I have decided to start participating in this book blogosphere meme with a few small changes of how it’s regularly blogged about by my fellow book bloggers. I will either be introducing my current reads of upcoming releases as I am in the process of reading them and/or I might be releasing a book review about a forthcoming title by which I had been blessed to read ahead of publication. The main purpose behind the meme is to encourage readers and your fellow book bloggers to become aware of new books being released which caught your eye and which held your interest to read. Sometimes if your still in the process of reading the books, its the titles which encouraged your bookish heart. I look forward to spending the next seasons of the year, talking about the books I have on hand to read, the books I’ve been reading and the books I might not even have a copy to read but which are of wicked sweet interest to become a #nextread of mine.
Hallo, Hallo dear hearts!
I am wicked thankful to bring news about a sequel for a series I am still wickedly absorbing through the first installment wherein I have the most delightful joy in both reading the story and listening to the narrator narrate it in my ears! However, I am getting a bit ahead of myself! Let me first explain how this series [the Ella Shane Mysteries] came to alight on my bookish path and how delighted I am to be championing the author behind them as I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know her better in the weeks & months since she first guested on my @SatBookChat!
Ms Kalb sought me out to be a guest on my bookish chat which celebrates Romance & Women’s Fiction (how I founded the chat) whilst throughout 2020 I have expanded on our roots to now become inclusive of all genres which represent strong female characters and/or Feminist Lit. It is a merger of change which better represents the stories I am most intrigued to be reading myself a a reader whilst continuing to offer a bridge of focus between my blog Jorie Loves A Story and my chat @SatBookChat. The reviews are generally featured during my #SaturdaysAreBookish featured showcases running on Saturdays but sometimes if I fall behind schedule, they are re-funnelled into other showcases I have such as #RomanceTuesdays and/or #HistoricalMondays depending on the genre in which the stories represent within them.
I was so dearly thankful Ms Kalb had found my chat and wanted to become a guest – as most of this past year of 2020, the chat itself has been organically knitting itself together with guest authors & stories to discuss as it was one year where I had intented to give it my all to help grow the chat and also help re-direct it further from where I had regenerated it in Autumn, 2019. This year just felt a bit more oppressive than others personally and having authors step forward to query me about the chat was an unexpected blessing of grace and it allowed me to continue hosting without feeling the guilt of not being able to send as many queries out myself.
What struck my interest about this Cosy Historical Mystery series is how it takes place in the world of theatre and is set during the 19th Century Gilded Age! A place in history that I am most curious about exploring further and one I do not always get the chance to read about myself. As you will see, I am already fully anchoured into the story and the narration by Ms Bentley for this first novel – I am hopeful she will be the narrator for the sequel but I haven’t heard the news about whose narrating book two as of yet.
Today, I wanted to help shine a light on this series and also to give a few early glimpses into my reactions to reading “A Fatal Finale” whilst championing the announced release of the sequel “A Fatal First Night”!! If you haven’t seen this series on your Cosy Historical Mystery radar – be sure to follow the links to the archives of #SatBookChat, as we happily discussed the series and the author’s style of writing it in full detail.
I was hoping to share my ruminations about the third Countess of Harleigh novel with you today, however, the truth of it is I have been reading at a far slower pace recently due to having 3x migraines in 3 weeks and nearly succumbing to a fourth this past weekend. It takes quite a bit out of me to transition out of these more severe migraines (what I refer to as supernovas) and despite my earnest intentions to read on the schedules of my blog tours, sometimes I fall a bit short, which is why I’m going to be featuring a lovely Guest Post by Ms Freeman today and share my review with you about this delightful third novel during my latest #CrimeFicFridays review on the 21st which is the final day of the tour.
I should also mention, I originally was going to interview Ms Freeman about this latest release and tie it back together with the previous two installments as I had previously interviewed her during the first blog tour I hosted of hers wherein I discovered this most charmingly intriguing character and found a wicked new Cosy Historical Mystery series in which to love devouring! I loved this series so dearly much that I also had her as a guest author on my chat @SatBookChat!
However, after having a clustering of severe migraines I simply ran out of time to gather my thoughts and put forth a conversation which would honour the series. I was thankful Ms Freeman didn’t mind switching to a guest post and this topic was one of her choosing. When I read the essay I was quite charmed and think you will be too because it discusses the curious manners of ‘house parties’ and what was keenly interesting is how *structured!* and *regulated!* they were despite the illusion that it was a causal get together amongst friends!
I look forward to sharing more with you at the close of the week but for now, if this is your first introduction to the series, I hope it will whet a thirst of interest to begin reading the stories!
On why I love reading this series:
Rather immediately, I found myself drawn into the life of Frances – not just because her husband was a cad and a louse of a husband but because of how Ms Freeman endeared us to champion her cause as a woman exiting her mourning period and getting on with her life! It was quite horrid for women in the 19th Century – still attached to that tradition of wearing dearly depressing hues of black and grey (in different increments which were rather strictly enforced!) for at least a year after becoming widowed. It was only then, where she could ‘re-emerge’ into her colours and start to make her presence more widely known in society. How those women managed it, I’ll never know not – as in the case of Frances, it most have truly become a chore knowing her her husband departed his life! Oyy, vie such a rat!
Her in-laws were quite typical – only out for themselves, more concerned with the affairs relating to their estate and less enthused to even entertain a thought of concern over Frances. For her benefit, she was made of stronger stock than they would have believed and she took her daughter (Rose) and herself off to the city to carve out their future elsewhere from the throes of the Harleigh family and the responsibilities therein. Freeman gave you such a hearty and joyful introduction to her character – part of her antics reminded me of why I have such cheeky joy in reading the Anna Blanc series and part of the exchanges also reminded me of my recent over the Discreet Detective Agency – there is something to be said for well-timed satire and humour in the Cosy Historical Mysteries your reading! The appeal of course is being able to burst into giggles alongside the allure of moving deeper into the context of the building mystery!
Of course, not all is ill for Frances – she has enough resources within her means to purchase a least outright for a house which still has eighty years to be lived inside! Imagine? She might have sparse furnishings and staff but something told me her and Rose would thrive here rather than having stayed on with the relatives at the estate. One of my favourite moments is when she bribes one of the maids not to spoilt her news by giving her the chance to make haste and away with her once she moves out. It was a ploy to cover-up the fact she had a bit of a rebellious nature inside her to where she did not like to leave things to fate if there was a loophole round the unknown! Smartly written, Freeman keeps you entertained from one chapter to the next to where it is just a delight to overhear what Frances will say next and what her next actions might be which become the new concerns of the family she’s left behind!
As fate continued to give Frances more headaches than smiles, you had to give it to her – she chose to set her attitude on the positive and despite the arduous circumstances alighting towards her at an alarming speed of haste from her brother-in-law, Frances wouldn’t let her resolve falter. There was much more at stake than inconvenient delays in the normality of her life – no, she simply turnt her chin up with a strength she might not have entirely felt but one which would see her through with the kindness of her friends. This was another instance where you could see how lovely it was for her to have Fiona in her life – the kind of huckleberry friend everyone needs and is blessed to have found.
Part of the joy of reading this series are the layers of etiquette permeating into the fabric of the story-line – fitting for this debut of the series itself as it lends a certain view of the absurdity of tradition these lords and ladies were put through when their era was in its heyday! All the confining points of societal regulations and the fact, you couldn’t just remove yourself from the obligations as that would be lent to scandal and gossip; Freeman takes you through the motions of how frivolous the ton can be and how determined you must become to outwit them all the same! Frances shows this by her unwavering belief that if you lead with strength and a resolve to overcome whatever befalls you, society will either a) move on to the next lead story or b) forget you completely; which I felt was her preference. Frances wasn’t the kind who welcomed notoriety – quite the opposite, I believed she wanted to live a more ordinary life without all the pops and poms of the elevated class.
I was endeared to the plot long before I caught-on to the mysterious events happening in the background – for me, this series is wickedly driven by its characters – specifically everyone related into the personal orbit and sphere of Frances! You can’t help but feel caught inside her life – seeing how even the most ordinary of lives can suddenly become a feast of trouble yet with a sturdy circle of friends and family; any obstacle can surely become defeated! I must admit, by the time I unearthed the actual crime and the person behind it – I was quite somber! I hadn’t expected the villain in the story to be whom they were as I was expecting it be someone else completely! The way in which Freeman related those finer details of the whys and hows lead me to believe the rest of this series is going to be as charmingly cosy to read as its debut!
In Dianne Freeman’s charming Victorian-era mystery series, Frances Wynn, the American-born Countess of Harleigh, finds her sister’s wedding threatened by a vow of vengeance.
London is known for its bustle and intrigues, but the sedate English countryside can host—or hide—any number of secrets. Frances, the widowed Countess of Harleigh, needs a venue for her sister Lily’s imminent wedding, away from prying eyes. Risings, George Hazleton’s family estate in Hampshire, is a perfect choice, and soon Frances, her beloved George, and other guests have gathered to enjoy the usual country pursuits—shooting, horse riding, and romantic interludes in secluded gardens.
But the bucolic setting harbors a menace, and it’s not simply the arrival of Frances’s socially ambitious mother. Above and below stairs, mysterious accidents befall guests and staff alike. Before long, Frances suspects these “accidents” are deliberate, and fears that the intended victim is Lily’s fiancé, Leo. Frances’s mother is unimpressed by Lily’s groom-to-be and would much prefer that Lily find an aristocratic husband, just as Frances did. But now that Frances has found happiness with George—a man who loves her for much more than her dowry—she heartily approves of Lily’s choice. If she can just keep the couple safe from villains and meddling mamas.
As Frances and George search for the culprit among the assembled family, friends, and servants, more victims fall prey to the mayhem. Mishaps become full-blooded murder, and it seems that no one is safe. And unless Frances can quickly flush out the culprit, the peal of wedding bells may give way to another funeral toll…
Converse via: #CosyMystery OR #Cosy #HistoricalMystery
Available Formats: Paperback, Audiobook and Ebook
For those on Scribd: Happily the first two audiobooks of this series are available!
About Dianne Freeman
Dianne Freeman is a life-long book lover who left the world of corporate finance to pursue her passion for writing. After co-authoring the non-fiction book, Haunted Highway, The Spirits of Route 66, she realized her true love was fiction, historical mystery in particular. She also realized she didn’t like winter very much so now she and her husband pursue the endless summer by splitting their time between Michigan and Arizona. She’s been nominated for an Agatha and the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark Award, and won the 2019 Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery.
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. Whether I am reading selections from Indie Authors & publishers to Major Trade and either from mainstream or INSPY markets – I am finding myself happily residing in the Historical past each year I am a blogger.
What I have been thankful for all these years since 2013 is the beautiful blessing of discovering new areas of Historical History to explore through realistically compelling Historical narratives which put me on the front-lines of where History and human interest stories interconnect. It has also allowed me to dive deeper into the historic past and root out new decades, centuries and millenniums to explore. For this and the stories themselves which are part of the memories I cherish most as a book blogger I am grateful to be a part of the #HFVBTBlogTours blogger team.
I received a complimentary of “The Highlander’s English Bride” direct from the publisher Zebra Books (an imprint of) Kensington Books in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Why I wanted to read “The Highlander’s English Bride”:
It has been a bit too long since I’ve tucked into a traditional Romance novel such as this one – wherein, there is a saga unfolding between installments and there is a continuity threading within the context of the stories as well. I used to read quite a few authors who wrote series like this one and then, for whichever reason I abandoned reading them. I’ve meant to delve back into them over the years but never found the time.
When this blog tour came round – I thought for sure I could listen to the first two novels in the series via Scribd but the months dissolved too quickly off the clock for me to dive into them. I decided to begin this as a new reader might – picking up the storyline on the third in a series rather than starting at the beginning. I’ve had my eye on stories about the Highlands for many years – as I don’t oft get to read stories set in Scotland. My favourite series set there is “Monarch of the Glen” which is a delightful series involving one very eccentric Scottish family and their estate.
Quite soon after I started reading this story, I realised not having read the previous installments was doing me a bit of a favour because there is so much to process and enjoy in this installment! If I’d have had enough time to go through the audiobooks for the series, I think I would have enjoyed the lead-in into the third storyline but without that back-history, the beauty of starting here is seeing where Graeme and his family intersect with Sabrina’s timeline. The fact that Kelly writes a cleverly spun tango of intrigue is part of what rooted me into her story whilst the humour is what kept me in laughter!
In this dazzling new novel from bestselling author Vanessa Kelly, the wildest member of Clan Kendrick has found his purpose as a government agent. Now he must also meet his match…
Lady Sabrina Bell has never been so embarrassed in her life. Not only did her new suitor fail to appear for their morning rendezvous in Hyde Park, but a thief pushed her into the Serpentine. Being rescued by a burly Highlander just adds to her humiliation. Nor is he content with rescuing her just once. Even when Sabrina travels to Edinburgh as part of King George’s entourage, Graeme Kendrick is there, interfering, exasperating, and so very tempting…
Once notorious for being the most unruly Kendrick brother, Graeme now runs dangerous missions for the King’s spymaster. Yet nothing has prepared him for Sabrina. The only child of a wealthy earl, and the pampered goddaughter of the king himself, she is stubborn, impetuous, and far too good for him. He doesn’t deserve her, but he can protect her and then send her safely back home. But the bonny Sassenach has her own ideas—and a plan for seduction that no red-blooded Highlander could resist…
In regards to the ‘heat’ of sensuality & sexuality explored in this novel,
I felt I ought to let my readers know this one was a bit more intense than your regular Romance novel.
Converse via: #HistFic or #HistNov
+ #ClanKendrick and #HFVBTBlogTours
About Vanessa Kelly
Vanessa Kelly is a USA Today Bestselling, award-winning author who was named by Booklist, the review journal of the American Library Association, as one of the “New Stars of Historical Romance.” Her Regency-set historical romances have been nominated in a number of contests, and she has won multiple awards, including the prestigious Maggie Medallion for Best Historical Romance. Her books have been published in nine languages.
Vanessa’s first Clan Kendrick book, The Highlander Who Protected Me, was a USA Today, Barnes & Noble, and BookScan bestseller. The Highlander’s Christmas Bride, her latest book, hit the top 50 on both the Barnes & Noble mass-market bestseller list and on BookScan. The Renegade Royals Series was a national bestseller, as was The Improper Princesses Series. My Fair Princess was named a Goodreads Romance of the Month and is a USA Today and BookScan bestseller.
When she’s not dreaming of plots for her next Regency novel, Vanessa is writing USA Today Bestselling books with her husband, under the pen name of V.K. Sykes.
As you might have seen recently, one of the stories I was looking forward to reading was entitled “The Undertaker’s Assistant” which deals with the realities of working in the mortuary arts in the 19th Century. Except for whichever reason I had trouble connecting into the story despite finding a lot of lovely compliments to give the author as she truly brought Reconstruction America to life alongside the hidden histories of mortuary sciences.
Here is an excerpt from what I shared earlier on the blog tour:
Initially, when I first started reading the story, I felt hooked inside it – as it had such a clever rhythm and delivery; settling you immediately into Effie’s shoes and giving you a firm understanding of the surroundings she was about to embrace as the newest embalmer to work in New Orleans. Even her back-story was quite remarkable as she was taken in by a soldier and taught a trade she could use in the field as much as she could lateron in life as a profession. She was unique amongst her peers and she had a skill many would flinch to even study much less master.
Sometimes the hardest person to convince of your confidence is yourself – yet, Effie didn’t let people sway her that easily from her confident demeanor. Even if the words they spoke towards her were questioning and unkind, she refuted their sting by merely stating facts and keeping herself on the other side of their snark by not reacting to it directly. Effie is an unusual sort of woman – at the time of the Restoration (the years shortly after the Civil War) wherein most freedwomen might seek for work in industries without a taboo attached to them, Effie found she has a passionate calling to the mortuary arts. She’s an embalmer and bent on convincing her new employer that she not only has the brains for the job but she has the passion to do the job right.
I will say, Skenandore doesn’t gloss over the grittier bits of New Orleans during the Restoration – considering the conditions of the streets, the living quarters and how there was a disparaging difference in how people lived on different streets throughout the city’s different quarters and neighbourhoods – paints a strong picture towards what you could expect to find if you walked these streets yourself during this period of time. She also took us closer inside Effie’s own life – rather than expanding too far afield into New Orleans or even the timescape of when this book is set. There are background passages and the overlays of the political scene concurrent to the toils of how Effie must find her own sense of purpose as an embalmer in a world not yet prepared to treat her as an equal.
It was this focus on the mortuary arts which inspired me to direct the conversation I had with her about her lead character Effie & the research she put into the novel itself. I found her responses wicked fascinating and I truly loved delving ‘behind-the-book’ to see how it was written & what inspired her choices in bringing this particular story to life.
I might not have connected with Effie in the way I had hoped but I was intrigued by the mortuary focus of the novel and how this in turn, brought representation to Historical Fiction about a part of everyday life that is not oft featured. I am hoping my readers & the visitors on the blog tour will find this as much of an intriguing subject to discuss as we did ourselves.
Be sure to brew your favourite cuppa & enjoy the conversation!
Set during Reconstruction-era New Orleans, and with an extraordinary and unforgettable heroine at its heart, The Undertaker’s Assistant is a powerful story of human resilience–and of the unlikely bonds that hold fast even in our darkest moments.
“The dead can’t hurt you. Only the living can.”Effie Jones, a former slave who escaped to the Union side as a child, knows the truth of her words. Taken in by an army surgeon and his wife during the War, she learned to read and write, to tolerate the sight of blood and broken bodies–and to forget what is too painful to bear. Now a young freedwoman, she has returned south to New Orleans and earns her living as an embalmer, her steady hand and skillful incisions compensating for her white employer’s shortcomings.
Tall and serious, Effie keeps her distance from the other girls in her boarding house, holding tight to the satisfaction she finds in her work. But despite her reticence, two encounters–with a charismatic state legislator named Samson Greene, and a beautiful young Creole, Adeline–introduce her to new worlds of protests and activism, of soirees and social ambition. Effie decides to seek out the past she has blocked from her memory and try to trace her kin. As her hopes are tested by betrayal, and New Orleans grapples with violence and growing racial turmoil, Effie faces loss and heartache, but also a chance to finally find her place.