Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Sugar Plum Poisoned by Jenn McKinlay


Title:  Sugar Plum Poisoned:  Cupcake Bakery Mystery, Book 15

Author:  Jenn McKinlay

Narrated by:  Susan Boyce

Publisher: Dreamscape Media

Length: Approximately 7 hours and 14 minutes

Source: Review Copy from NetGalley


Cupcakes or cake?  I love them both.

In Sugar Plum Poisoned, Mel and Angie run a bakery in town.  As they prepare for the holidays, Angie’s old friend, the now famous singer Shelby, has arrived back in town to give a Christmas concert.  The friends enjoy being together again, but when Shelby’s manager is found murdered, will they be able to solve the crime?

Sugar Plum Poisoned was a cozy Christmas mystery that I enjoyed.  I loved the friendships, the baked goods, and trying to solve the mystery.  I did guess who the murderer was before the end, but I enjoyed the journey getting there.  I did feel stressed out for Mel when both sides of her family wanted her to host a very specific holiday celebration when she was already busy with her bakery and solving a crime.

I did not realize this was book 15 in the series when I read it.  It worked well as a standalone novel, but I would love to learn the history of the characters.  I may need to check out the other books in this series.

Susan Boyce was a good narrator for this audiobook.

The Jolliest Bunch: Unhinged Holiday Stories by Danny Pellegrino


Title:  The Jolliest Bunch: Unhinged Holiday Stories

Author:  Danny Pellegrino

Narrated by:  Danny Pellegrino

Publisher: Recorded Books

Length: Approximately 6 hours and 30 minutes

Source: Review Copy from NetGalley


Are you a fan of the movie Christmas Vacation?  It is one of my favorite Christmas movies and I relate more to it the older I get.  When I saw the title of this audiobook and how it referenced Christmas Vacation, I knew that I needed to read it.

Danny Pellegrino narrates this audiobook himself, which I thought was delightful.  His delivery of the stories made them even more fun.  This is a group of essays about Danny’s true holiday experiences including Christmas and other holidays.  It includes memories, as well as experiences working at Borders, taking road trips, fictional tales, etc.

My favorite story was how his mother had a perfectly put together Christmas but would have a meltdown at the very end of putting it all together before the rest of the family arrived.  Then she would act perfectly fine when guests arrived.  It was relatable as were most of his stories about his youthful holidays.  There was also a crazy story about Danny going on a cross country trip with an unhinged co-worker.   I loved the stories but didn’t like them as much when he veered into writing Mrs. Claus fan fiction.  That bit went on a little too long.  The audiobook overall made me interested in checking out his podcast and hoping that he will have another audiobook in the future.

The Christmas Guest by Peter Swanson


Title:  The Christmas Guest

Author:  Peter Swanson

Narrated by:  Esther Wane

Publisher: HarperAudio

Length: Approximately 2 hours and 48 minutes

Source: Purchased from Amazon.com

Do you like to read novellas or short stories?  I do, especially during the busy holiday season.  I have enjoyed Peter Swanson’s thrillers in the past and was excited to see what he would craft with a Christmas story.

Ashley Smith is an American Art student studying in London in the 1980s.  She is excited to be invited to spend the Christmas season with a fellow student Emma Chapman at her family’s country estate.  Ashley is intrigued and smitten by Emma’s brother Adam.  There is also a sinister stranger lurking in the woods between the manor house and the local pub the young people like to hang out at.  Has Ashley stumbled into a romance, a gothic story, or something else at this picturesque estate over the Christmas season?

I don’t want to get too much more into the story as I appreciated all the twists and turns.  As with other Peter Swanson novels, things are not what they seem at first glance and the characters are much more than they first appear.  I liked how this story was told through Ashley’s diary entries from the 1980’s and the second half was Ashley filling in the rest of the story in the present day.  This is definitely NOT a Hallmark Christmas story, but I loved the English manor atmosphere, the mystery, and the psychological thriller aspect.  It was a good Christmas story and definitely had me thinking at the end.

Esther Wane was a good narrator and was the voice of Ashley through the novel for me.


Monday, January 29, 2024

Kissing Kate by K. Lyn Smith (Austenprose PR Book Tour)


What colors do you like on covers?  I really like covers like this where the dresses match the flowers or other aspects on the cover.  Blue and purple are my other favorite book cover colors.

Ben Kimbrell had loved Kate Parker since they were children when he first attempted to steal a kiss from her.  After a family tragedy in which he feels at fault, he conceals his feelings and takes on the mantle of a loveable, carefree rogue.  Kate wants to get married and decides that Ben’s cousin Merryn is the man that she will set her sights on.  Will Ben be able to change his ways to capture Kate’s heart and claim his longed-for kiss?

I loved this gentle, sweet regency romance.  I really liked how the story centered around the community’s production of Much Ado About Nothing.  I loved Ben’s journey of self-discovery through the novel, and how Kate learned through the novel to think of her friend Ben in a new light. I loved the Cornwall setting and the entire community.  This was a friends to lovers’ trope, slow burn, and was a clean romance. 

I also thought it was funny that a guide had been printed that stated that Newford had many more single young bachelors than single ladies.  This has sent many ladies to town searching for husbands, while pretending they are just on vacation.

I enjoyed the Author’s notes at the end of the novel and found out that this is the fourth book in the Hearts of Cornwall series.  I have not read the other books, but Kissing Kate worked as a standalone novel.  I do want to read the rest of the books in this series as I enjoyed this book so much.

Favorite Quote:  “Though Ben had enjoyed many kisses in the time since, none had ever seemed as sweet as the one he’d never shared with Kate.”

Book Source:  Review copy from author K. Lyn Smith as part of the Austenprose PR Book Tour. Thank-you!  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.


·       Title: Kissing Kate

·       Series: Hearts of Cornwall (Book 4)

·       Author: K. Lyn Smith

·       Genre: Historical Romance, Regency Romance

·       Publisher: Davenwood Press (January 23, 2024)

·       Length: (306) pages

·       Format: Trade Paperback, & eBook 

·       ISBN: ‎978-1737657989

·       Book Tour Dates: January 15 – 29, 2024



“Benedick Kimbrell attempted to steal his first kiss from Miss Catherine Parker in the perfectly imperfect spring of 1808. But his hopes, then and since, were larger than fact.”


Kate Parker is resolute in her quest for marriage, seeking a dependable match among Newford's eligible bachelors. But behind her composed demeanor, Kate’s heart holds a stubborn affection for her less-than-dependable friend and an unspoken longing for a kiss that was never claimed.


Years ago, Ben Kimbrell harbored ambitions, chief among them a kiss from Miss Kate Parker. Fate, though, had other plans. Now, his heart is weighted by family tragedy, his pain concealed behind a carefree charm. His reputation as an aimless rogue is well-earned, but beneath the façade lies a man who yearns for more.


When Kate sets her sights on Ben's dependable cousin, a man who fits her expectations if not her heart, Ben can no longer stand idly by. His efforts to save her from a loveless match find the two of them paired together in a village production of Much Ado About Nothing. Tasked with crafting the enchanting sets for their town's inaugural performance, their undeniable affection finds the perfect stage to blossom.

But for their love to flourish, Ben must reveal his true self and confront the shadows of his past. Can he find the courage to unlock his heart before it's too late?

Kissing Kate is a heartwarming best-friends romance about finding the courage to choose happiness and the healing power of love. Set in the charming seaside village of Newford, each book in the Hearts of Cornwall series stands alone.


  • “I really enjoyed this book, and absolutely recommend it to historical romance readers who are looking for a “Hallmark” style read that offers real depth of character, beautiful Cornwall scenery, and a warm prosaic style.”— Bobbie Jo Fersten, Reading Historical Romance
  • “A sweet installment in the Hearts of Cornwall Series… I loved the progression of their feelings as they deepened from friendship to romance…This was my first read by K. Lyn Smith and I would pick up more!”— Genesis Aleman, Geny Reads  
  • “The growth of Kate and Ben is so much fun to watch, and I enjoyed the entire construct of them getting ready to perform a play for their town along with the cousins and friends…Kissing Kate is such a warm hug of a read! I recommend it.”— Michelle, Tales Untangled






K. Lyn Smith lives in Birmingham, Alabama, where she writes sweet historical romance about ordinary people finding extraordinary love. Her debut novel, The Astronomer’s Obsession, was a finalist for the National Excellence in Romantic Fiction Award, while many of her other titles have been shortlisted for awards such as the American Writing Award, the Carolyn Reader’s Choice Award, the HOLT Medallion, and the Maggie Award.


When she’s not reading or writing, you can find her with family, traveling and watching period dramas. And space documentaries. Weird, right?






K. Lyn shares her inspiration for the story and characters in Kissing Kate, the research process, and Regency era theater productions. Read the full interview here.

Friday, January 26, 2024

The Lily of Ludgate Hill by Mimi Matthews (Austenprose PR Book Tour)


Do you prefer to read an eBook or a physical book?  I enjoy reading both.  I read The Lily of Ludgate Hill as an eBook.  The benefits of reading on my eBook is that I can read far into the night without having the light on and bothering my husband.

The Lily of Ludgate Hill is the third book in the Belles of London series by Mimi Matthews.  I absolutely loved this series set during the Victorian period.  The books feature four horse loving friends with each book telling one of the friends’ story.  These books can be read as standalones, but I recommend reading the entire series as it is excellent.  Characters from the first books also appear in the subsequent books and you will get more out of their appearances if you know their back stories.

The Lily of Ludgate Hill is Lady Anne Deveril’s story.  Six years ago, Lady Anne’s father died, and a distant male relative inherited the Earldom.  Lady Anne and her mother went into mourning, and they still have not come out from it.  Her mother is fascinated by spiritualism and hopes to contact her dead husband.  Anne just hopes to keep her mother alive and off opium.  Felix “Hart” Hartford was her friend growing up and their friendship blossomed to love just before Anne’s father passed away.  Hart left for a year of travel with his grandfather and Anne was left caring for her mother.  When Hart returned, they had a misunderstanding, and their fledging romance was no more.  Now six years later, will they be able to put the misunderstandings away and have a second chance at romance?

I loved this book.  Matthews writes such vivid characters. I loved both Anne and Hart and learning more about both.  I could understand how Anne felt that she needed to take care of her mother.  I liked how Hart seemed like a man without a care in the world, but Anne soon learns that he has a lot of people to care about and works hard to help them out and protect his family.  They have both turned into caregivers and are strong people who understand each other in that role.  I also loved Anne’s love for her old horse and the horses of her late father’s stable.  I detested Anne’s cousin and his takeover of the family’s London home.  The inheritance rules of the day were so unfair.    I enjoyed how Anne and Hart’s understanding of each other, and romance grew throughout the novel.  Second chance romance is one of my favorite tropes and I loved experiencing Anne and Hart’s second chance.  This was also a slow burn romance novel.

I also appreciated that the reader got to see the other sides of stories that were alluded to in the other novels and to see further development of the characters from the first two novels.  It was like revisiting old friends. 

The Lily of Ludgate Hill is a clean romance.

Sidenote, I went to college at Michigan Technological University and was fascinated by the copper mines and took a Copper Country history course on mining.  Hart has business dealings with mining involved and I found it to be very interesting. 

Favorite Quote: 

“There was nothing left now but the same lingering bitterness that had plagued her since the infamous day she’s broken their engagement.”

Overall, The Lily of Ludgate Hill was another enjoyable historical romance novel and a great addition to the Belles of London series from Mimi Matthews.  She is one of my favorite historical romance authors with her engaging stories and well-developed characters.

Book Source:  Review copy from Berkley Romance as part of the Austenprose PR Book Tour. Thank-you!  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.


·       Title: The Lily of Ludgate Hill

·       Series: Belles of London (Book 3)

·       Author: Mimi Matthews

·       Genre: Historical Romance, Historical Fiction

·       Publisher: ‎Berkley Romance (January 16, 2024)

·       Length: (432) pages

·       Format: Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook 

·       ISBN: 978-0593337189

·       Tour Dates: January 15-29, 2024



A BookBub Best Romance of Winter 2024!

Fortune favors the bold—but is a confirmed spinster daring enough to loosen the reins and accept a favor from the wicked gentleman who haunts her dreams?

Lady Anne Deveril doesn’t spook easily. A woman of lofty social standing known for her glacial beauty and starchy opinions, she’s the unofficial leader of her small group of equestriennes. Since her mother’s devastating plunge into mourning six years ago, Anne voluntarily renounced any fanciful notions of love and marriage. And yet, when fate puts Anne back into the entirely too enticing path of Mr. Felix Hartford, she’s tempted to run…right into his arms.

No one understands why Lady Anne withdrew into the shadows of society, Hart least of all. The youthful torch he once held for her has long since cooled. Or so he keeps telling himself. But now Anne needs a favor to help a friend. Hart will play along with her little ruse—on the condition that Anne attend a holiday house party at his grandfather’s country estate. No more mourning clothes. No more barriers. Only the two of them, unrequited feelings at last laid bare.

Finally free to gallop out on her own, Anne makes the tantalizing discovery that beneath the roguish exterior of her not-so-white knight is a man with hidden depths, scorching passions—and a tender heart.



·       “It is truly a wonder how Matthews can consistently craft fresh romances featuring unique, multidimensional characters who face huge obstacles to their relationships. [A] lovely story of secrets and love lost and found.”— Booklist (starred review)

·       “Sparkling…Historical romance fans are sure to be moved.”— Publishers Weekly

·       “Matthews delivers another richly detailed and emotionally tender closed-door romance.”— Kirkus Reviews

·       “An engaging series installment offering a second chance at love to a spunky heroine and a hero with hidden depths.”— Library Journal

  • “No one writes Victorian romance like Mimi Matthews, and her Belles of London series just keeps getting better! "— Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author
  • “Mimi is truly a national treasure. All of her books are filled with such delicious chemistry and heart, and her writing is superb. This one is another winner. Highly recommend.”—Isabel Ibañez, #1 New York Times bestselling author of What the River Knows






USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, and Kirkus, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a retired Andalusian dressage horse, a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats.




Join Mimi at her Victorian Reading Room Facebook Group for exclusive access as she shares her love of writing, historical romance, Victorian fashion, brooding heroes, independent heroines, and of course, her beloved pets!

Thursday, January 25, 2024

The Foxhole Victory Tour by Amy Lynn Green (Austenprose Book Tour)


Do you like to go to concerts?  If so, are you more of a big concert or small concert kind of person?  I feel like I need to get back into going to concerts, it seems like I stopped going once we had kids!

Maggie McCleod and Catherine Duquette were a part of the Swinging Sweethearts and performed in concerts around the Midwest.  Maggie played the trumpet and started out life as the poor daughter of a Salvation Army pastor in Chicago.  Catherine Duquette played the violin and was the daughter of a wealthy family in St. Paul.  While they were performing in Minneapolis, they were approached to become a part of a USO variety tour group to perform for troops fighting in World War II.  The girls are shipped to North Africa as part of the Foxhole circuit and meet their fellow variety group members.  Their manager also informs them that he will be watching them to recommend one of them to join Bob Hope’s Pepsodent program.  All five members all have their own reasons for wanting to join the group.  Who will be selected?

I greatly enjoyed this novel.  I have never read a novel about the USO groups and have not read much about the war in North Africa.  It was interesting to read about the impact that the USO had on the morale of the troops.  It was also dangerous for these groups to be performing right near the front lines.  Groups performed on ships, at hospitals, on the front, etc. They were not all the famous people that I was used to seeing perform with Bob Hope. I really enjoyed the characters of Maggie and Catherine, but I also enjoyed the other members of their group and how they became a family along the way.  It was interesting to see how they all changed during their tour. 

I also like how the book dove into how women were able to serve during the war.  One quote that stuck with me through the book was, “Pretty girls aren’t meant for ugly wars.” These women wanted to help, and their looks had nothing to do with it.  Besides being in the USO, they meet up with a Women’s Army Corp group in Africa.  Other interesting topics were homelessness of veterans, PTSD in WWI veterans, the shaming of men with disabilities that were unable to fight and forced labor camps in North Africa.  I learned a lot and enjoyed reading about these characters.

The book had a great Author’s note at the end about the historical events behind the novel and had great questions for a book club group.

This author has written other WWII books and I need to check them out!

Favorite quote:

“The way I see it, if some of those men are going to die in battle, the best thing we can do is sing them home.”

Book Source:  Review copy from Bethany House as part of the Austenprose PR Book Tour. Thank-you!  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.


·       Title: The Foxhole Victory Tour: A Novel

·       Author: Amy Lynn Green

·       Genre: Historical Fiction, WWII Fiction, Inspirational Fiction

·       Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (January 23, 2024)

·       Length: (400) pages

·       Format: Trade Paperback, eBook, & Audiobook 

·       ISBN: ‎978-0764239571

·       Tour Dates: January 22 – February 5, 2024



Based on true World War II stories of life in the USO variety shows, worlds collide when performers from around the United States come together to tour North Africa.

Vibrant and scrappy Maggie McCleod tried not to get fired from her wartime orchestra, but her sharp tongue landed her in trouble, so an overseas adventure with the USO's camp show promises a chance at a fresh start. Wealthy and elegant Catherine Duquette signs with the USO to leave behind her restrictive life of privilege and to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of the handsome pilot whose letters mysteriously stopped arriving.

The two women are joined by an eclectic group of performers--a scheming blues singer, a veteran tap dancer, and a brooding magician--but the harmony among their troupe is short-lived when their tour manager announces he will soon recommend one of them for a coveted job in the Hollywood spotlight. Each of the five members has a reason to want the contract, and they'll do whatever is necessary to claim it. As their troupe travels closer to the dangerous battlefront in Tunisia, personal crises and wartime dangers only intensify, putting not only their careers but also their lives on the line.



  • "Green deserves a standing ovation for her rousing story of unlikely friendships, courage over comfort, and the impactful work of USO performers during WWII. The Foxhole Victory Tour transports readers from the concert halls of Minnesota to the coasts of Casablanca to the active war zone of Tunisia. It is plot-driven without sacrificing relational drama, and its ragtag supporting cast of lovable misfits thoughtfully portrays the art and heart of live performance."— Booklist
  • 5-STARS “I was impressed with how much Green was able to pack into the story and still keep it cohesive and natural. I ended up loving all the characters and their story arc, and I'm looking forward to reading more of Green's work.”— Debra, Goodreads
  • The Foxhole Victory Tour is a wonderful story of historical fiction with great characters, vivid descriptions, and some tough truths that will make readers reflect on their choices and their priorities.”— Jordon Lynch, The Literary Library
  • “This story was full of emotion and captivating on every page. The setting of World War II is so real, you feel like you are with them. This is must-read. A story you won't put down and will be sad to say goodbye to after it's over.”— Elizabeth Eckmeyer, Interviews & Reviews





Amy Lynn Green is a lifelong lover of books, history, and library cards. She worked in publishing for six years before writing her first historical fiction novel. She and her husband live in Minnesota, where she teaches virtual classes on marketing at writer’s conferences, engages with book clubs, and regularly encourages established and aspiring authors in their publication journeys.



Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson


Do you live in the same neighborhood that you grew up in?  I live in a different midwestern state, Wisconsin, than I grew up in, Michigan.  I still live in a small town, in a rural county as I did growing up, but now I’m on Lake Michigan.

Pineapple Street is the story of a family that lives a rarified life in Brooklyn Heights.  This story is told from three different viewpoints. Sasha is a woman who married Cord, the eldest son of the Stockton family.  She ran a successful business of her own when she married Cord, but Cord’s family is in a much different class than hers.  Darley is the oldest daughter of the family, and she is happily married to her husband Malcolm who has a high-profile job.  Darley has stayed home with her two small children.  When Malcolm loses his job, Darley starts to wonder if she should have given up her inheritance and her job.  Georgiana is the youngest in the family by ten years. She feels like Sasha is an interloper in their family.  When tragedy strikes her life, she begins to wonder about her inherited wealth and how she can help the world.

Pineapple Street was a very slow-moving book.  I kept wondering when the plot would happen, but I did find the characters interesting and wanted to keep reading. Everything just seemed to come about and be wrapped up right at the end.  The theme was as F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “'Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.”  I think that F. Scott Fitzgerald told a more entertaining story with this theme in The Great Gatsby.  The book did seem to highlight how young people today are doing things differently with inherited wealth.

Pineapple Street was the January selection for the Page-turners Book Club at the Kewaunee Public Library.  It seemed that most members had the same feelings about the book that I did.

Book Source:  The Kewaunee Public Library

Fortune and Glory by Janet Evanovich


Title: Fortune and Glory (Tantalizing 27)

Author:  Janet Evanovich

Narrated by:  Lorelei King

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio

Length: Approximately 7 hours and 13 minutes

Source: Review Copy from Simon & Schuster Audio.  Thank you @simonandschuster #BookClubFavorites for the free books!

What is the longest running series that you’ve read?  I believe for me it is the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich.  I finished up book 27 this fall, but there are currently 30 published books in the series.

Grandma Mazur’s new husband passed away on their wedding night.  Grandma Mazur is left with an old La-Z-Boy chair and the keys to a supposed fortune.  Stephanie Plum and Grandma Mazur become treasure hunters in this novel, while trying to avoid the people out to get the keys from Grandma. All of the old favorites are in this book, the love triangle between Stephanie – Morelli- and Ranger, cars blowing up, Lula causing mayhem, and great descriptions of food.

I always return to this series when life is stressful and I need a good laugh.  I love the audiobook versions narrated by Lorelei King.  She has the perfect voices for all of the characters and makes it a joy to listen.  I do wish that Stephanie would make some forward movement in her life at some point and chose between Morelli and Ranger.  I still think the book series could just be just as fun if Stephanie is married and has kids.  This was another fun installment in the series, and I can’t wait to read what is next!