Posted in British Mystery, Cozy Mystery, Historical Fiction, historical mystery, Historical Romance, Light Romance

Above the Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen

Publication Info: Published February 11, 2020 by Lake Union Publishing. I listened to the audio edition through my Kindle Unlimited edition. Other editions available.

Summary: Raised in a genteel household, orphaned and impoverished Isabella Waverly finds herself with no skills to support herself and her younger sister after her parents die. She goes into service as a maid, but discovers she has a talent for cooking.

One day, a tragic bus accident critically injures another young woman who was on her way to interview for an apprentice cooking job at the palace. Isabella rushes to comfort the dying girl, who gives her an envelope. When Isabella opens it later, she realizes that fate has handed her an unique opportunity. The unfortunate woman was on her way to a job interview as a cook at the palace. Isabella, whose current employer is a cruel taskmaster, decides to take the other woman’s place. She becomes Helen Barton.

Helen’s cooking skills grow by leaps and bounds. Her pastries come to the attention of Queen Victoria. When the queen decides to move to a hotel in France for the summer, she takes a retinue of cooks and servants along with her. Helen’s ability to speak French gains her a place in the entourage and some additional status among her fellow chefs.

After a nobleman is murdered by poison, suspicion falls on Helen. She must use her knowledge of cooking and her wits to prove she is innocent.

Comments: I got hungry listening to this book! The descriptions of the French pastries and dinners were mouth watering. I loved the main character, who is a plucky, intelligent young woman. Isabella faces page-turning challenges and risks of exposure as she works to guard her secret. Rhys Bowen’s stand-alone novel, Above the Bay of Angels, is gentle and enthralling.

Highly recommended for readers of historical fiction, light romance and light mysteries, especially those set in the Victorian era.

My rating: 5 STARS

Posted in Historical Fiction, Historical Romance

A Splendid Defiance by Stella Riley

Publication Info: Audible Audio edition published December 19th 2016 by Stella Riley. First published April 11th 1985 by Fontana. I listened to this book through my Audible Escape membership.

Summary: After Justin Ambrose, a cavalier loyal to King Charles I, annoys a superior officer, he finds himself stuck in a crumbling back country castle. His job consists of rounding up supplies for the Royalists at the front lines and fighting off boredom hanging out with the rest of the officers and soldiers assigned to the garrison in Banbury.

One evening, Justin rescues a young woman being accosted by two drunken soldiers. He offers to escort her home, but she balks, knowing that her Puritanical, overly pious, bigoted older brother, Jonah, would punish her for even crossing paths with a Royalist soldier. Justin forgets about Abby until he enters Jonah’s fabric shop to purchase material for uniforms and finds her hiding in the corner. One thing leads to another and the two of them begin to form an uneasy friendship. When the battle reaches Banbury, Abby helps heal Justin’s wounds, putting both of them in danger from more than just the war.

Comments: The quality of A Splendid Defiance was quite a surprise! The author really brings the period of the English Civil War to life. The main characters are well drawn against a highly detailed period backdrop. I knew absolutely nothing about that particular period in British history until I read this book. The author has several other titles that take place during this time, including the “Roundheads and Cavaliers” series.

There is more emphasis on history than romance in this book, which appealed to me, but some readers may find it less satisfying.

Highly recommended for readers of Historical Fiction and Historical Romances.

My Rating: 4.5 STARS

Posted in Historical Romance, Romance, Time Travel Romance

The Wonderland Series by Irina Shapiro

Publication Info:

  • The Passage (Wonderland #1) Published March 10, 2015 by Merlin Press, LLC
  • Wonderland (Wonderland #2) Published August 11, 2015 by Merlin Press, LLC
  • Sins of Omission (Wonderland #3) Published January 12, 2016 by Merlin Press, LLC
  • The Queen’s Gambit (Wonderland #4) Published June 7, 2016 by Merlin Press, LLC
  • Comes the Dawn (Wonderland #5) Published October 11, 2016 by Merlin Press, LLC

Summary: Neve Ashley is at Everly Manor scouting the house and grounds for a film crew. She meets the Lord of the Manor, Maximilian Everly. He greets her warmly, knowing that his finances partly depend on publicity for the manor tours. Over the time she is there, Max develops an attraction to her, but Neve doesn’t return his affections. This will eventually become quite problematic.

While exploring the nearby church and crypt, Neve accidentally pushes a button on the wall that opens a passage back to the 17th century. Curious, she borrows appropriate clothing from the manor’s stores and wanders back into the past. There she meets Lord Hugo Everly, a distant ancestor who bears a striking resemblance to Max. Hugo is much more charming and gentlemanly than Max. Neve and Hugo fall in love, which makes Neve choose a life in the seventeenth century. Although she adapts well, she isn’t prepared for the dangers that eventually threaten both of their lives — over and over.

Comments: A couple of months ago, I joined Audible Escape as an add-on to my Audible.com subscription. At only $6.95 a month, I figured it was worth a try–plus I got the first month free in a promotion. I’ve never been much of a romance reader but I did enjoy the Outlander series many years ago. The Wonderland series has many of the same themes — time travel, love and romance, danger, disasters and very likeable characters. I listened to most of these while not sleeping. I discovered long ago that my hereditary insomnia is best treated with audiobooks, which keep me from fretting about being awake in the middle of the night!

I not only thoroughly enjoyed these books, but am looking forward to reading/listening to more by this author. Eva Kaminksy’s narration was perfect, too.

Overall, the books express the ideas and feelings of love and romance more than being overtly hot and heavy. If my memory serves me correctly, the few sex scenes in the book are between married people.

Additional remark– I confess I’ve gotten addicted to Audible Escape! I am discovering tons of new books and will be listening to and reading more romances in the future. I’ve also recently discovered a great blog for romance readers, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

Highly recommended for readers of Historical Fiction, Time-Travel Romances and Historical Romances.

My average overall rating: 4.5 STARS