Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey
by Abigail Wilson
As many of you know, first-person perspectives are NOT my favorite. An author really has to engage me and make me forget I am in the first-person in order for me to really get through the story. That being said, I needed an audiobook to listen to on a road trip that would have a bit of mystery, danger, and romance. The blurb for this story intrigued me enough to make me willing to try and listen to a first-person point of view novel. (And I totally blame Erica Vetsch’s The Lost Lieutenant and The Gentleman Spy for sending me on a Regency binge.)
I was pleasantly surprised, enough so, that I am considering going back and listening to and/or reading the first two books in the series. Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey is a standalone book, although it is connected to other stories. I am sure there are little antidotes I missed by reading out of order, but I still found the story engaging and believable. While not always able to suspend the thought of being in first-person, I loved the unusual marriage of convenience story. Elizabeth and Lord Torrington proved to be unique characters who drew me in. Lord Torrington especially was an unexpected kind of man. I struggled to make him out just as Elizabeth did, but found him a hero whose company I enjoyed.
If you like the first-person point of view, marriage-of-convenience stories, mysterious heroes, danger, and mystery, I highly recommend this Regency story.
Genre: Historical Romance, England, 1815
In this new Regency romance, a young unwed mother must protect her heart from the charms of her convenient new husband, Lord Torrington. She is not, however, prepared to protect her life.
When the widowed Lord Torrington agreed to spy for the crown, he never planned to impersonate a highwayman, let alone rob the wrong carriage. Stranded on the road with an unconscious young woman, he is forced to propose marriage to protect his identity and her reputation, as well as his dangerous mission.
Trapped not only by her duty to her country but also by her limited options as an unwed mother, Miss Elizabeth Cantrell and her infant son are whisked away to Middlecrest Abbey by none other than the elder brother of her son’s absent father. There she is met by Torrington’s beautiful grown daughters, a vicious murder, and an urgent hunt for the missing intelligence that could turn the war with France. Meanwhile, she must convince everyone that her marriage is a genuine love match if her new husband has any hope of uncovering the enemy.
Determined to keep her son’s true identity a secret, Elizabeth will need to remain one step ahead of her fragile heart, her uncertain future, and the relentless fiend bent on her new family’s ruin.
What I loved: The plot itself was incredibly fascinating. The dance of romance, family drama, and danger intrigued me and kept me on my toes. It was a delightful distraction from a long boring drive.
Favorite Character and Why: Lord Torrington was a puzzle. I truly enjoyed getting to know him. He was far from a perfect hero, but he was a man whom I could respect and grow to admire. The man’s soft heart was shown in some rather unexpected ways.
Rating and Why: Five Stars. I was pleasantly pleased that despite it being first-person, the story was fully engaging. I waited in my car for twenty minutes after I got home, just so I could finish the story.
Amazon.com Baker Bookhouse Barnes and Noble Book Depository Christianbook.com
The Bride Bargain by Kelly Eileen Hake
I picked a copy of this book a thrift shop while on vacation in Amish Country. With the entire extended family in the car with us, I sat in the back with the shorter people–vertically challenged here–and I discovered I get car sick if I play on my phone or stare out the back windows too long. Oddly enough, I’ve also discovered that if I read a book, I can push aside motion sickness. Thus I snatched the first Christian book that looked interesting I could find. (Not an Amish fiction gal.)
I found The Bride Bargain to be a fun and distracting read. The play on a match-making scheme plot was delightful and entertaining. The hero and heroine were believable and engaging. I also found delight in all the little details of country life, life on a wagon train, and details you don’t typically find in a novel like this one. There is something to be said for nailing the end though, and there was just something off about the conclusion that made me give it a four-star instead of a five. Without giving spoilers, I found some of the character reactions a little unbelievable. I still enjoyed the ending, but not perhaps as much as I hoped I would.
I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy the wild west, small-town settings, match-making plots, and strong-willed women.
Genre: Historical Romance, Nebraska Territory, 1855
When Clara Fields and her aunt are kicked off their wagon train, a store owner in Buttonwood offers a chance at redemption. Desperate, she agrees to find a bride for the man’s son—a stalwart bachelor. Will Clara’s faith and wits help her wrangle a resolution to The Bride Bargain?
What I loved: I loved all the match-making schemes of Josiah and then Clara. I don’t want to spoil the story, but let’s just say some of it is comical.
Favorite Character and Why: Midge is a little girl Saul (the hero) rescues, and I just lover her little soul. She’s had a rough go of it, but she grows and becomes quite the character. Her love for Saul and her desire to please leads to some fun co-conspiracy.
Rating and Why: Four Stars. The ending really knocked it down from a five to a four. Still completely enjoyable, I just didn’t find the character reactions to be in line with what I expect to be real.
Amazon.com Barnes and Noble Book Depository Christianbook.com
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.
Amazon.com Baker Bookhouse Barnes and Noble Book Depository Christianbook.com
The Gentleman Spy by Erica Vetsch
The Gentleman Spy is the second book in the Serendipity and Secrets series from Erica Vetsch, and this book was just as enjoyable as the first. I can’t wait to preorder and read the third book. This story definitely had more of a flair of danger, espionage, and suspense. Y’all, Marcus was one of those swoony heroes for me, and maybe it’s just that I have a thing for lawmen type characters, but I really think it is just because he is such versatile and confident character. The poor guy is a bit delusional, too, with flaws that make him real but still admirable. I love watching him grow beyond the great spy he already was into a more rounded man and husband. Charlotte was strong and someone I could look up to. I spent a good portion of the book cheering when she did something that showed her heart or showed her growing confidence. I won’t reveal any spoilers, but the complexity of the story was something I just drool over. Can I say I want to write like her when I grow up? LOL It was definitely a book I will read over and over again.
I highly recommend this book to readers of the Regency era, marriages of convenience, and complex plots mixed with danger and intrigue.
Genre: Historical Romance, Regency, 1814
He only wanted a duchess for a day–but she’s determined to make it a marriage for life
When his father and older brother suddenly pass away, the new Duke of Haverly is saddled with a title he never expected to bear. To thwart the plans of his scheming family, the duke impulsively marries a wallflower. After all, she’s meek and mild; it should be easy to sequester her in the country and get on with his life–as a secret agent for the Crown.
But his bride has other ideas. She’s determined to take her place not only as his duchess but as his wife. As a duchess, she can use her position to help the lowest of society–the women forced into prostitution because they have no skills or hope. Her endeavors are not met favorably in society, nor by her husband who wishes she’d remain in the background as he ordered.
Can the duke succeed in relegating her to the sidelines of his life? When his secrets are threatened with exposure, will his new wife be an asset or a liability?
What I loved: The spy theme just really satisfied my need for action and intrigue. And I love how the poor Duke’s expectation that everything could stay in its box was brought to reality.
Favorite Character and Why: I loved both Marcus and Charlotte, for different reasons than Evan and Diana, but Aunt Dolly really tickled me. I loved her heart and the way she inserted herself into both Marcus’s and Charlotte’s lives.
Rating and Why: Five Stars. This is a series I will reread over and over. First The Lost Lieutenant and now The Gentleman Spy. Both books scratched my itch for romance AND danger.
Amazon.com Baker Bookhouse Barnes and Noble Book Depository Christianbook.com
A new year, a new TBR to grow and topple. Which of these are you adding to your piles?
January 2020 New Releases
More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.
A Rancher to Trust by Laurel Blount — After learning his ex-wife isn’t so ex after all, rebel turned rancher Dan Whitlock is determined to prove he’s a changed man…but Bailey Quinn is just as set on finally ending their marriage. When tragedy makes Dan the guardian of little orphaned twins, he and Bailey are drawn back together. But can she forgive the past and open her heart to the family she’s always wanted? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired (Harlequin))
Star Rising by Janet W. Ferguson — Star Youngblood tries to protect her employer, Mrs. Priscilla Kelly, from the woman’s neglectful son, an aspiring flight instructor who has issues with religion, but finds her own heart is at the greatest risk. (Contemporary Romanc, Independently Published)
A Promise to Keep by Melony Teague — Savannah, a widowed research librarian, goes to her twenty year class reunion and gets reacquainted with Michael, a former troublemaker who is now a professional technical rescuer. Before the night is over, a pact between these two old friends will lead them on an adventure into uncharted emotional territory where Michael must confront his past regrets and find the courage to reveal the truth. But can Savannah fly from her sheltered nest and risk her heart on a real-life hero? (Contemporary Romance from Anaiah Press)
A Long Time Comin by Robin W. Pearson — To hear Beatrice Agnew tell it, she entered the world with her mouth tightly shut. Just because she finds out she’s dying doesn’t mean she can’t keep it that way. If any of her children have questions about their daddy and the choices she made after he abandoned them, they’d best take it up with Jesus. There’s no room in Granny B’s house for regrets or hand-holding. Or so she thinks. Her granddaughter, Evelyn Lester, shows up on Beatrice’s doorstep anyway, burdened with her own secret baggage. Determined to help her Granny B mend fences with her far-flung brood, Evelyn turns her grandmother’s heart and home inside out. Evelyn’s meddling uncovers a tucked-away box of old letters, forcing the two women to wrestle with their past and present pain as they confront the truth Beatrice has worked a lifetime to hide. (General Contemporary from Tyndale House)
Freedom in the Mountain Wind by Misty M. Beller — A young woman faces overwhelming odds to make her father’s dream come true before he dies of lung cancer, but paddling upriver through fierce rapids and fighting hungry grizzlies to follow the Lewis and Clark trail isn’t what terrifies her the most. Beaver Tail endured more than he can stand from the women in his Blackfoot camp, but the last disaster gave him the final shove he needed to join this band of brothers searching for one of their group who’s gone missing. The last thing he expected was to find a white woman and her sick father stranded at the base of a massive waterfall. His plan is to help them carry their oversize canoe and supplies, then leave them to their strange mission. Yet, the more he learns about the pair, the more he realizes his life is about to be derailed—again. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)
Uncharted Promises by Keely Brooke Keith — Sybil Roberts uses the warmth of delicious meals to lift the spirits of road-weary travelers at The Inn at Falls Creek. Her life at the inn would be perfect if she could just get her brothers and mother to move back home. And if she could see Isaac Owens again. He visited the inn once when he interviewed for the farm manager job, and she’s dreamed of his return to Falls Creek ever since. Isaac Owens knows how to run a farm. His family might not have faith in him, but if he succeeds at Falls Creek, he’ll prove them wrong. He arrives at the inn thinking the job is his, but the inn’s senile owner offered the position to another man too. Isaac must spend the winter competing if he wants to win the job… and Sybil’s heart. It will take more than warm meals on cold nights for Sybil and Isaac to find love while working at the isolated inn. (Historical Romance from Edenbrooke Press)
Forever Hidden by Kimberley Woodhouse, Tracie Peterson — Sybil Roberts uses the warmth of delicious meals to lift the spirits of road-weary travelers at The Inn at Falls Creek. Her life at the inn would be perfect if she could just get her brothers and mother to move back home. And if she could see Isaac Owens again. He visited the inn once when he interviewed for the farm manager job, and she’s dreamed of his return to Falls Creek ever since. Isaac Owens knows how to run a farm. His family might not have faith in him, but if he succeeds at Falls Creek, he’ll prove them wrong. He arrives at the inn thinking the job is his, but the inn’s senile owner offered the position to another man too. Isaac must spend the winter competing if he wants to win the job… and Sybil’s heart. It will take more than warm meals on cold nights for Sybil and Isaac to find love while working at the isolated inn. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])
The Gray Chamber by Grace Hitchcock — On Blackwell Island, New York, a hospital was built to keep its patients from ever leaving. With her late father’s fortune under her uncle’s care until her twenty-fifth birthday in the year 1887, Edyth Foster does not feel pressured to marry or to bow to society’s demands. She freely indulges in eccentric hobbies like fencing and riding her velocipede in her cycling costume about the city for all to see. Finding a loophole in the will, though, her uncle whisks Edyth off to the women’s lunatic asylum just weeks before her birthday. Do any of Edyth’s friends care that she disappeared? At the asylum she meets another inmate, who upon discovering Edyth’s plight, confesses that she is Nellie Bly, an undercover journalist for The World. Will either woman find a way to leave the terrifying island and reclaim her true self? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)
Secret Mountain Hideout by Terri Reed — Staying hidden has kept her alive… But now she’s been found. A remote Colorado mountain town and a fake identity have been Ashley Willis’s safe haven since fleeing after she witnessed a murder—but now the killer has found her trail. Desperate and terrified, she’s prepared to run again…but Deputy Sheriff Chase Fredrick won’t let her. With the lawman by her side, can she face danger head-on…and live long enough to bring a murderer to justice? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:
50-50 by Roger Bruner, Contemporary
Shattered Treasure by Cindy Patterson, Romantic Suspense
The Contessa Is Missing by Linda Siebold, Romantic Suspense
The Forever Sky by Janalyn Voigt, Western Romance
Northern Hearts by Laurie Wood, Romantic Suspense