Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Review: Speculations in Sin by Jennifer Ashley


Speculations in Sin (Below Stairs #7) by Jennifer Ashley
Publication Date: March 5th 2024 by Berkley
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher 
Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Audible | Goodreads

My Thoughts:
Kat Holloway’s cooking prowess affords her the best spots in wealthy houses, but she stays in the London area because of her daughter, Grace. There’s a whole backstory there that I won’t elaborate on. In this installment there’s trouble with the family Grace stays with while Kat is working. Sam Millburn, the father has been accused of embezzlement and it’s up to Kat to help the Millburn’s, who’ve been a godsend to her and Grace.

As they investigate, someone is murdered, upping the stakes even higher.

There's a lot of danger and action in this installment! Of course, Kat has Daniel, Cynthia, Mr. Thanos, Tess, and her other gang of friends she’s accumulated along the way. Kat inspires loyalty with her kindness and cleverness in tackling problems for those she loves. As usual, I wanted to thump Mrs. Bywater more than a few times! Kat is too good for that awful woman’s house!

I’ve been devouring the Below Stairs mysteries centered on Kat Holloway, a cook in the 1800s solving crimes while wowing people with her food. Speculations in Sin is the seventh book in the series, and so now Kat has made a name for herself in sleuthing. Each book has a separate mystery to solve, but the continuing story arc is her relationship with Daniel McAdam and the friends she’s acquired along the way. I’ve loved every book! The series is best started from the beginning. I’d start with the novella: A Soupçon of Poison, which introduces Kat and Daniel.

I read an e-copy of Speculations in Sin, but I’ve been listening to the audios of the previous books. Anne-Marie Piazza’s performance is fantastic!

5 Stars

Book Description:

To save an innocent man’s life, amateur sleuth and cook Kat Holloway must expose a financial scam that could ruin the most powerful aristocrats in Victorian-era London, from the New York Times bestselling author of The Secret of Bow Lane.

Kat Holloway is distressed to learn that Samuel Millburn, husband of the woman who looks after her daughter, has been accused of embezzling funds from the bank where he works as a clerk. The accusation is absurd, and Samuel’s wife fears that her husband will not only lose his post but be imprisoned. Kat vows to uncover the truth.

When she discovers the bank is involved in shockingly murky business dealings, Kat realizes she’s treading in dangerous waters. She turns to her confidante and handsome suitor, Daniel McAdam, for help. To exonerate Samuel, Kat and Daniel may have to expose the unseemly financial dealings of prominent aristocrats and government officials, and even those working to bring down the royal family. Kat will risk everything to protect the man who has sacrificed so much for her daughter, even if it means endangering herself and the friends she has come to love.

About the author:

Jennifer Ashley is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Below Stairs Mysteries, the Shifters Unbound paranormal romances, and the Mackenzies historical romances. She also writes as USA Today bestselling mystery author Ashley Gardner.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Sunday Post #248


The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated reviewer book blog, and is a post to recap my bookish and non-bookish things from the last week. I'm also linking up to The Sunday Salon hosted by Deb Nance @Readerbuzz.

It's been a busy week. I worked, did a bunch of gardening, went on some runs, and then my youngest sister flew in from Southern California on Friday. My middle sister is the one that lives up here and so we took our sister out for dinner, then went to Empire Mine, which is a historic state park with gardens. We took a tour and then went out to Nevada City, another historic miners town a few miles north of us.

The Bourne family estate (one of them)

The blacksmith shop

One of the processing buildings

Climbing rose on the house

Thank goodness the mine is no longer operating since they used very toxic ways to extract gold and the process was supposedly very loud!

We came back to my house and cooked dinner. We had a nice visit!

After a few rainy days, Peanut is enjoying the warmer weather. 

(Click on cover for Goodreads link)

Archangel's Lineage by Nalini Singh: 4 Stars

I wanted to get more read, but there was a lot going on this week!


Thank you to Canary Street Press, Berkley, and Blackstone Publishing!


How was your week?

Friday, April 26, 2024

Review: The Stranger I Wed by Harper St. George


The Stranger I Wed (The Doves of New York #1) by Harper St. George
Publication Date: April 23th 2024 by Berkley
Pages: 344
Source: Publisher 

My Thoughts:
Cora Dove and her sisters’ inheritances are contingent on them finding husbands far away from New York, their birthplace, thanks to their jerk of a father. So they head off to England in search of husbands.

Leopold Brendon, The Earl of Devonworth, captures Cora’s attention right away when they literally crash into each other. He’s in need of a wife with money and she’s in need of a marriage with a title so they make their arrangement with an expiration date, at Cora’s request. Cora doesn’t want to be beholden to any man, her mother soured her on that, but Leo is a different man from her father.

Leo had his heart broken, so he’s wary of giving his heart to any woman, especially when Cora makes it clear that the marriage is for convenience only. However, they are attracted to each other and in time also come to respect each other. Can they get past their issues to let love in? I hoped so!

Both Cora and Leo had reasons to be wary of a romantic relationship. Cora’s father was something else! I’d love to see him sorry for how he behaved, but I won’t hold my breath. Cora’s mother wasn’t much better, in my opinion. The woman was a big detractor for her girls with her outrageous behavior.

I appreciated that both Cora and Leo were moved to advocate for others and bonded over their righting the injustices of their time.

I really enjoyed The Stranger I Wed. It was a slow burn romance; with multi-layered characters I could relate to and root for! It filled my heart with joy to see Cora find everything she was looking for and so much more with Leo! I’m hoping each of the Dove sisters finds their HEA!

4 Stars


Book Description:

New to wealth and to London high society, American heiress Cora Dove discovers that with the right man, marriage might not be such an inconvenience after all. . . .

Cora Dove and her sisters’ questionable legitimacy has been the lifelong subject of New York’s gossipmongers and a continual stain on their father’s reputation. So when the girls each receive a generous, guilt-induced dowry from their dying grandmother, the sly Mr. Hathaway vows to release their funds only if Cora and her sisters can procure suitable husbands—far from New York. For Cora, England is a fresh start. She has no delusions of love, but a husband who will respect her independence? That’s an Earl worth fighting for.

Enter: Leopold Brendon, Earl of Devonworth, a no-nonsense member of Parliament whose plan to pass a Public Health bill that would provide clean water to the working class requires the backing of a wealthy wife. He just never expected to crave Cora’s touch or yearn to hear her thoughts on his campaign—or to discover that his seemingly perfect bride protects so many secrets. . . .

But secrets have a way of bubbling to the surface, and Devonworth has a few of his own. With their pasts laid bare and Cora’s budding passion for women’s rights taking a dangerous turn, they’ll learn the true cost of losing their heart to a stranger—and that love is worth any price.

Photo Credit: Harper St. George

About the author:

Harper St. George was raised in the rural backwoods of Alabama and along the tranquil coast of northwest Florida. These were settings filled with stories of the old days that instilled in her a love of history, romance, and adventure. By high school, she had discovered the historical romance novel, which combined all of those elements into one perfect package. She has been hooked ever since. She lives in the Atlanta area with her family and loves to hear from readers.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Review: Funny Story by Emily Henry


Funny Story by Emily Henry
Publication Date: April 23rd 2024 by Berkley & Penguin Audio
Pages: 400
Audio Book Length: 11hrs 23min
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Source: Publishers
Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo Libro.fm | Audible | Goodreads

My Thoughts:
Daphne moved to Waning Bay, Michigan following her fiancé, Peter, back to his hometown. Her planned future with him is everything she’s always wanted: stability, family, friends, and a gorgeous Victorian home. Everything is perfect until Peter decides he’s actually in love with his childhood best friend, Petra. They get together leaving Daphne homeless, so she ends up moving in with Miles, Petra’s ex-boyfriend, also dumped. Daphne’s counting the days until she can pick up and move.

I loved everything about this romance! Miles and Daphne bonding over fake dating, fun outings, whacky family, new friends, and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments! They also bonded over sad things: heartache, toxic family, and feelings of not being good enough. Waning, Michigan sounded beautiful as Miles shows Daphne around to all his favorite parts!

Funny Story ties with Book Lovers and Beach Read as my favorite Emily Henry’s! The story brought pure joy to my heart!

I alternately read an e-copy and listened to the audio version of Funny Story and recommend either version. Julia Whelan is such an excellent performer! She really enhances any story she narrates! All characters are distinct, their emotions come through loud and clear! I listened at my usual 1.5x normal speed.

 5 Stars

Book Description:

A shimmering, joyful new novel about a pair of opposites with the wrong thing in common.

Daphne always loved the way her fiancé Peter told their story. How they met (on a blustery day), fell in love (over an errant hat), and moved back to his lakeside hometown to begin their life together. He really was good at telling it…right up until the moment he realized he was actually in love with his childhood best friend Petra.

Which is how Daphne begins her new story: Stranded in beautiful Waning Bay, Michigan, without friends or family but with a dream job as a children’s librarian (that barely pays the bills), and proposing to be roommates with the only person who could possibly understand her predicament: Petra’s ex, Miles Nowak.

Scruffy and chaotic—with a penchant for taking solace in the sounds of heart break love ballads—Miles is exactly the opposite of practical, buttoned up Daphne, whose coworkers know so little about her they have a running bet that she’s either FBI or in witness protection. The roommates mainly avoid one another, until one day, while drowning their sorrows, they form a tenuous friendship and a plan. If said plan also involves posting deliberately misleading photos of their summer adventures together, well, who could blame them?

But it’s all just for show, of course, because there’s no way Daphne would actually start her new chapter by falling in love with her ex-fiancé’s new fiancée’s ex…right?

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Sunday Post #247


The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated reviewer book blog, and is a post to recap my bookish and non-bookish things from the last week. I'm also linking up to The Sunday Salon hosted by Deb Nance @Readerbuzz.

I didn't blog much this last week, just a giveaway and one review because I've been busy with work and so much yard cleanup and gardening! Thank goodness for audiobooks otherwise I wouldn't have got through any books! It really makes chores more pleasurable! It's been a lot of work and I'm tired! The weather has been beautiful with highs in the mid 70s.

Hope to get my roses in the ground tomorrow after we figure out the best location for sun exposure. I thought I had it nailed down, but since the oak trees have been getting the leaves back there's more shade in the area I had originally picked out.

Tiny frog on a lilac leaf in our garden. So cute!

Pretty pond & vineyard (background) in the neighborhood

Thought this multi-colored specimen was pretty. I mostly see just yellow in the neighborhood.
Common Broom

I've done a few puzzles. Of course with help:

Peanut directing placement of pieces

Finished puzzle

My sister and her husband are coming over for an early dinner tomorrow. We're making marinated chicken and shrimp skewers with Tzatziki sauce, pita bread, and rice.

Click on cover for Goodreads link

Murder in the East End by Jennifer Ashley: 4 Stars


Thank you to Gallery Books, Canary Street Press, Mira, and Berkley!


We're on book four in our read-along for the White Trash Zombie series hosted by Anne @Books of My Heart. I'm loving the series and I'm looking forward to joining the chat tomorrow (Sunday)! 

How was your week?

Review: The Sweet Blue Distance by Sara Donati


The Sweet Blue Distance by Sara Donati
Publication Date: April 2nd 2024 by Berkley & Blackstone Publishing
Pages: 800
Audio Book Length: 28hrs 40 mins
Narrator: Kate Reading
Source: Publishers
Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Bookbub Libro.fm | Audible | Goodreads

My Thoughts:
Carrie Ballentyne is bound for a long journey out West from Manhattan, New York to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to fill a position of mid-wife/nurse for Dr. Markham. In 1857 it’s a long, potentially dangerous journey by train, steamboat, stagecoach, and horseback, so her younger brother, Nathan is accompanying her. This time period there’s unrest, just years before the Civil War, and the viewpoints and challenges were highlighted. The situation at the Markham’s when Carrie arrives isn’t what she was expecting.

Carrie’s profession as a nurse was useful and she was good at handling whatever came her way. I admired her spirit; strong, steady, and determined to do the right thing in any situation! Her brother Nathan was a fun, positive presence adding a bit of humor in. So many wonderful and interesting characters, as well as a few I’d like to have chucked off a cliff! Loved Eli Ibarra! The romance was a slow burn and oh-so-lovely!

The Sweet Blue Distance was on the long side at 800 pages, but it didn’t feel long. It was a thoroughly exciting and engrossing story, and I loved every minute of it! I think I checked the percentage counter maybe twice, I was so into the story, just riding along with whatever was happening next! I need to check out Ms. Donati’s backlist!

I alternately read and listened to The Sweet Blue Distance, and I can recommend either version. Kate Reading was an excellent narrator, performing both female and male voices distinctly, as well as the many accents required. I would happily listen to any story narrated by her. I listened at my usual 1.5x normal speed.

Five stars all the way! A definite recommend!

5 Stars

Book Description:

In 1857 a young midwife braves the perilous journey west from New York City to Santa Fe, New Mexico Territory in this captivating epic from Sara Donati, the international bestselling author of Where the Light Enters .

Carrie Ballentyne’s life was upended in 1845 when she had to leave the only home she’d ever known in the mountains of upstate New York. With her are her widowed mother and younger brother Nathan, but the separation from Bonner, Ballentyne, and Savard relatives weighs heavily.  In time Carrie finds footing as a midwife and nurse, but she never feels at ease in the city. So when, a decade later, she receives an invitation from a doctor in Santa Fe to join him at his practice, she readily accepts.
The trip across the country is long and often dangerous, but she travels the last leg on horseback with men who have been hired to see her safely through the Native nations fighting the westward flood of colonizers. On that journey she makes friends who will be with her for all her Eva, a young widow; and Eli, an experienced surveyor. Once Carrie is established in Santa Fe, it becomes clear that her employer is not everything she was led to believe, and she is forced to face far more challenges and responsibilities than she anticipated. But she dedicates herself to the work and the women, providing health care, delivering babies, and earning the trust of her patients.
In the course of that first summer in New Mexico, determined to make a life for herself in a new kind of wilderness far beyond her imagination, Carrie finds friendship, support, and even love where she least expected.

Monday, April 15, 2024

5 Book Giveaway! Mystery/Thriller/Paranormal Romance

Happy Monday/Tuesday! I have a new batch of books to giveaway. I enjoyed all of them!  

There Should Have Been Eight by Nalini Singh-Hardcover
Leopard's Hunt by Christine Feehan-Paperback
The Night Island by Jayne Ann Krentz-Hardcover
How to Solve Your Own Murder by Kristen Perrin-Paperback ARC Copy
Dane's Mark by Lora Leigh-Hardcover

The giveaway is open to US Residents only. Fill out the rafflecopter for a chance to win. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Sunday Post #246


The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated reviewer book blog, and is a post to recap my bookish and non-bookish things from the last week. I'm also linking up to The Sunday Salon hosted by Deb Nance @Readerbuzz.

After the snow last Friday it was nice to have beautiful, sunny weather. I've been getting out on runs and loving how very green everything is! It looks like most of the fruit trees at our house and around the neighborhood have blossoms on them now, but I think a lot of my wisteria blossoms froze in the storm. We'll see how many bloom.  It was even warm enough to sit out on the front porch in the evening and enjoy a glass of wine. Soon I'll be transferring my seedlings to the outside garden. 

Some flowers out in the neighborhood:

Common Pearlbrush


Sweet Pea

Of course, the clouds and rain came back. Still pretty:

Rainy neighborhood run

Click on cover for Goodreads link

Scandal Above Stairs (Below Stairs Mystery #2) by Jennifer Ashley: 4.5 Stars

I am loving the Below Stairs series! The audios are fantastic!

Received/Purchased/Library Lend:

Thank you to Blackstone Audio and Macmillan Audio!


So green at our house!

How was your week?