All Hallows by Christopher Golden

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of Publication: January 24th, 2023

Genre: Horror, Holiday, Halloween, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical, Thriller, Mystery, Adult Fiction

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

With the 80’s nostalgia of Stranger Things, this horror drama from NYT bestselling author Christopher Golden follows neighborhood families and a mysterious, lurking evil on one Halloween day.

It’s Halloween night, 1984, in Coventry, Massachusetts, and two families are unraveling. Up and down the street, horrifying secrets are being revealed, and all the while, mixed in with the trick-or-treaters of all ages, four children who do not belong are walking door to door, merging with the kids of Parmenter Road. Children in vintage costumes with faded, eerie makeup. They seem terrified, and beg the neighborhood kids to hide them away, to keep them safe from The Cunning Man. There’s a small clearing in the woods now that was never there before, and a blackthorn tree that doesn’t belong at all. These odd children claim that The Cunning Man is coming for them…and they want the local kids to protect them. But with families falling apart and the neighborhood splintered by bitterness, who will save the children of Parmenter Road?

New York Times bestselling, Bram Stoker Award-winning author Christopher Golden is best known for his supernatural thrillers set in deadly, distant locales…but in this suburban Halloween drama, Golden brings the horror home.

All Hallows. The one night when everything is a mask…


First Line:

In the woods behind Tony Barbosa’s house, the autumn leaves screened out so much daylight it seemed like dusk had already arrived.

All Hallows by Christopher Golden

This isn’t easy to admit, but I am a giant baby in reading or watching anything horror. Take, for instance, the new series on HBO Max, The Last of Us. I was sitting with my husband and oldest daughter, and whenever something scary would come on, I would cover my face with a blanket and tell them to tell me when it was over. That is how I felt reading All Hallows. I wanted to cover my face and wait until it was all over, but I couldn’t. This book scared the living out of me!!

I am going to be upfront with the trigger warnings in this book. I wasn’t expecting a couple of them, and they left a bad taste in my mouth when I realized what was happening. The triggers are child sexual abuse (not graphic, but a couple of scenes that describe a victim’s emotions), racism (overt and subtle), domestic violence, cheating, bigotry, and homophobia. If any of these triggers you, I recommend not reading this book.

The plotline for All Hallows was exciting but all over the place at first. Halloween has come to a Massachusetts town, Coventry. While kids are out trick or treating, the individual families are fracturing. Add to this, there are kids in the neighborhood who don’t belong. They are dressed in old-fashioned costumes and are begging people to let them in their houses. Why? They have escaped from a being called The Cunning Man and are running from it. But not all is what it seems, as the hours count to midnight and long-held secrets are uncovered. Who are these children? What do they want? Will The Cunning Man get them? Or is everything they told a lie? What horrors are in store for the families that took them in?

All Hallows has multiple main characters; writing a short blurb on each is impossible. So, I am not in this review. It would make this review go on forever; we all know people don’t like it.

The main characters in All Hallows were well-written and fleshed out. Each character brought a fresh perspective to what was happening in that neighborhood that night. I loved seeing the same events from different eyes.

As for the secondary characters, some of them felt a little flat. While they did provide some needed filler in the storylines, I couldn’t connect to some of them. And that made it impossible for me to care when certain things happened in the book (like Donny Sweeney’s semi-redemption arc).

All Hallows fit perfectly in the horror genre. The author did a great job of making me want to cover my eyes during parts of the book. This would have been a great book to release around Halloween because, well, the book is set on Halloween afternoon/night.

The storyline with The Cunning Man and the displaced kids was unique. The author did take me for a ride with that one. I was expecting one thing to happen, but a neat twist in the storyline had me shaking my head and saying, “No way.

The storyline with the neighborhood relationships fracturing was, again, well written. The author didn’t do a massive deep dive into the people he featured during that night, but it was deep enough to know that this was beyond what neighbors act like, especially in 1984, when neighborhoods were tight. I was seven in 1984, and I remember my neighbors being like second parents. If we (my brothers and I) were outside playing, someone was always out with us. Like in the book, the neighbors treated Halloween like a party for the adults, and we kids would go around the neighborhood trick or treating, barely supervised. You can’t do that these days, which is sad.

The end of All Hallows was interesting. While the author resolved things, only some were, if you understand. There were a few storylines that I had questions on that were left up in the air. Also, there were no happy endings. People died and were hurt; the end was maybe three days later. Everyone involved was still processing what had happened. There might be a book two because of the last couple of scenes. I would love to see Vanessa, Chloe, and possibly Julia get revenge!!

I recommend All Hallows to anyone over 21. There is language, violence, and no sex (some light kissing). Also, see my trigger warnings.

I want to thank St. Martin’s Press, NetGalley, and Christopher Golden for allowing me to read and review All Hallows. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading All Hallows, then you will enjoy reading these books:

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries (Emily Wilde: Book 1) by Heather Fawcett

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey

Date of publication: January 10th, 2023

Series: Emily Wilde

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries—Book 1

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Adult, Historical Fiction, Fairies, Fae, Fiction, Historical, Paranormal, Magical Realism, Fantasy Romance

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

A curmudgeonly professor journeys to a small town in the far north to study faerie folklore and discovers dark fae magic, friendship, and love, in this heartwarming and enchanting fantasy.

Cambridge professor Emily Wilde is good at many things: She is the foremost expert on the study of faeries. She is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people. She could never make small talk at a party–or even get invited to one. And she prefers the company of her books, her dog, Shadow, and the Fair Folk to other people.

So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby, who manages to charm the townsfolk, get in the middle of Emily’s research, and utterly confound and frustrate her.

But as Emily gets closer and closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones–the most elusive of all faeries–lurking in the shadowy forest outside the town, she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: Who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all–her own heart.


First Line:

Shadow is not at all happy with me. He lies by the fire while the chill wind rattles the door, tail inert, staring up at me from beneath that shaggy forelock of his with the sort of accusatory resignation peculiar to dogs, as if to say: Of all the stupid adventures you’ve dragged me on, this will surely be the death of us.

Emily Wilde’s Encycolpaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

When I got the email inviting me to read/review this book, I was immediately taken by two things. The first was the cover. Now, covers don’t usually get my attention or play into why I want to read a book. Mainly because I read using my Kindle Scribed. But this one caught my attention because of how simple it was. The other thing that grabbed my attention was the blurb. A female professor studying Faeries in an alternative Norway in the 1880s? That is when I decided that I wanted, no needed, to read this book. And I am glad that I did because it was a good read.

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries takes place in the late 1800s in an alternative world where women could hold jobs and have the same rights as men at that time. 95% of the book is set in the fictional country of Ljosland. Now, I was curious, and I googled the country. It turns out that Ljosland is a village in Norway. The village is made up (I googled that too). I liked that the author created a whole country similar to Norway but simultaneously different.

The plotline for Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is an interesting one. In this alternative world, fairies are real. Emily Wilde is an expert on Faeries and is writing an encyclopedia of fairie lore, which will be the first of its kind. She is almost finished and is traveling to Ljosland to study the most elusive and feared Faery of that area, the Hidden Ones. A loner by nature, Emily struggles to make connections in the village. Connections that she needs if she is going to finish her encyclopedia. Help, or a hindrance if she had her say, comes from Wendell Bambleby. Wendell is her rival in the world of Faery lore. But there is something about him that Emily can’t put her finger on. As the winter rages on and her studies continue, Emily learns that Wendell is more than he seems. And when The Hidden Ones start taking children and creating mischief, Emily takes it upon herself to help. That sets off a series of events that forces Emily to reevaluate everything she knows about Faeries, herself, and Wendell. What does Emily learn? What does she find out about Wendell? Will she finish her encyclopedia?

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is the first book in the Emily Wilde series. Usually, I would put in here if you need to read the other books in the series first or not. Well, since it’s the first book, it doesn’t apply.

The pacing of Emily Wilde (I am shortening the title for this review. Plus Encyclopaedia keeps getting autocorrected) is slow for the first 70% of the book. And when I mean slow, it was snail or turtle slow. There was a point in the book where I debated DNF’ing it. It was that slow. But, once certain things happened (I can’t say because of spoilers), the book picked up speed.

The characters of Emily Wilde were interesting and diverse. I liked that the author chose this alternative world to be LGBTQ-friendly (a lesbian couple is featured prominently in the middle and last half of the book). I enjoyed it. It was refreshing for the period it was in (as was Emily, 30 and unmarried).

  • Emily—She was an odd duck right from the beginning. She had zero people skills and managed to tick off not only her host but the unofficial chief of the village. Her only companion was an elderly dog named Shadow. She was able to win over a couple of the Fairy. One was a sprite who lived in a tree, and the other was a changeling who just wanted to go home to his mother. I did feel bad because she did try. I wasn’t prepared for what she did 70% through the book. I am not going to go into it much, except that it went against everything she had warned the villagers about during the first few days of her stay. But, in a way, it did make sense because she got the last bit of information she needed for her encyclopedia.
  • Wendell—Ok, so I figured him out from the beginning. I don’t know how Emily didn’t figure it out sooner. All the signs were there. I can’t get more into what I am talking about because of the spoilers. But it is something huge. One thing I can talk about is Wendell’s feelings for Emily. Even I could see that he loved her. He followed her to that snowy land and helped her with her research. And then, he stayed and helped her out when things went sideways. Wendell made me laugh because he did things to annoy Emily deliberately. Like adding entries into her journal or just being a pain in the butt. But he did have an alternative reason for being there. One that made me sad.

Emily Wilde fits perfectly into the fantasy genre. The author spun a world where Faeries were real and were studied. There were points in the book where I wished that it was true. But then I would read about the more dangerous Faery and say, “Nope, glad they’re fictional.

There was a slight, very slight, sliver of romance in Emily Wilde. It was so small that I almost missed it. But, towards the end, it became more apparent.

The storyline with Emily, Wendell, and the research into her encyclopedia was interesting. I couldn’t believe the different kinds of Fairies that Emily had encountered on her research journies. I wondered how much of the folklore was true and how much the author made up. Usually, I google this stuff, but I didn’t want to go down a rabbit hole, so I didn’t. The Faeries that Emily met in the north were as cold-blooded as the weather. There was a point towards the end of the book (after the rescue mission) when I worried for Emily. There was a neat twist in the plotline that happened after the tree scene. I did laugh a little at Emily’s dismay (what did she think was going to happen!!), but my laughter did turn to concern for her. Everything did work out in the end.

The end of Emily Wilde was interesting. I was slightly put off by how it ended until I remembered it was a series. It ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, and those annoy me. But it did its job and made me want to read book 2. I pray that it isn’t as slow as this one was. I couldn’t do that again.

I recommend Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries to anyone over 16. There is mild violence, no language, and no sex.

I want to thank Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey, and Heather Fawcett for allowing me to read and review Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries, then you will enjoy reading these books:

The Villa by Rachel Hawkins

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: January 3rd, 2023

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Mystery Thriller, Fiction, Adult, Suspense, Contemporary, Gothic, Audiobook, Historical, Historical Fiction

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | Alibris | Powells | Indiebound | Indigo

Goodreads Synopsis:

From New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins comes a deliciously wicked gothic suspense, set at an Italian villa with a dark history, for fans of Lucy Foley and Ruth Ware.

As kids, Emily and Chess were inseparable. But by their 30s, their bond has been strained by the demands of their adult lives. So when Chess suggests a girls trip to Italy, Emily jumps at the chance to reconnect with her best friend.

Villa Aestas in Orvieto is a high-end holiday home now, but in 1974, it was known as Villa Rosato, and rented for the summer by a notorious rock star, Noel Gordon. In an attempt to reignite his creative spark, Noel invites up-and-coming musician, Pierce Sheldon to join him, as well as Pierce’s girlfriend, Mari, and her stepsister, Lara. But he also sets in motion a chain of events that leads to Mari writing one of the greatest horror novels of all time, Lara composing a platinum album––and ends in Pierce’s brutal murder.

As Emily digs into the villa’s complicated history, she begins to think there might be more to the story of that fateful summer in 1974. That perhaps Pierce’s murder wasn’t just a tale of sex, drugs, and rock & roll gone wrong, but that something more sinister might have occurred––and that there might be clues hidden in the now-iconic works that Mari and Lara left behind.

Yet the closer that Emily gets to the truth, the more tension she feels developing between her and Chess. As secrets from the past come to light, equally dangerous betrayals from the present also emerge––and it begins to look like the villa will claim another victim before the summer ends.

Inspired by Fleetwood Mac, the Manson murders, and the infamous summer Percy and Mary Shelley spent with Lord Byron at a Lake Geneva castle––the birthplace of Frankenstein––The Villa welcomes you into its deadly legacy.


First Line:

Somewhere around the time she started calling herself “Chess”, I realized I might actually hate my best friend.

The Villa by Rachel Hawkins

When I read the blurb for The Villa and saw that it was being compared to Fleetwood Mac, the Manson murders, and Mary Shelly, I was interested. While I enjoyed the book, I was disappointed by it. Mari and Emily’s stories didn’t grab me the way I had hoped.

The Villa starts in present-day North Carolina. Emily is a successful author who has been battling a mysterious illness. She also is in the process of divorcing her husband, Matt, who is as greedy as they can get. So, when her best friend, Chess (who also happens to be a best-selling self help author), suggests a girl’s trip to Italy, Emily jumps at it. Emily discovers that the villa they are renting was the scene of a murder in 1974 and where a best-selling turned cult classic novel, Lilith Rising, was written. Jumping headfirst into investigating it, Emily soon uncovers clues that show a different story than what reporters told the world. She also discovers that things are different from what they seem with Chess. What did Emily find about the murders? And what is going on with Chess?

The other part of this book takes place in 1974 in London and Italy. Mari is in a questionable (to me, at least) relationship with a singer/songwriter. Pierce, desperate to hit it big, accepts an invitation to party/work at a villa in Italy. He would be working with one of the biggest rock stars in the world. Mari and her stepsister, Lara, come along and are swept into a world filled with sex and drugs. As tension rise, Mari starts writing a book, which will become an instant bestseller/cult classic, Lilith Rises. Then the unthinkable happens, and Pierce is killed. But, all isn’t what it seems. What happened the night Pierce died? Who killed him and why?

The Villa is a fast-paced book that mostly takes place in a villa in Italy. The author did a great job of keeping the book flow as it hopped from past to present.

The main characters were what made this book a meh book for me. I found them annoying to read. Even when everything was revealed (in both timelines), I still couldn’t care.

  • Emily—I did feel bad for her at the beginning of the book. She was going through a rough patch with writer’s block and her husband wanting half of her book’s earnings. Plus, she had been very sick for a year. But I started not to like her when she got to Italy and started becoming paranoid. Plus, she was boring. The only exciting thing she did was at the end of the book. Also, and I will discuss this later in the review, I couldn’t understand how she didn’t see what was going on with her soon-to-be ex. It was pretty obvious.
  • Chess—I didn’t like her. She rubbed me the wrong way for the entire book. I think she had good intentions, but how she did things was suspicious. She did another thing that is a massive spoiler if I said too much about it. It was an enormous breach of trust to do what she did, even if her heart was in the right place. I also felt she deliberately made it so Emily could never leave her.
  • Mari—My heart freaking broke for her. I couldn’t even imagine the pain she had gone through. The what-ifs were sprinkled throughout the book, more so towards the end, and she was getting sick of Pierce’s antics. I liked that she channeled all of her rage and pain into Lilith Rising. My only quibble was that she was almost too cool with things. Does Pierce want to sleep with Lara? Sure, but only once. Does Pierce want a threesome with Noel? Sure, Mari will do it.
  • Lara—-I didn’t care for her. I felt that everything she did up to a crucial scene was to hurt Mari. It is so hard to explain what happened between Mari and Lara that summer without giving away spoilers.

The secondary characters portrayed in The Villa did add some depth to the plotline. But I felt that Noel and Johnnie’s characters were fillers. Same with Emily’s agent and her ex-husband.

This book was a good fit for the mystery/thriller genre. The thriller angle was very slight and mostly overshadowed by the mystery angle. If the author had expanded the thriller angle to encompass the earlier parts of the book (or even the middle) instead of just the end, I would have enjoyed it more.

The storyline with Emily, Chess, and her ex-husband made me want to gouge out my eyes. I got very frustrated because I figured out both things (the sickness and the spoiler) reasonably early in the book. I couldn’t understand how Emily didn’t figure out the illness (or even her family!!). As for the other thing, Emily did figure it out shortly after I did, but she didn’t want to admit it to herself.

The storyline with Emily, Chess, the murders, the story Emily was writing, and the villa was also frustrating. But in a good way, well, most of the time. I understood why Chess wanted to change her brand and felt that co-writing with Emily would help her. I also understood why Emily didn’t want to do it. The mystery of the murders did help break Emily’s writer’s block, and she was possessive over it. But she also saw why having Chess’s name attached to her work would be good. The villa, in both storylines, did feel very calming to me. It did help both Mari and Emily to heal.

The storyline with Mari, Pierce, Noel, Johnnie, and Lara was my favorite storyline. Mainly because I knew what was coming; I wanted to see the events leading up to it. And you know what? It was good there. It was how I figured it would be. A disorganized mess of a storyline (and that is meant in a good way) that kept me guessing. And the twist at the end of that!!! I was not expecting it.

Mari, Pierce, and Lara’s storyline made me nauseous when reading it. I was surprised to find out Mari was as young as she was (barely 19). When I did the math, I couldn’t believe Mari was under 16 when she ran away with Pierce. Lara was, too (it just occurred to me). It made me sick to think about that.

Mari’s writing of Lilith Rising was very intense. As I said above, she channeled all that rage and pain into this book. I wish it were an actual book because I would have loved to read it.

There are trigger warnings in The Villa. There is semi-graphic sex, drugs, cheating, alcohol, attempted murder, graphic murder, talk of abortion, and talk of a miscarriage. If any of these trigger you, I highly suggest not reading this book.

I wasn’t sure if I liked the end of The Villa. Emily didn’t make the right choice. But I did love the twist on the 1974 plotline. Talk about leaving the best for last!!

Three Things I Liked About The Villa:

  1. Mari. She was the most likable out of all the characters.
  2. Chess and Emily’s friendship.
  3. The 1974 storyline before Pierce was murdered.

Three Things I Disliked About The Villa:

  1. Emily’s soon to be ex-husband. He was a dirtbag.
  2. Chess. She came across as super fake.
  3. Pierce. Ugh, so many things, but see my paragraph about the Pierce, Mari, and Lara storyline.

I would recommend The Villa to anyone over 21. There is language, sex, and sometimes graphic violence. Also see my trigger warnings.


If you enjoyed reading The Villa, you will enjoy reading these books:

A Wicked Game (Ruthless Rivals: Book 3) by Kate Bateman

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Paperbacks

Date of publication: December 27th, 2022

Series: Ruthless Rivals

Genre: Romance, Historical Romance, Historical, Historical Fiction, Adult, Regency, Fiction, Military Fiction, Military Romance, Regency Romance

A Reckless Match—Book 1 (review here)

A Daring Pursuit—Book 2 (review here)

A Wicked Game—Book 3

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

If there’s one thing impossible for a Davies to resist, it’s a challenge from a Montgomery. . .

A teasing bet.

Shipwrecked and imprisoned thanks to an incorrect map, Captain Morgan Davies has returned to London to exact sweet revenge on the cartographer responsible for his suffering. He’s also vowed to claim the winner’s prize―three kisses―in the bet he made with his long-time nemesis, the prickly, smart-mouthed Harriet Montgomery. His incarceration has clarified his feelings for her, but convincing the infuriating woman he wants to marry her is going to be his greatest challenge yet. When Harriet’s revealed to be the very mapmaker he seeks, Morgan decides to combine revenge and seduction into one delightful package. . .

A dangerous enemy.

Harriet’s always wanted witty scoundrel Morgan, and now he’s back; as handsome and as taunting as ever. She has enough on her plate dealing with her father’s failing eyesight and a rival mapmaker copying her work to play wicked games with a dastardly Davies―however tempting he might be. But when a threat from Morgan’s past puts them both in danger, Harry discovers that she and Morgan might not be enemies at all . . .


First Line:

As he strode along Whitehall, Morgan repressed the urge to whistle a jaunty sea shanty.

A Wicked Game by Kate Bateman

I was excited when I was invited to review A Wicked Game. I had reviewed the previous two books in the series and wanted to read Morgan’s story. So, I did an odd sort of happy dance in my living room (I was dodging two kittens, two one years old and a six-year-old cat who were very curious about Mom going “Oh yeah, oh yeah” and fist-pumping). I was justified in my excitement about this book. It was the best book in the series.

A Wicked Game is the love story between Morgan Davies and Harriet Montgomery. Morgan is a Welsh naval captain who had been captured by the French for years before being freed. Harriet is Morgan’s childhood friend/nemesis. She is also the cartographer who drew the map that led to Morgan’s imprisonment. Now that Morgan is free, he is determined to win Harriet over. But that is easier said than done. Harriet is an independent woman who cares for her blind father and doesn’t trust Morgan. Add the Frenchman who captured and tortured Morgan, has eluded capture, and has been seen in London….looking for the cartographer who drew the map and Morgan. Will Morgan confess his feelings for Harriet? Will Harriet learn to trust Morgan and her feelings? Will the Frenchman find Harriet and Morgan?

I had gotten a glimpse into Harriet and Morgan’s characters in the previous two books. From what I saw, I liked them and couldn’t wait to see if they would end up together.

  • Morgan—-I don’t even know where to begin with him. As I mentioned above, I loved him in the previous two books and was looking forward to his story. It didn’t disappoint. I loved that Morgan was open about how he felt about Harriet. Even in the scenes at the ball (where he secured his three kisses), he knew he loved her. But the time spent in captivity brought those feelings more into focus. He was rare for a romance hero; he admitted his feelings pretty early on in the book and then spent the rest of the book trying to convince Harriet his feelings were genuine. That alone made this book so great to read.
  • Harriet—I liked Harriet, but there were times when I wanted to shake her. Like the night when Morgan promised her three kisses. I couldn’t believe that she thought he was joking. Harriet grew up with him. She should have known that he wasn’t playing with her. I liked that the author went in a different direction with her. Instead of making her part of the ton, she was a regular Miss who worked as a cartographer for the British government. It was an exciting change of pace from the usual Regency romances I read, and I loved it.

Several notable secondary characters added extra depth to the book. I loved seeing the characters from the previous books make appearances.

I am obsessed with Regency romance and can’t read enough of them. A Wicked Game fits perfectly into the historical romance genre. So it is a bonus when a book written in that genre is as well-written as this one was.

The storyline with Morgan, Harriet, and their love story was well written. I was 100% on team Morgan and loved that he was so much in touch with his feelings. He was willing to do anything to show Harriet that his feelings were genuine.

The storyline with Harriet, the copycat, her working for the government, and the Frenchman was riveting. The author did a fantastic job of showing how Harriet did her job, mainly how she drew the maps that would end up in the enemies’ hands. The author also showed that while she successfully ran her business, it was a male-dominated society, and she had to hide behind a male identity. That led to her issues with the rival printer, and in turn, that led to the Frenchman.

This wouldn’t be a good review if I didn’t mention the sex. There are a lot of sex and sexual situations in A Wicked Game. When Morgan started collecting his three kisses, he didn’t say what type. That first sexual situation was out of this world. The other sexual situations and sexual acts were either just as good or better than that first scene. I kept thinking, “Dang, Harriet, he’s a keeper.

The end of A Wicked Game kept me on edge. The author kept me guessing what would happen with Harriet and Morgan (even though I knew they would end up together). She wrapped up all the storylines in a way that satisfied me as a reader. I hope she will write more books in this world.

I would recommend A Wicked Game to anyone over 21. There are sex, sexual situations, mild violence, and no language.


Little Eve by Catriona Ward

Publisher: Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tor Nightfire

Date of publication: October 11th, 2022

Genre: Horror, Gothic, Historical, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Fiction, Religion, Cults, Adult, Thriller, Fantasy

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

A heart-pounding tale of faith and family, with a devastating twist

“A great day is upon us. He is coming. The world will be washed away.”

On the wind-battered isle of Altnaharra, off the wildest coast of Scotland, a clan prepares to bring about the end of the world and its imminent rebirth.

The Adder is coming and one of their number will inherit its powers. They all want the honor, but young Eve is willing to do anything for the distinction.

A reckoning beyond Eve’s imagination begins when Chief Inspector Black arrives to investigate a brutal murder and their sacred ceremony goes terribly wrong.

And soon all the secrets of Altnaharra will be uncovered.


First Line:

My heart is a dark passage, lined with ranks of gleaming jars.

Little Eve by Catriona Ward

When I got the invite from Tor to read Little Eve, I had a fan girl moment. I started jumping up and down and yelling, “I got it!! I got it!!“. I rarely have that type of reaction to getting a book invite. But this was different. I had recently read (and reviewed) The House on Needless Street. So, it was a given that I would accept this book. I am glad that I did because this book was a great read.

Little Eve is the story of Evelyn (aka Eve). Eve grew up on an isolated island off the coast of Scotland. Living with her Uncle, his two consorts, and three other children, her life revolves around chores, exercise, school, and a ritual that her Uncle oversees – who is going to become the next Adder? Eve is determined to become the next Adder, even if that means isolating everyone from the village they used to frequent. But Eve has discovered something about her Uncle that changes how she views her life. What has she found, and how is it going to affect her? How is it going to affect her family? And who is Uncle, and why does he have such power over everyone?

There are trigger warnings in Little Eve. There are graphic examples of child abuse (children being starved, having their mouths tarred shut, being maimed, exercise as punishment, alluded sexual abuse, and medical/physical needs not being met). If that triggers you, I suggest not reading this book.

Little Eve started slow and gradually amped up the speed of the book. It was never lightning fast which worked with how the story was.

Little Eve takes place on an island called Altnaharra in Scotland and its neighboring village. I love books set in Scotland, and this book didn’t dampen my love of it.

I needed help telling the characters apart at the beginning of the book. The author labeled the chapters with the names and years in which the book took place. But still, I couldn’t keep them straight in my head.

  • Eve—I wasn’t sure about her when the book started. She was a wild child who marched to the beat of her own drummer, which was frowned upon in 1920s Scotland. But, as the book went on, I began to see how she acted was more of a survival technique than being different. By the time of the murders, she had thrown off Uncle’s brainwashing techniques and was desperate to help her family. There is so much more that I can say, but I will say this – read the beginning of the book with a very open mind. Not everything is how it seems, and it will become crystal clear as the book progresses.
  • Uncle—I went back and forth about having him as one of the main characters. I decided he would be one because of his overwhelming presence in the book. The more the author revealed about him, the less I liked him. Uncle wasn’t a nice man, and he wielded his power over the children in ways that made me sick. When Nora finally told all towards the end of the book, I wanted to throw up.
  • Nora—-She was another one I went back and forth about adding as a main character. And, like Uncle, I chose to do it since she was a colossal figure in the book in so many ways. I couldn’t understand why Nora was almost constantly pregnant during the book or kept losing the babies. It didn’t hit me until about halfway through what Uncle was doing and why Nora kept losing the babies. I felt so bad for her, and I understood her actions at the end of the book.
  • Dinah—She was a third of the triad of characters that I waffled on putting as the main character. She was Eve’s Jiminy Cricket in some ways. Everything Eve did for the entire book was mainly for Dinah. Dinah did love Eve, but she didn’t understand her.

A ton of secondary characters in Little Eve add extra depth to the book. The ones that stood out the most to me were Abel, Jaime, and Ruby.

Little Eve fits perfectly into the Gothic horror genre. Catriona Ward is becoming one of my favorite authors of this genre. She writes it so beautifully.

The storyline with Eve, Uncle, the other residents of the island, and everything that was happening on the island was well written. The author did a fantastic job of keeping me on edge with everything. I was horrified at the killings and how Dinah was maimed. I was also horrified at the glimpses of abuse everyone on that island went through. I wasn’t expecting that storyline to end the way it did because of how chaotically it was written. As I stated above, keep a very open mind about what is happening. Things will explain themselves at the end of the book.

The storyline with Eve and Chief Inspector Black was interesting. Chief Inspector Black had an idea of what was happening on the island and did everything to get Eve out of there. I loved that the author included that he was trying to use forensic science!! Of course, that storyline did get sad, but he was vindicated by the end of the book.

The end of Little Eve was terrific. There were a few massive twists that I didn’t see (or want to see coming). I left reading this book feeling like the author had put me through the wringer.

Three Things I Liked About Little Eve:

  1. The author. I am a massive fan of her books.
  2. It is set in Scotland.
  3. The storylines. They were creepy and kept me guessing.

Three Things I Disliked About Little Eve:

  1. Child abuse. The author didn’t lay it on thick, but it was stated as a matter of fact.
  2. Uncle. He gave me the heebie-jeebies.
  3. What happened to Chief Inspector Black. It was a travesty, and I was not happy about it.

I would recommend Little Eve to anyone over 21. There is mild language, graphic violence, and no sex. Also, see the trigger warnings at the beginning of the review.


If you enjoyed reading Little Eve, you will enjoy reading these books:

Rules for Engaging the Earl (The Widow Rules: Book 2) by Janna MacGregor

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Paperbacks

Date of publication: April 26th, 2022

Genre: Historical Romance, Romance, Historical Fiction, Regency, Regency Romance

Series: The Widow Rules

Where There’s a Will—Book 0.5

A Duke in Time—Book 1 (review here)

Rules for Engaging the Earl—Book 2

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

Get ready for lost wills, broody dukes, and scorching hot kissing all over London.

Constance Lysander needs a husband. Or, so society says. She’s about to give birth to her late husband’s child―a man who left her with zero money, and two other wives she didn’t know about. Thankfully, she has her Aunt by her side, and the two other wives have become close friends. But still―with a baby on the way, her shipping business to run, and an enemy skulking about, she has no time to find the perfect match.

Enter Jonathan, Earl of Sykeston. Returned war hero and Constance’s childhood best friend, his reentry into society has been harsh. Maligned for an injury he received in the line of duty, Jonathan prefers to stay out of sight. It’s the only way to keep his heart from completely crumbling. But when a missive from Constance requests his presence―to their marriage ceremony―Jonathan is on board. His feelings for Constance run deep, and he’ll do anything to make her happy, though it means risking his already bruised heart.

With Constance, Jonathan, and the new baby all together, it’s clear the wounds―both on the surface and in their relationship―run deep. But when the nights come, their wounds begin to heal, and both come to realize that their marriage of convenience is so much more than just a bargain.


First Line:

Only one person in the entire world had the power to make Jonathan Eaton, the Earl of Sykeston, push everything aside and ride like the devil over the fields at breakneck speeds to reach her.

Rules for Engaging the Earl by Janna MacGregor

I have a master list of books where I know there will be a book two, and I want to read book 2 (if that makes sense). The Widow Rules trilogy is on that list, and I had been waiting impatiently for Rules for Engaging the Earl to be published. I didn’t think that I would get the ARC, so I planned to buy it once it was published. When I got the email from SMP asking to review it, I was thrilled, and obviously, I said yes. I am glad that I did because this book was excellent!!

Rules for Engaging the Earl is book 2 in The Widow Rules trilogy. Unlike other books in series/trilogies, readers can read this as a standalone. The author does a great job of going over the backstory and quickly summarizing the plotline of book 1. So go read without being afraid that you will be lost.

Rules for Engaging the Earl’s plotline starts off ten years before the events of book 1. The author introduces Constance and Jonathan and lays the foundation for the rest of the book. It then goes forward ten years, and we see a different Jonathan and Constance. A decorated war hero, Jonathan had been wounded and crippled in battle. He fears an upcoming court-martial over what his commander calls “dishonorable behavior” on the battlefield. That, along with his injury, has made him a recluse. But when Constance sends word that she needs him, he drops everything and goes to her.

Constance has been embroiled in a scandal where the man she married ended up being married to two other women. Constance is pregnant and due any day to add salt to the wound. So, she tells Jonathan about her predicament and asks if he could help by marrying her. Right before their wedding, two things happen: she finds out that she is the legal wife and gives birth to her daughter, Aurelia. But she still goes through with the wedding to Jonathan.

The book then jumps to a year later; Constance lives in London with her daughter. Jonathan has left her but writes constantly. So, she immediately accepts when he asks if she would move herself and the baby to his country house. But she wasn’t prepared for what she walked into.

Jonathan is a shell of himself. He has secrets that he is determined to keep from Constance. But, having Constance and Aurelia at the manor is soothing and helps Jonathan to start to overcome his depression. He starts to question what his commanding officer has told him. But there is a twist. See, Constance has a very successful ship-making business inherited from her parents. An influential peer is slandering her business, and she is determined to battle this individual herself. Things start to get interesting when both Constance and Jonathan realize a connection between Jonathan’s commanding officer and the person trying to bankrupt Constance’s business. What is that connection? Also, will Constance and Jonathan realize their feelings for each other?

This is the 3rd review that I have had to put up, but there are a couple of trigger warnings in Rules for Engaging the Earl. Usually, I do this many over a couple of months. Anyway, the triggers that I noticed in this book are depression and PTSD. If these trigger you, I highly suggest not reading this book.

I loved Jonathan, but at the same time, I wanted to read through the book and shake some sense into him. He was in a deep depression for 85% of the book, and I got why he did some of his things. But still, it frustrated me. But once he came out of his depression and started looking into things, he was on FIRE.

I love Constance too. Throughout this book, she had to deal with so much, and she didn’t once have a “woe is me” moment. Instead, she rose like a BOSS and dealt with everything in her way. And the way she got her points across was fantastic. She had a backbone of steel, even with Jonathan.

Constance and Jonathan’s romance was super sweet to read. I liked that they were sweethearts when they were teenagers. That prologue was one of the sweetest I have read in a while. Their romance grew while they were separated after their marriage (but there was a twist). Seeing how much Jonathan cherished Constance was probably the best thing about the book. Of course, he had to go and almost screw it up, but I firmly believe a combination of depression and fear made him do what he did.

I do have to mention Jonathan and Aurelia’s relationship. Aurelia is Constance’s daughter with her first husband, and why Jonathan married Constance. I liked that the author had their relationship grow throughout the book. Jonathan’s interactions with Aurelia went from hands-off to hands-on. Plus, it helped that Aurelia called JonathanDa” from the first minute she met him. The scene where he called her “his daughter” made me so happy and brought tears to my eyes!!

There weren’t many sex scenes in Rules for Engaging the Earl. But the ones that the author wrote were amazing. I liked that Constance was very aware of what she wanted, sexually, and wasn’t afraid to let Jonathan know. I could think, “Well, at least her marriage did one good thing for her (other than Aurelia).” The author also kept the sexual scenes realistic. She had Aurelia interrupt by crying during the first one. All I could do was laugh and think, “Yup, been there.

The storyline about Jonathan, his injury, commanding officer, court-martial, and depression was well written. I liked how the author had everything tied together. I also liked how she wrote about Jonathan’s depression and PTSD. I had a feeling the CO was up to no good. Mainly because of how he treated Jonathan and his injury. My Spidey sense kept tingling during those interactions.

The storyline about Constance, her dead husband, the will, her business, and the peer trying to ruin her business was well written also. As I mentioned above, she handled everything like a boss. I did like her detective work on the ship’s damage. I also liked how she was trying to figure out why this person was doing what he was doing while figuring out her dead husband’s will.

Once I realized who the common denominator was in both of these storylines, I sat back and waited for the characters to realize it. When they did (towards the end of the book), oh boy, did the fireworks explode!!! All I will say is that the person got what they deserved.

The end of Rules for Engaging the Earl was your typical HEA. The author sets up the romance between the last wife and Jonathan’s other best friend. I can’t wait to read that book!!

I would recommend Rules for Engaging the Earl to anyone over 21. There is graphic sex, language, and mild violence. There are also the triggers I mentioned above.

Reputation by Lex Croucher

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin

Publication Date: April 5th, 2022

Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, LGBT

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

The hilarious debut novel from Lex Croucher. A classic romcom with a Regency-era twist, for fans of Mean Girls and/or Jane Austen.

Abandoned by her parents, middle-class Georgiana Ellers has moved to a new town to live with her dreary aunt and uncle. At a particularly dull party, she meets the enigmatic Frances Campbell, a wealthy member of the in-crowd who lives a life Georgiana couldn’t have imagined in her wildest dreams.

Lonely and vulnerable, Georgiana falls in with Frances and her unfathomably rich, deeply improper friends. Georgiana is introduced to a new world: drunken debauchery, mysterious young men with strangely arresting hands, and the upper echelons of Regency society.

But the price of entry to high society might just be higher than Georgiana is willing to pay …


First Line:

It all began at a party, as almost everything of interest does.

reputation by lex croucher

I was hooked on reading Reputation by the blurb. When I read the first paragraph and saw that it was a romantic comedy set in Regency England but compared to Mean Girls, I knew I needed to read it. First of all, I love romances, with historical romances being one of my all-time favorite genres. It was touted as a comedy and set in Regency England, and I was almost sold. The final selling point was that it was compared to Mean Girls. That is one of my favorite movies (even though I haven’t watched it in a while). So, I accepted the invitation to review from STP. I am glad I did because I loved this book!!

What I liked the most about Reputation was that it made me laugh. I had read this book on my drive home from MA the week of Easter. I distinctly remember that we were stuck in traffic leading up to the George Washington Bridge in New York. I laughed hysterically at some of the antics/situations that George found herself in. My poor husband had to listen to me explain was I was laughing without getting too into it (I kept it G-rated for the kids sitting in the backseat). Any book that makes me laugh like that and makes me share it with my husband is fantastic.

I LOVED George. She was such a breath of fresh air. She was a nerdy (being raised by scholars), socially awkward (from being kept isolated because of her scholarly parents), and amazingly open-minded for the book’s era. Oh, and let’s not forget clumsy. She was constantly tripping over something or spilling something. I think that she got in over her head when she started hanging out with Frances, and I disagreed with the steps she took to hang out with them. But then again, she was a teenager (18), and teenagers aren’t the most rational people (I have 2, so I know).

The romance angle of Reputation was wonderfully written. I liked that it seemed one-sided for most of the book. I also liked that George made a fool out of herself almost every time she saw Hawksley. Or that she was almost always drunk or high too. It wasn’t until the middle of the book, after she sent him the 1816 equivalent of a drunken text (a drunken note), that I saw that he liked and cared about her.

I loved that the author had LGBTQ characters and kept them in line with what the atmosphere would have been like in 1816. There was an openly gay man, a lesbian, and I believe two bisexual people portrayed in the book. I will give you some background on being gay in 1816. People had to hide, have secret societies, and if they got caught, they could have been sent to jail or worse. The author did bring that up when George mentioned to Jonathan how romantic sneaking around was, and his response was very spot on.

Race was also another thing touched upon in Reputation. Frances and Hawksely were biracial. Frances had a white father and a black mother, and Hawksley had an Indian mother and a white father. The author did have a couple of scenes where Frances’s mother was treated poorly because she was black. But, more importantly, the author didn’t portray the aristocrats of England as just purely white. Because they weren’t. The note at the end of the book explained that perfectly.

The author touched on several minor things, the most major being domestic abuse, sexual assault, and child abandonment. Frances’s mother was beaten by her father at one point in the book. George and Frances overheard, and Frances locked George in her bedroom for what I assumed was her safety. The villain sexually assaulted Frances in the middle of the book, George had an attempted sexual assault by a different character, AND she was physically attacked in a public place by the villain. As with most domestic violence and sexual/physical assault in that time (and honestly, in this time too), people swept it under the rug. But the author did a great job of showing the after-effects of it. Frances’s and her mother’s demeanor the morning after their respective assaults were dead on, as was Frances talking Jonathan from going after her attacker. I wasn’t a big fan of how the author handled the rest of it, but it was true to form again.

I am also going to mention the child abandonment angle of the book. I felt for George, and I was so mad at her parents. They left without telling her, and she was shipped out to her aunt and uncle’s that day. After that, the only contact they had with George was a letter written to her by her father, asking for his book back. I didn’t blame George one bit for what she did after. I would have had the same reaction. It took George getting into trouble for them to come to the house, and even then, their knee-jerk reaction was to put George into a convent. I cheered (yes, literally cheered) when George’s aunt and uncle finally said, “That’s enough.” During Mrs. Burton’s speech, I cried where she reamed them out and claimed George as her own.

The end of Reputation was exciting. The author was able to wrap up all of the storylines in a way that made me very happy. George got her HEA on all ends. Several people got their HEAs too. It was the perfect ending for this book.

I would recommend Reputation for anyone over 16. Drug and alcohol use, sexual situations, mild language, rape (not graphic), and mild violence.

Quantum Girl Theory by Erin Kate Ryan

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Random House, Random House

Date of publication: March 8th 2022

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

On December 1, 1946, Paula Jean Welden put on a bright red parka, left her Bennington college dorm for a hike, and vanished. Eighteen, white, blonde, wealthy; her story captivated a nation, but she was never found.

Each chapter of Quantum Girl Theory imagines a life Paula Jean Welden may have lived after she left that room: in love with a woman in a Communist cell and running from her blackmailer in 1950s New York. A literary forger on the verge of discovery at the advent of the computer age. A disgraced showgirl returning home to her mother’s deathbed. Is she a lobotomy victim, is she faking amnesia, or is she already buried in the nearby woods?

Or is she Mary Garrett, the hard-edged clairvoyant running from her past and her own lost love by searching for missing girls in the Jim Crow south? A trip to Elizabethtown, North Carolina, leads Mary to a twisty case that no one, not even the missing girl’s mother, wants her to solve. There, Mary stumbles into an even bigger mystery: two other missing girls, both black, whose disappearances are studiously ignored by the overbearing sheriff. Mary’s got no one else to trust, and as her own past tangles with the present, it’s unclear whether she can even trust herself.

This brilliant jigsaw puzzle of a novel springs off from a fascinating true story to explore the phenomenon of “the missing girl“: when a girl goes missing, does she become everyone people imagine her to be?


First Line:

Mary missed her connection in Fayetteville and, still marked from the creases in the bus seat and stinking of diesel, sweet-talked her way into the pickup truck of a lanky Dublin kid headed home for supper.

quantum girl theory by erin kate ryan

I wasn’t too sure about this book when I accepted the review request. I had read mixed reviews for Quantum Girl Theory, and from what I read, either people loved this book or hated it. I had read very few reviews that were middle ground. What ultimately made me accept this book was based on a disappearance in the 1940s that never got solved. I was curious to see how the author weaved her story around Paula Jean Welden’s disappearance.

Quantum Girl Theory is a story about a girl who disappeared and speculations about what happened to her. Mary is a clairvoyant who makes money from finding missing girls—dead or alive but more often dead. She arrives in Elizabethtown, North Carolina, and immediately contacts the parents of Paula, who has recently gone missing. The investigation into Paula’s disappearance will uncover secrets. These secrets people will kill to keep hidden. But there is more to Mary than what people see. Mary has her own reasons for finding these missing girls. Will Mary find Paula? Or will she be silenced before she can tell the truth?

As I mentioned in the first paragraph, this story is loosely based on the real-life disappearance of Paula Jean Welden (I included a link to the New England Historical Society). I am fascinated with anything true crime and was secretly thrilled that Quantum Girl Theory was taking a 60-year-old disappearance and shining some light on it. The author’s research was excellent, and I loved how she took any/all rumors and incorporated them into the book. But, it did fall a little flat for me.

The main storyline (with Mary, in 1961) was interesting to read. I didn’t particularly like Mary. She was so depressing, and it did bring down the book in some parts. I wish I could say that my opinion of her improved as the book went on. It didn’t. She remained the same throughout the book. Not all characters have to be likable, and Mary was not. I did like that the author did that.

I was surprised at how the 1961 storyline went. I wasn’t expecting the other two girls to be added to Mary’s investigation. There was a point in the book where I wondered why the author introduced them, but there is a link to Paula’s disappearance. I was surprised at how and why they were linked. I was also surprised by the common denominator behind all three disappearances.

The memories were fascinating. I did have some issues following along. There were times when I wasn’t sure if it was Mary remembering another Paula’s life or it was Mary’s life. I did have to reread several of those memories to make sure what I was reading (if that makes sense). It did lessen my enjoyment of the book for me.

The end of Quantum Girl Theory did confuse me a little. I couldn’t figure out what was happening, which seldom happened. I did figure it was obvious but then second-guessed myself. I also was irritated because I felt that nothing got wrapped up. That, along with cliff-hangers, are my most significant irritant with these types of books.

I would recommend Quantum Girl Theory to anyone over 21. There is moderate violence, language, and sex/sexual situations. There is also racism and discrimination.

Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal

Publisher: Atria Books, Emily Bestler Books

Date of publication: February 1st 2022

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Magical Realism

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

1866. In a coastal village in southern England, Nell picks violets for a living. Set apart by her community because of the birthmarks that speckle her skin, Nell’s world is her beloved brother and devotion to the sea.

But when Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders arrives in the village, Nell is kidnapped. Her father has sold her, promising Jasper Jupiter his very own leopard girl. It is the greatest betrayal of Nell’s life, but as her fame grows, and she finds friendship with the other performers and Jasper’s gentle brother Toby, she begins to wonder if joining the show is the best thing that has ever happened to her.

In London, newspapers describe Nell as the eighth wonder of the world. Figurines are cast in her image, and crowds rush to watch her soar through the air. But who gets to tell Nell’s story? What happens when her fame threatens to eclipse that of the showman who bought her? And as she falls in love with Toby, can he detach himself from his past and the terrible secret that binds him to his brother?

Moving from the pleasure gardens of Victorian London to the battle-scarred plains of the Crimea, Circus of Wonders is an astonishing story about power and ownership, fame and the threat of invisibility.


First Line:

It begins with an advertisement, nailed to an oak tree.

Circus of wonders by elizabeth macneal

It is not every day that a book about English circuses in the late 1860s comes across my email. When I read the blurb for Circus of Wonders, it immediately caught my attention. I am glad that I read this book, even if it made me uncomfortable in places.

Circus of Wonders had an exciting storyline. Nell is a nineteen-year-old girl living in a village on the coast of England. Nell is an outcast because she is covered in brown birthmarks, including a big one that covers the side of her face. Because of that, she keeps to her cottage. Her everyday life is mundane, packing flowers dipped in sugar and shipping them to London. But then the circus comes to town, and Nell’s life is turned upside down. Sold by her father to Jasper Jupiters Circus of Wonders, Nell finds love and fame. But, Jasper (the circus owner) is jealous that her fame goes beyond his and vows to take her down. Will Nell be able to hold onto her values and her love? Or will she be left in worse straits than when she joined the circus?

Circus of Wonders had a medium-paced storyline that did pick up steam in places. The pacing of the book did it justice. It was a nice, steady pace from beginning to end. It took me around two days to finish Circus of Wonders.

Nell was powerful in this book. She went from this meek, timid girl afraid to show her face to a powerful woman who wasn’t scared to fight for what she wanted. Her character’s growth throughout the book was terrific.

I wasn’t that big of a fan of Toby. I didn’t see what Nell saw in him except that he was safe because he was so big? He was also abnormally close to Jasper, his brother. It creeped me out how close they were. I did like that his character did show some growth during the book. By the end, he was becoming his own person. I wish he had made the right choice (if you read the book, you know what I mean). He would have been so much happier.

I was not too fond of Jasper. He was overconfident, took too many risks, and was cruel. You don’t see how evil he was until his chapters when he was in the Crimean War. After those chapters, his cruelness was more apparent. Also, I wouldn’t say I liked how he treated Toby. From the beginning, he used Toby’s secret to keep him around and constantly reminded him about it. He disgusted me with how he treated his “attractions” (the animals and humans).

I did like the look into how circus life was in the 1860s. I liked the peek behind the big top that the author gave me. I wasn’t surprised at what she described when talking about the human attractions. They were treated as subhuman, like monsters (as Queen Victoria and her Ladies in Waiting described Nell). I like that they showed how everyone became a family unit and protected their own. Even when Brunette ran, they didn’t tell Jasper until he discovered she was gone.

The romance between Nell and Toby seemed a little forced to me. It didn’t do anything for me. I also wasn’t surprised by how it ended. I called it when they first met (not even when they had sex when they first met). Toby was too damaged, and Nell, well, she was a force to be reckoned with.

The end of Circus of Wonders was “blah” to me. I wish that the storyline with Jasper went the way I thought it would. I also wish that Toby had made a different choice when it came to Nell. I liked that the author went 11 years into the future to show where everyone ended up. It was interesting how the tables had flipped. And I loved that dreams were realized!!

I would recommend Circus of Wonders to anyone over 16. There is mild violence, nongraphic sex scenes, and no language.

The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain

Book Cover

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of Publication: January 11th, 2022

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Contemporary

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

When Kayla Carter’s husband dies in an accident while building their dream house, she knows she has to stay strong for their four-year-old daughter. But the trophy home in Shadow Ridge Estates, a new development in sleepy Round Hill, North Carolina, will always hold tragic memories. But when she is confronted by an odd, older woman telling her not to move in, she almost agrees. It’s clear this woman has some kind of connection to the area…and a connection to Kayla herself. Kayla’s elderly new neighbor, Ellie Hockley, is more welcoming, but it’s clear she, too, has secrets that stretch back almost fifty years. Is Ellie on a quest to right the wrongs of the past? And does the house at the end of the street hold the key? Told in dual time periods, The Last House on the Street is a novel of shocking prejudice and violence, forbidden love, the search for justice, and the tangled vines of two families.


First Line:

I’m in the middle of a call with a contractor when Natalie, our new administrative assistant, pokes her head into my office.

the last house on the street by diane chamberlain

Before I start this review, I want to apologize to the publisher and author. A few months back, I had posted a review for The Last House on Needless Street on NetGalley, Goodreads, The StoryGraph, and BookBub. See, these two books were right beside each other on not only NetGalley’s list but my Currently Reading on Goodreads. I wasn’t paying attention, and c/p The Last House on Needless Street’s review under The Last House on the Street. I didn’t know what I did until I was contacted by everyone on the above list and asked to remove the review. It was an honest mistake. The titles were (are) so similar, and I should have been paying better attention.

Now that has been said, let’s get onto the review of The Last House on the Street!!

The Last House on the Street is the story of Kayla and Ellie. In the year 2010, Kayla is struggling to overcome the death of her husband and raise their 4-year-old daughter. Moving into the house they built together and where her husband died should be healing. But strange occurrences happen. From a mysterious woman threatening Kayla at work to mutilated squirrels left at her house, Kayla is left wondering why. In 1964, Ellie realized that the world she lives in isn’t equal for everyone. Determined to help, she joined the SCOPE program. But what Ellie doesn’t expect is that she will meet her greatest love that summer and that she will suffer her worst heartbreak. Coming back home wasn’t in Ellie’s plans, but she does to help with her elderly mother and terminally ill brother. She meets Kayla and becomes embroiled in Kayla’s issues. Someone wants Kayla out, and it is all tied to a summer night where Ellie lost everything. What happened that night? What are people trying to hide?

The Last House on the Street is a fast-paced suspense/thriller that doesn’t slow down. The transitions between 2010 and 1964 were seamless and did not mess with the book’s pacing. There was some lag in the middle of the book, but I did expect it. It did not take away from my enjoyment of reading The Last House on the Street.

The Last House on the Street did a great job showing racism in NC during the early 1960s. I was not surprised by the descriptions of how brown and black people were treated during that era. Brown, black, and yellow-skinned people still get treated like that today. It might not be as evident as in 1964, but it is still there.

I wasn’t surprised at how widespread the KKK was in this area of NC (I say this area because I live in the area of NC being portrayed) in the 1960s. I was also sickened by it. The author, again, did a great job of describing the KKK rallies (which reminded me of a fair) and how mob mentality takes over. My heart hurt for Ellie during those scenes because she saw people for how they truly were.

I had no clue about the SCOPE program until I read about it in The Last House on the Street. I can’t even begin to say how those men and women were heroes. They put their lives on the line to get African Americans to go and vote.

I liked Kayla, and I felt terrible for her. She was still getting over her husband’s death when she moved into the house they designed together. I could understand why she didn’t want to move into the house at first. Her husband died there, and she didn’t feel comfortable. She was the only house on the street that was finished, and she seemed to have attracted a stalker, and I didn’t blame her for wanting to sell. I was surprised to see how her and Ellie’s past connected. I still have an issue believing what Ellie’s father told her about that night (back in 1964). I do think that he might have been involved and not admitted it.

I loved Ellie’s character. I loved watching her morph into this woman who wasn’t afraid to fight for what she wanted. She was passionate about her beliefs and was willing to put herself in harm’s way for them. Her connection with the African American families was profound, and she truly wanted what was best for them. But her true strength was that awful night. She fought with everything she had to get to Win but couldn’t get to him. I had tears pouring down my face. Her anxiety, her helplessness, and her despair poured off the pages. Oh, and let’s not forget her shock when everything is revealed at the end of the book. I will admit, I was shocked by that confession too.

There is a romance angle to The Last House on the Street. Ellie’s love for Win was evident. I saw it happening before she even admitted it to herself. And Win was crazy for her. So, it made what happened all the more tragic and heartbreaking. Interracial relationships were frowned upon in 1964 North Carolina, and all holy hell did come down on them.

The mystery angle was wonderfully written. I had an idea of how that mysterious woman was, but when another character mentioned wigs that another wore, it was like a lightbulb went off. Then there was the mystery of what happened to Win. That cropped up a little later in the book. It was a no-brainer what happened, but I hoped it wasn’t the case. That was resolved at the end of the book.

The author wonderfully wrote the suspense angle also. I was kept on the edge of my bed (I was reading at night) with what would happen next. I kept wondering how it would escalate for Kayla, and I wondered the same thing for Ellie.

The secondary characters were also wonderfully written. I had extreme feelings for them all. But Miss Pat, Ellie’s mother, well she took the cake. She was, ugh, I wish I could finish that thought. But that would give away spoilers. Let’s say I didn’t like her and leave it at that.

The end of The Last House of the Street was what I expected. The author wrapped everything up, opening a new chapter on Ellie and Kayla’s life. I liked seeing everything coming full circle!!

I would recommend The Last House on the Street for anyone 16 and over. There is non-graphic sex, violence, triggering language.