Acquired Book By: In late Winter 2020, (February) I joined NetGalley for the first time as they finally announced they were going to be offering full-length audiobooks for reviewers. I was never able to join NetGalley due to having chronic migraines and being unable to read ebooks. I started requesting audiobooks to review as soon as they opened their audiobook catalogue in July, 2020. I am an eclectic reader and thereby, you will see all genres in Fiction explored from both markets of interest: mainstream and INSPY as well as from Major Trade, Indie Publishers & Press and other routes of publication, too. There might be the occasional Non-Fiction title appearing in my NetGalley queue of reviews as well. This marks a new adventure for me seeking stories for review consideration and I look forward to seeing where the stories lead me to venture.
I received a complimentary digital and temporary audiobook copy of “The Marvelwood Magicians” direct from the publisher Live Oak Media via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All audiobooks via NetGalley are able to be heard via the NetGalley Shelf which is why I was thankful to be gifted an android tablet by my parents to celebrate my 7th Blog Birthday on Jorie Loves A Story. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
NOTE: As a new reviewer on NetGalley, I’m sorting out how to get the Press Materials for each of the audiobooks I’m reviewing when I share them on my blog Jorie Loves A Story. When I contacted NetGalley Support they informed me that if a separate Press Kit is not included on the audiobook’s book page we’re allowed as reviewers to use the book cover and synopsis provided when we go to share our review of that audiobook on our blogs; as long as we give attribution as I have done at the bottom of this review in “Sources”. Those materials are provided with permission of the publishers to be used by reviewers via NetGalley.
Why I wanted to read &/or listen to “The .Marvelwood Magicians”:
I have had a certain attachment to circuses ever since I was a young girl who attend the Ringing Brothers circuses. This was during the age of Gunther Gebel-Williams. Beyond the excitement of the shows under the big top and the ways in which the circus can ignite the imaginations of anyone who attends them, part of me was concerned about the conditions of the animals and the treatment of them before and after the shows themselves. In time, I came to appreciate zoos more than the circus but only the ones who had the best interest of the animals at the heart of their mission, not the bottom-line when it came to selling tickets and/or earning profit.
Through the years, you might have noticed I RT and support The Australian Zoo – which is one of the zoos and wildlife outreach organisations I’ve come to appreciate as I spent years watching Steve Irwin and his family through their docuseries long before tragedy struck his family.
However, when it comes to ‘fantasy’ side of the ledger in literature – there is just something interesting about how writers are taking our love & excitement for performance art and close encounters with animals to a new heightened level of interest!! You might have first seen this coming across in my readings of the first bits of the Magical Midway series – and it continues this year, as I was unexpected surprised to find my copy of “The Marvelwood Magicians” was still on my NetGalley shelf waiting for me!
It was the best surprise – as it helped me move past the health woes of April (which let’s face it were adversely difficult) and re-settle myself into listening to audiobooks (its been terribly long since I could last listen to a story in full!) as well as finding my JOY again as a book blogger which is something I’ve struggled with since January, 2021. (you might have seen the reduction in posts every month!? the archives tell tales!) This became my segue novel – as much it became the novel my bookish heart wanted to HUG outright for the HAPPINESS it gave me as a reader!
Every night this week, I’ve been pulled into the throes of the Marvelwood’s — bit by bit and eagerly hopeful I might get ‘further’ into the story. Some nights I could barely keep my attention focused past a half hour but on our first day of #WyrdAndWonder *before!* midnight marked the second day, guess what?! I learnt how it ENDS. It was bittersweet for me, too, as I didn’t want to ‘let go’ of the Marvelwood’s!! Who would!? I felt such a kinship with this family!! Now, I can look forward to gathering this on audio & print and adding both to my personal library. Not sure when I can do that — but when I can, you can bet I’ll be tweeting my glee about bring this family HOME!!
The key reasons I wanted to listen to this lovely were due to the setting (ie. circus & travelling performers!) AND the fact this was a story set in a Fantasy world but dearly focused on family & community. Two of my favourite themes across the genres I regularly read. I wish I had a preteen to give this audiobook too – to see if they delight in the joys I had hearing it myself and to talk about it afterwards.
Read my review and see if this might fit into your #WyrdAndWonder plans – for this year or next – or any month betwixt and between! I appreciate you visiting with me as I’m just getting started – I’ve planned a whole literary holiday for myself where everyday I’ll be reading and/or listening to Fantasy stories and taking everyone on my readerly journey! Come back and see what I’ve discovered each week. For now,.. let the Marvelwood’s entice you into their world and find the JOY of the circus anew,.. .
Eleven-year-old Mattie Marvelwood comes from a family of traveling performers. Her dad is an illusionist; her mom is a fortune-teller; her brother has a vanishing act; and she herself is a mind-reader. But the Marvelwoods have a deep secret.
The acts they perform at carnivals, fairs, and circuses are not just acts. Their powers are real. In all their wanderings, the Marvelwoods have never met another performer with gifts like theirs—until they join Master Morogh’s Circus of Wonders! But it turns out that Master Morogh’s true talent is stealing the gifts of others. When he steals Mattie’s brother’s vanishing ability, the family has a big decision to make. Do they run, leaving Bell’s gift behind to save the rest of them, or risk exposure by trying to beat the duplicitous ringmaster at his own game?
Acquired Book By: I’ve been hosting for Prism Book Tours since September of 2017 – having noticed the badge on Tressa’s blog (Wishful Endings) as we would partake in the same blog tours and/or book blogosphere memes. As I enquired about hosting for Prism, I found I liked the niche of authors and stories they were featuring regularly. Oft-times you’ll find Prism Book Tours alighting on my blog through the series of guest features and spotlights with notes I’ll be hosting on behalf of their authors when I’m not showcasing book reviews on behalf of Harlequin Heartwarming which has become my second favourite imprint of Harlequin next to my beloved #LoveINSPIRED Suspense. I am also keenly happy PRISM hosts a variety of Indie Authors and INSPY Fiction novelists.
I received a complimentary copy of “Sweet On You” direct from the publisher Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
On the joy of re-visiting an INSPY Contemporary novelist I love reading,
within the Bradford Sisters Romance series – which reminds me dearly of a new series I am loving to watch via #HMNow which is “Chesapeake Shores” inspired by the book series from Sherryl Woods (an author I knew from the *Sweet Magnolias* series)…
You could say I have shared quite a heap about this series when I first hosted the blog tour for the second novel in the series – I simply took to the series quite immediately and I came to *love!* the ways in which Ms Wade was crafting the journey her characters were taking within the fuller breadth of where the Bradford Sisters were taking us all as we tucked close to their lives. The interesting bit is during May of 2019 I was able to finally see the first & second season of Chesapeake Shores (a tv series on Hallmark Channel) – wherein, I realised that the series on tv and this book series have a heap in common!
I have the tendency to seek out similar stories which are both familiar and dynamically drawn to give you a full glimpse into the life of a family. Whether the dynamic is made of three sisters like the Bradford’s or have a five sibling unit like the O’ Brien’s – one thing is for certain, if you look at my more recent readings of the Rocky Mountain Cowboys & Blackwell Brothers – you’ll notice how much I love soaking into sibling series! The same can be said of the Seasons of Alaska series, too! When it comes to family, small townes and siblings – I simply cannot get enough of the writers who are giving us heartwarming characters to fall in love with reading about – I am blessed I could continue where I left off with the Bradford’s as I was dearly curious what was going to happen with Britt!!
I’m unsure how I would have reacted if the roles had been reversed – faux hostage situations to help those who needed to know how to handle these situations at the ready was not exactly something I’d see myself signing on to tackle. Then, again – if truth be told, I seriously doubt Nora would have fashioned herself a willing player in this game either if it hadn’t been for Britt. As we re-enter the Bradford family, we are finding the girls are well into their twenties, not the young girls of the novella Then Came You. The interesting thing to note is the order of the stories – Nora is the middle sister, Britt the youngest and Willow is the eldest – yet we were happily sorting out Nora’s story first!
She’s a girl after my own heart – she loves being enraptured by the written word, jaunting through time, travelling into history and aligning her mind and heart with the characters’ she’s reading about with every story she picks up to read. She’s also passionately invested into genealogical research (as she’s a historian and genealogist) but where she falls a bit short is handling faux extreme stress presentations! One thing is for sure, you never quite know what to expect when your beginning a Becky Wade novel – which is quite refreshing, as her Contemporary stories are clued into a reality we can all recognise with stories which seek to find the truth of our own world and intermix life lessons, strong characters and a captivating narrative to draw our attention into the messages her stories are attempting to convey to us. I was honestly hooked as soon as I started the first chapter – how can you not get caught up in the drama unfolding between the two sisters – one wants to take flight and ‘win’ the game whilst the other is thinking of every which way to Sunday her day could have gone if she had only made better plans with her hours!
Mind you, I haven’t seen someone this loss for words since I first watched All of my Heart: Inn Love this past Mother’s Day weekend! (FYI: there is a blogger in the film who is researching B&B’s and it’s her insta-attraction to the General Store owner who provides a lot of comedic relief!) In this instance, Nora was taken for a loop when John Lawson decided to carry her out of the building and thus ending her tenure in this particular exercise – a spontaneous act which rendered her without the ability to articulate anything other than a brief conversation once she was reunited with her sister, Britt.
When Nora is around her sisters, you get to see their different dynamics come into play – especially as I remember how this family began through the origin story Then Came You. Britt has a beau-in-the-wings named Zander who happily took me by surprise, as generally speaking men with tattoo sleeves (on their arms) are not known for their inclusivity to INSPY Romance (although they ought to be – some of the most artistic and kind gentleman wear tatt’s!). This was another nod towards my heart growing aflutter in appreciation for Ms Wade’s writing style – she is part of the changing tides of realistic characterisations and story-lines for the INSPY market; for which, she has my hat of gratitude. By the time we reside inside Britt’s story (next in line), I do hope we get to see a larger portion of Zander’s past and current life explored; not to mention, seeing these two find themselves falling in love rather than Zander consistently being the one who knows the will of his heart.
Seeing the sisters’ admiration and affection towards Valentina (their housekeeping nanny from years ago) was heart-warming, as it proved their father (Garner) knew exactly what he was doing in hiring her to watch over his darling girls; though in theory, he at first only meant to give Willow a chance at having a bit more normalcy in her life. These are the kind of details where you can easily see the flow of continuity within the series – even from the prequel novella – as you tuck closer to the girls’ and follow where their footsteps lead.
I can dearly relate to Nora – my soul was literally crushed in half when Matthew died (ie. Downton Abbey and never fully recovered; I left the series after Anna was brutally attacked) – I definitely know her anguish over cross-comparing Rochester’s as I have a penchant for Little Women, A Christmas Carol and other classical adaptations where you do find yourself talking about which actor or actress best brought the character forward! I haven’t seen too many adaptations of Jane Eyre – as my favourite is the first one I found (1996) whilst knowing full well Keira Knightley’s Pride and Prejudice was my celebration film for finally finishing reading the novel – it will be (most likely!) Colin Firth’s adaptation which will feel organically tied to Austen’s vision (methinks!). I even love the Bollywood version of Pride which is Bride and Prejudice. *le sigh* Yes, I can dearly relate to Nora,… what grieved me dearly, dear hearts, is realising ‘Northamptonshire’ is not rooted in our reality but is a fictional tv series in Nora’s world. I seriously would have requested it at my library!
Being this story was published in 2017, it is interesting how current it is written as I am hoping one day we can look back on this decade and realise we’ve come a long way from it – as a society and as a country. The work John does for emergency training shouldn’t have to be in such high demand in other words but the way in which he has hardened a bit through life – due to the many unknowns in his origin story, prove how hard it is for adopted children to understand who they are if they have too little to fall back in regards to personal memory (especially if like John, they were adopted as infants or young children). I appreciated the candor of the story-line delving into the hurdles adoptees face as it is an important part of their journey; finding peace from the past but also, finding ways to move forward in the present.
I believe what I loved most about True to You, were the conveyances of how it was articulated through the slow narrative wisely chosen by Ms Wade to draw out the rounded edges of two people on the brink of finding each other. The kind of narrative where you don’t have to forsake not understanding what happens between conversations because the details are pulled forward, knitting together an image of where Nora and John find comfortable consistency in their hours. The pattern of this story reminded me a lot of a Jane Austen novel – for it tucks into those hidden moments very well whilst eclipsing a character’s journey through all the different pieces of her experience – leaving everything open to be seen, examined and understood. You can breathe into a rhythm following Ms Wade’s muse – so much so, you have to brace yourself for the ending, as it truly becomes such a comfortable world in which to reside.
There is a point towards the end, where your heart and your emotions start to spill over – where all the anguish this family has gone through over the years hits you stock and centre. It is a very well- conceived plot, to the point where your not even sure if your prepared for what is coming next – I know I wasn’t, as it could go so many different ways to Sunday, how to do you brace yourself for what is now being revealled!? Charlotte bless her, was the one who inspired everyone to take action but sometimes, between action and restitution for what is once lost is a fine line to walk – where the soul and the heart have a longer path towards reconciliation and healing. I give full credit to Ms Wade for curating such an incredibly layered suspenseful plot thickening in the background whilst addressing the relationships of the Bradford sisters.
I missed seeing the progression of Nora and John’s relationship in the back-folds of the narrative – as there were serious things happening in their lives which I felt begged to be explored in Falling for You. I am unsure if those threads will be re-explored in Britt’s novel or if there will be a conclusionary novella after the third novel releases – but this is one error in the continuity I’ve loved so dearly for remaining inclusively intact with the characters.
Despite my grievances with the leading beau for Willow, there is so much heart writ into the tapestry of this series, the emotions simply pull you forward, eager to see how the sisters’ lives will continue to evolve, to feel what their feeling in the moments of their lives where destiny and conviction interconnect. I am blessed to have started this journey into their stories – I am itching to read the next stories, to gleam more of what is yet to come and to feel as if I’ve travelled miles of hours beside them until the very last story is published. It’s hard to ‘let go’ of series you feel so dearly attached too – this one definitely touched a special place in my heart and will not ‘let go’ anytime soon! I hope, my words will inspire my readers to pick up one of the stories in this series – if only to meet Nora, Britt and Willow for themselves! Even if I am rather partial to Garner, without whom the sisters would not be here!
By the time I concluded reading Falling for You, I understood the reasons why the novel was written the way in which it was but on a personal level of honesty, I just didn’t feel connected to Corbin. I believed he had a lot of personal growth which was showcased in this novel to prove change is possible even in the most stubborn of individuals but in regards to feeling an attachment to his person? I honestly never felt it. For me, this story was a happy thread of insight into the sisters’ lives with an incredible slice of suspense in the back-threads – giving us an exhilarating read and a heap of emotions to shift through to boot!
I *love!* how realistically real this series feels to our own world – it’s a wonderful composite both in setting and tone whilst it hones in our contemporary awareness of technology and certain socially conscience recognition’s which seek to either make us smile or laugh! For instance, Ms Wade has definitely taken a leaf out of my own journal for how to knit out a laugh from an analogy of a contemporary New Age car (ie. Tesla) and make it cross-relate to how relationships can be short-lasting! (as observed in True to You) She fuses wit with humour in such a layered approach as to make you nearly forget this isn’t a story based on real persons who lived but rather it’s a fictional series created in such a way to grant you the illusion her characters *could!* live if only they could step straight through the threshold of their fictional existence. This is also why I sent out that tweet of joy celebrating the #booklove of the authors I am finding in Contemporary INSPY Romance to be of the variety I love most to be #amreading: Dee Henderson (see also Review); Brenda S. Anderson (see also Archive) and Kellie Coates Gilbert (see also Review).
I especially enjoy watching characters have true growth during our time spent with them – or even, to observe them in full confidence within their chosen fields, but still have a few things they need to work through – where everything isn’t quite ‘neat and tidy’. I love this aspect of character development because it eludes to how evolving all our lives become – it is also a benefit to grounding a story in the realism of real-life and the ways in which despite our best intentions, we cannot always foresee everything which will come onto our path. This is a gift Ms Wade share swith the other authors I’ve mentioned – she digs in deep into the human condition, into the ways in which relating to another person isn’t just about romantic overtures – but of listening, in-tuning what is being said against what is inferred (including through body language) and of finding a middle ground. In essence, my favourite stories are full of flawed characters doing their best to embetter their lives for the good.
Ms Wade has eloquent overtures of living histories ebbing into her narrative – such as how Bradfordwood was properly shipped in pieces from its origins in England and reassembled into what is now known as the estate of the Bradford family (200 acres strong). She gives you this sense of familial pride, of the hard work behind the legacies still in evidence today in the lives of the sisters’ and humbles the family through their good deeds, their personal growth exploits and how having a strong sense of business mindfulness can continue to lead for generations (as their assets are diversified).
felt Ms Wade’s styling within True to You was classically eloquent (foresaid) and her entire Bradford Sisters Romance series is refreshingly lovely to have discovered – for she’s another Contemporary INSPY author who is providing me with the kind of Contemporaries I am most appreciative of reading! So much so, it is another confirmation the number of Contemporaries which will be winning over my heart outside of INSPY are quite limited (at least for now) – as I have a select number of authors I am enjoying reading now. I used to love Contemporaries as much as I loved Historical Romance – what I never linked together though is the reason I had such a paradigm shift in my reading habits is due to innate frustration stemming out of what I was finding inclusive to mainstream Contemporaries vs INSPY. Clearly, sometimes being a book blogger has it’s advantages as whilst your journalling your reading life, you understand yourself better as a reader!
Her continued appreciation for inserting popular cultural references takes an all-star glimpse into social media life today – as if I hadn’t been a joyful tweeter, I’d never have known I already know the *name!* of a highly beloved K-Pop band: BTS! This is important to know a) if you love discovering new music and b) if you want to better understand Charlotte in Falling for You. I love when writers go a bit further than necessary to make their novels relevant to our times – they have a way of knitting out the best of what is ‘happening in the moment’, adding those bits to their stories and re-grounding us in a quasi-reality such a strong composite to our own – we nearly have to pinch ourselves as reminders we’re reading a fictional story! I love how this is achieved!
Yet, what truly captured my heart about Ms Wade’s Contemporary style is the authentic nature of her style – you can tell she has had experience outside of INSPY, as her style feels mainstream but has an INSPY core of heart. I think this is why I like the authors I am finding lately for Contemporary INSPY – their writing the cutting edge INSPY Contemporaries I am hungry for as a reader with enough of the content I’m seeking out of the mainstream but cannot find. For this, I feel truly blessed I was given the opportunity to start reading her stories!
Secondly, what warmed my bookish heart is her instinctive nature of threading continuity into her stories – from novella to novel, her intentional connections between her characters and her story-lines are some of the best I’ve come across – irregardless of which genre I am writing! Continuity sometimes is overlooked in serial fiction (by some) but it is something I hail as being the mark of a superhero writer, because to knit into an on-going series the organic inclusions of previous stories, is rather impressive! If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know the authors I’ve mentioned previously who ‘wow’ me over with this technique but if your a new visitor or reader, the short-list includes Julie E. Czerneda (for Science Fiction, I am just now reading her Fantasy), Brenda S. Anderson, Julie Lessman (will be blogging about her stories!), Anna Lee Huber, L.M. Montgomery, Jennifer Lamont Leo, Jackie Gamber, Larry D. Sweazy, Susan Spann, Sue Hallgarth, Margaret James, Lucinda Riley, Linda Mitchelmore, AshleyRose Sullivan, Renee Patrick and Rachel Amphlett.
Britt Bradford and Zander Ford have been the best of friends since they met thirteen years ago. Unbeknown to Britt, Zander has been in love with her for just as long.
Independent and adventurous Britt channels her talent into creating chocolates at her hometown shop. Zander is a bestselling author who's spent the past 18 months traveling the world. He's achieved a great deal but still lacks the only thing that ever truly mattered to him--Britt's heart.
When Zander's uncle dies of mysterious causes, he returns to Merryweather, Washington, to investigate, and Britt is immediately there to help. Although this throws them into close proximity, both understand that an attempt at romance could jeopardize their once-in-a-lifetime friendship. But while Britt is determined to resist any change in their relationship, Zander finds it increasingly difficult to keep his feelings hidden.
As they work together to uncover his uncle's tangled past, will the truth of what lies between them also, finally, come to light?
The Christmas Heirloom : Because of You
(holiday novella)*the one I didn’t get to read yet
Converse via: #Contemporary #INSPYRomance +
#INSPY or #INSPYBooks and #BradfordSistersRomance
The only difficulty I had in reading this novel – a year later from my last readings of the series is I found the font to be set at a level of size a bit lower than my eyes can tolerate. I didn’t strain to read the novel but I had to take extra care to focus on the words because I swear the font felt ten times smaller than I remember the last two novels in print had read.
About Becky Wade
Becky’s a California native who attended Baylor University, met and married a Texan, and settled in Dallas. She published historical romances for the general market before putting her career on hold for several years to care for her three children.
When God called her back to writing, Becky knew He meant for her to turn her attention to Christian fiction. She loves writing funny, modern, and inspirational contemporary romance! She’s the Christy Award and Carol Award winning author of My Stubborn Heart, the Porter Family series, and the Bradford Sisters Romance series.
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! I received a complimentary copy of “Mistress of Legend” direct from the author Nicole Evelina in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Why I appreciate reading Nicole Evelina’s Guinevere Tale series:
Evelina has taken us into the heart of Guinevere and her girlhood peers, as we walk inside those hours she spent on Avalon honing her talent and learning about the world from a point of view not concurrent to her parents or ancestral home. Evelina re-develops the image of Guinevere and the back-story therein, allowing us the grace to re-examine what we think we know of the characters being brought back to life inside this trilogy. It’s a curious undertaking, because although it’s rooted in a canonical history of literature, mythos and lore; there is a new attempt at re-developing a story whose depths are grounded by the character’s will of heart and spirit of passage through their growing years.
The complexity and the authentic voice inter-combine to bring a scope of realism to Guinevere and to the back-story of her life. It’s a wholly original complex origin story where even if you are as under-read as I am about Camelot and Arthurian Legend, you can curl inside this novel due to how well-told Evelina evoked it’s heart out of the pages she lent us to read!
Mythology, fable and lore can feel disconnected at times to an actuary world if the conception of their perimeters are not fully fleshed out and brought to such a high level of vision by their writers. This is where Nicole Evelina excels as her vision of the story is portrayed in such a convicting manner as to etch your heart directly into the lifeblood of her characters; you feel everything they are sensing and appreciate the direct connection in order to best understand their world. Definitely a harbinger of emotionally writ historical fiction centred on known persons who have inspired many but of whom feel more three dimensional inside this story as they are presented with equal fragility as their contemporary peerage.
The research Evelina put into this work of a trilogy is evidenced by how she chose to tell the story, first through direct sight of Guinevere approaching hard choices and managing her emotions in the thick of it and secondly, through enlivening the background with such scope of depth as to embrace the mystical and mythology of how Camelot exists. She even kept the continuity alive by bringing together the origins of those who call Avalon home with their familial heritages and beliefs; such as I celebrated in seeing Guinevere’s Rhiannon and Lugh arriving in time for her ascension to Priestess of Avalon. The fundamentals of religion and ancestry are inter-woven to the core of who Guinevere is and what she stood for thereby granting the reader a more grounded vision of the woman Guinevere became latter in life.
Legend says Guinevere spent her final days in penance in a convent, but that is far from the truth.
Having escaped death at the stake, Guinevere longs to live a peaceful life in Brittany with Lancelot, but the threat of Arthur’s wrath quickly separates the lovers. Guinevere finds herself back in Camelot, but it is not the peaceful capital she once knew; the loyalty of the people is divided over Arthur’s role in her death sentence. When war draws Arthur away from Britain, Mordred is named acting king. With Morgan at his side and a Saxon in his bed, Mordred’s thirst for power becomes his undoing and the cause of Guinevere’s greatest heartache.
In the wake of the deadly battle that leaves the country in civil war, Guinevere’s power as the former queen is sought by everyone who seeks to ascend the throne. Heartbroken and refusing to take sides in the conflict, she flees north to her mother’s Votadini homeland, where she is at long last reunited with Lancelot. The quiet life she desires is just beginning when warring tribal factions once again thrust her into an unexpected position of power. Now charged with ending an invasion that could bring an end to the Votadini tribe and put the whole island in the hands of the Saxons, Guinevere must draw upon decades of experience to try to save the people she loves and is sworn to protect.
Now available: A box set containing Daughter of Destiny,
Camelot’s Queen, and Mistress of Legend
Guinevere is remembered for her role as King Arthur’s wife and for her adulterous affair with Lancelot. But there is so much more to her story…
Priestess. Queen. Warrior. Experience the world of King Arthur through Guinevere’s eyes as she matures from a young priestess who never dreamed of becoming queen to the stalwart defender of a nation and a mistress whose sin would go down in history. Throughout it all, Guinevere she faces threats from both foreign powers and within her own court that lead her to place her very life on the line to protect the dream of Camelot and save her people.
This compendium of Nicole Evelina’s two-time Book of the Year award-winning trilogy – Daughter of Destiny, Camelot’s Queen, and Mistress of Legend – gives fresh life to an age-old tale by adding historical context and emotional depth. Spanning more than three decades, it presents Guinevere as an equal to the famous men she is remembered for loving, while providing context for her controversial decisions and visiting little-known aspects of her life before and after her marriage to King Arthur.
Nicole Evelina is an award-winning historical fiction and romantic comedy writer. Her current novel, Been Searching for You, a romantic comedy, won the 2015 Romance Writers of America (RWA) Great Expectations and Golden Rose contests.
She also writes historical fiction. Her debut novel, Daughter of Destiny, the first book of an Arthurian legend trilogy that tells Guinevere’s life story from her point of view, took first place in the legend/legacy category of the 2015 Chatelaine Awards for Women’s Fiction/Romance, and was short-listed for the Chaucer Award for Historical Fiction. Later this year (2016), she will release Madame Presidentess (July 25), a historical novel about Victoria Woodhull, America's first female Presidential candidate, which was the first place winner in the Women’s US History category of the 2015 Chaucer Awards for Historical Fiction.
Nicole is one of only six authors who completed a week-long writing intensive taught by #1 New York Times bestselling author Deborah Harkness. Nicole has traveled to England twice to research the Guinevere’s Tale trilogy, where she consulted with internationally acclaimed author and historian Geoffrey Ashe, as well as Arthurian/Glastonbury expert Jaime George, the man who helped Marion Zimmer Bradley research The Mists of Avalon.
Nicole is a member of and book reviewer for the The Historical Novel Society, and Sirens (a group supporting female fantasy authors), as well as a member of the Historical Writers of America, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, Romance Writers of America, the St. Louis Writer’s Guild, Women Writing the West, Broad Universe (promoting women in fantasy, science fiction and horror), Alliance of Independent Authors and the Independent Book Publishers Association.
Acquired Book By: I started hosting with Prism Book Tours at the end of , having noticed the badge on Tressa’s blog (Wishful Endings) whilst I was visiting as we would partake in the same blog tours and/or book blogosphere memes. I had to put the memes on hold for several months (until I started to resume them (with Top Ten Tuesday) in January 2018). When I enquiried about hosting for Prism, I found I liked the niche of authors and stories they were featuring regularly. I am unsure how many books I’ll review for them as most are offered digitally rather than in print but this happily marks one of the blog tours where I could receive a print book for review purposes. Oft-times you’ll find Prism Book Tours alighting on my blog through the series of guest features and spotlights with notes I’ll be hosting on behalf of their authors.
I received a complimentary copy of “Legacy of Mercy” direct from the publisher Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. The Digital Audiobook copy of the novel “Waves of Mercy” was inclusive of the audiobooks I am able to listen to due to my Scribd subscription. My ruminations on behalf of the audiobook (and the borrowed print edition from my local library) which serves as a prequel are being shared for my own edification and to help introduce my readers to the series overall whilst sharing my own journey in its discovery. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Why I love reading INSPY Historical Fiction, especially Sagas:
I am a hybrid reader of both mainstream and INSPY Fiction – the kind of stories I love to read are reflective of my ardent passion for the collective works of Julie Lessman (which will start to be reflection on #JLASblog this coming Winter) wherein I discovered one of my favourite INSPY Historical saga writers! Her family within the original trilogy ‘Daughters of Boston’ became such a firm fixture of my heart and soul, I can’t wait to re-enter their lives starting inside the prequel this December wherein I finally get to read Marcy and Patrick’s courtship story! (A Light in the Window)
From there – I could aptly remember stories of my childhood which befit this category – even some one-offs such as Frontier Lady (which became a trilogy lateron) by Judith Pella were quite beloved (a series I dearly need to find second-hand if only to resume from whence I once left off) – whilst as a book blogger I’ve carved out a list of authors I am pursuing to read to curate a greater list of #mustread authors of both Historical and Contemporary INSPY Fiction.
This is why being a part of this blog tour was such a blessing – as I was hoping Ms Austin would become a new author I could continue to read and enjoy following – from a backlist and frontlist perspective of interest! As soon as I began reading Waves of Mercy, I recognised my instincts for finding a saga writer I could love was well founded!
The key reason I love reading sagas (especially of the historical past!) is the continuation of spending time with the characters! Of knitting out a well-rounded history of their families and of being able to stay with them as they grow, mature and move through the milestones of their lives! Oft-times sagas also embrace the next generations of their lives – through their children and grand-children – where each new story is an extension of the originals but moving deeper into their descendants and sometimes shifting backwards into their ancestors lives; depending on which way the writer wishes to take their focus.
I have an affinity of passion for serial fiction – this is why sagas are a wicked good fit for me! I have trouble parting with characters I feel especially close as a kindred spirit and being able to re-visit with them in latter installments if the best kind of joy I know as a reader! By extension, I also love this when it happens in motion pictures – such as the mini-series or tv serials on television or in motion pictures – a few which come to mind are the Love Comes Softly series, Avonlea, Anne with an E, Murdoch Mysteries (up til a certain season), Downton Abbey (up til a certain season), Legacy (prior to the final year), Dr Quinn Medicine Woman (prior to the final few seasons) and most adaptations based on Classical Literature. The one I never had the chance to see (as of yet) is Wind at my Back which is a Canadian series.
These are only a few of the ones I’ve appreciated over the years and I continuously find myself smitten by sagas in fiction – there is such a breadth of joy in seeing how the worlds are built and how the characters themselves become the touchstones of reading about our human condition whilst we sort out our lives as we live each day fully present and captured in the moments which become the memories we cherish in the future.
Haunted by the Unknowns of Their Pasts,
Two Women Search for Answers Along the Shores of Lake Michigan
Chicago socialite Anna Nicholson retreats to the Hotel Ottawa in Holland, Michigan, after breaking her engagement with her wealthy fiancé. Filled with questions about her newfound faith and troubled by a recurring nightmare, Anna finds solace in Derk Vander Veen, a seasonal hotel worker who plans to go into the ministry.
Prompted by a request from her son, Geesje de Jonge begins to sift through memories of emigrating from the Netherlands almost fifty years ago. As she writes them down for the Semi-Centennial anniversary of the town's settlement, her story takes on a life of its own as she honestly and painfully recalls her regrets, doubts, hardships, and joys. Her story captivates Derk, who sees similarities between Geesje and Anna, and wishes to bring the two together.
Past and present collide as Anna and Geesje seek clarity, but neither expects the revelations that await them.
Anna is terrified by her nightmares about being aboard a ship during rough weather crossing Lake Michigan from Chicago to the Michigan shore – to such an extent, that when she’s starting to experience this nightmare coming real to life it overtakes her sensibility to separate fantasy from reality. Her thoughts in turmoil over how her boyfriend and her separated – over a disagreement about a church and the beliefs therein are what brought her heart to be torn and spilt between letting go of the past and embracing the future. She was still tucked inside those moments they exchanged and the last fragments of her life she had lived in Chicago – all the while the storms continued to plague her anxieties and the manner in which she was about to arrive via the steamship which was a trial of nerves in of itself.
Despite her mother’s kind assurances and her faithfulness in prayer and the virtues of affirmative thoughts to carry you through the roughest of situations – not even her memories of sermons and easier times could dissuade herself from rolling through afflicted memories which caused her more discomfort. It wasn’t until her ship allowed her disembark did she first find her feet and heart able to ease out of their quaking displeasure to give way towards a calmer beginning on solid ground once more.
This first chapter of the novel I listened to via audiobook – wherein I found the narrator had a pleasant way of bringing Anna to life even though a few of her phrases and wordings felt a bit harder in tone than what was necessary, she aptly described how the churnings of a worried mind could inflict undue duress during a lake crossing aboard a ship which was cast against a difficult storm. I felt she brought Anna’s emotional state to life quite well and allowed us to peer into this young woman’s thoughts in such a way as to make us feel as if we were aboard this ship ourselves, standing near to Anna and observing her discomfort first-hand.
We first become introduced to Geesje as she observes the changes in her town – from communication and lightning changes to simply the way people were approaching their lives. Although she’s still in her sixties, people have the tendency to treat her as modern people would treat the elderly – as if she is fragile and not with a lot of her youth still left to give a spring to her step – yet as you observe her directly, she’s a young sixty-something who loves life, even if the changes round her leave her a bit unsettled as she remembers a simpler time before the complications of industry and progress catapulted everyone forward. How well we can all stipulate the same even over the past thirty to forty years where technology has almost superseded our own lives.
The irony here is how where progress can inflict a nuance in some ways it allows for shortages in others – how ironic Geesje would find it that infrastructure (ie. roads, etc) are still an oversight of progress (left to be the last of priority) and how we’re a disposal society inasmuch as the one she observed in the late 1800s just ahead of the dawning of the 20th Century! She was commenting how in the Netherlands they reused their buildings, cherished their architectural designs and yet, in Holland, Michigan (where this story is set) they would prefer to demolish and rebuild forsaking the old for the new; the irony dear hearts is that our society today in the 21st Century has the same pattern of destruction and reconstruction!
I love how Geesje is a knitter! If only I could one day master the art and complexities of socks, I think I shall be a happier knitter! For now, I appreciate what I can stitch into prayer shawls and friendship shawls – though to be honest, I yearn to aspire to master Fair Isle knitting patterns as much as wearables inasmuch as expound into fibre artist and textile arts of all varieties, techniques and styles. Once your hands enjoy the tactical blissitude of yarn, you find yourself drawn further inside Old World Arts & Crafts – though, of course, what I was most curious over is the pattern she was knitting as the style wasn’t mentioned.
You feel for her, truly! She’s being asked to write about her exodus from the Netherlands and what inspired the journey to Michigan – her family emigrated to the States when she was seventeen, which brought back memories of my own relatives who made the journey from their European countries to the States (as I am only a few generations down from when my relatives crossed the Atlantic inasmuch as I enjoy being an Ancestry Sleuth alongside my Mum) – as she started to talk about her honest emotions and the conflicting ways she struggled against her faith and finally found reconciliation – you could tell the journey to a new country was not without its depths of strife and adversity. It had to be incredibly despairing for her and even my own relatives – as I am sure not every person in every family who made the trip overseas wished to leave their home countries – some perhaps, but all? Surely, not! It was a daunting prospect – leaving everything behind to risk a stake of claim to set down new roots elsewhere? You can just imagine how that would lead to a conflict in faith and prayer – of where you might even feel distanced from your spirituality rather than closer in the walk you always felt endured through your life’s path. Especially of course if the hardest part of reconcile were the circumstances you faced after you arrived – if tragedy struck or affliction of illness took away lives – how do you rally against the darkness to resume your walk in the Light?
This is the conflict Geesje is having now – of weighing how to best explain the past without revealling herself in such a way where she could lose favour with her neighbours, family and friends alike – as if being completely transparent about the journey and the settlement in a new country could somehow become a negative influence or muddled in such a way with emotional anguish as to paint her life’s story in a different light than it was previously viewed. This gave a deeper scope of insight into how everyone is at times hesitative to share portions of their story – of sharing the living truth of their own lives if it runs against what society or community perceive of a person’s life. Where strife and adversity afflict the memories, there are moments where it feels as if absence of disclosure is a better course than honesty; however, it isn’t the best way of leaving behind a historical artifact of the hours lived but a gentler course if you don’t want to erase someone elses perception of the past. It was interesting watching her work through her emotions and sort out her thoughts on the subject – seeing how she chose what was best for her and what might benefit the community of Holland.
Before we can resume Anna’s story, we must first experience Geesje’s through a series of flashbacks and recollective memories. As we move backwards into her childhood in the Netherlands we learn about how her family were Separatists from the main church striving to hold-fast to a living God and not to be confined by the rituals of change ordained by man taking them further away from the scriptures they lived by. For her family, their faith was their rock and foundation of how they approached living – they were tethered to their beliefs as it was as important as air, shelter and food. They believed so dearly strong in their faith their attempts to outwit their opposition and repressive tactics of those who felt they had no right to rebel against the status quo set them apart from most of their family members who despite holding their same thoughts on the subject were not as strong as they were to leave and seek a better place to live.
As your reading about Geesje’s family’s history it reflects back on the stories I’ve read during the World War eras – of how irregardless of which country of origin or which era in history you move back inside – there have been many instances of persecution and violence. The manner in which Austin approaches this realistic truth of Geesje’s past points towards her compassionate heart for writing convicting narrative rooted out of History itself and re-fuelled inside fiction to offer keen insight into lives which were once lived but perhaps are not as readily known as other stories oft-times gain the spotlight more often.
Anna has gone to Michigan to find recovery after her spilt with her ex and to heal a heart which is still in the process of understanding why relationships can splinter a person’s resolve. Her very first day at the hotel she runs into Geesje’s nephew (an adopted one by association and neighbourly love) Derk which didn’t surprise me as this is a close-knit community. I had a feeling this is the kind of place where most know each other quite well if not by reputation and regards to visitors or tourists, I would imagine they would readily separate a stranger from familiar community members rather quickly. Likewise, I was not surprised either when Derk started to mention how many ships have been lost on the Lake – as the Great Lakes are notorious for keeping their dead, especially shipbound souls as the Lakes hold many watery graves. Anna’s fears of drowning were not misguided whims – especially if you consider the song The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald.
What perked my interest is learning Anna was adopted – as I love sourcing stories of adoption and foster care story-lines. It was revealled through her conversation with Derk who presumed she was from Holland or had family settled there due to how she appeared to be of Dutch ancestry. I could understand where he was coming from as people from similar origins have the tendency of taking on the same features of each other – from hair colour to eyes, as well as the features which make them stand out from others such as height or bone structure or even how they speak or use certain phrases in their speech. There are little hintings towards our origins without even realising we’re giving away clues to our present or past.
Due to my migraines and my eye injury this October, I wasn’t able to read this story in full – however, the first four chapters were so illuminating towards the arc and journey Anna and Geesje were taking I felt as if I could predict how their lives would start to intersect and unite! It was such a warm-hearted insight into both their lives – especially as it was revealled in this opening bridge of the novel what stirred so strongly inside Anna’s heart – why she felt lost inside her relationship with her fiance and why she ached to learn about her birth parents and the origins of her birth if not strictly the country of her origins. I knew after the fourth chapter I had enough insight to head into Legacy of Mercy as this was tracking into a beautifully lovely saga following in Anna’s footsteps and building on the foundation set forth within Waves of Mercy. At my leisure this Autumn or Winter, I would love to re-explore Waves of Mercy and seeing for myself how Geesje and Anna’s paths finally united, though I suspected I might learn a bit about this as I moved into reading Legacy of Mercy!
She Knew Her New Life Would Not Be Easy,
But Nothing Could Prepare Her For What Waits Ahead
Having returned to Chicago, young socialite Anna Nicholson can't seem to focus on her upcoming marriage. The new information she's learned about her birth mother continues to pull at her, and she hires Pinkerton detectives to help her discover the whole truth.
But as she meets people who once knew her mother and hears stories about the past, Anna soon discovers that some secrets are better left hidden. With pressure mounting to keep the past quiet, she discovers daily that her choice to seek God's purpose for her life isn't as simple as she had hoped.
When things are at their darkest, Anna knows she can turn to her grandmother, Geesje de Jonge, back in Holland, Michigan. Geesje's been helping new Dutch immigrants--including a teen with a troubled history--adjust to America. She only hopes that her wisdom can help all these young people through the turmoil they face.
Formats Available: Trade Paperback, Audiobook and Ebook
Stories within the series Waves of Mercy:
Book One: Waves of Mercy (prequel) | Pub’d 4th October, 2016
Book Two: Legacy of Mercy
Converse via: #INSPYbooks, #INSPYHistFic, #INSPY or #HistRom
About Lynn Austin
Lynn Austin has sold more than one and a half million copies of her books worldwide. A former teacher who now writes and speaks full-time, she has won eight Christy Awards for her historical fiction. One of those novels, Hidden Places, has also been made into an Original Hallmark Channel movie. Lynn and her husband have raised three children and make their home in western Michigan.
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! I received a complimentary copy of “Lady of Thousand Treasures” direct from the publisher Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
My favourite takeaways from my first reading of a Sandra Byrd novel:
I had noticed the quick-fire cross-references being mentioned throughout this blog tour on behalf of Mist of Midnight to lay a correlated thought of insight to the story if readers were familiar with Jane Eyre. I believe this is a bit of a misstep, as despite my fanciment for Gothic Lit intermixed into Historical Fiction, even I can appreciate how diversely eclectic and unique the offerings are within the genre-benders. It is a bit as to say that every Classic Psychological Suspense (i.e. Classic Horror) motion picture is going to be a cardinal carbon copy of the previous release. Although there are inherent similarities to Eyre or any novel within this subset of literature, there is a striking originality to Byrd’s narrative voice, and the way in which she stirs the setting to alight in your mind’s eye.
I did not hear any footfall or echo of Eyre’s voice in the character of Rebecca Ravenshaw, as instead, I heard Rebecca’s voice quite clearly on her own grounds. She’s a full-bodied character not a composite of a previous incarnation of a previous era’s most beloved heroine. The misstep for me is the presumption on what the story entails, as this isn’t a Governess tale, no, this is an inheritance and right of identity tale which pushes far past where Eyre ventured. Atmospherically I do agree, there are certain hidden clues and nudges to elude to where Eyre resided, but again, this isn’t a novel I’d cross-compare Byrd’s narrative, as it would deceive the readers who are wanting to soak inside it unless there is a definitive explanation about ‘what’ directly refers to setting and what is ‘different’ altogether in the story’s arc.
I found more crumbs of cognisant triggers of familiarity stemming out of Mists of Midnight to previous novels I’ve read by ChocLitUK and several via HFVBTs. More readily I would say the styling of how Bryd has writ her new series for the Daughters of Hampshire is a beautiful compliment to how ethereally and historically stimulating I’m finding the Lady Darby series by Anna Lee Huber. Wordsmiths who breathe a stability of place, time, character depth and arc of journey will always leave me perpetually museful for their discovery. Byrd is amongst my top favourites for giving us a story which transcends straight out of where we’ve planted our seat to hold the pages, which as they are turnt, lead us into the murky shadows of where truth and light are sometimes cast in gray.
Each Gothic Lit Historical Narrative is wholly original into itself, as the creator who inked the words alighted upon the premise by a different series of avenues before committing pen to creation. The die is cast so to speak with a uniqueness that is not quite like another story, but whose individual elements can bewitch you with their cosy comfortness of relating a particular sensory experience you had whilst reading other novels within the genre.
I only took sparse pauses away from this novel, as I have the tendency to want to devour a text such as this, save for slumber and a quick nosh; devouring it’s elegant world-building, as it’s secondary characters who alight on the page as if their histories were being writ as they lived. I love seeing secondary cast members as fully true in their bones as their lead counterparts. There is a realism in having this underwrit into a novel, and I must say, Byrd has excelled.
Miss Eleanor Sheffield is a talented evaluator of antiquities, trained to know the difference between a genuine artifact and a fraud. But with her father’s passing and her uncle’s decline into dementia, the family business is at risk. In the Victorian era, unmarried Eleanor cannot run Sheffield Brothers alone.
The death of a longtime client, Baron Lydney, offers an unexpected complication when Eleanor is appointed the temporary trustee of the baron’s legendary collection. She must choose whether to donate the priceless treasures to a museum or allow them to pass to the baron’s only living son, Harry—the man who broke Eleanor’s heart.
Eleanor distrusts the baron’s motives and her own ability to be unbiased regarding Harry’s future. Harry claims to still love her and Eleanor yearns to believe him, but his mysterious comments and actions fuel her doubts. When she learns an Italian beauty accompanied him on his return to England, her lingering hope for a future with Harry dims.
With the threat of debtor’s prison closing in, Eleanor knows that donating the baron’s collection would win her favor among potential clients, saving Sheffield Brothers. But the more time she spends with Harry, the more her faith in him grows. Might Harry be worthy of his inheritance, and her heart, after all? As pressures mount and time runs out, Eleanor must decide whom she can trust—who in her life is false or true, brass or gold—and what is meant to be treasured.
Formats Available: Trade paperback, ebook and audiobook
Converse via: #SandraByrd, #VictorianLadies + #HistRom or #HistFic
About Ms Sandra Byrd
Bestselling author Sandra Byrd has published more than fifty books over her editing and writing career. Her traditionally published books include titles by Tyndale House Publishers, Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster, WaterBrook Press, a Penguin Random House imprint, and Bethany House. She’s also an independent author.
Sandra’s series of historically sound Gothic romances launched with the best-selling Mist of Midnight, which earned a coveted Editor’s Choice award from the Historical Novel Society. The second book, Bride of a Distant Isle, has been selected by Romantic Times as a Top Pick. The third in the series, A Lady in Disguise, published in 2017 and was named by the American Library Association’s Booklist as one of the Top Ten Inspirational Fiction books of the year.
Her contemporary adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, which was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2011, and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr was named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2012.