The Prince

The Prince
The Prince by Katharine Ashe

The Secret Keeper

The Secret Keeper
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Prince by Katharine Ashe- Feature and Review


The temptation of her lips… 

Libby Shaw refuses to accept society’s dictates. She’s determined to become a member of Edinburgh’s all-male Royal College of Surgeons. Disguising herself as a man, she attends the surgical theater and fools everyone—except the one man who has never forgotten the shape of her exquisitely sensual lips.

…will make a prince say yes to her every desire 

Forced to leave his home as a boy, famed portraitist Ziyaeddin is secretly the exiled prince of a distant realm. When he first met Libby, he memorized every detail of her face and drew her. But her perfect lips gave him trouble—the same lips he now longs to kiss. When Libby asks his help to hide her feminine identity from the world, Ziyaeddin agrees on one condition: she must sit for him to paint—as a woman. But what begins as a daring scheme could send them both hurtling toward danger…and an unparalleled love.


September 1825

Surgeons’ Hall

Edinburgh, Scotland

Neck cloths were a lot tighter than she had imagined. And trousers pinched a person right up the center of where she least wanted to be pinched.

But no one had noticed her. Even the students on the benches to either side, murmuring to their companions about the dissection in the center of the U-shaped operating theater, had not glanced twice at her.

Obviously the whiskers had been a stroke of brilliance.

Nevertheless, Libby Shaw kept her shoulders hunched and head bent, peeking at the demonstration from beneath the concealing rim of her cap. As the surgeon peeled away the muscle to expose bone, a shiver of pleasure fanned through her.

She had sat in this theater before to watch public dissections and surgeries. Disguised as a man now, it all felt different: the medical men with their wise brows and hands that worked miracles; the scratching of students’ pencils in notebooks; the cringes of the curious public drawn to the lecture; and the stench of the flesh on the table, slowed in its natural decay by the cool cellar in which the surgical assistant stored it each afternoon to preserve it for the following day’s lecture.

For a sennight already, Edinburgh’s most celebrated surgeons had been performing a system-by-system dissection, but Libby had not bothered attending until today, the day reserved for her favorite part: the skeletal system. The human skeleton was sturdy, stable, such a pleasure to study.

“That is the fibula,” the young man on her left whispered to his companion.

“It is?” the other whispered uncertainly.


Libby bit her lips together. The whiskers disguised her face, not her voice.

“Of course, numbskull,” the first one said. She recognized that haughty tone. She had met plenty of this sort when her father invited his students to dinner. They thought their arrogance impressed her.

“I’ve been to dozens of these dissections already,” he added.

Yet he did not know a fibula from a tibia.

“What’s that?” the other whispered, pointing.

The soleus.

“The tibialis anterior,” the haughty one said. “Clearly you haven’t read Charles Bell’s A System of Dissections.”

Clearly he hadn’t either.

Their whispers had grown louder. Libby inched forward on the bench and turned her ear toward the floor below.

“Watch, Pulley,” the haughty one said. “Now he will use the lithotomy forceps to pluck out the muscle.”

Libby jerked her chin aside.

“He will not,” she whispered in a low pitch . “He will use the curved knife to protect the muscle while exposing the bone. Now do be quiet so the rest of us can hear.” She turned her face back toward the stage. She wasn’t here to admonish ill-informed students. She was here to learn.

With each new revelation the lecturing surgeon offered, Libby scribed a detailed note, carefully lining up each sentence at the left margin, to be easily readable later. Finally the surgeon draped a linen cloth over the table, and the hall erupted in applause.

“This calls for a pint,” the haughty student said, as though he’d done the dissection himself.

“Invite the new lad?” his friend said with a glance at her as she closed her notebook and stood.

The arrogant lip curled. “The riffraff can find their own pub.”

They moved off.

“Dinna fret o’er Cheddar,” a youth said cheerfully beside her. “He’s a bushel o’ mean stuffed into a barrel o’ privilege. Family’s got money an’ he’s clever as a fox. Doesna think he’s got to be decent to anybody. Good on you to take him down a peg, lad.”

She could not pretend the youth was not speaking to her. Reaching up, she touched the brim of her cap. For weeks she had studied men’s gestures, as well as their gaits and facial movements, then practiced them before a mirror.

“I dinna know you,” the youth said. “An’ I know everybody.” He thrust out his hand. The mop of ginger curls over his pale freckled face jiggled. “Archibald Armstrong. My mates call me Archie.”

She turned away.

“Here now!” he said, scanning Libby’s fine coat and trousers. “You’re no’ too smart to shake a fellow’s hand, are you?”

There was no avoiding it. Libby grasped his hand and shook it hard.

“Smart,” she mumbled. “Joseph.”

“Fine grip you’ve got there, Joe! I always say you know the measure o’ a man by his handshake. Matriculating this session?”

In her dreams.

She nodded.

“Excellent,” Archie declared. “Always happy to meet a bloke cleverer than me, ’less it’s Cheddar,” he said with a wink, and clapped Libby on the shoulder, sending her lurching forward. “The lads are off to the Dug’s Bone for a pint. Got to wash away the stink,” he said jauntily. “Join us.”

“Obliged,” she said, and he moved off.

Euphoria bubbled up in her. All three students had believed she was a man!

The disguise did not, however, solve her greatest problem: finding a surgeon with whom to apprentice. For that she needed connections in Edinburgh’s surgical community. Those connections would also pave the path to enrolling in courses on anatomy, surgery, and chemistry to augment her apprenticeship. Miss Elizabeth Shaw, daughter of renowned forensic physician John Shaw, had those sorts of connections in spades. The newly created and entirely friendless Joseph Smart did not.

But women were not allowed to apprentice as surgeons. Thus her disguise.

Below, only two students were asking questions of the lecturing surgeon. Questions crowded her own head, yet boys like Archie Armstrong didn’t even bother staying to learn more.

As Elizabeth Shaw, she had never met this surgeon. She could chance asking her questions without being recognized. Tucking her notebook beneath her arm and starting toward the stair, she cut a swift glance across the thinning crowd.

Her steps faltered.

A man sat across the theater, alone as the tiers emptied.

It was not because he was the only person Libby recognized in the place that she abruptly could not move. For he was not. She had noticed several of her father’s friends in the crowd.

And she did not halt because this man was attractive; for he was, with a strong tapering jaw, black hair swept back from his brow, and deep-set eyes. His arms clad in a fine coat and crossed loosely over his chest were muscular, and the crisp white of his cravat shone brilliantly against his skin. Libby had never particularly cared about external beauty; her interest was a body’s health. And she had been stared at before. It was not due to his dark gaze trained upon her that she remained paralyzed.

Her feet would not move now because in that gaze was thorough recognition. He knew her.

They had met only once, two and a half years ago, exceedingly briefly. Yet the gleam in his hooded eyes now told her that he knew her at this moment to be Elizabeth Shaw.

With a regal nod he offered her a slow, confident smile of pure deviltry.

Panic seized her. It required only a single person to unmask her. If she did not move swiftly now, this man with the keen eyes and dangerous smile would.

* * *

Except for the whiskers, she was perfect.

Watching her across the theater, Ziyaeddin wondered if she knew the whiskers were horrendous. But they helped serve her purpose: none of the men here realized that a female hid as one of them. None save he.

For two hours the attention of every person in the theater had been on the demonstration. Although Ziyaeddin preferred the earlier stages of a surgical dissection, when the body was whole and the muscles still plump with blood, he appreciated the entire series. A man could not properly depict the exterior without knowing what lay beneath.

Also, Edinburgh’s medical community was large, sophisticated, and prosperous. He had friends as well as patrons among the men here. It was useful to occasionally be seen in public.

And then there was the girl.

With a sober face she had listened to the lecturing surgeon, scribbling in a notebook set atop her trouser-clad knees, making no move that might reveal her femininity. But he knew the girl beneath that disguise. He had once encountered her at Haiknayes Castle, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Loch Irvine. He remembered her perfectly.

Her fingers clutching pencil and notebook were long with very short nails, and darker than the visible bits of her fair chin and cheeks. The nose was neither large nor pert. The eyes, shaded by her hat, were almond-shaped, narrowing in the centers at equivalent arcs toward the dip at the bridge of her nose, the left a bit smaller than the right. The lashes and eye color he could not discern at this distance, but he knew them to be, respectively, golden brown and brilliant blue. The whiskers obscured her lips.

Those lips had given him trouble.

Considerable trouble.

Her father, John Shaw, was a respected physician. Ziyaeddin considered the likelihood that Dr. Shaw was aware his daughter now attended a surgical dissection dressed in men’s clothing. From even the little Ziyaeddin knew of Miss Elizabeth Shaw: probably not.

She gazed with longing at the stragglers lingering about the lecturer. She mustn’t realize how obviously her face showed that longing. He should probably tell her. That, and he needed to have another look at those lips.

Those lips.

Abruptly she turned her head and met his gaze, and the beautifully mobile features went stone still. Recognition sparked in the blue.

Aha. So she remembered him. No doubt she treasured the picture of her face that he had drawn at Haiknayes, probably keeping it in an intimate location: her bedside table or between the pages of her diary. Portraits by “the Turk” were coveted by ladies throughout Scotland and England. It was part of his mystique to rarely do likenesses of individual women, so that when he did they were especially valuable.

He inclined his head.

With a vexed glance at the lecturing floor below, she hurried from the hall.

Taking up his walking stick, he went out, greeting acquaintances along the way. The usual pain assailed him; he could never sit for long without it. He ignored it. He had far more interesting things to ponder now, two things: an upper lip and a lower lip.

By the time he came onto the street she had disappeared. Amidst the bustle of pedestrians, horses, and vehicles, he could not see her. Then, abruptly, through the window of a bookshop, he did.

A youth with a tight hat and too many whiskers stared at him above the edge of an open volume. The fire in the intelligent eyes dared him to reveal her.

Opening the door, he entered and looked into Elizabeth Shaw’s scruffy face.

The hat was a clever contrivance, and like her cravat and coat, both of fine quality and understated. But the moustaches were all wrong, fashioned of goat’s hair, and too coarse and ashy, and did not suit the golden strands of hair visible betwixt cap and collar. To conceal her smooth skin she had exaggerated the side whiskers till they were as thick and long as a sailor’s.

He bowed. “Good day.”

She ducked her head, moved around him, and darted out of the shop.

He followed.

As he half expected and half hoped, she was waiting for him in an alley not far away. Entering the secluded close he went toward her.

“You mustn’t tell my father,” she said without preamble. It did not surprise him. When they had spoken so briefly at Haiknayes she had been unconcerned with regular manners too.

“The color of the whiskers is unsuitable,” he said.

Her nose crinkled. “It is?”

“It needs more yellow.” Yellow ochre. And perhaps a touch of raw sienna.

She seemed to consider this. “I suppose you would know that, being a portrait artist.”

“I would indeed,” he said, bridling his amusement.

“Credible whiskers are remarkably difficult to come by.” There was no anger in the eyes now, only earnest concern. “How did you recognize me?”

He stepped forward, closing the distance between them so that the precise shape and hues of her lips became clear to him—beautiful lips: nothing like the current fashion for red bows, instead wide and lushly pink.

“I have cause to know these lips well.” Yet not well enough.

Before his encounter with Elizabeth Shaw at Haiknayes Castle, he had never seen a woman’s lips and wanted immediately to touch them. Draw: yes. Paint: certainly. Touch: never.

“And these eyes,” he added, because she was an unusual little woman and she did something to him—something alarming yet wholly pleasurable. She quickened his pulse.

And she made him want to stand in an alleyway chatting about false whiskers.

“At Haiknayes,” she said, “you drew my face perfectly after seeing me only once.”

Not perfectly. But close.

“You remember,” he said.

“Of course I remember. I am not in my dotage, and you gave the picture to me. My father believed one of my friends drew it. He put a frame on it and hung it in the parlor. I pretended it fell off the wall while being dusted and the glass shattered. I told him I would take it to the shop to have the glass replaced but I threw it in the trash bin.”

He laughed.

Her brows perked. “You are not offended?”

“Of course not.”


“If I wished, I could draw your face a hundred more times.”

She blinked. “I must go.” She glanced toward the alley’s end. “I’ve elsewhere to be just now.”

“A gentlemen’s club?” He folded his arms. “Or a gaming hell? Perhaps the local public house?”

The lips twitched. “That is the simplest kind of humor.”

“Well, you don’t plan to attend a ladies’ sewing circle in this ensemble.” He allowed his gaze to travel down the heavy coat and trousers. She had most certainly bound her breasts, but there was no disguising the subtle flare of her hips. “Do you?”

“You are absurd. You won’t tell anybody, will you?”

She had no reason to expect his discretion. And he was enjoying the dart that formed at the bridge of her nose, the shape of it like a pair of stalwart lovers forever separated by a mountain. Her beauty was conventional, a mingling of Scottish clarity and English delicacy. Yet the changeability of her features fascinated him.

He found any sort of freedom of motion maddening—and inspiring.

“I should like to know the reason for your disguise,” he said.

“I wanted to assess whether I could pass as a man,” she said in a tone that suggested she thought him a simpleton. Yet her eyes shone not with insult but sincerity.

“Congratulations for succeeding,” he said. “Almost.”

“I might as easily ask what you were doing there.”

“Enjoying the vision of a pretty girl disguised as a youth.”

Like sunlight sparking off the Mediterranean, her eyes flared. Abruptly she moved past him. He watched her lithe legs and straight back and stride that was far too confident for a woman.

“Miss Shaw, forgive my impertinence.”

She paused. “I saw the portrait you did of the duke and duchess. It is very good.”

That portrait of the Duke and Duchess of Loch Irvine was not “very good.” It was brilliant. Light and dark. Mystery and familiarity. Action and peace. Passion and reason. He had painted every facet of the pair in sublime balance.

Looking into the bright eyes now, he saw that Miss Shaw was well aware of this.

So this little woman of the earnest brow knew how to tease too. He should have anticipated that.

His body’s reaction to this realization was, however, something of a surprise. Perhaps those slender legs were the trouble. Or thoughts of her breasts. Or the plump curve of her lower lip. Or the fact that she was standing before him dressed as a boy, duping everyone, yet apparently expecting him to keep her confidence…


The Prince (Devil's Duke, #4)The Prince by Katharine Ashe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Prince by Katharine Ashe is a 2018 Avon Books publication.

This is the fourth book in the ‘Devil’s Duke’ series. I don’t know why, but I thought the last book was a wrap on the series. I suppose it could be because there are so many ‘trilogies’ in the historical romance genre, the idea of an ongoing saga just never occurred to me. But, I was very delighted to learn there would be at least one more book in the series.

I had no idea which direction Ashe would decide on, but I never would have dreamed we would have a prince with an artistic flair, living in exile- if that’s the right word, and a woman so desperate to become a doctor/surgeon she attempts to live as a man. Talk about an odd couple!!

For me, though, I thought this book was a little outside the box, unique, and perhaps unusual. That’s a good thing. Historical romance needs a little shot of that type of adrenaline. Some of the characters in the book are based on real people, and it is important to note that I used the word ‘based’. This is not a true account of anyone’s life, but a real person did inspire the author to build a ‘fictional’ story around true events and people.

As to the ‘Prince’… Well, I prefer my heroes to be conflicted, to have heavy issues to contend with, to be tortured souls. I’ll take that over some coddled, rogue Viscount who blames his father’s neglect for his own promiscuity. How many times has that been done? I can’t count that high, actually. So, give me a character like Ziyaeddin. A guy with a sensitive, artistic nature, who is more patient than he lets on, but one who also happens to be carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Libby was refreshing in that she was not exactly socialized, was raised unconventionally, and didn’t really have a filter. Some of the things that popped out her mouth were not ladylike, but I had to admire her forthrightness. However, it should be noted that while Libby is very smart, she is single-minded in her determination to achieve her goals, and as such, she may exhibit some traits we might characterize or perhaps diagnose as ‘Aspergers Syndrome’. (OCD characteristics are evident as well.)

I wasn’t sure, at first, if this couple could be compatible, could cook up a little chemistry considering they are both slaves to individual secrets that, if exposed, would upend their lives, put them in danger, and shatter all their hopes and dreams. But, as Ziyaeddin obsesses over Libby’s lips, as the two of them converse, (whether Z wanted to or not), the attraction between them practically leaps off the pages.

Both of these characters are coping with situations quite out of the ordinary for this genre! Yes! Yes! Yes! The secondary characters are strong and wonderfully written, as well, and played key roles in the story.

This is really a wonderful love story!! I had to be convinced, as I was pretty skeptical, but the story is so rich in details and so vivid, and original, I found myself totally caught up in all the intrigue.

There are some thought provoking messages embedded in the story, as well, which gives it an added layer of depth and emotion. The wonderful happily ever after could n‘t have been more fitting, uplifting, or sigh worthy!!

Another stellar effort by Katharine Ashe!!



Katharine Ashe is the USA Today bestselling author of the acclaimed Devil's Duke series and more than a dozen other historical romances reviewers call “intensely lush” and “sensationally intelligent.” A professor of European history and popular culture, she writes fiction because she adores the grand adventures and breathtaking sensuality of historical romance.

Katharine is a two-time finalist for the prestigious RITA® Award of the Romance Writers of America, a four-time nominee in the Reviewers’ Choice Awards -- including winner for Best Historical Romantic Adventure -- and her novels The Duke and How to Be a Proper Lady have been honored on Amazon's Best Romances of 2012 and 2017 lists. Her books are recommended by Woman’s World Magazine, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All About Romance and many others, and translated into languages around the world. 

Wearing her other hat (rather, tam!), as a professor of history and popular culture Katharine teaches courses on the history of romance fiction, religion in film and fiction, and creative writing at Duke University. She co-founded and runs Duke's UNSUITABLE Speakers Series about women, history, and popular fiction, and she writes publicly and teaches workshops on women's history, feminism, romance, and writing. She is also the convenor and moderator of Facebook's Feminist Romance Book Club.

Katharine lives in the wonderfully warm Southeast with her husband, son, dog, and a garden she likes to call romantic rather than unkempt. She loves meeting readers in person, and connecting with readers by mail and email and on social media too!

Friday, May 18, 2018

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- The Returned by Jason Mott- Feature and Review


acob was time out of sync, time more perfect than it had been. He was life the way it was supposed to be all those years ago. That's what all the Returned were.

Harold and Lucille Hargrave's lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they've settled comfortably into life without him, their wounds tempered through the grace of time ... Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep—flesh and blood, their sweet, precocious child, still eight years old.

All over the world people's loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it's a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he's their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.

With spare, elegant prose and searing emotional depth, award-winning poet Jason Mott explores timeless questions of faith and morality, love and responsibility. A spellbinding and stunning debut, The Returned is an unforgettable story that marks the arrival of an important new voice in contemporary fiction.




The ReturnedThe Returned by Jason Mott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Returned by Jason Mott is a 2013 Harlequin MIRA publication.

Usually when I pick up a Harlequin MIRA novel, it's more on the side of contemporary romance or women's fiction. But, I saw this book while thumbing through the Overdrive library books, and will confess I misunderstood what the book was about when I checked it out. I was thinking the story was centered on the return of a missing child who was presumed dead, but this book is nothing at all like that.

As the story opens, the reader learns that the dead are returning to earth. Not as ghost or zombies, but seemingly as real people. The catch is that they are the age they were when they died. So, when Jason shows up at his parent's home, he is still just a child, the same age he was when he died.

Naturally, people are freaking out over this phenomenon, thinking it indicates the world is about to end, or suspicious about the returned, thinking they can't possibly be the actual person who died. In the midst of this fear and panic, people respond as they often do by taking extreme measures to ensure their sense of safety.

But, as we shall see, the story is about more than the commentary on human nature, it's also about the fantasy of having a loved one return to us, giving us a chance to recapture what was stolen from us, by their death.

The writing style was a bit different and took me some time to adjust to, but once I got accustomed to it, the story seemed to flow nicely with steady pacing and interesting dialogue.

It's a very thought provoking and often moving story and I give the author kudos for having such vivid imagination and giving the reader a realistic conclusion to the story that didn't insult my intelligence.

Although this is not the sort of story I usually go for, it was, I believe written with a sentimental and sweet intention, even if it did leave me feeling a little melancholy at times. It does end on an up swing though, even though we aren't given all the answers to the questions, I think it's more about taking a leap faith and having hope, about grabbing the opportunities you have right now, and holding on to whatever you are given, even if you experience some doubts, and about being thankful for that chance, and making the best of it.

I recommend this one to readers of fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction.



Jason Mott lives in southeastern North Carolina. He has a BFA in Fiction and an MFA in Poetry, both from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. His poetry and fiction has appeared in various literary journals. He was nominated for a 2009 Pushcart Prize award and Entertainment Weekly listed him as one of their 10 "New Hollywood: Next Wave" people to watch.

He is the author of two poetry collections: We Call This Thing Between Us Love and "...hide behind me..." The Returned is his first novel.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton- Feature and Review


During a summer party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is happily dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and watches as her mother speaks to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime. A crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy—her vivacious, loving, nearly perfect mother.

Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress living in London. The family is gathering at Greenacres farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this may be her last chance, Laurel searches for answers to the questions that still haunt her from that long-ago day, answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past.

Dorothy’s story takes the reader from pre–WWII England through the blitz, to the ’60s and beyond. It is the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined. The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams and the unexpected consequences they sometimes bring. It is an unforgettable story of lovers and friends, deception and passion that is told—in Morton’s signature style—against a backdrop of events that changed the world.



The Secret KeeperThe Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton is a 2012 Atria publication.

When Laurel Nicolson was sixteen years old, she witnessed her mother, Dorothy, stab a man to death. The man was a stranger, but he seemed to know her mother and she seemed to recognize him, too. The matter was ruled self-defense and no charges were filed.

Now, decades later, after enjoying much success as an actress, Laurel returns home to celebrate her mother’s ninetieth birthday. With her mother’s descent into dementia becoming more prominent, Laurel knows that if she is ever to discover the truth about what happened that fateful day, all those years ago- if she ever was to experience closure and peace about an incident that has haunted her for fifty years, she had to act now, before it was too late.

As Laurel begins her investigation, she is taken on a journey that spanned from pre- world war two England, through the 1960’s. Laurel will learn things about her mother’s past, she never could have imagined, as puzzling personality traits clash with the woman Laurel thought she knew. Bit by bit the pieces of a complex puzzle begin to fit into place, as stunning secrets come to light that will leave the reader stunned, bemused, and even delighted.

This book has been on my radar for years, however, it kept slipping down the TBR pile. But, in all honesty, I think I let it sit and gather dust for a time because Kate Morton is not prolific, or an author given to mass production. Her books are always very special, so I like the idea of having one of her novels around that I haven’t read yet, saving it for a rainy day, if you will. After it was recently announced that Morton had a new book coming out soon, in celebration, I decided to treat myself. Naturally, it was worth the wait- but I’m glad I finally gave in and succumbed to Morton’s mesmerizing prose, as she weaves this spellbinding, and riveting tale, of history, love, friendship, and family.

Secrets are my favorite. I love stories with lots of secrets. The reasons why the characters kept the secrets, why people want or need to know them, and what impact those secrets will have on the characters once they are exposed is always fascinating to me.

In this instance, family secrets are at the center of the story, and boy are they juicy. What an incredible story!!

Dorothy’s parents are killed in the blitz, and she takes a job as the caretaker of a very wealthy woman who hints to Dorothy that she might be remembered in her will. Meanwhile, Dorothy becomes engaged to Jimmy, a talented photographer, and befriends a neighbor named Vivien. But, all of Dorothy’s plans cave inward when she believes Vivien has betrayed her, which prompts her to obsessively seek revenge on her. But, as is often the case, her carefully crafted, but mean-spirited, plan backfires horrifically. From that moment on, Dorothy begins to harbor a host of incredible secrets that someday her daughter, Laurel, will discover. Secrets that will shift the axis of Laurel’s universe, and mine too, just a little bit.

As always, Morton’s storytelling is brilliant. The historical sections of the story are absolutely riveting and so absorbing I felt like I was actually there watching events unfold in real time. The characters are very well drawn, and I have to confess I have a big soft spot for Jimmy. I never imagined the story would take so many unexpected turns, that the characters would make the choices they did, or why they would make them. All I can say is I couldn’t have asked for more! I loved every single second of this journey. The only downside was that the ending came entirely too soon.



A rich, spellbinding new novel from the author of The Lake House--the story of a love affair and a mysterious murder that cast their shadows across generations, set in England from the 1860s until the present day.
My real name, no one remembers.
The truth about that summer, no one else knows.

In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe's life is in ruins.

Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist's sketchbook containing the drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.

Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?

Told by multiple voices across time, The Clockmaker's Daughter is a story of murder, mystery, and thievery, of art, love and loss. And flowing through its pages like a river, is the voice of a woman who stands outside time, whose name has been forgotten by history, but who has watched it all unfold: Birdie Bell, the clockmaker's daughter.



KATE MORTON is an award-winning, New York Times bestselling author. Her novels - The House at Riverton (The Shifting Fog), The Forgotten Garden, The Distant Hours, The Secret Keeper and The Lake House - are published in over 40 countries, in 34 languages, and have all been number one bestsellers around the world. Kate's new book, The Clockmaker's Daughter, will be published in September/October 2018.

Kate Morton was born in South Australia, grew up in the mountains of southeast Queensland and now lives with her family in London and Australia. She has degrees in dramatic art and English literature, and harboured dreams of joining the Royal Shakespeare Company until she realised that it was words she loved more than performing. Kate still feels a pang of longing each time she goes to the theatre and the house lights dim. 

"I fell deeply in love with books as a child and believe that reading is freedom; that to read is to live a thousand lives in one; that fiction is a magical conversation between two people - you and me - in which our minds meet across time and space. I love books that conjure a world around me, bringing their characters and settings to life, so that the real world disappears and all that matters, from beginning to end, is turning one more page."

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Tangerine by Christine Mangan- Feature and Review


The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the accident at Bennington, the two friends—once inseparable roommates—haven’t spoken in over a year. But there Lucy was, trying to make things right and return to their old rhythms. Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy—always fearless and independent—helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country.

But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice—she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind.

Tangerine is a sharp dagger of a book—a debut so tightly wound, so replete with exotic imagery and charm, so full of precise details and extraordinary craftsmanship, it will leave you absolutely breathless.



TangerineTangerine by Christine Mangan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tangerine by Christine Mangan is a 2018 Ecco publication.

I seldom give much credence to author recommendations, having learned a long time ago, that they are mostly meaningless. I've helped authors through various stages of marketing, and trust me, sometimes authors just pull those blurb quotes right out of thin air without even reading the book first.

But… Then I saw that Joyce Carol Oates had written an endorsement for this debut novel, saying:

“As if Donna Tartt, Gillian Flynn, and Patricia Highsmith had collaborated on a screenplay to be filmed by Hitchcock—suspenseful and atmospheric.”

I must admit, I was intrigued, and the synopsis did capture my attention. That, along with a few friend reviews, convinced me to see what all the fuss was about.

I can tell you up front this book may not be for everyone, but I really liked it. The time period- 1950’s, the location- Morocco- sets the stage nicely, for a charlatan tale of obsession and manipulation that left me chilled to the core.

Alice and Lucy were roommates in New York until a horrendous incident separated them. Not long afterwards, Alice got married and moved to Morocco. Now, Lucy has decided to take a vacation to Morocco to visit her old friend-showing up unannounced, out of the blue, without an invitation.

‘Everything changes, sooner or later. Time moves along, without constraints- no matter how hard one may attempt to pause, to alter, to rewrite it. Quite simply, there is nothing to stop it, nothing at all.”

Lucy is shocked by her friend’s condition, the way her husband, John, treats her, and is determined to pull the wool from Alice’s eyes and convince her to go back home with her to New York.
Alice remains torn, slowly coming around to Lucy’s way of thinking- until her husband disappears…

This novel is certainly a slow burner, but the atmosphere alone was enough to keep me invested in the story. There are a few minor issues, places that didn’t gel completely, but books centered around fixations and obsessions must allow for a few inconsistencies here and there, as characters create and absorb information and respond to it, occasionally reacting to revelations in unexpected ways, as we would in reality.

“There were moments when I had thought that I did not so much want her as wanted to be her”

This is one twisted and deliciously wicked little tale and does most assuredly have a whisper of Patricia Highsmith running through it, and a knack for leaving one feeling very unsettled, ala Gillian Flynn. I’m not comparing this book or the author to either one of these authors, or their work, but the atmosphere and clever twists on top of layers of mistrust and re-inventions did put me in mind of them, which leads me to believe JCO may have really read this book and her assessment was spot-on. However, this little gem stands on its own merits just fine and this author is definitely one to watch.

I have the feeling this book may end up being underappreciated, which is too bad, because it really is a very worthy competitor, extremely well written, and certainly a cut above the average, over rated, psychological thriller out there, and most definitely falls into the literary thriller category.

As for me, I am almost embarrassingly grateful and quite appreciative of the work done here. There are so few novels, especially within this genre, written with this type of prose, this ability to create such rich characterizations, against such a vivid backdrop.

“I had realized what a hard place it could be. It was not a place where one simply arrived and belonged- no, I imagined it was a process, a trial, even an initiation of sorts, one that only the bravest survived, it was a place that inspired rebellion, a place that demanded it, of its people, of its citizens. A place where everyone had to constantly adapt, struggle, fight for what they wanted.”

I found the novel to be utterly chilling, but understated, quite unnerving, and well- constructed, especially for a debut novel!

I highly recommend this one to readers who enjoy nuanced, atmospheric, sophisticated, and stylish novels of suspense.



Christine Mangan has a PhD in English from University College Dublin, where her thesis focused on eighteenth-century Gothic literature, and an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Southern Maine. Tangerine is her first novel.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Master Key by Masako Togawa - translated by Simon Grove- Feature and Review


A building full of secrets. A key that will unleash them all.

The K Apartments for Ladies in Tokyo conceals a sinister past behind each door; a woman who has buried a child; a scavenger driven mad by ill-health; a wife mysteriously guarding her late husband’s manuscripts; a talented violinist tortured by her own guilt. The master key, which opens the door to all 150 rooms, links their tangled stories. But now it has been stolen, and dirty tricks are afoot.

For a deadly secret lies buried beneath the building. And when it is revealed, there will be murder.



The Master KeyThe Master Key by Masako Togawa

The Master Key by by Masako Togawa, Simon Grove (Translator) is a 2017 by Pushkin Vertigo publication.

Originally published back in 1962, this ‘puzzle’ mystery has been translated into the English Language and is now available in digital format.

Although I consider myself somewhat well versed on mystery novels and the various sub-genres, I wasn’t quite sure what was meant by ‘puzzle mysteries’, which, of course, piqued by interest, on top of the cultural aspects and the vintage/classic angle I’m always a sucker for.
The story is centered around the K apartments for single ladies, which is about to be moved due to the widening of a highway. As the story progresses the past and present slowly merge as the truth behind the death of an infant is revealed amid shocking revelations.

The apartment's master key plays a prominent role in the way these tightly held secrets emerge from the shadowy corners of loneliness, obsession, and sorrow, and the deceptively benign activities transpiring at the K apartments for women.

The story is short, but it packs a big punch. It was almost like reading a group of connected vignettes with the post war backdrop of Tokyo creating a stunning atmosphere. These ‘vignettes’ are all a piece of the puzzle, which gradually comes together, piece by piece, to give the reader the full, entire picture.

Fate! It can stab you in the back any time, upsetting the most carefully thought out activities. Fate doesn't care what the upshot is.

Very clever! The definition of a puzzle mystery is rather vague, but it is supposed to focus on solving the puzzle, without spending a great deal of time on the development of the characters. However, I did get a nice glimpse into the secret lives, and human foibles, of these women, as a tragic story unfolds.

I’ve never read a mystery quite like this one, and the more I pondered on it, the more appreciation I had for the author’s ingenuity. I am very interested in reading more books by Masako Togawa if I can locate any with translations.
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys mysteries that are a little outside the box, are masterfully written, and keeps you guessing or if you enjoy vintage mysteries.



Masako Towaga began writing in 1961, backstage, between her stage appearances, and her first work The Master Key was published a year later, in 1962, for which she was awarded the prestigious  Edogawa Rampo Prize . The story is set in the same apartment she grew up in with her mother. Her second novel, The Lady Killer, followed in 1963, becoming a bestseller. It was adapted for both TV and film, and nominated for the Naoki Prize.
She wrote more than thirty novels and was one of the most popular mystery writers in Japan, with many of her stories based on her own life experience.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Fortune's Family Secrets by Karen Rose Smith


The man of her dreams... is a Fortune in disguise!

Innkeeper Cassie Calloway could easily fall for her newest guest. Out-of-towner Nash Tremont is hunky, handsome and handy, but Cassie's painful past makes her afraid to trust. In this case, caution may be in order. Nash is actually an undercover cop--and a member of the Fortune family. With so many secrets between them, Cassie and Nash will have their work cut out for them. But their complicated love may be worth the fight...



Fortune's Family SecretsFortune's Family Secrets by Karen Rose Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fortune’s Family Secrets by Karen Rose Smith is a 2018 Harlequin Special Edition publication.

Family secrets threaten to dissolve the budding romance between Nash and Cassie-

Cassie owns an inn/ bed and breakfast style establishment in the Avant- garde city of Austin, Texas.

 But, foremost, in her heart, she is an artist and uses her talent to give art lessons on top of her responsibilities at the inn.

Nash Tremont is a guest at Cassie’s Inn. He’s originally from Oklahoma but is in town doing a little private investigating off the clock, working a case that has personal ramifications for him.

But, as he and Cassie spend more time together they begin to realize they really enjoy one another’s company, and are very attracted to each other, despite the fact both of them are harboring big whopping secrets.

However, Nash finds Cassie very easy to talk to and as his feelings for her develop into something deeper he finds himself opening up to her a little more each day. But, Cassie’s secrets could change Nash’s opinion of her and send him packing. Will Cassie take a chance and trust Nash with the secrets of her troubling past?

Everyone has secrets, some more complicated than others, and we all have a right to those secrets, but in Nash and Cassie’s case, they both end up living a lie to protect themselves from getting hurt. While they may have good reasons it wasn’t healthy for them individually, much less as a couple. This means that if they want their relationship to work, they'll have to lay all their cards on the table.

I love reading stories that feature characters with strength and depth, who struggle with situations beyond their control, and fight to maintain their own integrity, while refusing to allow the circumstances to define them. I enjoy watching couples face conflict, but learn to work through their fears, doubts, and trust issues, while learning to accept and forgive in the process.

This is one of those types of stories. Wonderful characters, heartwarming gestures, combined with a little sensuality made this a satisfying contemporary romance, all the way around.



Karen is well-known for writing emotion-packed novels. An only child, she spent a lot of time in her imagination and with books--Nancy Drew, Zane Gray, The Black Stallion and Anne of Green Gables. She dreamt of brothers and sisters and a big family like her mother and father came from--seven children in her mom's family and ten in her dad's. On weekends she was often surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins. This is the root of her plotlines that include small communities and family relationships as integral to everyday living. She believes universal emotions unite us all and that is the reason she employs them to propel her plots.