A Gilded Lady by Elizabeth Camden
I simply could not wait to read this story, especially when I discovered the hero was a Secret Service agent. The male POV of The Spice King enthralled me and I couldn’t wait to get inside the head of a Secret Service operative, especially during the early days of their protecting the president. As always, Elizabeth Camden brought a historical and political backdrop that brought this story to life in ways no other author could. I have a deeper understanding not just of the characters of that time but also the history of our nation. It was truly fascinating. Especially seeing Caroline Delacroix’s role in the White House and shepherding Mrs. McKinley through her social and political life was truly fun. The Spice King is still my favorite of the two, but I really enjoyed The Gilded Lady. I highly recommend this book to readers who love a fully developed historical setting, stories with flawed but admirable characters, and romances that take their time with plenty of sparring.
Genre: Historical Romance, Washington D.C., 1900
Caroline Delacroix is at the pinnacle of Washington high society in her role as secretary to the first lady of the United States. But beneath the facade of her beauty, glamorous wardrobe, and dazzling personality, she’s hiding a terrible secret. If she cannot untangle a web of foreign espionage, her brother will face execution for treason.
Nathaniel Trask is the newly appointed head of the president’s Secret Service team. He is immediately suspicious of Caroline despite his overwhelming attraction to her quick wit and undeniable charm. Desperate to keep the president protected, Nathaniel must battle to keep his focus fully on his job as the threat to the president rises.
Amid the glamorous pageantry of Gilded Age Washington, DC, Caroline and Nathaniel will face adventure, danger, and heartbreak in a race against time that will span the continent and the depth of human emotion.
What I loved: Elizabeth Camden never fails to take my breath away with the full breadth of her writing. It’s not just a story, it’s history coming alive in ways I never understood. I particularly loved the depth of character of Caroline. She isn’t the woman you expect, but in a way she is. It was a joy to get to know her and connect with her, even if I don’t share many of her interests.
Favorite Character and Why: Caroline was an incredibly complex woman. I loved all the layers to her, the struggles she faced, and the pure humanness of her. It was so good to see he POV of things and the devotion she has to her twin brother Luke.
Rating and Why: Five Stars. The full breadth of history is astounding, and the way Elizabeth Camden presents it is engaging and believable. The romance was believable and I loved all the little squabbles sprinkled throughout. Oh! And Mrs. McKinley was a hoot to get to know. I am so glad I did not have Caroline’s job.
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Veiled in Smoke by Jocelyn Green
This book was chosen for my online Christian Historical Romance Book Club, and I just finished listening to the audiobook this weekend. First, I highly recommend the audiobook as the narrator did a wonderful job changing voices to match the characters. As for the story, I enjoyed it as well, although perhaps not in the same manner as I would a light-hearted novel. This story was ripe with emotions, family drama, and a touch of romance. If you have a family member who is dealing with PTSD or dementia, it can be a hard read or an enlightening read. It just depends on where you are in your personal life. For me, I loved the depth of character development and a glimpse into the challenges others face in their lives. The details of living through the fire were so gripping it felt as if I were there experiencing it with the characters. The mystery entwined with the story was well done and complex. While the ending was happy, it didn’t pretend the life-long effects of PTSD go away. You left the family knowing they would continue to face challenges but face them together with fortitude and faith.
I recommend this story for anyone who enjoys deep characters, tough issues, family drama, and a romance that stands true.
Genre: Historical Romance, Chicago Fire, 1871
Meg and Sylvie Townsend manage the family bookshop and care for their father, Stephen, a veteran still suffering in mind and spirit from his time as a POW during the Civil War. But when the Great Fire sweeps through Chicago’s business district, they lose much more than just their store.
The sisters become separated from their father and make a harrowing escape from the flames with the help of Chicago Tribune reporter Nate Pierce. Once the smoke clears away, they reunite with Stephen, only to learn soon after that their family friend was murdered on the night of the fire. Even more shocking, Stephen is charged with the crime and committed to the Cook County Insane Asylum.
Though homeless and suddenly unemployed, Meg must not only gather the pieces of her shattered life, but prove her father’s innocence before the asylum truly drives him mad.
What I loved: I think my favorite part was experiencing the fire with the characters. It brought to light a historical event I’d read about in ways which I’d never considered. It helped me to better relate to friends who have had to evacuate due to wildfires. The details were just so real I’ll never view that tragedy the same way again.
Favorite Character and Why: Stephen was a complex character who I loved and sympathized with. The poor man had endured so much during the Civil War and Andersonville, and yet he was forced to continually face it through PTSD. His grow arch was complex, believable, and heart-wrenching. Parts of his thought patterns reminded me of a dearly loved one and helped me to understand them just a bit better.
Rating and Why: Four and a half stars. The story was heavy, in a good way, but also in a way I’m not sure I am likely able to read again. I would recommend it to everyone, but it was an emotionally hard read for me.
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A Return of Devotion by Kristi Ann Hunter
Reading during the COVID-19 Craziness has been a bit more difficult than normal for me. Books that normally hold my attention don’t, and even on the ones that do, reading a single novel takes nearly two weeks if not more, which is why there have been fewer reviews as of late. HOWEVER, A Return of Devotion by Kristi Ann Hunter totally blew me out of the water (forgive the cliche).
While this was not a story of adventure and danger, it was filled with the best character development I think I have ever read and the character tension carried throughout the story was real and personal. If you want to get to know me better, read Daphne’s story. I identified with her in ways I’ve never identified with any other character, and William was equally well-developed. Seriously, this surprised me with how well it held my attention. More than one night while reading this I woke up in the middle of the night wondering about the characters. I should have just picked the doggone book up and finished it instead of trying to fall back asleep.
If you are an introvert who struggles to be around people or just in search of a book with characters who sweep you away and become real people, this is it. This is a story that will speak to your soul and leave you thinking about it for weeks after.
Genre: Historical Romance, Marlborough, England, 1816
Daphne Blakemoor was perfectly happy living in her own secluded world for twelve years. She had everything she needed–loved ones, a true home, and time to indulge her imagination. But when ownership of the estate where she works as a housekeeper passes on, and the new marquis has an undeniable connection to her past, everything she’s come to rely upon is threatened.
William, Marquis of Chemsford’s main goal in life is to be the exact opposite of his father. Starting a new life in the peace and quiet of the country sounds perfect until his housekeeper turns his life upside down.
They’ve spent their lives hiding from the past. Can they find the courage to face their deepest wounds and, perhaps, find a new path for the future together?
What I loved: The character development was astounding. I have never connected with a character so thoroughly as Daphne’s. On top of that, William was profoundly developed. I really enjoyed walking with both of these characters over the last couple of weeks.
Favorite Character and Why: Aside from connecting with Daphne, I would say my favorite character was Jess. That woman cracked me up and was the perfect foil for Daphne.
Who would like this? I’d recommend it to anyone who loves gentle stories with a personal tension that feels natural, deep characters who you can’t help but be connected to, and especially to the introvert who struggles to be around people. Daphne is your kind of person.
Rating and Why: Five Stars. It was a fun, deep, though-proking read that will stick with me for a while.
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