuller vision Ms Spann has for the series but also, the inter-connections between all the main characters – as there are some secrets which have never been revealled – such as why Hiro protects Father Mateo and who truly has ensured his safety!

The lush descriptive narrative and evocative phrases are what I have come to expect out of the pen of Ms Spann and in this sixth installment, she’s continued to endear me to her words! It isn’t just the placing of the contextual elements in the background of her scenes, but it’s this awareness of Japanese culture, tradition, religion and setting which fuses me so wholly into her scenes, I feel as if I’ve transmorphed straight out of modern America and re-settled into the 16th Century! Each installment pulls me further into this world – whilst granting me a purview of the part of Japan which has greatly influenced the writer.

I have the tendency to favour Father Mateo’s views on the world as in this instance, his compassionate understanding for the dire necessity for the nuns to walk to this temple was sparked out of sheer will to survive not the mark of women who were attempting to reverse sacred order! The storm itself you would think would be justification enough but after having learnt the ordeal they had survived, surely compassionate sympathy should be an innate response rather than one which needs to be learned? There are moments not just in this series but in life, where you would think people could see past themselves and accept there are circumstances outside of controlled order which lean on being sympathetic to how life does not run according to plan but rather can be altered in an instant?

I found it fascinating how Ms Spann showed how spirituality in any form puts Hiro at a disadvantage whilst proving Father Mateo is open to learning how others connect to God. In this installment, through the exploration of setting this mystery tucked into a sacred mountain for the Buddhist who live there, we are privy to the trials of owning the fact, even in the 16th Century where Buddhism was actively practiced and observed, there were learning lessons for tolerance and acceptance waiting for those who came across people of believing differently than they did themselves.

Spann happily breaks down the rituals and the observances of the Buddhist faith in a manner of approach which is both wonderfully insightful and easy to understand. She builds on my own readings and research whilst providing keener insight into how these particular priests are practicing not just their faith but the rituals which bind them together in this setting. I also noticed Spann is paying homage to the atmospheric inclinations of her mentor (Dame Christie) whilst maintaining her own signature style which has kept this series a beloved read of my own.

I oft see readers mentioning you can read this series out of sequence but for me, personally, I do not see how you can have an understanding of the growth of the characters nor the breadth of what the series is eluding to as each installment is a percolator of events yet to be disclosed. The relationship between Father Mateo and Hiro Hattori is duly layered and has thrived due to how each of them has chosen to forge a friendship with someone they never expected to feel a humbled connection too. If you start this series out of sequence, you would be sacrificing the beauty of living through their experiences to gleam the best insight into how the series is lovingly built around these two men!

-quoted from my review of Trial on Mount Koya

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Jennifer kincheloe for her Anna Blanc series:

The Secret Life of Anna Blanc by Jennifer KincheloeThe Woman in the Camphor Trunk by Jennifer KincheloeThe Body in Griffith Park by Jennifer Kincheloe

If Ms Spann whet a thirst for the historic past with emotional agency, than Ms Kincheloe has followed in the footsteps of Ms Lamont Leo for curating a cheekier side of Cosy Historical Mysteries by giving me another series to chew on which rattles my funny bone and has such wicked sharp humour inside its breadth of narrative that I never know if I’m meant to take a sequence seriously or just cackle into a snorted bout of laughter!

Sophisticated in her ascertainment of conception behind Anna Blanc, Kincheloe has writ such a lively character, you drink in her words with such a joy of delight! She has a fast paced narrative, where the humour is smitten by the sophisticated edging of her character’s personality, matched equally brilliantly by the grace of a Cosy Historical Mystery backdrop! She’s captured the turn of the century atmosphere aptly, as she tucks in recognisable familiarities to alight in your imagination as you turn the pages; replete with gaslights and other bits which correlate with the era.

I loved the way in which Kincheloe turnt a phrase, using words not oft found in historical fiction as her novel is a good primer of words that are wicked to say aloud and used in descriptive narratives such as this one! The phrases themselves are a delight for readers who love words as much as wordsmiths, which Kincheloe definitely excels at including whilst giving Anna Blanc a crafty choice of words to express her emotional duress! She also found a clever way to include Anna’s religious background by having her talk to the Saints when a mood or a moment fitted the hour; it was quite an interesting way to thread faith inside a mainstream novel and I liked the author’s candor.

Anna Blanc is quite the character to meet – both in print and in audiobook – and graciously, I’ve had the blessing of meeting her both ways! This was actually my initial pick for Seventh Street Books when I was first starting to review for the imprint – I had my choice of which book to select and as soon as I read the description for The Secret Life of Anna Blanc – dear hearts, I wasn’t just smitten, I was implored to know more about this feisty independent minded and dearly feminist amateur detective who had a grandeur sense about how a woman such as herself could not only impact law enforcement but change how women are investigated!

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Anna Blanc – uniquely independent & charmingly witty!

Anna Blanc is self-assured and a women who doesn’t take kindly to be ‘put in place’ by her controlling father – as soon as she announces her presence on the scene, you want to know more about her as she’s a formidable woman straight from the gate! Her cheeky cleverness to hide whilst attempting to flee by rail and to be fashionable even though necessity dictates that to be a difficulty when trying to outfox someone from finding out your whereabouts – Anna Blanc has a charm about her that lends well to become entranced by a character you can tell is going to surprise you at each new turning of her story! How can you not help but smile when things go her way? She has this curious aplumb about her that delights the expectation of where she’s about to take you on her adventure!

Anna Blanc makes choices most women in her generation might blanch at finding out about, but she’s on a singular mission to sort out her life by living it to the extreme degree of self-directed maturity. One of the tricky bits towards gaining her independence was the balance of fashion and the clothes in which she had to trade with her less-than-honourable chaperone who allowed her to barter payment in kind in order to keep herself in a role she devised. It’s a credit to Kincheloe as she honed in on the class differences and the ways in which what you wear in clothes can dictate so much in social settings, it was quite plausible for someone like Anna Blanc to ‘blend out of sight’ simply by exchanging one style for another.

Her chaste innocence combined well with her strong grit to bite back her own fears and buckle down the courage she would need to draw on time and time again to do what was right rather than what was expected of her. She’s not the type to succumb to what society wishes for her but at the same time, was not attuned to the differences between where she was brought up and the ways of the world for commoners below her in class. She never saw the divides until she made a conscious choice to step outside her station and see if it were possible to live a life where she was in full control of it’s course.

-both quotes are from my review of The Secret Life of Anna Blanc

This is a rather unique series – in how – I first met Anna through the print editions and then had the pleasure of joy in listening to a narrator bring her to life. This Summer I was approached by the new publicist for Seventh Street Books to begin reading and hosting their authors now that the new publisher has taken over the imprint – imagine my joy as I knew there was an announcement about the third installment of the series?

There is a special ambiance about these stories – you get wicked excited to see what Anna is going to accomplish next and how she is going to continue to assert her independence and her independent way of thinking especially as it affects her relationship with Joe!

The #AnnaBlancMysteries are truly stories writ within the framework of a new lovely niche of interest I have in Historical Fiction these days which occupies the space and breadth of exploration for Feminist Historical Fiction. Anna, herself, is an extraordinary ordinary woman who took it upon herself to break conventional standards of expectations for herself (and women overall) whilst she also moved into seeking out a non-traditional field of employment whilst shunning the idea of marriage to a man of whom would have sealed the future of her father’s business but would have ruined the spirit of Anna Blanc herself.

She wasn’t willing to sacrifice herself for the sake of family or obligations therein but she also, was truest to herself in the ways in which women were suffering through the women’s movement to defend their right and will to live life on their own terms. In essence, I always felt Anna Blanc embodied the best of both genres I showcase during #SaturdaysAreBookish – Women’s Fiction for the heart of her life and the root of how hard she fights to stand her ground, improve the lives of others and rally behind the people who do not oft have the option of raising their own voices to defend themselves whilst at the same time, there is cheeky bits of humour, romantic interludes and a dash of Romance threading into the series as well.

-quoted from my review of The Body in Griffith Park

This year also marked a chance for me to host the author during my chat @SatBookChat – wherein I have an archived transcript of what was discussed in our chat’s Moments. It was a wonderfully lovely Saturday – imagine the joy I had in being able to openly discuss a beloved book series, talk about the components of the series & the character and hopefully help introduce new readers to the author’s vision for the growth and forward motion of Anna Blanc!

I was overjoyed I could finally take #SatBookChat off its unscheduled hiatus and resume the chats I have loved to host starting in September, 2019! We have consistently been hosting chats during the month – averaging 2 to 3x guest authors and coming up in November we’ll have four! I honestly can’t stop talking about this series as Anna Blanc is singularly one of those characters you can’t wait to cosy back into her stories as the absence from her life has left you will a deeper curiosity about the rest of her adventures!

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AshleyRose Sullivan for her Awesome Jones series:

Awesome Jones by AshleyRose SullivanLona Chang: A Superhero Detective Story by AshleyRose Sullivan

I love taking chances on Indie Authors and this generally applies to Speculative Literature – as a book blogger, I’ve been able to expound on my love of SpecLit by leaps and bounds; due to my blog touring connections and by reviewing for different publishers directly.

In this regard, a new niche of love developed which I cheekily started tagging out in the twitterverse as #superherofiction long before it started to be ‘on trend’ as within a few years of #AwesomeJones being released – this legit had its own niche in literature world-wide! I oft hoped this particular series would catch on with readers who were seeking out their superheroes because the depth of this series Ms Sullivan has written and developed is such a wicked brilliant original concept that it deserves the love of more readers!

You are immediately drawn to Awesome Jones as a character because of his introverted confidence in understanding his place in the world and how his everyday life is lived as a bachelor. He has a particular way of attending to each of his needs as well as his wants. From the order he reads the newsprint to the manner in which he eats the takeaway food he orders! He is a man of prediction not contradiction, of sincerity and of genuine curiosity for the bits of the everyday world that is not readily known to him; as he has more or less led a bit of a sheltered life. Not that he would be one to feel sorry for what he lacked in experience (such as having a pet; a dog perhaps?) but artfully steered his mind towards self-awareness and self-education practices which gained him the knowledge of what was absent. He’s the type of bloke you might overlook if you had not taken a keen interest to want to know him. He’s a bit understated, but that is part of his charm!

He’s the type of bloke who purchases flowers to know when they have arrived into their own full essence of splendor. One sniff of their delicate petals and the aroma which follows their mirth, and he knows how long it will take the bloom to reach its maturity. His knowledge for canines through the adverts he reads about their change of ownership lends him an eagle eye viewing of his sidewalk companions as he walksabout his business. He denotes which dog matched to which owner is either most akin to its nature or a reflection of its owner’s personality and thus, rendered differently than most.

Lona Chang took Awesome by surprise, not only for her growing affection and respect of his character, but for being endeared to him as a companion. The two took to each other quite readily, but it was how they fit into each other’s pocket that I felt bemused about the most whilst reading the story! You see, they were the near-identical half of the other, and I refer to it being ‘near-identical’ as although they each read the newsprint release of breaking news, they differed on a category or two. Little unbeknownst differences out of a sea of common threads which helped knit Awesome Jones and Lona Chang together in the bliss of conjoined living. She was quite methodical herself, yet Awesome took the cake for exacting out his observations, and for being near computeristically perfect in his actions. Whilst the two were together, they not only complimented each other in synced harmony but they cancelled each other out on their eclecticism.

Lona and Awesome were intricately entwined by their common share of loss, as they respectively never knew their proper origins. They were each raised by loving parents who adopted them as their own when their biological parents had died. They attempted in their own way to resurrect a connection fate did not allow to solidify whilst their parents were alive. In their shared ambiguous loss, they each sought ways in which they could formulate a way to connect themselves through a passion of their parents; even if the only true connection they had were fragmented pieces of their parents personal effects. These tangible reminders were a weight of a burdened yoke which toyed with their emotional well-being.

-quoted from my review for Awesome Jones

I am unsure how long a series #AwesomeJones will become but one thing is certain, Ms Sullivan is writing the kind of superhero fiction I most desire to read and I dearly hope there are more stories in development!! I best leave you with a few takeaways from the sequel and if you do pick up this series, please take the time to either tell her publisher or give a happy s/o to her on Twitter that you’ve become as smitten with her superheroes as Jorie has herself!

Felt like coming home, reading Lona Chang as Ms Sullivan’s signature style of telling superhero stories within her #AwesomeJones series never fails to make me smile. She has wonderful continuity within the series itself but the tone of the series is what I love the most. You truly feel as if you’re a part of Awesome and Lona’s lives, picking up the pace with where you’ve last left them and feel as close to them as you had before you parted company to await a new chapter of their adventures together.

Ms Sullivan’s unique style of story-telling is partially rooted in narrative fiction and partially exhibits comic book styling – this is why I love reading this series as much as I do. There is a particular way of approach in how she tells the stories, from how the text is arranged to the insertion of the graphics and illustrations. The pace is quick but telling – you feel pulled into each of her sections with the apt attention they deserve as she brings each scene fully to life and develops the growing back-story in such a way as to feel as if you’ve lived it beside her characters. Even when the elements of what makes her superheroes quite fantastic feels authentic and not overly super-dimensional because she’s found a way to draw on their humanity which gives them the roots of humbled pride.

-quoted from my review of Lona Chang

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Rebecca Connolly for the Spinster Chronicles:

The Merry Lives of Spinsters by Rebercca ConnollyThe Spinster and I by Rebecca ConnollySpinster and Spice by Rebecca ConnollyMy Fair Spinster by Rebecca Connolly

When I came down with my latest migraine a bit over a week ago – coming out of it was a bit of hard-won patience on my end, as it was one of those supernova migraines? You’re rendered useless to do much except rest, obliterate the light and stay away from screens; copious attempts to come back into stories, your blog and the twitterverse are necessary as well as your head re-shifts back into your life at a slower pace than you’d imagine. Hence why I usually read the larger print Harlequin Heartwarming Romances and/or I listen to an audiobook; something to help ease me off the migraine and back into reading. However, this particular week – I had four lovely Regency Romances on my shelf to read – the latter two arrived within a few days of my blog tour stop which is why I rescheduled it to Saturday, but even that was quite the push for me to accomplish but ooh, how wickedly happy I was once I settled into the world of the #SpinsterChronicles!

This sums up why it was such a special series for me to be reading during this recent upheaval in my life as a chronic migraineur:

I particularly was impressed with the gentleness of how this story is told and how the pacing of the revelations are equal to what you are expecting out of a Regency story. The gentle aspects were encouraging as despite my attempts to read this ahead of the blog tour week – I, effectively found myself reading it during the tour week; which regrettably is post-migraine for me. I happily tweeted a s/o to the author to celebrate how she composed this novel and how wickedly delighted I was in reading it – it was everything I had hoped to find within it and a bit more as well. It was hard to contain my joy in talking about the series and the first novel which truly had me at ‘hallo’ as they say – fastly becoming one of my favourite Regency reads and definitely a distinctive author of the Regency in her own right, of whom I couldn’t wait to devour more stories from her collective works!

I ended up reading the first novel The Merry Lives of Spinsters concurrently with the fourth My Fair Spinster which uniquely worked brilliantly due to where I paused my readings of the first and opted to read the fourth! There is another telling truth though why this series appealled so dearly to my bookish heart:

There is a wicked sense of ease of alighting inside the Spinsters novels by Ms Connolly – in fact, she charms you outright with her sense of pacing, direction of insight she gives her characters and the fact, that as a whole she uses the turns of phrase you’d expect to find in a Regency Romance. I love the fact that this is an atypical Regency Romance in that traditional regard, as there is much more to the plot than a trajectory of interest which would lead into a settled relationship. No, there are layers here to pull apart and appreciate – as Ms Connolly has written a very modernly apt series re-positioned into the Regency where we find lovely young women who are as independently minded as we are today (and I am quite sure, there must have been a few back then as well!) who are determined to right their own fates against what they deem is right for themselves. What isn’t to love about a Historical Romance series like this one? Feminist driven story-lines, wholly curious characters and the entire backdrop of the series is an era you feel most at home re-visiting as it has become a favourite mainstay of your readerly life – or at least, it has been for me!

You feel attached to these lovely girls’ – the Spinsters – each of them in turn has attributes and characterisations which make them memorable and intriguing to read about – their lives are realistic not just for the Regency but for modern woman to cross-reference the woes of the Spinsters against their own lives now as Connolly has infused her series with modern day obstacles and angst for her Spinsters. It is a lovingly Feminist Regency series but it also has a lot of lovely men involved in the Spinsters lives which charm you at the start for how Connolly has inked out their roles to be as complex as the women. They aren’t your typical characters but they also live in a very traditionally set Regency era. You get to love everything about the Regencies you’ve read of the past with the role these Regencies have in our lives in the present. Hence why I’ve been tweeting as much as #booklove as I have this past week!

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The Spinsters – each in turn of appreciation:

Charlotte has a tender-hearted approach to making Prue feel welcomed and secure; as Prue has such a difficult time not feeling overly anxious (mostly owned to the fact she has drawn a short straw in regards to mothers) whereas Prue herself, has stoic wisdom, cunning takeaways and at times, makes you smile without even realising it as she has this quiet nature about herself whilst informing her fellow Spinsters something they might not have considered themselves or thought to speak aloud. I love seeing what Prue will say because due to her environment, she rarely speaks but when she does speak – her words make you take stock of what she is saying.

Georgie and Izzy are two coins of a whole – they each have such a uniquely dynamic personality that it is hard to separate the two from one another. You can see how fondly affectionate they are towards the other but sometimes it is their passionate fire for life and for all things inter-connected to the Spinsters, they can be at odds with each other just as readily as they are in sync! They make the group have a bit of spice and mirth; giving to the fact, they are the most outspokenly independent of the the bunch! Seeing them interact with the other girls’ and how the inter-workings of their own minds settle onto thoughts and tangents of enquiry is a true delight.

Grace on the other hand is a step removed from the Spinsters but the most easily approachable and relatable Spinster out of the circle. Mostly because she desires to marry but has found herself caught in that unique void of being visible but never seen. I liked Grace rather immediately; since she is newly established with the girls’ she also offers a fresher prospective as she doesn’t intimately know everyone to the same degree of familiarity; something that bodes well when a group like this forms; where no one has a singular advantage and all stand equally.

-quoted from my review of The Merry Lives of Spinsters

I am so dearly captured by Connolly’s style of crafting stories – there are two more series she’s written that I am going to attempt to get into my local library’s catalogue. As they recently purchased Spinster and Spice – as clearly another patron locally has discovered her writings! The series I desire most to read after the Spinsters are the following: London League & Arrangements – both of which can be found on her FantasticFiction.com Author Page. I am leaning towards requesting The Lady and the Gent first – as I just feel as smitten by that premise as I had The Merry Lives of Spinsters!

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There are little nudges of insight threading through the narrative – something you start to notice as you dive deeper into the heart of the first installment The Merry Lives of Spinsters – Connolly has left behind a lovely little world for you to entreat inside. You get to enjoy the aspects of Pride and Prejudice which whisk you into new variants of the novel whilst giving you a wholly refreshed view of the Regency with characters who were penned with an honesty of purpose and position. I loved how Connolly re-visits an era I readily read but re-illuminates it through a door not oft opened.

The turns of phrase and the words Ms Connolly uses in her Historical Regencies are part of my enjoyment of reading her Romances. She has wicked sweet instincts and she must be an avid reader herself because she avoids the pitfalls some #HistRom authors make when writing Regencies. It is one thing to know that most readers of the Regency are well versed in the era itself but it is another to elevate the next Regency they read with a felicity of place, of conversation overheard and of the mannerisms you especially hope to find on display. Connolly united what I love from reading Regencies in the past with what I am hopeful to find in Regencies now. She doesn’t let me sit on what I knew of previously but rather, encourages new insight and new murmurings of interest to grow through how she purports us into her world. Her Regency is as keenly intuitive and observed as Jane Austen’s and for that, I am especially grateful.

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I’m itching to know – did you participate in this week’s topic? If so, kindly leave a link to your #TopTenTuesday so I can happily visit your list & see what grabs your literary eye! Likewise, what is on my List that either leaves you curious to explore or is a literary style we share in common within our readerly adventures!?

Did I tempt your readerly curiosities by my selections? OR are you already a ready reader and appreciator of one or more of the authors showcased!?

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{SOURCE: Top Ten Tuesday banner and the Kay Hunter review quote banner created by Jorie via Canva. All individual book covers were given to me by either the publicists/publishers/authors/or blog touring companies who encourage me to talk about the books after I’ve reviewed them and thus, all are being used with permission.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2019.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Tuesday, 8 October, 2019 by jorielov in Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blogosphere Events & Happenings, Bookish Memes, JLAS Update Post, Jorie Loves A Story, Jorie Loves A Story Features, Top Ten Tuesday

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6 responses to “#TopTenTuesday No.8 | Top Twelve Authors Who Deserve More Recommendation (feat. their characters I loved discovering!)

    • Hallo, Hallo Annemieke,

      Sorry for the last responses — October was a hard month for me last year and it set me up for a rocky ending to 2019! I loved how you selected Ms Chris out of the list of authors & stories I was featuring on this post. If you ever get a chance to read/hear one of her stories, do let me know! I’d love to hear your takeaways and reactions. Seriously awesome you dropped by and shared your thoughts with me! I love finding out when someone enjoys one of my posts and you definitely gave me a lift of spirits by your note! I hope you’ve had a good start to 2020; I’ll be dropping by your blog soon as I’m starting to revisit with everyone now that my health is more on even ground.

    • Hallo, Hallo Ms Anderson,

      Thank you for blessing me today with this beautiful compliment and comment! I truly was full of smiles when I read it as it came through – between this note and what you’ve kindly shared with everyone on Twitter; my heart overflows with gratitude, as we clearly both consider each other a blessing in our lives!! I am so thankful you curled into this post and enjoyed reading it!! It was such a delight of joy to be written — whilst I am so dearly determined to read through the Coming Home series this year. I’ve ached to get back into your series… your visits are a heart-lift of encouragement knowing what I am sharing is resonating with readers and writers alike. Have a blessed week!

    • Hallo, Hallo Lydia,

      Thank you for such a wonderful comment for me today! :) I originally conceived of this post not taking too long to assemble as I love talking about the stories I love reading but this because a bit of a labour of love as I was literally working on it from midnight straight through til after seven am! Therefeore, your comment truly uplifted my spirits and warmed my heart! I hope you’re having a wonderfully bookish day and I can’t wait to see what you did for your own Top Ten Tuesday!

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