Review 5 star
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A Holiday by Gaslight: A Victorian Christmas Novella by Mimi Matthews is a short historical romance set in England during the 1860s. For Sophie Appersett, the daughter of an established, but almost bankrupt baronet, life isn’t easy in this time of tremendous change. After her father spends her dowry on an expensive installation of gasworks in their lovely country estate, Appersett House, her family plans to marry off responsible, selfless Sophie to some rich, but despised tradesman like Ned Sharpe. Her spoiled sister Emily still has a dowry and hopes to compete socially—but Sophie must think of the family first. She doesn’t know serious, distant Mr. Sharpe at all and is afraid they can’t love each other. But when she invites him to a Christmas party at Appersett House, the days hold plenty of surprises for everyone—and not least for Sophie herself.
A Holiday by Gaslight is a real delight. Completely satisfying as a graceful love story, it also doubles as a family drama, and an authentic presentation of the 1860s that reads with the simplicity and visual gusto of a period movie. Even though the small space of the book will leave avid period fans wanting much more, Mimi Matthews puts a lot of storyline into it. It’s a sweet tale filled with believable characters and fleshed out far beyond the two central leads—likable as they are. Stern, proud Ned Sharpe did indeed remind me of Mr. Thornton from North and South, but he’s a wholly distinct character as well, and Sophie was attractive and genuine as his opposite. Sophie’s hysterical father, in denial about how his actions impact his family; her cunning, dignified mother and immature sister; the guests at the Christmas ball; the sets of London and the countryside—everything was developed really well and the dialogue deserves praise all on its own. Fun to read and fun to read again, this book is one of my favorites now.
Review 4 star
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Heiress to Waitress by Ginny Clyde is the first in the YA romance series Bramble Wood’s Royal Tea Shop. Olivia, a teenage girl born to privilege in Scotland, loses everything and is forced to move to a humble Pennsylvania small town with her outcast mother and younger brother, James. Everything is difficult for a girl adjusting not only to a new income, a new school, and a new country—but to a new feeling of fear and helplessness. Olivia strikes up friendships, wins hearts with her musical talent, and finds work in a signature little tea shop run by the quirky Bramble Wood. But the story is only beginning, as mystery and discomfort loom around a strange, popular boy who seems instantly obsessed with Olivia.
Heiress to Waitress was all-around captivating. A delightful story defined by perfect pacing and stellar writing, and threaded with believable, subtly well-rounded characters both young and old. In a spot-on telling of the classic story of finding adventure by falling on hard times, Ginny Clyde's Olivia receives a reversal of fortune and handles it in an entirely lovable way. Loyal, plucky, and determined, she’s as likable as the enchanting small town of Knightswood that she now calls home. Ryan is a compelling foil, appealing and suspect at the same time, with a slightly weird quality that leaves the book on an ambivalent, intriguing cliffhanger. A lovely beginning to a promising series, Heiress to Waitress quietly builds a sincere and accessible world and populates it with a good set of characters. For readers looking for something light-hearted and sweet, this is the perfect cup of—tea!
Review: 4 Star
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Sins of Summer by Linda Heavner Gerald is a page-turning fiction read with a distinctive, memorable protagonist. Successful interior designer Audrey is simultaneously up-scale and relatable, as she struggles with a difficult past and her façade world begins to crumble around her. Unable to bear the hypocrisy of the wealthy elite, her marriage crumbles as she falls into alcoholism and preoccupation with her identity. When a villain emerges from the shadows of the beach house where she first experienced trauma, Audrey and her newfound friend Diana must face the ultimate music—God’s purpose and plan amidst so much wrongdoing. Audrey’s situations kept me reading breathlessly and the story pace was quick and exhilarating. The characters and situations flowed evenly into each other, keeping interest high.
Linda delves into some sexual issues in this page-turning contemporary novel, writing with remarkable vividness. I eagerly followed Audrey and Diana as they grew from emotional hollowness to greater spiritual purpose through the subtly drawn faith element, but the story’s emphasis was on relationships and empowerment. Linda Heavner Gerald handles the dramatic plot and multiple points of view with great effectiveness. Some form of gender-based violence or mistreatment links most of the women in the book, and Sins of Summer captures this topic in a crystallized fictional form. There’s a little glamour, a little adventure, and more than a little heartbreak and triumph. Not for younger audiences because of the content, but for mature readers looking for something a little different Sins of Summer would be an intriguing summer reading choice.
This is the companion for Sarah Scheele's newsletter blog. In it I share reviews for books I'd recommend/are similar to my own.