Genre: Historical Women's Fiction

#HistoricalMondays showcasing #HistRom series | The Spinster Chronicles by Rebecca Connolly feat. “The Merry Lives of Spinsters”

Posted Monday, 7 October, 2019 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

#HistoricalMondays blog banner created by Jorie in Canva.

I’ve 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 am 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 have been hosting blog tours with Cedar Fort Publishing and Media for several years now, wherein their new blog tour publicist (Ms Sydney Anderson) also runs her own publicity touring company: Singing Librarian Book Tours (or SLB Tours for short!). I happily joined her team of book bloggers as a hostess in late Spring, 2018 wherein my first tours with her as a hostess began Summer, 2018. I appreciate reading INSPY literature and was happy to find these are most of the stories she is showcasing through SLB Tours! Most of her authors are published through Cedar Fort, though she does work with authors who are either Self-Published or Indie published through different publishers as well.

There is a bit of a long gap between when I first received these novels for review consideration and when I am actually reading them for review. I cannot remember exactly what took me away from reading them – however, I have a suspicion it was due to migraines and health afflictions as throughout [2018] I had ten months of health issues and severe bouts of high frequency of migraines to battle through – whilst [2019] has gone better in that regard, I have still had issues dealing with migraines despite the fact this year has had a more limited frequency of them compared to last year. When I learnt this author was going on a blog tour for the fourth novel in the series – I knew this was a second chance to redeem myself and properly bring the series to Jorie Loves A Story. Therefore, I am reading all four novels and reviewing them within the week of the blog tour.

I received a complimentary copy of “The Merry Lives of Spinsters” direct from the author Rebecca Connolly in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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The reasons why this particular series of Historical Romance (ie. #HistRom) charmed me:

IF you’ve been visiting with me for awhile now, you’ve noticed a particular appreciation for Historical Fiction & the lovely niche of Historical Romance floating into my archives here at Jorie Loves A Story! This is because I was charmed by the Historical past eons ago in childhood wherein I first picked up my very first #HistRom round the age of eight or nine – the exact year alters depending on which day I remember gathering those Victorian & Regency Christmas novella anthologies! Those gentle stories of yesteryear centred inside two eras of British History I fell head over heels in love with at *first sight!* became the moment where my bookish heart could not get enough Historical Romances in my life!

I believe Historical Romances should keep in mind the people in power, the situations of the world during the specific time period being explored and of course, keeping mindful of living persons whilst having the internal time-line of the story altered in scope against the known one in History. Some writers alter historical time for literary time which is generally alright for me if it is done in such a way to be believable within their story.

When it comes to Historical Romance, I am not reading it strictly to learn about ‘history’  per se but rather want to feel caught in the joy of the relationship being built against the historical backdrop it is placed. Which tracks well with the choices I make in which Historical Romance authors draw my eye towards their works of literature! In this particular instance, what drew me into a curiosity about the Spinster Chronicles is the curious point of entrance into the women whose lives are at the centre of the series! It is a unique perspective but also an interesting premise – of how thread a series out of a particular set of circumstances and yet, leaving the door ajar for these women to find their happier-ever-afters as well!

Last Autumn, I had the pleasure of joy learning more about the writer’s (Ms Connolly’s) writing process and a few insights into her series (the Spinster Chronicles) when I shared my interview which was featured during the “Spinster and I” blog tour. This Autumn, I am happily reading the series which inspired the conversation – the stories which have charmed me from afar and of which I was happily soaking inside as the Regency is one of my top favourite #HistRom settings to settle inside!

May your #AutumnReads be as excitingly awesome as mine this year!

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#HistoricalMondays showcasing #HistRom series | The Spinster Chronicles by Rebecca Connolly feat. “The Merry Lives of Spinsters”The Merry Lives of Spinsters
Subtitle: How do you solve a problem like a spinster? | A Spinster Chronicles Romance
by Rebecca Connolly
Source: Direct from Author

Spinster is as Spinster does...

Georgina Allen is a spinster and everybody knows it. She also happens to be one of the writers for the Spinster Chronicles, and everyday knows that as well. She's accepted her lot in life, and, along with the other spinsters in her circle, takes great pride in the articles she's writes and the influence she has. Then Captain Anthony Sterling infiltrates their group, and her life, and Georgie impossibly begins to hope once more.

Tony Sterling had no idea what to expect when he agreed to break up the Spinsters for his cousin, but he certainly did not expect Georgie Allen. From the very first meeting, she upends everything he thought a spinster would be, and her beauty and wit keeps him on edge in thrilling ways. The more he gets to know the Spinsters, the less he wants to break them up. And the more he wants Georgie in his life. Permanently.

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



Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781943048533

Also by this author: Author Interview Rebecca Connolly (Spinster Chronicles), My Fair Spinster

Series: Spinster Chronicles


Also in this series: My Fair Spinster


Published by Phase Publishing

on 1st May, 2018

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 284

Reflections from My Fair Spinster, Book Four:

I read the fourth novel concurrently to reading the first due to the blog tour – it is also why some of my reflections on behalf of Grace co-merge between the two reviews.

At the heart of the Spinster Chronicles, there is an undercurrent theme which runs through all the stories – friendship alongside the love and concern for your fellow peers of whom you might not have realised would become your best mates through serendipitous first meetings. I love how Connolly evokes us to take a close look at her characters – through their associations, their personal friendships and how they understand their own duties within their given families. She also has the knack for showing the ‘other side’ of the Regency – the roguish rakes and the men of whom think they’re every woman’s gift to be unwrapped. She does this quite cleverly against the main backdrop of showing honourable gentleman who may or may not realise how ready they are to tackle marriage and a life with a wife who has taken them by charm, wit and a sophisticated level of independence.

Interlinking this novel with the first was a good turn of surprises, as throughout the series you get so dearly attached to previous characters, you want to seem them continue to ‘step forward’ into future installments. Anchouring Aubrey to Sterling (ie. Georgie’s husband) also gave a unique perspective on why Sterling and Georgie make such a winsome match themselves; as they truly always shared much more in common with each other than they first realised, though the evidence was there it is more present to be observed when you see how Sterling himself fathered his mates as much as Georgie attempted to mother hers. They were each the unexpected hero who looked out for others and tried to look out for themselves in the process and that is one of the most admirable traits within the Spinster Chronicles – don’t just own your individual truths and the path your life is taking but do something with your hours outside of your own endeavours, too.

Connolly has a champion way of enticing us into her plots – just when we think we understand the pattern or direction a particular installment is going to take, she re-knits us close to her heroine and hero, giving us a measured joy in carting off after them to see what shall unite them further together. In this story, what is truly wickedly engaging is how indifferent Aubrey is to the scheme he is employed to undertake and how willingly Grace is attempting to thwart her father’s plans. They were quite literally thrown back together again and that in of itself was the brilliant stroke of luck Connolly could have given them!

-quoted from my review of My Fair Spinster

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The Spinster Chronicles:

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

The Merry Lives of Spinsters (book one) – Georgie

The Spinster & I  (book two) – Prue

Spinster & Spice (book three) – Izzy

My Fair Spinster (book four) –  Grace
(see also my review)

Published By: Phase Publishing (@PhasePubLLC)

Formats Available: Paperback and Ebook

Converse via: #SpinsterChronicles, #Regency and #HistRom

About Rebecca Connolly

Rebecca Connolly

Rebecca Connolly writes romances, both period and contemporary, because she absolutely loves a good love story. She has been creating stories since childhood, and there are home videos to prove it! She started writing them down in elementary school and has never looked back. She currently lives in the Midwest, spends every spare moment away from her day job absorbed in her writing, and is a hot cocoa addict.

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

Divider

Posted Monday, 7 October, 2019 by jorielov in 19th Century, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Historical Romance, Indie Author, Romance Fiction, Singing Librarian Book Tours, Sweet Romance, the Regency era

#HistRom series book review | The Spinster Chronicles by Rebecca Connolly feat. “My Fair Spinster” (Book Four) of a #Regency series I find delishly #unputdownable and wickedly addictive to be #amreading!

Posted Saturday, 5 October, 2019 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

Book Review badge created by Jorie in Canva using Unsplash.com photography (Creative Commons Zero).

Acquired Book By: I have been hosting blog tours with Cedar Fort Publishing and Media for several years now, wherein their new blog tour publicist (Ms Sydney Anderson) also runs her own publicity touring company: Singing Librarian Book Tours (or SLB Tours for short!). I happily joined her team of book bloggers as a hostess in late Spring, 2018 wherein my first tours with her as a hostess began Summer, 2018. I appreciate reading INSPY literature and was happy to find these are most of the stories she is showcasing through SLB Tours! Most of her authors are published through Cedar Fort, though she does work with authors who are either Self-Published or Indie published through different publishers as well.

There is a bit of a long gap between when I first received these novels for review consideration and when I am actually reading them for review. I cannot remember exactly what took me away from reading them – however, I have a suspicion it was due to migraines and health afflictions as throughout [2018] I had ten months of health issues and severe bouts of high frequency of migraines to battle through – whilst [2019] has gone better in that regard, I have still had issues dealing with migraines despite the fact this year has had a more limited frequency of them compared to last year. When I learnt this author was going on a blog tour for the fourth novel in the series – I knew this was a second chance to redeem myself and properly bring the series to Jorie Loves A Story. Therefore, I am reading all four novels and reviewing them within the week of the blog tour.

I received a complimentary copy of “My Fair Spinster” direct from the author Rebecca Connolly in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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What I am enjoying about the Spinster Chronicles:

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My Fair Spinster quote badge provided by SLB Book Tours and is used with permission.

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

I loved at the start of each of the chapters are portions of the Spinsters column – you can denote what is most fetching on their minds by what they are disclosing to their readers; those observations also serve as a foreshadow of what the chapter will next reveal within their lives – a bit of a clever way of nudging you along their thought-process and to better understand their motivations overall. They were a bit more complicated and complex than you first imagine them to be as there are hidden layers which are earnestly drawn out as you read further into the context of the novel.

You have to give credit where its due and that lies in the cheek and frankness of Lady Hetty! She has this clever way of speaking truth when you aren’t suspecting she’s still observing enough of the singletons to know of their ‘secrets’ or at least, what they are attempting to hide from others; for her eyes, she sees them as they are and of whom they are rather than what they wish to mask. She’s one of the supporting cast members who truly strikes your fancy because she is as affirmative as Maggie Smith on Downton Abbey but with a bit less abrasive moxie! She’s also the type of person you would like to strike a conversation with yourself – if only to preen the observations she can grant you and give you something to chew over whilst you contemplate how the tea in your cup was brewed.

Connolly takes us into the balls, the places where the dances, the conversations and the choices in fashion are only part of the story being played out – the other half, the slight murmurs of a match, the potential suitors striking out to find their winsome partners and the girls’ themselves either ready to embrace that next stage of their life or not, find themselves in the march towards courtship. It is here where Connolly develops the keenest of insight into her characters’ – to put on display what is instinctively motivating Sterling to advocate for the Spinsters and where Georgie most feels like the Queen Protector for all the girls’ who may or may not know of her existence.

Watching them as you do – being swept into the intrigue of the scene ‘behind’ the ball itself and having Lady Hetty ready on the sidelines to pull back the veils of what is hidden from the surface, you have a ready made drama to soak inside. It isn’t just the fact the Spinsters consider themselves necessary to be present at these kinds of events for the sake of future knowledge to impart lateron in their articles but it is earnestly their desire to be more visible to those girls’ they are trying to impress upon the better sensibility they wish they had had someone give to them at their younger ages. And, that dear hearts is the beauty of the novel itself – how women who have lived their lives caught up in the motions of tradition, duty and expectation wish to give back to the generation behind them. In that, you become one of their cheerleaders, second only to Sterling.

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

-quoted from my review of The Merry Lives of Spinsters

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#HistRom series book review | The Spinster Chronicles by Rebecca Connolly feat. “My Fair Spinster” (Book Four) of a #Regency series I find delishly #unputdownable and wickedly addictive to be #amreading!My Fair Spinster
Subtitle: Oh, what a beautiful spinster... | A Spinster Chronicles Romance
by Rebecca Connolly
Source: Direct from Author

The spinster next door…

Grace Morledge is a failure. Or so her father believes, as she is unmarried despite her advantages. In his mind, Grace must have significant flaws to be a spinster and something must be done about them. To her mortification, he demands she be fully examined and all flaws recorded. And the man he chooses is the worst possible candidate of all.

Aubrey Flint, Lord Ingram, has known Grace since childhood, but he never anticipated Lord Trenwick demanding he examine her for flaws. How can perfection have faults? Reluctantly, he accepts the assignment, and finds far more than he bargained for, and perfection becomes more and more tempting.

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



Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781943048885

Also by this author: Author Interview Rebecca Connolly (Spinster Chronicles), The Merry Lives of Spinsters

Series: Spinster Chronicles


Also in this series: The Merry Lives of Spinsters


Published by Phase Publishing

on 1st October, 2019

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 298

The Spinster Chronicles:

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

The Merry Lives of Spinsters (book one)

The Spinster & I  (book two)

Spinster & Spice (book three)

My Fair Spinster (book four)

Published By: Phase Publishing (@PhasePubLLC)

Published on: 1st November, 2018 | ISBN: 9781943048700

Formats Available: Paperback and Ebook

Converse via: #SpinsterChronicles, #Regency and #HistRom

About Rebecca Connolly

Rebecca Connolly

Rebecca Connolly writes romances, both period and contemporary, because she absolutely loves a good love story. She has been creating stories since childhood, and there are home videos to prove it! She started writing them down in elementary school and has never looked back. She currently lives in the Midwest, spends every spare moment away from her day job absorbed in her writing, and is a hot cocoa addict.

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

Divider

Posted Saturday, 5 October, 2019 by jorielov in 19th Century, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Indie Author, Romance Fiction, Singing Librarian Book Tours, Sweet Romance, The London Season, the Regency era

Blog Book Tour | “The Strongman and the Mermaid” [The Donora Story Collection: Book Two] by Kathleen Shoop with reflections on behalf of reading the first novel in the series “After the Fog”

Posted Monday, 20 May, 2019 by jorielov , , , , 2 Comments

#HistoricalMondays blog banner created by Jorie in Canva.

I’ve 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 am 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” this Spring 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. 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.

I received a complimentary copy of “After the Fog” direct from the author Kathleen Shoop without obligation to post a review. I am choosing to share my ruminative thoughts on behalf of this novel for my own edification and of continuing to share my readerly life with those who follow m y blog Jorie Loves A Story. Whilst at the same time, I read it in conjunction with the sequel being released and touring on a blog tour in the book blogosphere on behalf of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours of which I am a regular reviewer and tour hostess.

I received a complimentary copy of “The Strongman and the Mermaid” direct from the author Kathleen Shoop in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein on either “After the Fog” or “The Strongman and the Mermaid”.

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My journey towards reading

the collective works of Kathleen Shoop:

If I would have speculated it would take me from 2015 to 2019 to read my first Kathleen Shoop novel, I might have questioned the distance early-on from my first discovery of her novels and the point in time which I could put my heart into reading her collective works. The sad bit really is I was perpetually distracted by my health, the adversities of life and if you take out [2017] (the year my father recovered from his stroke) and [2018] the year I had 10 months of health afflictions – it doesn’t appear to be as long of a distance on the surface of things.

The truth is – I’ve been picking up her novels off/on since I first received them – each time thinking I had picked the right moment to read them, to spend time dissolving into the words and the worlds she’s built and unfortunately finding myself unable to attach into the narrative. I planned to read the Letter series first – as I have the first two novels of that series on hand to be read. And, this is where my journey into her novels begins as the reason our paths first crossed is because I used to review for BookSparks (ie. the publicity team attached to She Writes Press, etc) – in [2015] I participated in their blog tours & their Summer Reading Challenge – which was quite epic back then. You’d select the authors you were most keen on becoming acquainted with and they would pick a variety of books to send you for review consideration – the second Letter series novel “The Road Home” was amongst the offerings and thus, my path first crossed with Ms Shoop.

From there – a lot of life intervened and this has been the first year I’ve been able to focus on reading my *backlogue!* despite the fact by appearances it would seem I took five months to begin doing that as I had some health issues shifting into 2019 from 2018. The best news of all is this Spring I started to see a positive reduction in my migraines (even though this #WyrdAndWonder I had a rather epic one which relapsed twice this May; it was a side effect to allergy medicine) which I feel will give me more bookishly delightful hours in the future.

The main reason I decided to join the blog tour featuring the second novel in the Donora Story Collection [The Strongman & the Mermaid] is because I wanted to purposefully begin reading my Shoop novels. I’ve dreamt of what they involve and the literary environment I would encounter once I began reading her stories – thereby, it felt like [2019] was the year the stars were aligning to where I could finally focus on the STORIES I most desired to be reading and finally ‘greet!’ the authors I’ve most wanted to read.

The beauty of course, is “After the Fog” begins this series and the novel itself has been lovingly looked after on my book shelves – it has moved round quite a bit and it was finally able to make it to my desk. I was overjoyed I could finally soak inside Shoop’s narrative(s) and hoped this would mark a beginning where I could pick up the rhythm of her stories anew in JUNE by settling into the Letter series and seeing where this journey of mine into her collective works would take me next. It might take me a bit of time to return to a book I received in the earlier days of Jorie Loves A Story – but this much is true: NONE of those books have been forgotten,.. each of them is being read with eager anticipation as if they just reached me now to be read.

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prefacing my reading of “after the fog” with a personal observation:

Whilst embarking on a 15,000 mile road trip with my Mum over a score of three years in the middle of the 2000s – criss-crossing through the Mid-Atlantic and Mid-West states – I still remember what it was like driving through areas of Pennsylvania where the industrial pollution was still effecting its residents. There were townes where the houses facing the industrial plants across the street were tar black and smokey grey – you could barely tell they were houses as the grim covering the outside of their buildings felt like a film set from a Dystopian location. It gave thought to how far we have progressed and how far we have receded in regards to taking care of air pollution, industrial pollution and the health risks of living in cities and small townes where there is no distance between quality of life and the pollutants which can cause harm.

I had forgotten what the premise was within this novel but as soon as I re-read it – I immediately drew back to mind what it was like driving through the coal townes of West Virginia, the industrial townes of Pennsylvania and the insanity of having my hamster nearly suffocate himself in the Upper Mid-West region where we were passing through Omaha, Nebraska due to not having quality air even inside of a closed windowed car. There are distinct issues throughout the states from an environmental perspective – most of which you hear on the news or see on your feeds via social media; however, when your ‘driving through’ it makes a more pointed reality quite crystalised and clear for anyone who takes a harder look at what they are observing from afar.

reflections on reading after the fog:

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.

Despite this – I found reading After the Fog to be quite tedious as although I was looking forward to reading it for quite a long while – I couldn’t find my footing inside its story-line. The rhythm was hard to root out as I was constantly distracted by either the grittiness of the layers within it, the language choices liberally shining out of it or the fact the story felt harder edged somehow than most of the Historicals I usually read. It was not a good fit for me and although I worried how that would effect my readings of the sequel The Strongman and the Mermaid – I knew most of Shoop’s novels can be read as stand-alone editions and I felt perhaps this sequel might resonate with me a bit better than After the Fog as I honestly did not get past a quarter’s length of reading.

The sad bit is I couldn’t find a character I felt drawn to emotionally – I thought at first I might feel a connection to Rose but she felt emotionally cold and reclusive; she was living through a difficult time in her life where the whole of her family was co-dependent on everyone else but it was difficult to get a stronger impression about her as she did not seem approachable as some historical characters tend to feel in historical stories. Therefore, the more I tried to read of the novel – the less enthused I was about completing it due to how I simply felt disconnected from the characters and did not feel as if I wanted to know the outcome of their stories.

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Blog Book Tour | “The Strongman and the Mermaid” [The Donora Story Collection: Book Two] by Kathleen Shoop with reflections on behalf of reading the first novel in the series “After the Fog”The Strongman and the Mermaid

Myscowa, Poland—1910

Once upon a time in tiny, rural Myscowa, Lukasz Musial competes in feats of strength against his lifelong nemesis to win passage to America. He leaves behind grinding poverty and despair, to seek the clear blue skies, and better life he sees on a postcard. Settled in Donora’s Polish community, Lukasz secures a coveted job in the wire mill, and is matched to marry Donora’s very own Polish princess. Life is set on course. The American Dream is nearly his.

Donora, Pennsylvania—1910

Mary Lancos is no princess. A tall, athletic girl who loves the water, she spends her days keeping house for families in town, digging coal out of a backyard seam and rowing her father across the Monongahela River for work. Mary is dependable, tenacious, and always ready to help when someone needs her. She dreams of a gas-heated home, a bedroom for each of her future children, and good meals on the table each night. To help make that happen Mary attends local dances, waiting for the few men who are taller than her to ask her to dance, hoping one of them is right for her.

An unexpected Christmas Eve visitor brings bad luck, and Lukasz’s world crumbles. Meanwhile, tension grows at the Lancos home when money is short and Mary’s dreams clash with her parents’ old world expectations. Just when Mary and Lukasz are at their lowest, they find themselves under an odd pink moonlit sky and Lukasz rescues Mary from a fall into frigid river water. The attraction between them is sudden and consuming, turning the pair onto an unexpected path. With mounting disapproval from Mary’s parents, and increased pressure on Lukasz, they must decide if love is enough to risk losing everything else that matters.


Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781731561138

on 28th February, 2019

Pages: 563

This is a self-published novel

The Donora Story Collection:

After the Fog by Kathleen ShoopThe Strongman and the Mermaid by Kathleen Shoop

After the Fog (book one)

The Strongman & the Mermaid (book two)

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, 20 May, 2019 by jorielov in #HistoricalMondays, 20th Century, Blog Tour Host, Content Note, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, History, Self-Published Author, The Steel Industry, Vulgarity in Literature