Thursday, January 20, 2022


Of Sword and Shadow


Greece, 1379

She is known by many names, none of them her own. In truth, she is an unnamed slave, nothing more than a weapon in the hands of her owner in his attempts to provoke political mayhem. When she encounters a handsome young man while on an assignment, she thinks little of him—until he attempts to take what she has stolen. But in her line of work, failure is not an option.

Gillen is intrigued by the mysterious woman who thwarts his mission. But when his path crosses hers again, his intrigue turns to gratitude as the thief he comes to call Eudocia saves his life. The two form a bond of friendship and join forces to wrest control from a group of ruthless rulers. But as their camaraderie blossoms into something more, Gillen and Eudocia must fight for love even as they wage war for a better future.


A.L. Sowards' Of Sword and Shadow presents readers with a powerful tale of love and revolution in Medieval Greece.  A young with no name shares her story with readers through her compelling first-person narration.  As the story opens she's in the middle of stealing some important documents from an influential man.  That's when she first meets Gil, a young Basque looking for the documents she just stole.  Using her wits and training, she escapes him and returns to her owner, Thomas.  Using various names and disguises, our narrator has been working as a thief for her master for most of her life.  But after meeting Gil and his associates her life starts to change.  Gil treats her with kindness and caring even before she saves his life. 

Getting involved with Gil and the others proves to be a rather dangerous undertaking for "Eudocia" and her master, one with grave and unexpected consequences.  As Eudocia and Gil grow closer, the danger becomes ever greater until each of them are required to make difficult and life-altering choices.  Will their feelings survive the plot to overthrow the cities rulers or is there relationship doomed from the start?

The characters pulled me right into the story from the first moment they met the chemistry between them is clear.  While Gil and Eudocia are the main characters, the secondary characters provide a great deal of interesting development as well.  Even Eudocia's master isn't as clear cut of a villain as one might assume.  The historical detail and plot provide a fascinating background for Gil and Eudocia's story including the attempt to overthrow the Catalan rulers.  Not having read much about this time period I was intrigued by all the happenings and details included by the author.  I also appreciated the author's note at the end where she explains where she fictionalized things, sometimes for the story's sake and sometimes because of historical holes.  Ultimately though it was the characters that I fell in love with, which admittedly made reading a couple of parts challenging.  Sowards isn't afraid to put her characters through the wringer. Her action sequences kept me turning the pages as fast as I could get them read. A thoroughly-compelling, intriguing tale with incredible characters, great historical detail, and amazing plotting.  Highly recommended for those who enjoy historical romance.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

KEEPSAKE CHRISTMAS STORIES: Holiday Favorites as Performed with The Tabernacle Choir

Keepsake Christmas Stories - Tabernacle Choir


This commemorative collector's edition celebrates twenty years of the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square's beloved Christmas show—an annual tradition enjoyed by millions, both live on stage and through its holiday season broadcast on PBS stations, where it has earned Grammy and Emmy awards and nominations. Each year the show is hosted by a distinguished special guest, including Jane Seymour, Tom Brokaw, Kristin Chenoweth, and Hugh Bonneville. These holiday story adaptions have ranged from The Gift of the Magi to the story behind the writing of the hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul" to the inspiring tale of "The Candy Bomber"—an unlikely American WWII hero who dropped candy from his airplane to the children of Germany.

This coffee table edition is the perfect holiday keepsake for all ages and features photographs of the stage productions alongside the stories, which also includes a weblink to hear the stories from every performance.


Keepsake Christmas Stories contains a written version of each of the stories shared on the Christmas Program produced by the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square for each of the last twenty years.  For those, like me, who have loved each of those programs, it's wonderful to have a written collection of the wonderful stories shared at Christmas.  The lyrics of the musical part of each story are included within the stories.  While the stories have been adapted for print, the spirit and meaning of the stories remain just as powerful.  Because each story was beautifully combined with music, dancing, and a stunning setting, a link is included so that each performance can be watched and enjoyed as it was originally presented.  I love each of these stories both the fictional ones and the nonfiction ones.  Some left me in tears such as "A Christmas Bell for Anya" or "The Little Match Girl" while others left me with a warm glow in my heart like "The Candy Bomber".  For those like me who love inspiring stories to share during Christmas, this book is a must have.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

BLOG TOUR w/ GIVEAWAY: Of Daggers and Deception by A.L. Sowards


After years as a soldier and mercenary, Rasheed has retired from battle to run the bathhouse in Thebes with his friends Gillen and Eudocia. The simple life suits them, so when Venetian strangers come to town looking to hire the renowned crew, their answer is no. But when one of his friends is abducted, Rasheed is left with no choice but to take up his weapons and join forces with the Venetians, including the beautiful and clever Cecilia, whose betrothed has also been seized by the unknown foe. 

As the reluctant allies face ambushes and the looming threat of capture, Rasheed and Cecilia forge a surprising connection. But as the party races to rescue their friends, Rasheed discovers that nothing is as it seems. As his trust in Cecilia begins to waver, he realizes that in the end, they will both be forced to make a choice between love and duty.


A. L. Sowards is the author of multiple historical fiction novels, with settings spanning the globe from the fourteenth to twentieth centuries. Her stories have earned a Whitney Award, several Whitney Finalists positions, and a Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal. She enjoys hiking and swimming, usually manages to keep up with the laundry, and loves it when someone else cooks dinner. She currently lives in the beautiful state of Alaska with her husband, three children, and an ever-growing library.


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A.L. Sowards' books have always impressed me with their incredible characterizations, compelling plots, and amazing historical detail.  Of Daggers and Deception grabbed me from the first page and didn't let go.  It didn't hurt that I'd met the characters before in Of Swords and Shadows.  Knowing something about the characters and their pasts had me invested in the story from the beginning.  While I haven't read a lot of stories set in medieval times, the details regarding clothing and lifestyles rang true to me.  The inclusion of historical events and people also adds to the realism.  I appreciated the explanation the author includes at the end regarding fact and fiction and the challenges of researching a time where known details are few and far between.

The characters of this story stand out with their strengths and weaknesses.  Telling the story through Rasheed's eyes focuses the story on his thoughts and feelings.  This allowed the author to keep secrets and through in surprises throughout the book as Rasheed experienced them.  While I already cared about Rasheed, Gil, Eudocia, and Sebastie, it wasn't hard to learn to care about Cecelia and Aban as well.  The thoughts and feelings expressed by each character as challenges were faced and losses experienced gave the book depth.  The story progresses rapidly once the kidnappings take place with lots of action.  But there also plenty of thoughtful moments that allow the reader to get to know the characters better and empathize with the difficult choices they must make.

As Rasheed and his companions chase after their abducted friend numerous obstacles face them.  Turkish pirates, betrayal by supposed allies, and the pain of past injuries.  Rasheed and Cecilia's relationship grows as they get to know each other on the journey, but circumstances don't favor a long lasting relationship as one of the kidnap victims is her betrothed.  This compelling story line carries the book forward, but the other story lines make the book even more compelling as Rasheed and his friends struggle to survive while trying to rescue their friend.

A wonderfully complex and fascinating tale beautifully told.  I highly recommend this book to all who enjoy great writing, compelling plots, and great characters.


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Thursday, December 9, 2021

PROPER ROMANCE: The Matchmaker's Lonely Heart by Nancy Campbell Allen

The Matchmaker's Lonely Heart


Amelie Hampton is a hopeless romantic, which makes her the perfect columnist to answer lonely heart letters in The Marriage Gazette. When Amelie plays matchmaker with two anonymous lonely hearts, she also decides to secretly observe the couple's blind date. To her surprise, the man who appears for the rendezvous is Harold Radcliffe—a grieving widower and a member of Amelie's book club.

Police detective Michael Baker has been struggling ever since his best friend and brother-in-law dies in the line of fire. Because he knows the dangers of his job, he has vowed never to marry and subject a wife and family to the uncertainty of his profession. But when he meets Miss Hampton, he is captured by her innocence, beauty, and her quick mind.

When a woman's body is pulled from the river, Michael suspects the woman's husband—Harold Radcliffe—of foul play. Amelie refuses to believe that Harold is capable of such violence but agrees to help, imagining it will be like one of her favorite mystery novels. Her social connections and clever observations prove an asset to the case, and Amelie is determined to prove Mr. Radcliffe's innocence. But the more time Amelie and Michael spend together, the more they trust each other, and the more they realize they are a good team, maybe the perfect match.

They also realize that Mr. Radcliffe is hiding more than one secret, and when his attention turns toward Amelie, Michael knows he must put an end to this case before the woman he loves comes to harm.


NANCY CAMPBELL ALLEN is the award-winning author of eighteen published novels and several novellas, which encompass a variety of genres, ranging from contemporary romantic suspense to historical fiction. Her most recent books, which include Regency, Victorian, and steampunk romance, are published under Shadow Mountain’s Proper Romance brand, and the What Happens in Venice novella series is part of the Timeless Romance Anthology collection published by Mirror Press. She has presented at numerous conferences and events since her initial publication in 1999.

Nancy loves to read, write, travel, and research, and enjoys spending time with family and friends. She nurtures a current obsession for true crime podcasts and is a news junkie. She and her husband have three children, and she lives in Ogden, Utah, with her family, one very large Siberian Husky named Thor, and an obnoxious but endearing YorkiePoo named Freya.


This romantic suspense follows the adventures of a rather na├»ve young matchmaker who inadvertently gets involved in solving a murder.  After Detective Michael Baker catches Amelia spying on a couple that she helped match, he enlists her help in getting close to Harold Radcliffe who he suspects of having murdered his wife.  Amelia reluctantly agrees hoping to prove Mr. Radcliffe's innocence.  What she doesn't expect is finding herself caught between Mr. Radcliffe's charm and Detective Baker's attractiveness.  When a second murder occurs, it becomes clear that the risk to both Amelia and Michael and their loved ones is also increasing.  If they don't find answers quickly, it may soon be too late.  

Amelie and Michael both make for delightful reading.  Amelie's romantic nature and touch of naivete made her a bit frustrating at times, but her spunk and determination balanced that out nicely.  Michael makes for a solid hero with his dedication to finding the truth and to his family.  The secondary characters were great also.  Radcliffe makes for an intriguing, dangerous foe while Amelie's cousins, Eva and Charlotte stand as interesting characters all on their own.  The plot takes several interesting twists along the way as does the romance.  Not only does this book work well as a romance, but it's a fantastic mystery as well with plenty of action and adventure along the way.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would love to run into these characters again. 

Monday, December 6, 2021

BLOG TOUR & GIVEAWAY: An Accidental Romance by Karen Tuft


Rebecca Jennings's first London Season has been absolutely ruined, and one personal alone is responsible: Mr. Ben Fortescue. If her new neighbor hadn't startled her, she would never have broken her ankle, leaving her bored and frustrated at home in the country while her sister enters the London Season alone. Although, it was rather gallant of him to carry her home... For his part, Ben feels terrible about the role he played in Miss Rebecca Jennings's accident. In the days that follow their first disastrous meeting, he finds himself inexorably drawn to the surprising young woman—first out of guilt and then out of a stirring affection. But Ben hides a secret: he has not been completely forthright about his identity or about the dark secrets of his past that would make it impossible for romance to blossom with Miss Jennings. Despite his love for her, he knows he must let her go. With her ankle finally healed but her heart now broken, Rebecca is left with little choice but to throw herself into the Season. With eligible men circling this late addition to the Marriage Mat, it seems that Rebecca will have no shortage of suitors. If only her heart were free to give.


An Accidental Romance returns readers to the delightful Jennings family with eight children.  Rebecca Jennings is the youngest child and is eagerly anticipating her first London Season.  After injuring her ankle when her new neighbor Mr. Benjamin Fortescue startles her, Rebecca's well-laid plans are ruined.  In an effort to make up for his error, Mr. Fortescue starts visiting Rebecca almost daily.  As they get to know each other, their feelings for each other grow into something beyond friendship.  But Ben carries some heartache that leaves him reluctant to trust Rebecca's feelings, not to mention the guilt he feels for causing her injury in the first place.  When the opportunity to go to London reappears, Ben encourages Rebecca to go even though she's reluctant to leave him.  Can their relationship survive Ben's past and Rebecca's new present circumstances?  Or will a handsome new suitor change things for both of them?

Karen Tuft's delightful romance kept me engrossed from beginning to end.  Rebecca and Ben both make for sympathetic characters that I quickly grew to love.  And my heart felt for them as they faced struggles related to Ben's past experiences.  The scenes with the children were especially enjoyable.  And it was fun to read about other members of the Jennings clan whose stories have been previously shared.  The character development is superb and I enjoyed following the developing relationships between all the various characters.  I thoroughly enjoyed this latest volume in the Jennings Family series and look forward to the possibility of more to come.


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Monday, November 22, 2021

HISTORICAL NONFICTION: Why We Fought by Jerry Borrowman

Why We Fought


The struggle to combat the Nazis during World War II encompassed front lines far beyond conventional battlefields. In a panoramic and compelling account, author Jerry Borrowman shares seven largely untold stories of people who undertook extraordinary efforts at enormous personal risk to defeat the Third Reich.

Some were ordinary citizens like William Sebold, a German immigrant and US citizen, who could have been a deadly foe, but ultimately chose the Allied cause. Coerced by the Gestapo into becoming a spy in America, he instead approached the FBI, offering to become a double agent.

Among them was famous Hollywood star Marlene Dietrich, who was born in Germany but volunteered to entertain Allied troops in the European Theater of Operations and recorded radio messages designed to demoralize German soldiers.

As the Nazis swept through Europe, citizens around the world faced both an individual and a national complex moral question: How do you respond to tyranny and bloodthirsty madness? These are stories of men and women who would not surrender or compromise. They resisted and fought with total commitment for freedom and democracy.


JERRY BORROWMAN is an award-winning author of historical fiction and nonfiction, including the Shadow Mountain titles Beyond the Call of Duty, Compassionate Soldier, Invisible Heroes of World War II, and Catastrophes and Heroes. He has written about World Wars I and II, the Great Depression, and the Vietnam War. He is the recipient of the George Washington National Medal from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. Jerry and his wife, Marcella, raised four children and live in the Rocky Mountains.


World War II covers such a vast array of experiences and stories that I never get tired of reading about it.  Borrowman takes readers into the experiences and stories of some of those individuals and groups who stepped up in the fight against Hitler and the Nazis.  Of the seven stories that Borrowman tells, four of them are about spies.  Virginia Hall courage and refusal to let her prosthetic leg slow her down led her to become one of the Allie's most effective and skilled spies.  She worked with numerous resistance groups, becoming one of the most sought after spies.  After nearly getting caught escaping as a British spy, she later returned to work for the Americans.  Her courage and ingenuity helped the Allies win the war.  William Sebold was blackmailed by the Germans into spying for them, but when he contacted the Americans, the FBI turned him into a valuable double agent.  He helped round up a number of dangerous spies in America.  Marlene Dietrich not only performed for the Allied troops but she gather intelligence along the way.  Juan Pujol's imaginary spy ring provided a great deal of false intelligence to the Germans helping pave the way for the Normandy invasion.  As a diplomat, Carl Lutz risked his life and career to help the Jews of Hungary.  All of these stories are told in this book, along with a couple of others about the American Ghost Army and the efforts to rescue a group of French VIPs imprisoned in a castle.  Borrowman does an excellent job of telling these stories in a compelling way.  He uses quotes and primary sources to give the reader an inside look at the people and situations involved in each tale.  I highly recommend this book for readers who enjoy a glimpse into lesser known tales of courage and conviction during war time.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

LET ART BE YOUR VOICE! Havenlight Blog Tour


I chose this painting to put up in my house for several reasons.  First, the picture is of Jesus Christ, our Savior who I love with my whole heart.  This representation of Him is not only stunningly beautiful, but it reminds me of who He is, the Son of God.  As He stands calmly and peacefully on a the moving sea, it reminds me that no matter the storms of life that come, He stands ready and willing to help me survive them.

Art like this can be found throughout my home.  Not only do I love this kind of beautiful art, but I appreciate the daily reminders of the beauty that surrounds me in a world that can be so ugly.  This beautiful print helps me to remember the good things in life and the amazing things God and His Son do for me all the time.  


“I want to paint images that speak to and uplift the viewer, pieces that remind them of the beauties of life, the reasons for living and loving existence. Vibrant colors and brush strokes working together with the disciplines of art to create beauty and emotion you can’t achieve in any other way.” -- Dan Wilson
Dan Wilson is an award-winning fine artist from Lehi Utah. As a young boy Dan dove deep into art, always known as “that kid that doodles on everything”. After serving an LDS mission those artistic passions grew as he painted full time for his Major at UVU. After graduation he was taken under the wing of his mentor William Whitaker, who pushed him hard to improve his skills.  

Dan Wilson paints and teaches out of his home art studio where he is supported by his beautiful wife and six children.  


To enter the giveaway for a $200 gift certificate, go here.


Tuesday, October 26, 2021

REGENCY ROMANCE: Charming Artemis by Sarah M. Eden


Charlie Jonquil is mild-mannered and kind―except when it comes to his one true adversary, Artemis Lancaster. Though Charlie has a brilliant mind for mathematics, Artemis poses a problem he can't seem to comprehend: how can one be so lovely and so infuriating? A party in London brings him into the company of the maddening young lady, and it is clear that Charlie's disdain is mutual. But when an unfortunate incident between the pair involving Charlie's jacket and a glass of raspberry shrub leads to scandal, the sworn enemies are left with only two options: be ruined or be married.

So it is that Artemis finds herself in a most outrageous predicament: she must wed a gentleman she's hated for years―and she pledges to avoid him at all costs. But it is only when they enter into this mockery of a marriage that Charlie and Artemis learn things are not as simple as they once appeared. As their tentative ceasefire leads to friendship, it seems their marriage born of desperation might lead them to a love that was destined to be.


Artemis Lancaster and Charlie Jonquil do not get along.  They never have since the day they met at a house party at Charlie's family home.  But with friends in common they can't avoid each other entirely.  Things take a stunning turn when an unfortunate incident involving two glasses of raspberry shrub and Charlie's apparel forces the two to marry.  The first weeks of their marriage don't offer much hope of either one finding happiness.  Artemis has been forced to leave London and a search for the man whose kindness touched her life as a child, but whose name she doesn't know.  And Charlie's planned career and future seems to be in the toilet. But as Artemis and Charlie slowly try to improve their relationship, they start to see parts of each other that they like and admire.  But life's challenges intervene and threaten their budding relationship.  Can they find a way to address their issues before it's too late?

Sarah Eden has created a masterpiece of a finale for her Jonquil and Lancaster series.  While I'm sad to say goodbye to characters I've grown to love, I couldn't have asked for a better ending.  I found myself laughing and crying and wanting to hug these characters through the ups and downs.  Not only is Artemis and Charlie's story settled, but other story lines are brought to a great conclusion.  Some plot elements ended up being a surprise and a few unexpected characters show up to my great delight.  I especially loved the scenes with the children.  And the dialogue was fantastic and enjoyable.  I can't say enough good things about Sarah Eden and her fantastic Jonquil and Lancaster series.  If you haven't read them, I highly, highly recommend them.


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Tuesday, October 5, 2021

A PROPER ROMANCE : Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts by Nancy Campbell Allen


A steampunk retelling of Cinderella.

Emmeline O’Shea has been an outspoken advocate for the shapeshifter community, which has come under unjust attack from a political body known as the PSRC (Predatory Shifter Regulations Committee), and her robust efforts have landed her a prestigious position as the spokesperson for the International Shifter Rights Organization. She has been selected to give the final address in Scotland before they vote on legislation that will grant protective rights to the shifter community. Because she is fundamentally changing the laws, she is also receiving death threats.

Oliver Reed is a by-the-book detective-inspector who has dealt with Emme’s borderline-illegal activism in the past, and there is little love lost between the two. When his superior tasks Oliver with guarding Emme around the clock to keep her safe until the summit is over, he is frustrated. He has several open cases requiring his attention, and his spare time is occupied with chasing down leads about the whereabouts of his brother, Lawrence, a rogue vampire bent on causing trouble in Scotland.

When their airship is hijacked, Emme and Oliver are forced to parachute away before they exit British soil. Together the pair must make their way to Edinburgh so as not to miss the summit meeting where Emme will be key in helping to pass legislation that will disband the corrupt PSRC. But between her vindictive sister and Oliver’s rogue vampire brother, they face danger at every turn, not to mention dealing with their growing attraction for each other.

When Emme is kidnapped – Oliver must find her before it’s too late – and the summit ends at midnight.


I have absolutely adored Allen's Steampunk Proper Romance series.  I am really sad to see it end, but this book definitely lives up to the rest of the series.  Oliver Reed works for Scotland Yard as an Detective-Inspector.  His job brings him into contact with Emmeline O'Shea who helps lead the movement to give shape-shifters rights under the law.  Unfortunately, sometimes the rallies and protests she lead get out of control and turn violent.  Emme and Oliver have been "enemies" for quite some time until Emme receives a nasty letter that requires Oliver to become her bodyguard until the writer is found.  While this is annoying to Emme, she finds herself enjoying Oliver's company more than she imagined.  But her ongoing efforts to help the shifters and her important upcoming speech at an international summit on shifter rights put her squarely in the sights of someone with horrible motives. Despite Oliver's best efforts, they get separated and must face their own familial enemies.  While the cause of shifter rights survive without Emme's speech?  Will Oliver and Emme meet again?  Or will all their efforts have been for naught.

Not only are Emme and Oliver delightful characters who I thoroughly enjoyed reading about, but they also provide a very entertaining romance full of witty banter and plenty of death-defying action.  I also enjoyed the appearance of their friends from the previous books.  The action keeps the book moving forward at a rapid pace, leaving the reader on the edge of his/her seat.  The steampunk details related to automatons, cars, and airships add to the atmosphere and excitement of the book.  All in all a wonderful conclusion to an awesome series that I heartily recommend. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

HISTORICAL FICTION : The Merchant and the Rogue by Sarah M. Eden

The Merchant and the Rogue


Vera Sorokina loves reading the penny dreadfuls and immersing herself in tales of adventure, mystery, and romance. Her own days are filled with the often mundane work of running the book and print shop she owns with her father. The shop offers her freedom and an income, and while she is grateful for the stability it brings to her life, she often feels lonely.

Brogan Donnelly was born and raised in Ireland, but has lived in London for several years, where he's built a career as a penny dreadful writer. He has dedicated himself to the plight of the poor with the help of his sister. But with no one to share his life with, he fears London will never truly feel like home.

When Brogan and Vera's paths cross, the attraction is both immediate and ill-advised. Vera knows from past experience that writers are never to be trusted, and Brogan has reason to suspect not everything at Vera's print shop is aboveboard. When a growing criminal enterprise begins targeting their area of London, Brogan and Vera must work together to protect the community they've both grown to love. But that means they'll need to learn to trust each other with dangerous secrets that have followed both of them from their home countries.


This third volume of the Dread Penny Society series focuses on Brogan Donnelly.  When word of a plot against the Russian Ambassador arrives at the Dread Master's door, he sends Brogan to investigate the possible connection to a print shop.  But in order to protect the Society, Brogan has to pretend to quit and work on his own, something he isn't comfortable doing.  He also doesn't like to lie, but he has to use a fake name when he realizes that writers aren't welcome in the print shop where he takes a job.  As he searches for information regarding the plot, he finds his interest in the printer's daughter who runs the shop growing.  But without the help of his friends and the society can he figure out what's going on and stop it?  And what about the lies?  Will Vera forgive him when she discovers his deception or is he doomed to failure.

Sarah Eden has once again created an entertaining yet thoughtful tale of Regency England.  I've especially enjoyed this series because the characters come from a variety of backgrounds, none of which involve wealth.  In addition to the delightful romance, the mystery related to the plot involving the Russian ambassador was intricate and exciting.  And the plot becomes even thicker when Vera and her whole neighborhood are extorted for protection money. The witty banter and the fabulous characters combined with intricate, fascinating plots make this series thoroughly engaging and fun.  The inclusion of the penny dreadful tales adds interest as it reveals things about the characters who 'wrote' them.  This is a series that I thoroughly enjoy and highly recommend.