Category: Vulgarity in Literature

A #HistoricalMondays Book Review | feat. the thrilling conclusion within the pages of “Chaos in Milan” (Night Flyer Trilogy, Book Three) by Edale Lane

Posted Monday, 15 February, 2021 by jorielov , , , , , 0 Comments

#EnterTheFantastic Book Review banner created by Jorie in Canva.

Acquired Book By: When I first started book blogging in [2013] one of my first touring companies to work with was Tomorrow Comes Media who worked in conjunction with Seventh Star Press (an Indie publisher of Speculative Fiction) whilst featuring other Indie and/or Self Published authors. I am a regular blog tour hostess with Tomorrow Comes Media and enjoy getting to read a wide range of Speculative Fiction across Science Fiction, Fantasy and Cosy Horror genres of interest. Sometimes the stories are genre-benders and/or they’re embracing the beauty of #SpecLit to such a degree they are their own unique niche in the larger expanse of the genre itself. 2020 marks my seventh year hosting for Tomorrow Comes Media and Seventh Star Press respectively.

I received a complimentary copy of “Chaos in Milan” direct from the author Edale Lane in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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And, for the new visitors & readers alighting on this review –
You might be curious what drew me into the Night Flyer Trilogy:

One of the highlights for me during the turmultous 2020 year of reading was the DISCOVERY of Edale Lane and her Night Flyer trilogy! I kid you not – it was one of the most engaging & layered Historical Fantasies I’ve read in recent years whilst it was wickedly historical in scope and even brought forth a variant of impressioning Leonardo da Vinci into the background of a series he isn’t technically physically present inside! And, yet,… dear hearts, he is evermore a part of this trilogy!

I originally crossed paths with Ms Lane early-on in February, 2020 wherein I first started my journey into her Night Flyer trilogy and of whom has written such a convicting slow-burn Historical Romance set within a Renaissance Fantasy world. And, that dear hearts – right there is the heart of the series itself – how one author can curate such a convicting premise & carry it through a trilogy you’re not sure you’re even prepared to see END and give us a thirst of excitement about what the ‘finale’ and final installment will mean for the characters we’ve come to know so dearly well!!

I first discovered her style of writing whilst I read “Merchants of Milan”. I anchoured the delightful #vlog interview I shared after my readings of “Merchants of Milan” with my ruminative thoughts of “Secrets of Milan” and a follow-up interview on behalf of the second installment as well.

Meanwhile, If you haven’t yet seen the lovely in-depth #behindthebook featured guest essay Ms Lane contributed to my stop on her tour with OWI – kindly take a moment to visit her words to find out how Art History and research into the world of art played such a strong role in how she developed the background of this series! This blog tour was a bit of a preview of what would come next during the Tomorrow Comes Media tour (for “Secrets of Milan”) which is why I was thankful to be a part of both tours and have the chance to feature this author on five separate occasions whilst helping to relate to my readers why I am enjoying her stories and why they ought to consider placing her trilogy on their #nextreads list!

Oh! And, not to mention I nominated AND advocated for “Merchants of Milan” as one of the books to be added into the library during a library drive during September, 2020! And, for those of whom missed my End of the Year Survey – you might want to open this TWEET!

However, we also had a delightful time meeting up with each other in 2020, too! It was the first year where I could meet an author I had loved reading and appreciated the conversation we shared, the memories we had over lunch and the joys of being a reader in a time and age where writers like to meet their readers on the spur of when their lives can intersect with each other!

To continue hosting this author via Tomorrow Comes Media has been a delight of joy – as they truly champion Indie Authors and Indie Publishers. It felt right to celebrate this third and final (?) installment of the series with TCM as the story comes to its natural conclusion. Or does it? I know there is a question mark if this is indeed the final story of the Night Flyer series – something I will be addressing after my review in regards to what my takeaways are about this series extending itself past the first trilogy and where I hope the series could go from where we’ve concluded this sequencing of the story itself.

If you’ve been privy to all the posts as they alighted on my blog last year, you know what you’re bracing for in the finale as much as I do! I am quite eager to see if I’ve unearthed whom is whom behind the whole conspiratorial plot as much as I want to see how Lane has knitted together all the fragments and tangents of the story overall! She has such a creative mind and an ingenious way of fusing it all together – just to see the final showdown (or is it?) happen is going to be EPIC.

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For those of you whom are new to Jorie Loves A Story,
let me share a bit about why I loved reading the Night Flyer trilogy by way of Secrets of Milan:

One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed reading this trilogy by Ms Lane is how she’s chosen to merge Historical details from our own living histories of the Renaissance into a new timeline of where Historical Fantasy can cross-sect with known History. In this way, we’re re-peering into the Renaissance through the eyes of a keen researcher who knows how to insert historical details which align with her fantastical elements (such as the Night Flyer). The series itself is definitely a succession of sociological observation and intrigue – in how she chooses to lay a firm hand on the behaviours and choices of her characters (lead, supporting and even the villain’s!) to where she orchestrates this lovely symphony of drama percolating through the series.

There are even moments wherein I learnt more about History and the ways in which History afforded certain allowances for women (both in the freedom of pursuing business to how the structure of society had been laid out) through reading this series and of which I will highlight within our conversation when I share my follow-up interview with Ms Lane on the 6th of July. This is another reason why I love reading Historical Fiction (overall) as it let’s you tuck close to the historic past and re-see those historical eras with finite detail you might have either overlooked elsewhere or been unable to find.

The human condition is definitely explored throughout the Night Flyer trilogy – however, in this instance, for the sequel I felt Lane did a wonderful job of giving us a more introspective response to the continuing events which are shaping her characters’ lives. She choose to take us deeper into the heart of what is fuelling Maddie’s quandary over embracing newfound happiness and romance whilst at the same time she presented us with a morally gray character who was seeking his own redemption for a life he felt was forfeited. It is through these new insights on behalf of her characters we start to see the greater picture of the series itself – not just the intrigue about the unknown but how her characters are shaping the trilogy and how the trilogy is being built behind them.

A special treat of this installment I felt was the inclusion of the Christmastide celebrations of Renaissance Milan! You get to see the traditions and the cultural or religious ways in which people would celebrate the Christmas season as a reflection of the era but also a reflection of how despite everything going on in their lives, Christmas did not take a hiatus from arriving. They each had to find ways to both acknowledge Christmas and either make peace with the holiday on arrival or find ways to muddle their way through it. I loved those details because Christmas has always been a special holiday for me and my family; as it was one of those holidays where traditions were constantly passed down, cherished and celebrated.

I was not quite prepared for how Secrets of Milan concludes because it owns to the title – wherein there are far more secrets afloat in the series now than there were previously! Including one that I felt would be difficult for Florentina to maintain as it might drive a wench in her relationship with Maddie – time will of course tell in that regard but for me personally, I loved how this one concluded because it honed in on the heart of the series – giving us more time to spend with Florentina and Maddie as their relationship drew closer together and allowed us further chance to peer into this hidden dark world Florentina is bent on exposing. Towards that end, the tenacles of how this secret world interacts with society is more intricate than a spider’s web and far more deadlier than a black widow.

-quoted from my book review for Secrets of Milan

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A #HistoricalMondays Book Review | feat. the thrilling conclusion within the pages of “Chaos in Milan” (Night Flyer Trilogy, Book Three) by Edale LaneChaos in Milan
Subtitle: Book Three of the Night Flyer Trilogy
by Ms Edale Lane, Edale Lane
Illustrator/Cover Designer: Enggar Adirasa
Source: Direct from Author

One woman stands between chaos and order – the Night Flyer.

When chaos strikes at the heart of Milan, it is up to Florentina’s alter-ego the Night Flyer to stop it. As Florentina and Madelena’s love deepens, so does the well of danger surrounding them. The race is on to discover the mysterious Shadow Guild and uncover who is behind the deadly rampage, but Florentina’s mission is threatened by a gang of assassins. Can the Night Flyer prevail, or will Maddie’s love be ripped from her arms?

Chaos in Milan is the third book in Edale Lane’s Night Flyer Trilogy, a tale of power, passion, and payback in Renaissance Italy. If you like action and suspense, rich historical background, three-dimensional characters, and a sweet romance, then you’ll want to complete the Night Flyer saga.

Genres: Fantasy Fiction, Feminist Historical Fiction, Historical-Fantasy, LGBTQIA Fiction


Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 979-8578153334

Also by this author: Merchants of Milan, (Video) Interview feat. Edale Lane (Merchants of Milan), Secrets of Milan (Guest Post by Author), Secrets of Milan, Secrets of Milan (Interview)

Also in this series: Merchants of Milan, Secrets of Milan


Published by Past & Prologue Press

on 8th December, 2020

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 246

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Merchants of Milan by Edale LaneSecrets of Milan by Edale LaneChaos in Milan by Edale Lane

The Night Flyer trilogy:

Merchants of Milan (book one) | see also Review

Secrets of Milan (book two) | see also Review

Chaos in Milan (book three)

Genre(s): Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Alternative History,
as well as Renaissance (time period), Action and Adventure, Superhero Fiction

Identities represented: F/F Romance, Lesbian friendship/relationships

Converse via: #WyrdAndWonder, #HistoricalFantasy, #SapphicFiction,
#SpeculativeFiction, #LGBTQ and #NightFlyerTrilogy with #EdaleLane

About Ms Edale Lane

Edale Lane

Edale Lane is the author of an award winning 2019 debut novel, Heart of Sherwood. She is the alter-ego of author Melodie Romeo, (Vlad a Novel, Terror in Time, and others) who founded Past and Prologue Press. Both identities are qualified to write historical fiction by virtue of an MA in History and 24 years spent as a teacher, along with skill and dedication in regard to research. She is a successful author who also currently drives a tractor-trailer across the United States. A native of Vicksburg, MS, Edale (or Melodie as the case may be) is also a musician who loves animals, gardening, and nature.

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • #EnterTheFantastic
  • 2021 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
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Posted Monday, 15 February, 2021 by jorielov in #EnterTheFantastic, #JorieLovesIndies, Blog Tour Host, Equality In Literature, Fantasy Fiction, Fly in the Ointment, Historical Fantasy, Indie Author, Indie Book Trade, Self-Published Author, Speculative Fiction, Tomorrow Comes Media, Vulgarity in Literature

#SciFiMonth Book Review | “Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody” (Suzy Spitfire series, Book One) by Joe Canzano

Posted Saturday, 28 November, 2020 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

#SciFiMonth Book Review banner created by Jorie in Canva.

Acquired Book By: In February, 2020 Kimberley @ Caffeinated PR contacted me about the Suzy Spitfire series whilst asking me if I would enjoy being one of the book bloggers on her PR Team. The request arrived at a point in my life where I was seriously in need of a wicked good story to pull me out of the funk I was experiencing with my health and the afflictions associated with a bad Winter’s cold. The timing for me was perfect and as I read about Suzy Spitfire – the context of the story fit within what I enjoyed about the Urban Fantasy series October Daye by Seanan McGuire.

I joined the book blitz for showcasing the second novel in the Suzy Spitfire series whilst I requested the first novel to read and review in order to understand the author’s style, voice and the continuity of the series. I therefore received a complimentary copy of “Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody” in exchange for an honest review from the author Joe Canzano. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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What truly attracted me to read #SuzySpitfire:

I heart #SciFiMonth | #RRSciFiMonth every November – but the last several years have been a bit of a mixed bag for me. Mostly as my migraines seem to derail *all!* efforts to read the stories I’ve selected for the month (see also this annoucement from 2019 wherein I barely touched the surface of what I disclosed) which is why I’m trying to start reading Sci Fi outside of November this year! (big smirks)

To be perfectly transparent – I was in the mood for an unlikely heroine adventuring in outer space and taking me on an adventure I didn’t realise I *needed!* in my life! lol A bit like how seeing “Star Trek: Enterprise” recently filled a need as well – we’ve just finished the fourth year and are saddened for the loss of episodes – except for 3x, one we skipped (the Detroit one) and two were just too weird for words to describe and had zero bearing on the series as a whole! (“through a glass darkly” – the mirror universe duology) I wanted to read a series COMPLETELY outside my zone of comfort – I wanted to tuck into her story and just have this wicked wild ride of reading a book which would give me a healthy respite from my backlogue, my illnesses and of course, the weight of current events! And, blessedly dear hearts – #SuzySpitfire filled that void for me!

As soon as I happily read the pitch about this series by Kimberly @ Caffeniated PR, I just *knew!* I had to sign on to spotlight #SuzySpitfire! This also marks my first blog tour with her blog touring company and I couldn’t be happier! I look forward to continuing my adventure with Suzy Spitfire this weekend but for now, let’s take a bit of a closer look at what you can expect to find in the sequel “Suzy Spitfire and the Snake Eyes of Venus!” – by the by, is it me or does this series have the most brilliant titles!?

-as previously shared on the spotlight for Suzy Spitfire and the Snake Eyes of Venus

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#SciFiMonth Book Review | “Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody” (Suzy Spitfire series, Book One) by Joe CanzanoSuzy Spitfire Kills Everybody
by Joe Canzano
Source: Author via Caffeinated PR

When outlaw Suzy Spitfire discovers her father was murdered after creating a super-duper artificial intelligence, she races across the solar system in search of the brain he built—but it’s a rough ride, and she’s soon forced to tangle with pirates, predators, and her father’s killer—as well as a man she thinks she can love.

Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody is a smash-bang science fiction adventure filled with action, intrigue, and a dose of dark humor.

Genres: Action & Adventure Fiction, Science Fiction, Space Opera


Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 978-0990636564

Also by this author: Suzy Spitfire Kills And the Snake Eyes of Venus (Spotlight)

Also in this series: Suzy Spitfire Kills And the Snake Eyes of Venus (Spotlight)


Published by Happy Joe Control Books

on 2nd July, 2019

Format: POD | Print On Demand Paperback

Pages: 306

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The Suzy Spitfire Series:

Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody by Joe CanzanoSuzy Spitfire and the Snake Eyes of Venus by Joe Canzano

Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody (book one)

Suzy Spitfire & the Snake Eyes of Venus (book two)

Published by: Happy Joe Control Books

Formats Available: Trade Paperback and Ebook

Converse on Twitter via: #SuzySpitfire, #ScienceFiction or #JoeCanzano

About Joe Canzano

Joe Canzano

Joe Canzano is a writer and musician. He lives in New Jersey, U.S.A., in a house with a basement where he usually stays. Occasionally he leaves the basement and visits the kitchen.

He likes to write absurd comic fantasy and fun science fiction.

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • #SciFiMonth 2020
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Posted Saturday, 28 November, 2020 by jorielov in Blog Tour Host, Book Review (non-blog tour), Caffeniated PR, Excessive Violence in Literature, Fly in the Ointment, Indie Author, Science Fiction, Space Opera, Vulgarity in Literature

#SaturdaysAreBookish Audiobook Review | “Jesse’s Girl” by Tara September, narrated by Verla Bond

Posted Saturday, 19 September, 2020 by jorielov , , , 3 Comments

#SaturdaysAreBookish banner created by Jorie in Canva.

Acquired Book By: Starting in August 2020, I started hosting for Random Things Tours as a new book blogger working with them to either review and/or host guest author features on behalf of their authors. I was thankful to join their book blogger team and look forward to joining the tours which are highlighting the stories I actively enjoy reading and discovering. I received a complimentary audiobook copy of “Jesse’s Girl” from Random Things Tours in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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On why “Jesse’s Girl” felt like a good fit for a Contemporary Romance:

I love second chance romances and stories of redemption – I have a preference for slow burning romances and getting the chance to have a new relationship repair the angst of a past relationship which seemed to be the case with ‘Jesse’s Girl’ as Gwen was finding her life completely erased from the life she had with Jesse once Jesse left her and his daughter for a fling with a colleague.

What appealled to me the most was the shortness of the story itself – as this was an audiobook under five hours and I felt that was a good length for me at this time to listen too. The shorter audiobooks are fast becoming my new ‘favourites’ and when it comes to Contemporary Romances, I am still navigating the genre to root out who my new favourite voices are for this genre. Having said all that, as you will see on my review, I reached a point in the narration where I could not move forward and what I had hoped to have found in the story was not quite the experience I was given. Despite that, I have some strong observations to relate to my readers who can hopefully discern if this is a romance better fitted to them and their readerly habits.

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#SaturdaysAreBookish Audiobook Review | “Jesse’s Girl” by Tara September, narrated by Verla BondJesse's Girl
by Tara September
Source: Direct from Author via Random Things Tours
Narrator: Verla Bond

“I wish that I had Jesse’s Girl”

Successful Texas lawyer, Reade Walker, curses that damn song every time it plays, all too aware of the irony of its lyrics. After all, he has been secretly and painfully enamored with Jesse’s girl, Gwen, for nearly a decade. It was love at first sight for him, but sadly she’s not his girl. She belongs to the one man who betrayed him and knows Reade’s hidden family secret. Yet Reade can’t seem to love anyone except the one woman he can't have. Or can he make her mine?

When Gwen Clark’s senator husband runs off with his intern and all their money, the ensuing scandal turns her life upside down. Deserted, penniless and desperate to provide for her six-year-old daughter, Gwen has no one to turn to but Reade Walker. The one man her heart desperately wants, but her pride dreads having to ask for help. Despite welcoming them into his home, it seems like Reade can barely stand being in the same room with her anymore, let alone under the same roof—in the same bedroom. But Gwen is determined to get her life back on track. It is past time to rediscover her own dreams…if only she can keep her aching heart from breaking all over again.

Genres: Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Contemporary Romance, Romantic Comedy (Rom Com), Short Story or Novella


Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

Heat Factor for Romance
three-flames

ISBN: 9781093176131

ASIN: B07XBWTWNJ

Published by Plus It Up

on 6th September, 2019

Format: Audiobook | Digital

Length: 3 hours and 37 minutes (unabridged)

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Published by: Plus It Up

Available Formats: Trade Paperback, Audiobook and Ebook

Converse via: #ContemporaryRomance, #RomCom or #Romance and #JessesGirl
as well as #audioreads, #audiobook or #loveaudiobooks

About Tara September

Blogger and former PR executive for The Walt Disney Company, Tara holds a Master’s degree in journalism & communications from New York University. She also spent a semester abroad during her undergrad at Queen Mary University in London. For over a decade before publishing, Tara has penned a popular lifestyle, travel and parenting blog at TaraMetBlog.com.

Always an avid romance reader, she has been daydreaming about being an author since school. Dozens of bad dates, four cities and adventures later, she still finds it impossible that she met her husband on a New York City subway. They now live in sunny Florida with identical twin boys and four cats underfoot/on her laptop/everywhere. Fueled by an IV of green tea and sometimes Champagne, she's finally writing the happily ever after tales she's been dreaming about.

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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Posted Saturday, 19 September, 2020 by jorielov in 21st Century, Audiobook, Blog Tour Host, Contemporary Romance, Content Note, Fly in the Ointment, Indie Author, Life Shift, Modern Day, Motherhood | Parenthood, Random Things Tours, Romance Fiction, Romantic Comedy, Vulgarity in Literature

#HistoricalMondays Book Review | [prequel novella] “The River Jewel” [The Letter series] by Kathleen Shoop

Posted Monday, 7 September, 2020 by jorielov , , , 2 Comments

#HistoricalMondays blog banner created by Jorie in Canva.

In [2019] I launched a new weekly featured concentration of book reviews on Jorie Loves A Story which celebrates my love and passion for the historical past! For those of whom are regular readers and visitors to my blog, you’ll denote a dedicated passion for reading Historical Fiction (and all the lovely segues of thematic therein) – I am a time traveller of the historical past every chance I get to disappear into a new era and/or century of exploration. There isn’t a time period I haven’t enjoyed ruminating over since [2013] and there are a heap of lovely timescapes I’ve yet to encounter.

This feature was inspired by the stories I’ve read, the stories I’ve yet to experience and the beauty of feeling interconnected to History through the representation of the past through the narratives being writ by today’s Historical Fiction authors. It is to those authors I owe a debt of gratitude for enlightening my bookish mind and my readerly heart with realistic characters, illuminating portals of living history and a purposeful intent on giving each of us a strong representation of ‘life’ which should never become dismissed, forgotten or erased.

I began this feature with the sequel to a beloved historical novel I first read in [2013] – it was one of the first ARCs I received and it was the first year I was a book blogger though it was through a connection outside my life as a blogger. I celebrated K.B. Laugheed’s literature to kick-off this feature and hopefully will inspire my followers to take this new weekly journey with me into the stories which are beckoning to read their narrative depths and find the words in which to express the thoughts I experienced as I read.

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Acquired Book By: I am a regular tour hostess for blog tours via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours whereupon I am thankful to have been able to host such a diverse breadth of stories, authors and wonderful guest features since I became a hostess! HFVBTs is one of the very first touring companies I started working with as a 1st Year Book Blogger – uniting my love and passion with Historical Fiction and the lovely sub-genres inside which I love devouring. It has been a wicked fantastical journey into the heart of the historic past, wherein I’ve been blessed truly by discovering new timescapes, new living realities of the persons who once lived (ie. Biographical Historical Fiction) inasmuch as itched my healthy appetite for Cosy Historical Mysteries! If there is a #HistRom out there it is generally a beloved favourite and I love soaking into a wicked wonderful work of Historical Fiction where you feel the beauty of the historic world, the depth of the characters and the joyfulness in which the historical novelists brought everything to light in such a lovingly diverse palette of portraiture of the eras we become time travellers through their stories.

My path first crossed with Kathleen Shoop in [2015] whilst I was participating in a summer reading challenge by BookSparks. I was also a reviewer and blog tour hostess with the  publicity firm whilst I was joining the SRC reading challenge they were quite infamous of hosting for the very first time. My experiences that summer were less than gratifying as I lost traction with the challenge itself and only posted a few reviews out of the ones I was meant to be posting. Ms Shoop and I crossed paths that year due to her latest Letter series release “The Road Home” which was part of the SRC challenge for [2015]. During that summer I also received a #bookmail parcel from the author which include a variety of her stories for me to start reading. They were not for review consideration but if I was inspired to blog about them after I read them that was up to my own discretion and choice. I had a feeling I might be leaning in that direction as just by browsing through the stories and where they could be taking me, I felt they would be the #nextreads I would most enjoy experiencing.

Life and health afflictions (especially my chronic migraines) conflicted with my start/stop attempts to read the books themselves until I felt re-inspired to re-attempt to read one of the novels – “After the Fog” [Spring 2019] which I had no idea was being anchoured to a sequel “The Strongman and the Mermaid” which was also going to be featured on a blog tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours [Spring 2019]. Thereby, it felt like the timing was aligning properly for me to start to read her canon of stories and with my newfound inspiration I couldn’t wait to begin my journey into her collective works.

A bit over a year lateron, I am still struggling to get focused onto the stories on my backlogue due to various reasons where my IRL adversities in health and the health crises of my parents (we’ve been in the ER 6x times since November 2019; the last of which was this past Saturday!) to where I’ve effectively experience a lot of start/stops in my progress to read the stories on my shelves. When I saw this blog tour adverted I thought, there’s a novella prequel to the Letter series? Hmm. I took that as a sign of entrance into a series I have wanted to be reading for so many years now.

I received a complimentary copy of “The River Jewel” direct from the author Kathleen Shoop in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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My reactions to reading Kathleen Shoop:

You can hardly draw a breath as you enter into Rose’s life as a nurse in a small industrial towne which barely has enough medical practitioners that it needs to be medically sound in a place where emergencies were commonplace. In this instance, Shoop begins on a sombering note – of a mother and child who both exited the world the same night as the child’s arrival. It was difficult on Rose – a nurse who grieved for her patients as readily as the doctor she served, but what was one nurse to do with a patient whose birth went sideways as soon as it began? The house she was birthing inside was less than ideal – the light was missing but the effects of the hard birth were not lost on Rose. In many ways, this Rose reminded me of the Rose from Charton Minster (the historical series I loved reading by Margaret James) as both are nurses who go above and beyond their calls of duty.

We also get a firm overview of the towne – of how Donora is co-dependent on her industries and how those industries are co-dependent on each other. Situated below Pittsburgh, its location is on the opposite end of the state than I am familiar though I have passed through the Amish area north of Pittsburgh; it is one city I never had the proper chance to visit. The fact this story is rooted in the steel industry was not a surprise – though like most industrial stories, I found this one refreshing as I haven’t learnt as much about the Industrial Revolution as I ought to have before I graduated. Interestingly enough, no one was ever interested in talking about History after the Civil War or outside of the war eras of the early 20th Century. You have to rally together the missing pieces of history on your own and through reading Historical Fiction these past six years I’ve filled in the gaps far easier than all the years I was in school (which is telling in of its own).

Shoop writes with historical realism – the descriptive details you’d nearly expect out of a Historical narrative but also with a grittiness you might not be fully prepared for reading. Rather than gloss over certain aspects of the novel’s period history, Shoop delves into the gritty depictions of what this kind of life can lead to observing as you live through the era in which it is written about – from the visuals of what Rose must endure as a nurse to the ways in which the lives within the novel are spoken about or referenced. This is a historical novel that tucks you close to the edges – where you can peer at these people’s lives with a rawness as if they were going about their hours without realising someone was taking notes about how they were living, what they were doing or how they occupied their hours. It is an examination on a sociological layer of insight but it is also a gut-punch reality of how people lived through a particular jarring era in history where personal health and the environmental toxicity in their air was assaulting their lungs – “After the Fog” – is a cautionary story about how a disaster in the past can be a foreshadow to the future.

-quoted from my review of After the Fog

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A grandfather in his nineties takes a moment to sit with his granddaughter and his great-grandson to tell them about the fabled Strongman and Mermaid – at least this is our reckoning, as the story of who they had been has nearly become lost in time itself had he not held strong to the book which started to unravel his hidden memories of the past. For her sake, you could tell the strain was affecting her – she simply wanted to do right by her grandfather, where his mind was not allowing himself to remain independent and how the effects of his condition were not just growing worse but they were allowing her to think about the issues which would soon arise if she didn’t force the issue of his relocation. Anyone whose had elder relations knows the position she was in and knows it well; for circumventing problems before they arise in families is one of the hardest obstacles you can transition through outside of resolving the grief which stems from the loss of the relatives who’ve gone on into the next life.

It was here – in a kitchen, you find his voice is still viable enough to piece together the words which compose the story – of how someone’s parents were the better part of a story long since told and that is how we find ourselves time shifting back into 1910 – leaving 2019 with a fresh perspective about Donora about to flicker through our mind as we re-shift back into this sooty dusty mill towne which has a grip of a grasp on everyone whose once lived there.

Mary is a girl ahead of her years – in charge of rallying her siblings to rights before she heads off to work – they were bound for school but she needed to put in a day’s wage and help her family earn the keep which would enable them to stay afloat. You could see her industrious nature in how she attended to the fuel her family needed – not one to shy away from hard work or the arduous litany of chores most girls’ her age might not be as willing to do – you gathered Mary was a forward-thinking kind of girl which was a refreshing change out of her generation. She didn’t see herself limited by means nor in ownership of her future based on her present circumstances; she chose to look towards something positive rather than give into the fact her life could be a repetitious pattern of the hours she currently spent. You felt for Mary – for her courage but also her willingness to see the lighter side to life – where joy and happiness reside.

You immediately get lost inside The Strongman and the Mermaid – not just because the story is part legend and lore; of the personalities and personas people believe in despite the appearances of their composites in reality but because of how Shoop crafted the story. We find our vehicle in the presence of Patryk – a grandfather who simply wants to re-live the olden days if only to give the next generation pause to think about how their ancestors carved out the future they are currently enjoying to live. Part of his joy also stemmed from a deeply felt sense of honour and admiration for Mary and Lukasz – for their story was what had given him the most hope for his own situation. If he could hold onto the stories – keeping the memories close in mind as much as in heart, I believed Patryk felt he wasn’t going to completely remove himself from his own past. He was still a part of the stories being passed down and those living histories meant everything to him.

The more you disappear into the lives of Mary and Lukasz, the more you realise how hard they both were struggling against their own conventions. Their towne had a society of obligation about it – where old school philosophies hadn’t quite become exchanged for the new world mentality where a man and a woman could afford their own choices in their lives. Mary was expected to do the bidding of her parents – irregardless of what she personally wanted for herself, she was needed to work in order to provide whatever they needed based off her pay. This proved to be an exhausting commitment but also a sad one, too as she truly enjoyed her time spent with Mrs Dunn. Dunn was the kind of woman who appreciated Mary’s assistance but knew she couldn’t provide everything she needed – in many ways Dunn was the surrogate mother Mary needed in her life – guiding her with inspiration, encouraging her to think outside the required box her parents wished for her to feel security inside and giving her a chance to breathe a dream of her own choosing.

I truly liked how the story was paced – how you feel emotionally connected to both lead characters and how the towne itself feels a bit more alive somehow – it has its own pace of delivering its presence, not just due to the way work is scheduled but how the people live there. It is a fitting testament to this towne’s history but also as a nod towards the people who forged a life out of an area that was a hard-won place to carve out a living. All of this created the best atmosphere in which to soak inside the historical backdrop Shoop gave us and fittingly, it felt like a better place to begin the series rather than as a sophomore installment.

-quoted from my review of The Strongman and the Mermaid

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#HistoricalMondays Book Review | [prequel novella] “The River Jewel” [The Letter series] by Kathleen ShoopThe River Jewel
by Kathleen Shoop
Source: Author via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

For everyone who hopes to find the perfect match…

1875 Des Moines, Iowa

The novella, The River Jewel, takes readers of the bestselling Letter Series novels back in time, before there was a last letter, before the Arthurs lost everything, before they knew a girl named Pearl.

Meet Tilly Rabel, a proud oyster-woman, and Landon Lockwood, the troubled son of one of the wealthiest men in America. The two could not be less suited for love. But when an old legend draws Landon to a hidden river cove, Tilly and he find each other, are lured by growing attraction, and repelled by competing desires to control Tilly’s waters. The hidden pool is replete with valuable mussel beds and the source of everything that makes Tilly who she is. Landon sees the illustrious treasure as the path to proving to his parents he is worth their love and worthy of the Lockwood name. Can Tilly trust Landon with her heart, with her beloved mussel beds? Can Landon trust that he has truly changed and doesn’t need his parents approval to live the life he wants?

Heartbreak, triumph, and a very special baby weave a tale sure to please readers who’ve read the entire Letter Series and those who are just starting the journey.

Genres: Feminist Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical Women's Fiction


Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 978-1708629236

Also by this author: The Strongman and the Mermaid

Published by Self Published

on 3rd December, 2019

Format: POD | Print On Demand Paperback

Pages: 172

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The Letter series:

The River Jewel by Kathleen ShoopThe Last Letter by Kathleen ShoopThe Road Home by Kathleen ShoopThe Kitchen Mistress by Kathleen Shoop

The River Jewel & The River Promise (series novellas) (prequel duology)

The Last Letter (book one)

The Road Home (book two)

The Kitchen Mistress (book three)

The Thief’s Heart (book four)

Formats Available: Trade Paperback, Audiobook and ebook

About Kathleen Shoop

Kathleen Shoop

Bestselling author, Kathleen Shoop, holds a PhD in reading education and has more than 20 years of experience in the classroom. She writes historical fiction, women’s fiction and romance. Shoop’s novels have garnered various awards in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, Eric Hoffer Book Awards, Indie Excellence Awards, Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the San Francisco Book Festival. Kathleen has been featured in USA Today and the Writer’s Guide to 2013. Her work has appeared in The Tribune-Review, four Chicken Soup for the Soul books and Pittsburgh Parent magazine. She lives in Oakmont, Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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Posted Monday, 7 September, 2020 by jorielov in #HistoricalMondays, 18th Century, Blog Tour Host, Content Note, Fly in the Ointment, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Historical Romance, Indie Author, Inheritance & Identity, Iowa, Life Shift, Literary Fiction, Multiple POV, Self-Published Author, Small Towne Fiction, Small Towne USA, Vulgarity in Literature, Women's Fiction