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.

The Sisters Sweet by Elizabeth Weiss

Book Cover

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Random House, The Dial Press

Date of publication: November 30th, 2021

Genre: Historical Fiction

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

A young woman in a vaudeville sister act must learn to forge her own path after her twin runs away to Hollywood in this richly immersive debut about love, family, and friendship.

Leaving was my sister’s choice. I would have to make my own.

All Harriet Szász has ever known is life onstage with her sister, Josie. As “The Sisters Sweet,” they pose as conjoined twins in a vaudeville act conceived of by their ambitious parents, who were once themselves theatrical stars. But after Josie exposes the family’s fraud and runs away to Hollywood, Harriet must learn to live out of the spotlight—and her sister’s shadow. Striving to keep her struggling family afloat, she molds herself into the perfect daughter. As Josie’s star rises in California, the Szászes fall on hard times and Harriet begins to form her first relationships outside her family. She must decide whether to honor her mother, her father, or the self she’s only beginning to get to know.

Full of long-simmering tensions, buried secrets, questionable saviors, and broken promises, this is a story about how much we are beholden to others and what we owe ourselves. Layered and intimate, The Sisters Sweet heralds the arrival of an accomplished new voice in fiction.


First Line:

A young woman is pacing up and down the front steps of my house, her briefcase bouncing against her knees

the sisters sweet by elizabeth weiss

When I first got the invite to review The Sisters Sweet, I wasn’t too sure if I wanted to read it, let alone review it. But, I read the blurb, and one word jumped out at me “Vaudville.” It was that word that convinced me to read this book. Now that I’ve read it and have had some time to sit on what I have read, I am kind of “meh” about The Sisters Sweet. I have neither good nor bad feelings towards it. Just “meh” feelings, if that makes sense.

The Sisters Sweet is two stories, well three if you count Harriet talking to the Vanity Fair reporter after Josie died. The first story is about Harriet, her relationships with her parents, uncle, cousin, and various men that come and go in her life. The second story is about Josie and Harriet’s parents and their choices in their lives. I didn’t exactly like that there were two separate plotlines. I could have done without knowing about Maude and Lenny’s backgrounds. But it was there, and it did add depth to the story.

The first plotline in The Sisters Sweet follows Josie and Harriet’s rise to vaudeville fame and their ultimate crash when Josie takes off in the middle of an act. After that, the book focuses on Harriet and what her life was like after Josie left. Harriet was left to clean up the mess Josie made and become a daughter who would never disappoint her parents or overbearing uncle. Harriet is living a double life, though. She was partying with her cousin, sleeping around, and drinking way too much. It was a matter of time before everything came crashing down. But at what cost?

The second plotline centers around Maude, Lenny, and their years before the girls. As I stated above, I didn’t think that exploring the traumas, highs, and lows they had before the twins would help. And it didn’t. I could have cared less about Maude, her accident, and her uneasy relationship with her sister’s husband. I also didn’t care about Lenny, his early years, or that he was a lush. It did nothing to change my mind about how horrible they were (and yes, they were awful parents).

The Sisters Sweet was a medium-paced read. That complimented the flow very well. There was some lag in the middle of the book, but it didn’t take away from reading.

I wish there had been more scenes with Josie in them. While she wasn’t likable, I would have liked to see what was going on in her mind. After escaping from her parents, she became almost a footnote in the book. The author detailed her life through the press and movies. I feel that she could have become more personable if she had more of a presence in the book, and it would have made some of the ending scenes a bit more believable.

I did feel bad for Harry. She was the overlooked child because everything centered around Josie. She was the one who was hurt the most when Josie took off. She also had to be strong and had to be an adult at such a young age. I did think that she would go down the same road as her mother (unwed mother), but I was glad when the author decided not to do that. Instead, Harry became a dutiful daughter during the day and a party animal at night.

I was not too fond of Maude and Lenny. They were selfish people and awful parents. Maude was a selfish woman who couldn’t show affection to her children. Later in the book, Lenny is a drunk who puts Harry in situations that no teenager should have been in.

I was very interested in the historical fiction angle of The Sisters Sweet. But, I felt that the book swept over some of the more important historical events. Those events would have added an extra depth needed to the book.

The end of The Sisters Sweet confused me a little. I understood that the entire book was Harry telling the reporter “her” story. But it wasn’t clear about exactly what happened when the reporter left. I have a hunch that it was what I thought it was.

I would recommend The Sisters Sweet to anyone over the age of 16. There are sexual situations, violence, and mild language.

Goodreads Monday: The Highlander Who Protected Me (Clan Kendrick: Book 1) by Vanessa Kelly

This is a weekly meme where anyone can choose a random book from their Goodreads TBR and highlight it. Once you choose a book, make sure you link and reference @LaurensPageTurners.


This Week’s Selection

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Click on picture to go to Goodreads

Synopsis:

Lady Ainsley Matthews, heiress, and darling of the ton was expected to make a magnificent match. Instead, she’s hiding on a remote Scottish estate, terrified that her vicious former fiancé will use her pregnancy to force her into marriage. One man can help her–Royal Kendrick, son of a distinguished Highland clan. Though a mistake drove them apart long ago, Royal is the only person Ainsley trusts to protect her baby–even if that means agreeing to never see either of them again . . . Scarred in body and soul by war, Royal suddenly has a purpose–caring for an innocent babe and thereby helping the woman he can’t stop loving. But when Ainsley ultimately returns to Scotland, determined to be a real mother to her child in spite of the risk, there’s only one solution: marriage. And only one likely outcome: surrendering to the desire that’s simmered between them for so long, no matter how dangerous it may be . . . Contains mature themes.


If I remember correctly (this book has been on my TBR for years), I got this from one of those sites that searches Amazon for free books. Since I love romance and historical fiction, it was a no-brainer that I downloaded this book.

The Brightest Star in Paris by Diana Biller

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

Date of Publication: October 12th 2021

Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Paranormal, France, Ghosts, Doctors

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

In Diana Biller’s The Brightest Star in Paris, love is waiting; you only have to let it in.

Amelie St. James, the prima ballerina of the Paris Opera Ballet and the people’s saint, has spent seven years pretending. In the devastating aftermath of the Siege of Paris, she made a decision to protect her sister: she became the bland, sweet, pious “St. Amie” the ballet needed to restore its scandalous reputation. But when her first love reappears, and the ghosts of her past come back to haunt her, all her hard-fought safety is threatened.

Dr. Benedict Moore has never forgotten the girl who helped him embrace life again after he almost lost his. Now, he’s back in Paris after twelve years for a conference. His goals are to recruit promising new scientists, and, maybe, to see Amelie again. When he discovers she’s in trouble, he’s desperate to help her—after all, he owes her.

When she finally agrees to let him help, they disguise their time together with a fake courtship. But reigniting old feelings is dangerous, especially when their lives are an ocean apart. Will they be able to make it out with their hearts intact?


First Line:

The Palais Garnier was three days away from dress rehearsals.

the brighest star in paris by diana biller

When I started reading The Brightest Star in Paris, I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that I had met Amelie and Benedict before. As the book went on and the story unraveled, that feeling intensified. Then Alma was introduced, and I went, “Ooooh, that’s where I remember Ben from!” What book was it? The Widow of Rose House. It took me almost to when Alma came to Paris (with Sam and the rest of the family) to realize that.

The Brightest Star in Paris isn’t officially part of a series but is connected to The Widow of Rose Haven. If it were part of a series, it would be book 2. It also could be read as a standalone. While the Moore family is a large part of the book, they do not take it over. Instead, the focus is on Amelie and Benedict, with the Moores’ staying in the background.

The plotline for The Brightest Star in Paris was fast-paced and well written. There was very little lag. The only lag that I noticed was right after Amelie’s collapse on stage. It didn’t last long, only about a chapter, and didn’t derail the book. Instead, it gave me a moment to collect my thoughts and prepare myself for what the rest of the book would bring.

I will admit, I didn’t know much about Edwardian Paris when I started reading The Brightest Star in Paris. I didn’t know about the invasion, the thousands of “rebels” that were killed, or the rebuilding that went on afterward. I was alternately shocked and in tears by what Amelie went through and what she did to survive. To see her gradually break free of the constraints that she put upon herself was a wonderful thing but heartbreaking at the same time.

I don’t remember much about Benedict from The Widow of Rose House, only that he was a surgeon in the Civil War and came back sick. Now, when they said ill, I thought it was a physical illness. Instead, the author painted a picture of a teenager who went to war and returned with PTSD. The author wrote about what happened to Benedict and how he dealt with his PTSD (which wasn’t a thing back then). He was right to say that Amelie saved his life the day she met him. Later on in the book, he became the rock that Amelie leaned on when her world shattered.

I liked Amelie, but I did wish that she let Benedict in sooner than she did. Or at least told him about what her sister’s father was trying to force her into doing. Her seeing ghosts and communicating with them did come as a surprise, but I did like that she didn’t freak out (much) when she realized that they were dead. She resolved two of her ghosts’ issues, and the third ghost decided to tag along with her. There was a neat twist to that plotline that I should have seen coming. Instead, it surprised me, along with Amelie, and it made so much sense.

There is romance in The Brightest Star in Paris. That romance was Amelie and Benedicts. Of course, Amelie almost messed it up, but the way she resolved it was pretty awesome!! This was a second chance romance, and I thought it was super sweet.

The end of The Brightest Star in Paris was pretty good. The author was able to resolve all of the storylines in a way that I liked. She also hinted at another book with either Benedict’s foster brother or younger sister (well, perhaps both??). I can’t wait to read that book!!

The Sultan’s Court (Pirates & Puritans: Book 2) by R.A. Denny

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Publisher:

Date of publication: October 14th, 2021

Genre: Historical Fiction, Time Travel, Science Fiction

Series: Pirates & Puritans

The Alchemy Thief—Book 1 (review here)

The Sultan’s Court—Book 2

Purchase Links: Amazon


Goodreads Synopsis:

A vivid and powerful sequel to The Alchemy Thief. A tale of stolen secrets, kidnapping, slavery, and death.

Left behind as a slave in Morocco while Daniel journeys to the New World with the fearsome corsair Ayoub, Peri gives birth to a daughter. The drive to protect the imperiled lives of those she loves leads Peri to the court of the ruthless sultan, Moulay Ismail. In a city built on the backs of slaves, Peri’s rescue plot hangs by a thread, dependent on a dubious disguise and the man she despises. It will take all of her wit and perseverance to survive.

This spellbinding 2nd novel in the Pirates and Puritans Series takes the reader on a journey from Algonquin villages to Moroccan palaces, during the time when Morocco’s most feared leader rose to power and the American colonies sank into a bloody war named after Metacom.


First Line:

“Push!” the midwife instructed Peri, while Hennu supported the Christian slave girl’s shoulders from behind.

the sultan’s court by r.a. denny

The Sultan’s Court is book 2 in the Pirates and Puritans series. I was very excited when the author emailed me with a request to review it. I wasn’t disappointed!! I had enjoyed The Alchemy Thief and couldn’t wait to jump right into this book.

As I mentioned above, The Sultan’s Court is book 2 in the Pirates and Puritans series. I cannot stress this enough, but this book is not stand-alone. The author briefly goes over what happened in book one, but you need to read The Alchemy Thief to understand the relationships and motives. If you don’t, you will be lost and slightly confused.

The author did something that some authors don’t do enough of. She included maps of the different areas discussed in the books (present and past). Having those maps helped me a bunch while reading the book.

There were three significant points of view in The Sultan’s Court and two minor points of view. The critical points of view are Ayoub, Peri, and Daniel, with Liam and Brahim’s minor points of view. The book also goes between 1650 (ish) and the present day. The author does it seamlessly with each chapter saying who the POV is, where, and year. I had zero issues keeping the chapters straight.

The plotline for The Sultan’s Court was interesting. Instead of focusing on alchemy and time travel, it focused on Peri, Ayoub, and Daniel surviving and trying to find a niche in their new worlds. It made for a fascinating read.

There is religion in The Sultan’s Court, but it isn’t shoved down your throat, which I hate. Instead, I got to see how people from that era practiced Native American, Christianity, and Islam religions. The author also gave a small glimpse of extreme Islamists during Brahim and Liam’s POV. It was all very fascinating, and I couldn’t read enough of it.

Of all the characters in the book, I enjoyed reading Ayoub’s point of view the most. His character grew the most throughout the book. It was a gradual growth, but it showed at the end of the book. The conversation that he and Peri had before Ayoub left broke my heart. As did his realization that other people were traumatized like him but didn’t go down his extremist route. But most importantly, his behavior at the very end and his choice to help Peri and Daniel showed his real growth.

I also enjoyed reading Peri’s chapters. She was a devoted mother who gave everything to make sure that her child survived. I also understood why she did what she did when the Sultan took Mya away. As a mother with a child the same age, I would have done the same thing.

I was a little iffy about Daniel. He disappeared for a while from the book. When he was reintroduced, he was an almost different person (which I get, people change in 17 years). It seemed like he had practically forgotten Peri. He became a Mohawk and killed enough people that the tattoos formed a pattern on his face. It wasn’t until after his 2nd wife and children died that he decided to look for Peri. I go that he was tortured and then forced to marry into the tribe, but still. Then I felt terrible for him. He seemed to get the short end of the stick no matter where he went.

Liam was still a man-child who irritated me. But, I did figure out why he was being treated differently the minute they arrived where they were. Then I felt terrible because he didn’t see it until the very last minute.

Brahim, on the other hand, confused me. He came across as an extremist, but then the author did something that took me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting what happened with him to happen.

There is violence in The Sultan’s Court, and some of it was a little graphic. I was a little taken aback by one scene where Peri witnessed the Sultan execute a slave, order his body dumped into a wall (and all I could think was: the smell), then a cat was brutally killed when it wanted to get down. There are other similar scenes sprinkled throughout the book. But, seeing the era it took place in, I expected it.

The end of The Sultan’s Court was terrific. I was glued to the book and couldn’t finish it fast enough. What I didn’t expect was the twist the author threw in!!! It took me by surprise, and I loved it. Now, I can’t wait for book 3 (yes, there will be a book 3!!!)

Three Sisters (The Tattooist of Auschwitz: Book 3) by Heather Morris

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Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: October 5th, 2021

Genre: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Literary Fiction

Series: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

The Tattooist of Auschwitz—Book 1 (review here)

Cilka’s Journey—Book 2 (review here)

Three Sisters—Book 3

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


Goodreads Synopsis:

A promise to stay together.
An unbreakable bond.
A fierce will to survive.


From international bestselling author Heather Morris comes the breathtaking conclusion to The Tattooist of Auschwitz trilogy.

When they are girls, Cibi, Magda and Livia make a promise to their father – that they will stay together, no matter what.

Years later, at just 15 years old, Livia is ordered to Auschwitz by the Nazis. Cibi, only 19 herself, remembers their promise and follows Livia, determined to protect her sister, or die with her.

In their hometown in Slovakia, 17-year-old Magda hides, desperate to evade the barbaric Nazi forces. But it is not long before she is captured and condemned to Auschwitz.

In the horror of the death camp, these three beautiful sisters are reunited. Though traumatised by their experiences, they are together.

They make another promise: that they will live. Their fight for survival takes them from the hell of Auschwitz, to a death march across war-torn Europe and eventually home to Slovakia, now under iron Communist rule. Determined to begin again, they embark on a voyage of renewal, to the new Jewish homeland, Israel.

Rich in vivid detail, and beautifully told, Three Sisters will break your heart, but leave you amazed and uplifted by the courage and fierce love of three sisters, whose promise to each other kept them alive. Two of the sisters are in Israel today, surrounded by family and friends. They have chosen Heather Morris to reimagine their story in her astonishing new novel, Three Sisters.


First Line:

The three sisters, Cibi, Magda, and Livi, sit a in tight circle with their father in the small backyard of their home.

three sisters by heather morris

When I agreed to read and review Three Sisters, I thought I knew what I was getting into. I had read/reviewed numerous books on the Holocaust and didn’t think that I could be affected by what was done to millions of people. But then I read Three Sisters, and my heart was broken by what I read. I don’t think that I will ever read a book about the Holocaust without crying my eyes out.

Three Sisters is a book that details Cibi, Magda, and Livi’s time in Auschwitz. Well, to be clear, the book mainly follows Cibi and Livi in Auschwitz. Magda was able to stay at home with her mother and grandfather until the Nazis rounded everyone up towards the end of the war.

I thought I was prepared for the horrors that I had read about Auschwitz in previous books. But, whatever preparedness I had was thrown out the window. The trauma that the girls went through touched me deeply, and I just wanted to reach through the book, hug them, and say, “It’s going to be alright.Cibi, Livi (most of all Livi), and Magda were all survivors.

Three Sisters went into what life was like after the Nazis were deposed. Cibi, Livi, and Magda were forced to rob their own childhood home for pictures Magda and her mother hid away. The bigotry and hatred that people showed them were horrifying to read but not unexpected.

The end of Three Sisters made me smile. The girls found their HEAs and were committed to never forgetting what happened to them. The afterward (with the different children and grandchildren) made me smile because they did have a “normal” life.