On Folly Beach by Karen White

When Emmy Hamilton loses her husband to the war in Afghanistan, her mother is determined to persuade Emmy to move to Folly Beach, South Carolina, and to buy the local bookstore. Emmy’s mother hopes that her daughter will be able to leave the past behind her and find some distraction in Folly Beach.

Emmy, however, doesn’t really want to leave at first, since she still grieves over her husband’s death and she doesn’t feel ready for a change. She is living in the past and is tormented by memories and shattered dreams. But when the young woman finds love letters and an image of a bottle tree in a box of used books from Folly’s bookstore, she is eager to find out more about the mysterious writers. Emmy is curious about the hidden messages and thus, she decides to move to Folly Beach and to buy the store. There, she meets Lulu, the late owner’s sister who is very difficult and grumpy. Lulu sells her bottle trees from the store’s backyard and Emmy has to deal with her quite often. Although she tries to ignore the old woman, Emmy can’t help but feel sorry for Lulu, as she senses that the old woman must have had a difficult and tragic past. Furthermore, Emmy feels that Lulu must somehow be connected to the mysterious love letters, but she doesn’t really know how and plans to find out. As the young woman digs deeper into Folly Beach’s past, she uncovers many family secrets, a mysterious disappearance during WWII and a touching love story that has affected Lulu’s family in many ways.

While Emmy learns about all these secrets, she finally begins to understand Lulu. Moreover, she has found a way to cope with her grief and slowly, Emmy realizes that she must leave the past behind and concentrate on the present. With the help of her new friends in Folly Beach, Emmy has learned that she must start living again because life is too short and one never knows when it might come to an end!

Alternating between WWII and the present, On Folly Beach tells the story of Emmy and Lulu, two women who couldn’t be more different and who don’t seem to have anything in common.   However, in the end, they discover that they were brought together by circumstances beyond their control and that they can learn a lot from each other, especially when it comes to second chances and broken hearts.

When I asked for some reading recommendations a few weeks ago, some of you mentioned this book and I am so glad that you did, because it was perfect for me! Thank you so much for telling me about it. You have no idea how much I loved this novel! For the last two days, I have been taking On Folly Beach everywhere with me and I read it whenever I had the chance to do so. I was devouring this book as I devour chocolate and I was craving more and more with every page I read. I couldn’t put it down, since I was eager to find out how it would end, but at the same time, I was sad because I knew that I would have to part with all the characters that have become so dear to me.

On Folly Beach had all the right ingredients for me – romance, suspense, literary references and engaging characters. Furthermore, the author’s writing was just beautiful and full of emotions. I loved her wonderful descriptions of Folly Beach and the unforgettable atmosphere that Karen White has created in this novel. But what I loved most about this book was the fact that it revolved around a bookstore; I loved reading about Folly Beach’s book shop and I really enjoyed reading about the secret coded messages in books. It was really intriguing to find out about these love letters and to discover how the love story would end. What I also loved was the fact that there were two stories intertwined in this book; while I liked Emmy’s story, I found Lulu’s tale more fascinating and it was her tragic and eventful past that moved me and left me feeling sad. That’s why this book was so great – it made me think about these tales after I finished reading it and it lingered in my mind for a long time. And that says a lot about this novel!

I hope you will get the chance to read this amazing book in the future and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did! I highly recommend it to everyone out there who likes to read books that deal with the past and to those who are interested in WWII.

I would like to thank Penguin Group for sending me this wonderful novel!

Other reviews:

Melody’s Reading Corner

You’ve Gotta Read This

Bermudaonion’s Blog

Peeking Between the Pages

Andreea

 

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The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber

Some of you may remember that I reviewed The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber last year. And you may remember that I loved this book very much because it was beautiful and haunting. I know that I was sad when I finished reading it because I longed for more. Luckily, Percy Parker’s story continues now, as the author has written a sequel, The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker. The second book in the Strangely Beautiful saga is just as wonderful as the first one and I loved everything about it! But now let’s have a closer look at this lovely sequel:

In The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker, we find Percy Parker united with her true love, Professor Alexi Rychman. After many trials and dangers, Percy has now found someone who appreciates her for who she really is and the mysterious girl finally feels accepted and loved. Furthermore, the heroine has also made new friends, the members of The Guard. Percy’s friends stand by her side no matter what nightmares might come and together, they are ready to face the forces of evil that want to overrun Victorian London. However, Percy needs to pay heed, as she will soon have to deal with betrayals, jealousy and revenge. Therefore, our heroine will need to keep faith in order to fulfill her duty and her destiny. Will The Guard be able to protect the young girl with snow-white skin and hair from the dangers that await her? And what about Alexi? Is their love strong enough to overcome any obstacle? Torn between duty and love, Percy realizes that she needs to be brave and strong in order to withstand the great storm that will approach. Furthermore, she needs to trust her instincts as well as her beloved Alexi, because she can only succeed and win the battle against evil if he is by her side!

I wish I could tell you more about this book, but I am afraid that I would spoil the story. Thus, I hope that you’ll pick up these novels and read them, as they are both engaging and intriguing. Just as the first book in the Strangely Beautiful saga, The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker will draw the reader in from page one and he/she will sympathize with the protagonists and care deeply about them. Leanna Renee Hieber has again created a fascinating tale full of myth and spiritualism with a touch of gothic and mystery and the author has managed to draft a satisfying and believable sequel that will entrance readers once again. This wonderful second novel is packed with suspense, romance, fantasy and the paranormal and readers will delight in Percy’s story, as there are some twists and turns, as well as other surprises to be discovered!

I must say that I loved this book as much as I loved the first one and I was again very sad when I finished reading it. Also, it occurred to me that I normally don’t read series because I haven’t found one that I actually liked. Thus, the Strangely Beautiful saga is the first one that piqued my interest and I was really excited about this sequel. I wanted to find out more about Percy Parker and her destiny and I must say that I am very pleased with The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker because I liked everything about it – the lyrical language, the beautiful descriptions, the supernatural elements, the Victorian setting and of course the romance between Percy and Alexi. Everything in this book is depicted so vividly and beautifully and the author has created such a special atmosphere, which is full of charm and magic. I can’t really explain it, but while reading these two books, I felt transported to Victorian London and I could imagine being there, together with Percy and The Guard, witnessing all those mythic creatures and ethereal beings.

The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker is an imaginative tale that will appeal to fantasy fans and to everyone who likes to read a fascinating love story set against the backdrop of a dark and mythical Victorian London. For those who want to find out more about the Strangely Beautiful saga (trailers, excerpts and more), please visit the author’s website here.

Note: The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker is scheduled for release on the 27th of April.

I would like to thank the author for sending me a signed copy of her wonderful book!

So what about you? Do you read series? What is your favorite one?

And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander

When Emily agrees to marry Philip, the Viscount Ashton, she decides to do so because she wants to escape her authoritative mother and also because she has to submit to the rules of Victorian society. Thus, when she learns about her husband’s death while on safari in Africa soon after their wedding, Emily feels little grief, since she barely knew the man she married.

However, nearly two years after her husband’s death, Emily begins to show interest in Philip and she is eager to find out more about his passion for artifacts. This has to do with the fact that she discovered his journals, and since then, the young widow longs to learn everything about Philip. While she reads more and more, she is surprised to find out how much her late husband really loved her. But Philip’s passionate love for her doesn’t seem the only thing that was unknown to Emily. As she digs deeper into Philip’s world of antiquities, the young widow finds herself entangled in a dangerous web of intrigues, mysteries and deception. Just when Emily realizes that she has fallen in love with her late husband, she begins to suspect that Philip might not be the man everyone believed him to be. Was Emily’s late husband really involved in a shady business concerning rare stolen artifacts? And what do his two attractive and wealthy friends have to do with this matter? What are their real motives for courting Emily? As she tries to find the answers to all of these questions, Emily has to be careful, because danger awaits her everywhere and people are not who they appear to be.

And Only to Deceive is a very suspenseful novel set in the late Victorian period and while the book’s main theme is a mystery involving stolen artifacts, it also strongly deals with issues such as a woman’s search for independence and it shows how a woman’s attempt to gain freedom impinges on her role in society. And Only to Deceive successfully displays Emily’s struggle for independence in a male-dominated world where a woman’s role was to be a good wife and mother, sacrificing her own needs for her family. The ultimate goal for every aristocratic woman in Victorian England was to marry well, and to marry in a short period of time. If two or three years passed and a woman had not found a suitable husband, she would be considered a failure. Thus, Emily, like every other aristocratic young woman at that time, is pressured by her mother to find a wealthy husband. In order to avoid any unpleasantness and to escape her mother’s controlling behavior, Emily defers to her mother’s will. She doesn’t really know her husband when she marries him and she doesn’t show any interest in getting to know him, as she does not love him. It is only after Philip’s death that Emily begins to show interest in him (and to eventually fall in love with him), as she discovers his journals and begins to read Homer and to visit the British Museum in order to learn more about her late husband. In doing so, she gains a lot more than just finding out about Philip’s passions. Emily begins to yearn for more freedom; she longs to do whatever she pleases, to read what she likes and to wear what she wants, regardless of society’s rules. (Widows had to spend at least a year in deep mourning and to dress in black; once a widow entered the period of half-mourning, she would be allowed to gradually return to society and to attend events that were appropriate for a widow). Thus, Emily starts to rebel little by little and to show her strong-minded side more often. There’s a particular scene in the book that highlights her rebellious character and her rejection of society’s rules: After dinner, Emily and her friend Margaret, prefer to stay with the gentlemen and drink port with them instead of retiring to the drawing room as ladies would normally do. This was of course a very shocking thing to do, because it disregarded society’s rules that were imposed on women at that time and it did not please Emily’s mother and the other guests. (Although I must admit that I found it very amusing). As the story unfolds, Emily embarks on a journey of self-discovery and refuses to remarry again, knowing that marriage would put an end to her newfound independence.

And Only to Deceive was the perfect book for me, as I really liked reading about Emily’s journey and her fight for independence. I am very interested in this subject, as it’s a major issue when it comes to Victorian Literature and Culture. I must admit that although I found it very interesting to read about art forgeries and the intrigues and deceptions involved (which are actually the main themes of the novel), I found it more interesting to read about Emily’s rebellious way and her desire to learn more about the world, to read and to explore new places. I just enjoyed reading about her attempts at escaping the submitting role that Victorian society has forced upon her and I loved that Tasha Alexander has chosen this path for the heroine.

Overall, I really loved this engaging book and I recommend it to everyone who is interested in Victorian Literature and to everyone who likes to read a suspenseful novel set in the Victorian period.

Note: I would like to thank the author and her publicist Danielle Bartlett from Harper Collins for giving me the opportunity to read and to review this wonderful book!

The Glass of Time by Michael Cox

If you are a follower of my blog, then you probably know that I have a little obsession with the Victorian Era and with books set in that period. Hence, you may not be surprised to hear that I was eager to read Michael Cox’s The Glass of Time.

Luckily, I received a copy of this great book from John Murray Publishers and after I have spent the last days reading The Glass of Time, I must say that it lived up to my expectations, just as I imagined it. This novel was everything I expected: 531 pages packed with suspense, mysteries, intrigues, betrayal and romance – the perfect ingredients for an unforgettable gothic romance! But now, let’s have a look at the plot:

1876: Nineteen-year-old orphan Esperanza Gorst has been living in France ever since her parents died years ago. She cannot remember her dear parents and doesn’t know much about them. When they died, they left their young daughter in the care of Madame de l’Orme and Mr. Thornhaugh and she has received a most remarkable education from them. Thus, when her guardians send her to England to occupy a position as a lady’s maid at the gothic house of Evenwood, it soon becomes clear that Esperanza will not take on the role of an ordinary servant. Madame de l’Orme and Mr. Thornhaugh have sent the young girl to Evenwood with a specific purpose in mind. They want Esperanza to fulfil a Great Task, but the heroine doesn’t know yet what this task is about. She has been told to wait for three ‘Letters of Instruction’ that will clarify her role at Evenwood. In the meantime, Esperanza’s assignment will be to win over her new mistress, the former Emily Carteret, now the 26th Baroness Tansor. With her charm and intelligence, the heroine succeeds in accomplishing her task and she wins Lady Tansor’s trust and respect over the course of time. Soon, she is no longer a lady’s maid, but she is Lady Tansor’s companion and friend. As Esperanza receives the first two letters of instruction, she learns that she must not trust Lady Tansor, but rather to consider her as an enemy. However, Esperanza finds it hard to do so, since she pities Lady Tansor, as Esperanza sees that Lady Tansor is plagued by grief and sorrow. Although her mistress is strict and disdainful to others, she is kind to Esperanza and the young girl finds it hard to regard her as her enemy. Nevertheless, the nineteen-year-old has to fulfil the Great Task and follow the letters of instruction that tell her to uncover Lady Tansor’s dark secrets. As Esperanza digs deeper into Lady Tansor’s past, she finds herself entangled in a web full of shocking mysteries, murders, deceptions, jealousy and revenge. She also finally finds out why she has been sent to Evenwood, and when she does, she is shocked to learn that there is a connection between her and Lady Tansor. But what kind of connection? At Evenwood (and everywhere else, it seems), people are not who they pretend to be and Esperanza must pay heed before it’s too late, as dangers are all around her. Whom can she really trust and will she be able to fulfil the Great Task?

Well, if you want to know the answers to these questions, you will have to read this captivating book. I won’t tell you more about it, as I don’t want to spoil this haunting tale. All I can say is that you must read The Glass of Time if you are a fan of gothic romances and if you like to read books that are set in the Victorian Period. I promise you that you will enjoy this well written novel, as it’s a page-turner and a fascinating read that will appeal to everyone who loves a suspenseful mystery with a touch of romance. In this engrossing tale, nothing is quite as it seems and you will witness how the past can haunt one’s present as one cannot always accomplish to leave the past behind so easily!

I really loved The Glass of Time and I am looking forward to reading Michael Cox’s other novel The Meaning of Night in the near future!

Romancing Miss Bronte by Juliet Gael

With so many books out there about the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen (and their heroines), the reader might feel overwhelmed and find it hard to choose which book to read, as not every book revolving around the lives of these talented female writers is necessarily a good one. As a huge fan of the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen, I tend to check out nearly every book that deals with their lives and some of them catch my attention. Thus, I have read numerous books about these great authors. Some of them were fantastic, but some of them were a mere disappointment.

So when I heard about Romancing Miss Bronte by Juliet Gael, it immediately aroused my interest and I was looking forward to reading it. Luckily, I won a copy of the book on Library Thing and I was eager to find out if the book would live up to my expectations. And I must say that it nearly did. I have to say nearly, because it wasn’t perfect, but nonetheless, it was an enjoyable and pleasant read. The author has done a great job portraying the Bronte sisters in an authentic way and those who are familiar with the biography of Charlotte Bronte and with her works will notice that the author has attempted to stay true to the author’s voice. Nevertheless, I have some negative things to say about this novel. Since the book is called Romancing Miss Bronte and since I have read a synopsis of the book, I thought that the author would go more into this theme of romance. Instead, I was a little disappointed to find out that the romance was not the romance I expected. But here’s more on why I felt this way:

In real life, Charlotte married her father’s curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls, nine months before her death. She has known him for many years, and he has been in love with her the whole time, but Charlotte wasn’t really interested in him until she was left all alone with her father, after her siblings’ deaths.

(Note: I won’t elaborate on Charlotte Bronte’s biography, since I have already told you about her life in my review of Becoming Jane Eyre).

Part fiction, part biography, Romancing Miss Bronte imagines how love unexpectedly found Charlotte and shows the relationship between her and Arthur. However, as I said earlier, I expected more romance. I thought that the author would put more imagination into this subject. Instead, we only get brief glimpses here and there and witness various encounters between Charlotte and Arthur where they exchange a few words. Charlotte thinks of Arthur as a peculiar curate and gives him the cold shoulder most of the time. Although Arthur is present throughout the whole novel, it is not until the end of the book that romance comes into play.

The book concentrates more on the Bronte siblings and their relationship with each other. It captures the passions and hopes of these gifted siblings and it shows how they struggle to publish their works and make their dreams come true. The novel also focuses on Charlotte’s growing fame and her meetings with London’s high society (which by the way fail to feel the emptiness in her heart, left by the deaths of her beloved siblings). But I already knew all these things (having read so many books on the Bronte sisters), and thus I read on and on and waited for the romance to get into the game. At least, at the end of the book, I was rewarded and I quite enjoyed Arthur’s wooing and his soft side that finally won over Charlotte’s heart.

For those who haven’t read anything about the Brontes’ lives or aren’t familiar with their biographies, I would recommend this book, as it gives a detailed account of the main events that happened in Charlotte’s life. I would have probably enjoyed the book more, if I hadn’t already known about the Bronte sisters’ lives (and if there would have been more romance involved, because the title suggested it). But I’m afraid that I made this book sound bad now, which I assure you is not the case. It really wasn’t what I expected, but it was still a great novel, well written and very true to Charlotte Bronte. I just wish I had read this book before I knew anything about the Brontes; then I would have probably loved it. I hope my review was not all too confusing for you! If I were to rate Romancing Miss Bronte, I would give it three and a half stars out of five.

The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

In 1853, twelve-year-old orphan Mary Quinn is struggling to survive on the unsafe streets of shady London by committing crimes. But one day, she is unwary and is caught housebreaking and therefore, Mary is sentenced to hang. Luckily, she is rescued by a mysterious woman, who is dressed as a prison warden. The woman turns out to be Anne Treleaven, the head teacher at Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls and she offers Mary an exceptional education at her school. There, she is able to acquire fine manners and other special skills. After finishing her education, Anne reveals to seventeen-year-old Mary that the academy is in fact a cover for The Agency – a top secret female investigative unit. Acknowledging Mary’s intelligence, bravery and good skills of observations, Anne encourages Mary to join The Agency and thus, put her hard training to the test.

Mary is intrigued by this new opportunity and therefore, takes up this thrilling challenge with great expectations. Her first assignment as a female investigator is to infiltrate the Thorold household in order to collect information on Mr. Thorold’s missing cargo ships. In the guise of a lady’s companion, Mary must work fast and find out the truth about Mr. Thorold’s business. But in the Thorold household, nothing is quite as it seems and Mary must be careful in deciding whom she can trust. Everyone seems to have dark little secrets: Mrs. Thorold acts rather suspiciously, her daughter Angelica is spoiled and seems to hide something and Mr. Thorold’s secretary Michael Gray flirts with Mary. And then there’s also James Easton, an arrogant, yet very attractive young man. His brother George is one of Angelica’s suitors and they have met several times. But why is James always behaving so strangely and why does he follow her everywhere? Can she really trust him or will she put herself in great danger by cooperating with him? And why is Mary trying to avoid talking about her past and parents?

The Agency: A Spy in the House is a delightful novel set in the heart of Victorian London, where shady and dangerous things are taking place. Y.S. Lee has written a compelling tale packed with suspense, action, mystery, intrigues and romance. Readers will enjoy accompanying Mary on her dangerous journey through the dusky streets of Victorian London and witnessing how this young and clever detective discovers secrets and fights the demons of her troubled childhood. I really loved this captivating tale and I wanted to read more about Mary and her fascinating adventures! The Agency: A Spy in the House is Y.S. Lee’s first novel and it’s part of a trilogy. Therefore, there will be a second novel in the Agency series, called The Body at the Tower and it will be published in August in the States. I can’t wait to read the promising sequel!

For more information on the Agency series, please visit the author’s website here. There, you can also enter a contest to win a copy of The Agency: A Spy in the House and other prizes.

Note: I would like to thank the author and her publicist Tracy Miracle from Candlewick Press for sending me a copy of this engaging book!

The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Bronte by Laura Joh Rowland

The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Bronte by Laura Joh Rowland

Charlotte Bronte, the author of Jane Eyre, heads to London with her sister Anne to resolve an important matter: her publisher, George Smith, has falsely accused her of breach of contract and thus Charlotte wants to set the record straight and to clear her name. On the train to London, the sisters meet a mysterious, beautiful girl named Isabel White who behaves strangely and who seems to hide something. Nevertheless, Charlotte finds the girl sympathetic, so when she unintentionally witnesses Isabel’s murder, Charlotte is appalled. Since no one seems to be interested in solving Isabel’s murder, the author is determined to discover why the girl has been killed and to bring the offender to justice. Aided by her sisters and by Isabel’s attractive brother, Gilbert White, the author begins her investigation but soon finds herself entangled in a web full of secrets, lies and intrigue.

Will Charlotte find her way out of this deceptive labyrinth and therefore manage to save her beloved family and country? And what does Isabel’s brother have to hide?

Well, you’ll have to read this enchanting book to find out! I recommend this novel to everyone who loves historical fiction and who loves to read about Victorian England and the famous Bronte family. The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Bronte is a suspenseful detective novel, full of mysteries, intrigue and romance; therefore, readers will find it impossible to put this book down! Laura Joh Rowland has done a fantastic job narrating a captivating story, taking the reader on an unforgettable journey through Victorian England and at the same time drawing a fascinating portrait of the Bronte family. The story is told through Charlotte’s eyes and her narrative voice is very authentic and sensible. Therefore, Laura Joh Rowland has successfully managed to give the narrative a believable profundity, allowing Charlotte to witness the great adventures and romance she never experienced, but fervently desired! Furthermore, the author has created a credible Charlotte whose obstinacy and intellect will remind you of Jane Eyre! All in all, I really liked this detective novel and I think that The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Bronte is a must-read for Bronte fans!

I would like to thank Vida Engstrand from The Overlook Press for sending me a copy of this engaging book!

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