ARC Book Review: Wrong Line, Right Connection by Karina Bartow

My thanks to the author, Karina Bartow, for sending me an ARC of her latest release to review. You can learn more about her books by visiting her website. She’s also my latest guest for Afternoon Tea at Sammi Loves Books. You can find Wrong Line, Right Connection on Amazon. Also her 2018 novel, Forgetting My Way Back to You, which also features Mabel, is available for $.99 on Kindle September 5-10.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Wrong Line, Right Connection is a light, sweet, whirlwind of a romance read. I loved the characters and the setting, but most of all I loved how Mabel and Roy connected! Fresh and entertaining, I enjoyed it from start to finish. 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Could a mortifying day on the job end up netting you true love?

When switchboard operator Mabel Jennings reports to work on a Monday in the summer of 1964, she doesn’t have any interest in finding love again. A visitor from Coatesville, Pennsylvania changes that. On a business trip, Roy Stentz calls her station, and his deep yet kind voice intrigues her. She tries to remain professional, but in her smitten state, she connects him to the wrong line…twice, in fact. Finally, Roy invites her out to dinner, saying he wants to see if she’s a better date than an operator.

The haphazard introduction sets an unexpected romance into motion. Going out every night while he’s in town, their bond deepens as they share the tragedies they’ve endured and observe each other’s beautiful qualities. Mabel’s past travails with love, however, hold her back from committing to anything permanent. Will she overcome her reluctance and open her heart to the love calling out to her? Or will she hang up on her chance for happiness?

Favourite Quote

“Like a wounded soldier, she didn’t yearn to take in the battlefield one last time.”

(From Wrong Line, Right Connection by Karina Bartow, page 2)

Review

This was such a sweet, enjoyable read. Full of emotion and sentimentality, Wrong Line, Right Connection is a story of love after loss and heartache.

Mabel is a genuine, likeable character, and as the tale unfolds, you can’t help but root for her. She is also strong, caring and independent. Roy is sweet, charming and determined, yet his perseverance isn’t overbearing. He is the perfect gentleman, and I just love how their paths cross.

For a story where the couple in question fall almost instantly in love, there is nothing artificial or unbelievable in this tale. Rather, their romance is not only convincing but perfectly plausible in the way it’s told. The writer does well in showing the reader that although the relationship appears fast-moving, the couple don’t ignore their sensible reservations either. The story is fresh and entertaining and I enjoyed it from start to finish.

My favourite character (besides Mabel, of course) was Mabel’s friend Evelyn. Their friendship was heart-warming to read, and the way she always knew what to say to Mabel to either pick her up when she was down or in an attempt to make her see the error of her way, was fantastic. Everyone needs a friend like Evelyn.

I know very little about 1960’s America, but the setting was brought wonderfully to life. I could easily envisage where Mabel worked, the truck Roy drove, the theme park they went to, as well as all the other locations visited. The flashbacks included in the narrative added another dimension to the story, helping not only to bring Mabel’s backstory to life but to illustrate the thinking behind some of her motivations.

If you’re looking for a quick, gentle, but above all sweet romance read, I can happily recommend this story to you.

Rating

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Quick Review: Dangerous Justice by Terri Reed

Dangerous Justice is a story in the Capitol K-9 Unit series, from Love Inspired Suspense, A Harlequin line, the books of which are written by various authors .

Summary (from Goodreads)

A K-9 novella of danger and intrigue set in the nation’s capitol

Someone is after Capitol K-9 Unit tech guru Fiona Fargo, and they’ll stop at nothing to keep her from decoding the secrets of Washington, D.C.’s elite. She knows Officer Christopher Torrance and his canine partner Dutch will keep her safe, but he’s the last colleague she wants dogging her heels. Spending time with him might reveal her secret crush on him. But with killers determined to silence her forever, she’ll have to put aside her fears and accept his help. Chris has secrets of his own, and a failed engagement makes him leery of moving forward with any woman, even the beautiful Fiona. As they hunt for the killer, they’ll find that love can break any barrier.

Review

I read this book at the start of the year, while I was researching the different lines published by Harlequin. I found it to be an engaging, short read. The characters were interesting and smart, and the romance was nicely tempered by the action of the story.

Although the story is of novella-length, I didn’t find that the story was lacking, as can be the case with some novellas where it’s obvious that there isn’t enough storyline for a full-length book. Neither did I find that it needed to be longer. It was the right length for the pace and content of the story.

And my favourite character? Dutch the dog, of course!

Rating

3.5 / 5

Book Review: The Brands Who Came For Christmas by Maggie Shayne

The Brands Who Came For Christmas is the first book in The Oklahoma Brands by Maggie Shayne.

Quick Review

A sweet romance and an engaging read with a cast of interesting characters. I would happily read more from this series and this author. 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Caleb didn’t know that one night of bliss last spring with small town beauty Maya Brand had resulted in a pregnancy, until the blackmail attempt arrived on his desk in an unmarked envelope, complete with photos of Maya with a belly out to there.

When he learns the truth, Caleb rushes back to Big Falls, determined to make it right despite what the scandal will do to his high profile career–the family legacy he had never truly wanted.

All he wants is Maya, and their child.

But can a girl whose father abandoned and betrayed her, ever truly believe in the goodness of a man who left town the morning after their one night stand? How can he convince her that he hasn’t stopped thinking about her since then, much less, do so with the whole world watching? He has to prove himself to a woman he’s not even sure he’s worthy of. But he has no idea how.

Favourite Quote

“But honey, it’s that experience of getting it wrong that make me know what’s right.”

(From The Brands Who Came For Christmas by Maggie Shayne)

Review

A sweet romance with an engaging read with a cast of interesting, unpredictable characters. I’m not sure I understood the motivations of some of the characters (e.g. why Maya is so fixated on being accepted by the church ladies when they look at her whole family with such disdain) or how Caleb never managed to find a spare evening to sneak away to Big Falls in months when he couldn’t stop thinking of Maya…but that is what creates the conflict. I certainly felt the tension and awkwardness from both POVs when they are brought back together.

With the fact that it is a romance, you know how the story is going to end, but I had no idea of the route the story would take to get there. Selene was my favourite character – witchy with a love of tarot, herbals potions, etc.  I thought she was magical! I also thought Bobby was a fun character. He could really find the silver lining in the darkest of stormclouds, I’m sure.

I would happily read more from this series (The Oklahoma Brands) as well as more from this author.

Rating

Book Review: Thornyhold by Mary Stewart

Quick review (read on for full review)

A richly described setting and an almost whimsically enchanting tale combine to create this gentle, charming read. 3.5 / 5

Summary (from inside cover)

To Gilly Ramsey, during her lonely childhood, the occasional brief visits of her mother’s cousin Geillis were a delight, appearing to the unhappy child like the visits of a fairy godmother. Years later, when Cousin Geillis was dead, and had willed her house, Thornyhold, to Gilly, the latter discovered that ‘fairy godmother’ was close enough to the truth. For Cousin Geillis, with her still-room, and her herbalist’s practice – and her undoubted powers – had long been known to the locals as a witch. And Gilly, inheriting ‘the witch’s house’, inherits, too, in spite of herself, her cousin’s reputation. She is approached by neighbours, some innocent, some not so innocent, but all assuming that she, too, is a witch, and a possible addition to the local coven. There is some truth in this, for Gilly, to her own surprise and discomfort, finds that in difficult moments she can call on power of a kind; it is as if Cousin Geillis is still somewhere in house and garden, weaving her own spells.

Gilly, once so shy and insecure, is gradually forced, by the very real powers at work in Thornyhold, to choose her own path through the enchanted woods. This, with the aid of an engaging small boy with a sick ferret, and then of his father, and even of her too-helpful nearest neighbour, Agnes, she finally does. Thornyhold, with its enchanted defences against evil, puts an end to loneliness and insecurity, and allows Gilly to move forward with confidence towards a new and satisfying life.

Favourite Quote

I suppose my mother could have been a witch if she had chosen to. But she met my father, who was a rather saintly clergyman, and he cancelled her out.

(From Thornyhold by Mary Stewart, page 7)

Review

Set during the years following World War II, this book is made up of a little bit of everything: a journey of self-discovery, witchcraft, fantasy, romance, suspense, sadness and even comedy, and that makes it quite a difficult book to place, I think.  What I can say, is that I enjoyed it.

Gilly Ramsey’s early life is bleak and lonely due in no small part to her parents.  Her mother comes across as cold and distant and her father is preoccupied with his duties as a clergyman.  I couldn’t help but wonder as I read, if either had really wanted a child.  The only glimmer’s of light the young Gilly receives come in the form of her mother’s cousin, Geillis, after who she is named.  She appears, often out of the blue, and comes across as if not a little strange, at least a little unusual, and naturally, she is.  Gilly’s life is influenced and shaped greatly by these three people, and it rather sadly, takes the death of them all to come into her own.

The witchcraft described in the story is of the hedgewitch variety – country herbalism, folklore and low magic.  I could read endless passages on the magical and medicinal properties of growing things.  The English countryside is richly described: flora and fauna, Stonehenge, the ruins of an old house, villages and hamlets, farms, fields and woodlands.  But it is Thornyhold that captures the attention and the heart: an old cottage (though fairly sizeable in dimension) surrounded by forest and wildlife.

The pace felt quite slow to begin with, and reading about Gilly’s childhood was not particularly fun, but as the years moved on and she arrives at Thornyhold, Gilly not only discovers who she really is – compared with who she has had to be her whole life – but learns about the strange and mysterious Cousin Geillis.

I would love to have had more information about Cousin Geillis’ relationship to Gilly’s mother, and even how her mother felt about her cousin.  Did she envy her life and freedom? Was she jealous of Geillis’ apparent closeness to her daughter?  As I moved through the story, I thought there might be more to this storyline than kindred spirits, but if there was, it never materialised.  And, as I wasn’t completely convinced by the romantic element to the story, or how the suspense element was resolved, yet overall enjoyed reading the book, 3.5 stars sounded like a fair rating.

Rating

3.5 / 5

 

Book Review: Miss Tonks Turns to Crime by M. C. Beaton

Miss Tonks Turns to Crime is the second book in The Poor Relation series by M. C. Beaton.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A delightful, quick and easy read, that kept me entertained from beginning to end. 3.5 / 5

Summary (from back of book)

One cannot live off dignity alone!

The poor relations banded together some time ago to run The Poor Relation Hotel in the hope their embarrassed relatives would buy them out, but as the hotel prospered, so they began to enjoy the fruit of their labour.

But once again they need money to go on and so poor, faded Miss Tonks is dispatched to her rich sister to steal something valuable.  All the other poor relations have their doubts about Miss Tonks’s chances for success, but the shy spinster has more than a few surprises up her sleeve!

Favourite Quote

“Lord Eston eyed him narrowly.  Aubrey Davenport was dressed like a fop, had the manners of a fop, and appeared to have the intelligence of a potato. Still…”

(Miss Tonks Turns to Crime by M. C. Beaton, page 148)

Review

I seem to be on a bit of an M. C. Beaton binge at present.  Not only am I making my way through The Poor Relation series, but a number of Agatha Raisin’s and Hamish Macbeth’s have been read, or will be read in the near the future.  You’ve been warned 😉

As I mentioned in my review for the first book in this series, Lady Fortescue Steps Out (you can find that review here), these books are “enjoyable, quick, fun-filled regency” reads.  The storylines are undemanding and yet highly entertaining, so are perfect for reading at the end of a long day…

The characters are fabulous, especially the almost evil Sir Phillip Sommerville, who with a sharp wit and even sharper tongue, does on occasion reveal an inner warmth and compassion.  The characters are of course, quirky, but that’s what makes the story work.  Miss Tonks served as a wonderful focal point of this instalment; her desire and determination to show her friends at The Poor Relation that she really can succeed as a criminal mastermind were amusing and led to some…interesting choices on her part.

The setting felt authentic as I read, which is always a good sign when reading historical fiction, even when it’s light and almost farcical.  The romance doesn’t takeover the storytelling; like other aspects of the book, it is not overdone or distracting from the main plot which is the survival of the hotel.  The writing is humorous, the pace is fast, and overall I found the story to be enjoyable and engaging.

Once more, I’m left eager to read the next book in the series, Mrs Budley Falls From Grace, to see how things progress.

Rating

3.5 / 5

Book Review: Lady Fortescue Steps Out by M. C. Beaton

Lady Fortescue Steps Out is the first book in The Poor Relation series by M.C. Beaton.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Addictive, light-hearted reading with a humorous cast and funny storyline.  A charming first book in a series.  Will be reading more!  3.5 / 5

Summary (from back of book)

What do you do if you are of noble stock but impoverished, living in London and with a certain style to maintain?

One has to work…but one’s relatives will be appalled when one turns one’s hand to trade.  This is precisely what Lady Fortescue decides upon and, together with friend Colonel Sandhurst, transforms her decrepit Bond Street home into The Poor Relation: a posh hotel offering employment to other down-and-out aristocrats, and to guests the pleasure of being waited upon by the nobility.

Thus London’s newest – and most fashionable! – hotel is born…much to the dismay of the Duke of Rowcester, Lady Fortescue’s nephew, who is convinced his aunt’s foray into trade will denigrate the illustrious family name!

Favourite Quote

“Do you mean that we should stoop to being in trade, that we should become hotel servants?” demanded Lady Fortescue.

(Lady Fortescue Steps Out by M. C. Beaton, page 30)

Review

Lady Fortescue Steps Out is an enjoyable, quick, fun-filled regency read that sets out to answer what is a genteel lady – or gentleman – to do when their wealth starts to dry up?  Not go into trade, that’s for certain…or is it?

I really enjoyed how the characters came together; the cast is fun and the setting exquisite.  Regency London and period country estates are brought to life with ease. The pacing of the story was quick and the tone and writing style, entertaining and engaging.

The storyline is a tad predictable in places – irate family members from the (very) more wealthy branches of the family tree, a hopeless romance across the social divide – but this did not detract from my enjoyment of the story.  After all, the main premise of the story is so unusual for regency era fiction.

Although there is humour and light-heartedness to be found in the story, the author also cleverly weaves some of the more darker aspects of life in the period into the narrative.  The status – or lack of if it – of women.  Living standards for the poor – and for poor relations. However, this is done in such a way as to not become too heavy or overwhelming.  The historical detail was handled the same way; no longwinded passages overloaded with information, but rather, snippets nicely intertwined through the story.  In such a way we get to learn about regency levels of hygiene and false teeth, amongst other things.

A delightful tale in what I hope is delightful series.  It was an easy, effortless read and I am eager to read book two, Miss Tonks Turns To Crime, to see how things progress.

Rating

3.5 / 5

 

Book Review: The Watchmaker’s Daughter by C. J. Archer

The Watchmaker’s Daughter is the first book in the Glass and Steel series by C. J. Archer.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Engaging, entertaining and a good first book in a series.  A fun read, with an interesting cast of characters and a great setting.  Looking forward to reading the next book.  4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

India Steele is desperate. Her father is dead, her fiancé took her inheritance, and no one will employ her, despite years working for her watchmaker father. Indeed, the other London watchmakers seem frightened of her. Alone, poor, and at the end of her tether, India takes employment with the only person who’ll accept her – an enigmatic and mysterious man from America. A man who possesses a strange watch that rejuvenates him when he’s ill.

Matthew Glass must find a particular watchmaker, but he won’t tell India why any old one won’t do. Nor will he tell her what he does back home, and how he can afford to stay in a house in one of London’s best streets. So when she reads about an American outlaw known as the Dark Rider arriving in England, she suspects Mr. Glass is the fugitive. When danger comes to their door, she’s certain of it. But if she notifies the authorities, she’ll find herself unemployed and homeless again – and she will have betrayed the man who saved her life.

Favourite Quote

“You’d better not wager anything you can’t afford to lose.”

(The Watchmaker’s Daughter by C. J. Archer, Chapter 17)

Review

I’ve been meaning to read “The Medium”, the first book in the Emily Chambers Spirit Medium Trilogy, by this author for ages.  I can’t remember how long it’s been sitting on my digital shelf, but it’s been there a while.  Then when I was perusing the same set of digital shelves last week for an indie read, this cover called to me.  To be fair, I think this book has also been waiting at least a year for some attention, and it’s finally got it.

First thing’s first. I love the cover.  The colours and fonts are eye-catching, and the imagery is well-suited to the story.

The Watchmaker’s Daughter is a fantasy story set in Victorian England; I’m not sure there are enough elements in it to categorise it as steampunk, at least not yet – that might come as the series continues.  I found the storyline very interesting: characters from the Wild West on a quest through dark and gritty Victorian London, with the help of young, destitute woman with connections to the city’s watchmakers.  What’s not to like?

I liked the characters.  India Steel, I liked on the whole, though on a handful of occasions I questioned her thinking / actions.  It’s always nice to come across a character who turns out to be stronger than she thought possible, and who has what it takes to triumph over the difficulties in her path, and this is how I saw India for the majority of the book.  Matthew Glass, again was a likeable character.  His secrets gave him a mysterious air, though the way he was portrayed suggested (to me, if not India) that he could always be trusted.  As for the rest of the characters, they are quirky and / or disreputable, and I think they worked well in both the setting and the story.

I was engaged enough with the story to not want to put the book down.  I wanted to see how this first instalment would end, and even though I anticipated much of what was to happen, I enjoyed the reading of it, and there were still a number of plot twists I didn’t expect.

I couldn’t decide between awarding this book 3.5 or 4 stars, but the beautiful cover encouraged me to be generous.  For the first book in a series, I thought it did a good job introducing the reader to the world it is set in, and to the cast of characters, and I’m looking forward to continue reading it.  The next book in the series, The Mapmaker’s Apprentice, has been added to my TBR list.

Rating


Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019 – I’ve chosen this book for challenge #19 in the list: A book by an indie author.

Novella Review: Miss Kane’s Christmas by Caroline Mickelson

Miss Kane’s Christmas is the first book in the Christmas Central series by Caroline Mickelson.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A little twee and saccharine, perfect for a light-hearted, festive read.  A quick and uncomplicated story that’s certainly worth a read to get you ready for Christmas. 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

With Christmas only three days away, Carol Claus agrees to her father’s request that she leave the North Pole on a mission to help save Christmas. Joining single father Ben Hanson and his children for the holidays seems an easy enough task until Santa informs her that Ben is the man behind the disturbing new book ‘Beyond Bah Humbug: Why Lying to Your Children about Santa Claus is a Bad Idea’.

Posing as Miss Kane, the children’s new nanny, Carol pulls out all the stops to show Ben how fun Christmas can be, all the while struggling to understand how one man could hate the holidays so much. How could she, Santa’s only daughter, be so attracted to a man who refuses to believe her father exists?

Favourite Quote

“Of course not, we’re not going to save Christmas by resorting to petty theft and destruction of another person’s property.”

Review

A romance story set at Christmas is always going to come across as a bit twee and saccharine, and perhaps even predictable, but I think that rather adds to the charm of a festive read.  This story was quite enchanting and I could easily imagine it adapted for the TV.

I liked all the characters.  Carol was perky and enthusiastic and refused to let anything dampen her spirit (even though she was a guest in somebody else’s home and she didn’t understand taking over everything might come across as a bit rude).  I understood where Ben was coming from; he didn’t like the idea of lying to and then subsequently disappointing his children with regards to a mythical figure he believed didn’t exist.  The children were adorable.

It lost a star for the crazy three day whirlwind romance – that was the most unbelievable, unrealistic aspect of the story, which is saying something when there are talking elves and flying sleighs.  It didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the story though.

This was an entertaining, quick read.  The story was light-hearted, uncomplicated and fun, and certainly well worth a read in the run-up to Christmas.

Would I read any more of the series?  Good question.  I enjoyed what I read in Miss Kane’s Christmas, and I don’t feel that I have to read more.  The story is written as a standalone (as are the others in the series).  However, I liked the world-building and the characters, so it is possible that I will visit again for Festive Reads Fortnight 2019.

Rating

Book Review: Winter’s Fairytale by Maxine Morrey

This book review may contain spoilers.Summary (from Goodreads)

Step into a winter wonderland and fall in love in the snow this Christmas…
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

A few weeks before Christmas and a sudden blanketing of snow has closed the roads and brought public transport grinding to a halt, stranding Izzy miles from home and in desperate need of rescuing.

That doesn’t mean she’s looking to bump into Rob and spend a cosy weekend holed up in his swanky flat watching London become a winter wonderland! Because Izzy and Rob have history…

Six months ago, they were standing in the vestry of a beautiful country church, while best man Rob delivered the news that every bride dreads on their big day.

But at the time of year when anything is possible, can Rob and Izzy let go of the past and let Christmas work its magic? Or will this be one holiday wish that Izzy lets walk right out of her life…

Favourite Quote

But it is silly to miss people when they’re standing in front of you, because it feels like they’re already gone.

Review

I chose this book as one of my reads for the Festive Reads Fortnight reading challenge.   The fun, whimsical cover caught my attention and persuaded me to give this contemporary romance a go. This is a really Christmassy story; not only is it set around Christmas but it has plenty of Christmas elements thrown in too.

Winter’s Fairytale is a fun little romance, though there is nothing new here.  The pretty, hardworking girl gets the rich, handsome boy. You know that is going to happen even before you begin reading, but it’s how they get there where the entertainment is to be found.

Sometimes I liked Izzy and Rob and sometimes I found them a little annoying and exasperating on occasion – mainly because they make so many assumptions about each other, but there were a few other issues too. However, it didn’t stop me from reading the book through to the end.

I liked Rob’s family.  His sister Jenny was my favourite character in the book.  She was great, as was her husband-to-be, Mike.  Now their story would have made a really great tale to read; a real winter fairytale.

The story is very well-written, and there is plenty of humour to be found, whether in the situations the characters find themselves in or in the dialogue.  A light-hearted romance with a happy ending, making it an enjoyable festive read.  I would read more by this author.

If you want an easy-to-read romance with a winter theme, you might like this story.

Rating

3.5 / 5

I downloaded a copy of this book for free via the iBooks store.

Short Story Review: Snowed Inn by Danielle Lee Zwissler

It’s Christmas Eve, and Lacy Johnson has spent the last three days driving home.  However, making an unfamiliar turn, her car skids on the road and her tyre ends up in a ditch.  She has no idea where she is exactly, and can’t get a phone signal.

Luckily, Grayson Snow is driving past and offers her a lift.  Asking where she is going, she sees a sign at the side of the road for the Snowed Inn.  Already feeling terribly stupid, she says she has a booking for the inn, not realising that it is a family-run establishment – run by Grayson’s family and he knows there are no bookings for that night.

When they arrive at the inn, Grayson’s mother thinks that Lacy is in fact Grayson’s girlfriend, there to stay for Christmas.  What follows is a light-hearted Christmas tale full of banter…but will it lead to romance?

The plot of this short story is very fast, perhaps too much so for my personal preference.  Lacy Johnson is a very quirky main character; she is strong, independent, says what she thinks but with a caring side.  Grayson is a gentleman but cannot help but tease Lacy when the opportunity arises.  The banter between Lacy and Grayson is consistent, and the setting as well as the storyline is perfectly festive.

This is a short, sweet, fast-paced Christmas read with an endearing ending.

I downloaded a copy of this short story for free from Smashwords.