A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Murder with Cinnamon Scones by Karen Rose Smith- Feature and Review


Daisy Swanson and her Aunt Iris run a delightful shop in Pennsylvania’s Amish country with an emphasis on tasty teas and treats—but murder is not so sweet . . .

As local merchants unite to attract tourists for a much anticipated weekend quilting event, business is sure to spill over into eateries like Daisy’s Tea Garden. Gorgeous craftwork is hanging everywhere—but among the quilts, potholders, and placemats, one gallery owner is wrapped up in some dangerous affairs . . .

Reese Masemer had been dating one of Daisy’s employees, Tessa, an artist, though their last interaction was as strained as a cup of loose leaf tea. Now Reese has been found dead near a covered bridge where Tessa’s been practicing her sketches. She’s the obvious suspect, but Daisy’s learning that there were some major secrets in Reese’s background, and several of his relationships were infused with resentment. To save Tessa, she’ll have to find out who’s tainted this quaint little town with murder . . .



Murder with Cinnamon Scones (Daisy's Tea Garden Mystery #2)Murder with Cinnamon Scones by Karen Rose Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Murder With Cinnamon Scones by Karen Rose Smith is a 2018 Kensington Books publication.
A perfect cozy mystery!!

As the town gears up for the onslaught of tourists expected for a quilting event, Daisy is shocked by the murder of Reese Masemer, the man her good friend, Tess, had been dating. Daisy had no intention of poking her nose into the investigation, but when Tess becomes the primary suspect, she puts on her sleuthing hat once again to keep her friend from being charged with murder.

In the meantime, Daisy is worried her oldest daughter is getting too serious with her new boyfriend, while her own romantic prospect hits a disappointing snag.

This second installment in the ‘Tea Garden Mystery’ series, builds upon a sturdy foundation, becoming more solid and secure as characters develop a bit more and the location becomes more vivid. But, of course, we all showed up for a murder mystery, and this one is a real head scratcher.

This is a series I think I could settle into long term. Daisy is a character I could really grow to love, as she is more ‘mature’, and the issues she copes with are realistic and easy to relate to. I love the supporting cast, and their interesting and compelling relationships. The romance is just little angsty, working on a slow build up, which is nice, as well.

The mystery kept me on my toes and guessing from the start all the way to the nail biting conclusion! I loved the way this story ended, and enjoyed the awesome recipes included with the book. You really must try the cinnamon scones- they are to die for!!





Karen Rose Smith is writing mysteries as well as romances now! Her plots, whether in mystery or romance, are all about relationships.

Readers can follow her on Facebook (Search--Karen Rose Smith) or on Twitter @karenrosesmith. Contact her through her website www.karenrosesmith.com or KarenRoseSmithMysteries.com if you'd like to belong to her street team or her readers group on Facebook. She welcomes interaction with her readers on Facebook and Twitter, and would love to chat about plotlines, titles, emotions, heroes, heroines, music, books, gardening, cooking, or anything else readers deem noteworthy!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

I was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon


Countless others have rendered their verdict. Now it is your turn. Russia, July 17, 1918 Under direct orders from Vladimir Lenin, Bolshevik secret police force Anastasia Romanov, along with the entire imperial family, into a damp basement in Siberia where they face a merciless firing squad. None survive. At least that is what the executioners have always claimed. 

Germany, February 17, 1920 A young woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Anastasia Romanov is pulled shivering and senseless from a canal in Berlin. Refusing to explain her presence in the freezing water, she is taken to the hospital where an examination reveals that her body is riddled with countless, horrific scars. When she finally does speak, this frightened, mysterious woman claims to be the Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia.

Her detractors, convinced that the young woman is only after the immense Romanov fortune, insist on calling her by a different name: Anna Anderson. 

As rumors begin to circulate through European society that the youngest Romanov daughter has survived the massacre, old enemies and new threats are awakened.



I Was AnastasiaI Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon is a 2018 Doubleday publication.

No matter how many movies, documentaries, or books I’ve watched or read, the romantic in me simply can’t resist the fascination and the mystery of Anastasia Romanov. This book examines the life of Anna Anderson, who claimed she was Anastasia, while also chronicling the period of time the Romanov’s were in exile, leading up to their execution during the Bolshevik Revolution.

Anna’s claims captured our imaginations for decades and sparked many debates over the legitimacy of her pronouncement. While she was often met with skepticism, she also had many staunch supporters.
I, for one, always loved the notion surrounding this legend. I hoped, no matter how far-fetched or doubtful the probability, that Anna Anderson really was Anastasia Romanov.

If a miracle did happen, and Anastasia somehow managed to survive, we could all rationalize our fascination with the Czar’s daughter, from Ingrid Bergman’s oscar winning portrayal, to the animated Disney film, and all points in between. But, of course, the reality is far more serious and grim.

This novel is obviously a very ambitious undertaking. Giving voice to Anastasia, and Anna Anderson, describing minute historical details, adding authentic and vivid dialogue, along with solid pacing, and well-drawn characterizations.


This story is very interesting, and the author certainly did her homework, doing a great job of laying out Anna’s complexities. Anna was difficult, but also lived with a host of mental issues, making her a sympathetic figure on occasion, which left me with conflicting emotions. I often wondered how other people who have read this book felt about her in the end.

Romanov Sisters

However, I must address the elephant in the room when it comes to the way the author structured the novel. She explains the method to her madness in a note at the end of the book, and it does make sense, from the viewpoint of the writer, and logically, I see where she’s coming from. However, the backwards/forwards, first and third person narratives made the book more difficult to read than need be, in my opinion. I did struggle with the format, I must say. However, others may not be bothered by it at all, and may even benefit from it. I’m not always the sharpest tool in the shed, so there is that. However, I did agree with the concept of separating ‘Anastasia’ from ‘Anna’, but I did wish for a more traditional type of dual timeline, without all that skipping around.

                                                           ANNA ANDERSON

The novel’s strongest area is the pacing and the agonizingly taut build -up of suspense. We must watch with mounting dread as the Romanov’s are taken to Siberia, the clock ticking away as they careen towards their ultimate, tragic fate. This part of the story is interwoven with Anna’s as she sits in a German court waiting on their decision, hoping she will at long last lay legitimate and official claim to the name ‘Anastasia Romanov’. The theories mapped out here are very imaginative, plausible, realistic and thought provoking. I can tell the author put a great deal of thought and time into this novel, which is much appreciated. Although it took me a long time to get through the book, really struggling with it at times, ultimately, I found it to be quite interesting and I’m glad I didn’t give up on it.

One point I think we can all agree on, no matter what, is that Anna’s claims turned Anastasia Romanov into a legend, taking on a life of its own. If not for her, Anastasia and her sisters would most likely have long been forgotten over time, along with other royal families who were met with the same fate. Just a little something to ponder over-

I do recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Romanov history, of course, but be prepared- this is not a fairy tale! I would also recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction in general. This book will most likely spark your curiosity about the Romanov family and you will want to learn more about this them, and the events leading up to their capture, exile, and murders.





riel Lawhon is a critically acclaimed author of historical fiction. Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, One Book One County, and Book of the Month Club selections. She is the co-founder of SheReads.org and lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, four sons, and black Lab—who is, thankfully, a girl.

Monday, May 28, 2018



Friday, May 25, 2018

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Deal Breaker ( Myron Bolitar #1) by Harlan Coben- Feature and Review


Sports agent Myron Bolitar is poised on the edge of the big time. So is Christian Steele, a rookie quarterback and Myron's prized client. But when Christian gets a phone call from a former girlfriend, a woman who everyone, including the police, believes is dead, the deal starts to go sour. Trying to unravel the truth about a family's tragedy, a woman's secret, and a man's lies, Myron is up against the dark side of his business where image and talent make you rich, but the truth can get you killed.

In novels that crackle with wit and suspense, Edgar Award winner Harlan Coben has created one of the most fascinating and complex heroes in suspense fiction Myron Bolitar a hotheaded, tenderhearted sports agent who grows more and more engaging and unpredictable with each page-turning appearance.


MY REVIEW: Deal Breaker (Myron Bolitar #1)Deal Breaker by Harlan Coben
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Deal breaker by Harlan Coben is a 2006 Delacorte Press publication.

 I've been thinking about how long it’s been since I read a book in the Myron Bolitar series, since I've been sticking to Coben's stand alone novels for the time being.

I was pretty sure I had read the first few books in the series, but I see I didn’t get this first one reviewed, and frankly my memory needed a refresher course. So, I checked this one out of the library, and took the time to do a quick re-read.

Originally published back in 1995, this story introduces us to Myron Bolitar, a former basketball star whose career came to an abrupt halt, due to injury.

He is now a sports agent representing a superstar football player who is about to burst out onto the professional field.

But, there are a few hitches, one of which is that his client has a cloud of suspicion hanging over his head, due to the disappearance of his fiancé, with foul play suspected. Not only that, the fiancé in question is the sister of Myron's former girlfriend, Jessica, a woman he still carries a torch for. To put the cherry on the cake, new information has begun to circulate suggesting the missing girl might be alive. It’s in Myron’s best interest to clear his client’s name and try to bring peace to Jessica’s family.

But, he never anticipated the Pandora’s box he was about to open….

I love Myron’s comical quips, which is the reason I found this series so appealing and because of the colorful cast of characters that keeps things lively.

I don’t know if this was one of Coben’s very first efforts, or not, but it is a little rough around the edges, especially towards the end, because everything got slapped together in a pretty sloppy way. But, overall, this is still a solid crime story, plus it was fun going back to the very beginning of the series and seeing how everything has changed. It is a little dated, with references to VCR tapes and answering machines, for example, but that only gives the story a nostalgic feel.

If you start this series thinking it is something along the lines of ‘Tell No One’, be warned, this series doesn't have that level of intensity, nor does it have some of the darker tones of his other stand alone novels. However, these stories do delve into the underbelly of humanity, but is offset by the humor and emotional connections between the characters.

The series does improve over time as Coben’s writing tightened up and developed, although the first couple of installments were a bit rocky. I’ve skipped around in the series over the years, picking the books I had access to or was able to find in the library or used book store, and while it’s not one of those series I have tripped all over myself trying to keep up with, it is actually a little addictive. Now that I’ve got my appetite whetted, I think I’ll try to work some of the titles I missed into my reading schedule and get caught up with the series.


I did manage to get all the Myron Bolitar books read, in order, no less, and have to say this series really did develop into a strong crime saga.  I highly recommend reading this entire series!  You'll be glad you did!!





With over 70 million books in print worldwide, Harlan Coben is the internationally bestselling author of more than twenty-five novels, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers Fool Me Once, The Stranger, Missing You, Six Years, Stay Close, Live Wire, Caught, Long Lost, and Hold Tight, as well as the Myron Bolitar series and a series aimed at young adults featuring Myron’s nephew, Mickey Bolitar. His books are published in 43 languages around the globe and have been number one bestsellers in over a dozen countries. A new Myron Bolitar novel, Home, will be published September 2016.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Death By Dumpling by Vivien Chien - Feature and Review


Welcome to the Ho-Lee Noodle House, where the Chinese food is to die for. . .

The last place Lana Lee thought she would ever end up is back at her family’s restaurant. But after a brutal break-up and a dramatic workplace walk-out, she figures that a return to the Cleveland area to help wait tables is her best option for putting her life back together. Even if that means having to put up with her mother, who is dead-set on finding her a husband.

Lana’s love life soon becomes yesterday’s news once the restaurant’s property manager, Mr. Feng, turns up dead―after a delivery of shrimp dumplings from Ho-Lee. But how could this have happened when everyone on staff knew about Mr. Feng’s severe, life-threatening shellfish allergy? Now, with the whole restaurant under suspicion for murder and the local media in a feeding frenzy―to say nothing of the gorgeous police detective who keeps turning up for take-out―it’s up to Lana to find out who is behind Feng’s killer order. . . before her own number is up.



Death by Dumpling (Noodle Shop Mystery #1)Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien is a 2018 St. Martin’s Press publication.

Brilliant beginning for this new cozy mystery series!!

I kept hearing about this book and was desperate to try it out, but my local library did not have a copy. But, thankfully, my non-resident Overdrive library sponsor accepted my recommendation of this book and I profusely thank them for buying a copy.

Was it worth the wait and extra effort I had to go through in order to read it? Absolutely!! This is one of the best debut cozies I’ve read in a long time.

When Lana Lee experiences a brutal breakup and then loses her job in quick succession, she returns home to lick her wounds and regroup. She works in her parent’s restaurant, and maybe enjoys it more than she wants to admit, even if she has to put up with her mother’s constant nagging about finding a husband.

Yet life turns on a dime, yet again, for Lana when the restaurant’s property owner dies from anaphylactic shock after consuming shrimp dumplings cooked at “The Noodle Shop” and hand delivered by Lana herself. When the cook is arrested, and Lana is on the hot seat with the local authorities, she realizes that unless she discovers the truth about Mr. Feng’s death, an innocent man could go to prison.

Cozy fans are going to love Lana Lee! Her self-deprecating humor is contagious, and the entire cast and crew is stellar. Sometimes, well, most of the time, cozy mysteries are light in tone, even in the midst of a murder investigation. As such, the plots aren’t often incredibly complex, nor do they dig too deeply underneath the surface, with most villains guilty of the usual crimes with the usual motives. But, this story has a strong cultural and family drama which examines family dynamics and the consequences of ill -fated decisions, keeping secrets, and greed.

Often a debut cozy will lose momentum by spending too much time on character introduction or on the location, than on the mystery, which causes the story to lose momentum and flounder. But, in this case, the author wowed me with her ability to introduce the main cast, tell a very engaging mystery, and set the stage for future installments without the slightest hesitation. There was no timidity, no imbalances!

The characters did their thing, and the story flowed very well as a result. The only drawback is that I now have a craving for noodles and the author has left me drumming my fingers impatiently awaiting book two!!

Great story, with real authenticity!





Vivien Chien first started writing simple stories about adventures with her classmates when she was in elementary school. As she grew up, her love of books and the written word increased, leading to the attempt of her first novel at age 16. After many struggled beginnings and several different genres, she found her passion in the mystery world.

When she’s not writing, she can be found frolicking in the bookstore or searching for her next bowl of noodles. She has a soft spot for doughnuts, a healthy love for coffee, and an extreme need to participate in random acts of crafting.

She currently lives in Cleveland where she is hard at work on the third book in her Noodle Shop series and writes side-by-side with her toy fox terrier.

Visit her at www.vivienchien.com

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

After Anna by Lisa Scottoline- Feature and Review


Nobody cuts deeper than family...

Noah Alderman, a doctor and a widower, has remarried a wonderful woman, Maggie, and for the first time in a long time he and his son are happy. But their lives are turned upside down when Maggie’s daughter Anna moves in with them. Anna is a gorgeous seventeen-year-old who balks at living under their rules though Maggie, ecstatic to have her daughter back, ignores the red flags that hint at the trouble that is brewing. Events take a deadly turn when Anna is murdered and Noah is accused of the crime. Maggie must face not only the devastation of losing her only daughter, but the realization that her daughter's murder was at the hands of a husband she loves. New information sends Maggie searching for the truth, leading her to discover something darker than she could have ever imagined.



After AnnaAfter Anna by Lisa Scottoline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After Anna by Lisa Scottoline is a 2018 St. Martin’s Press publication.

Riveting courtroom drama, taut suspense, and emotional family drama-

When Maggie’s estranged seventeen- year old daughter, Anna, calls out of the blue, hoping to reconnect, Maggie is over the moon. As it turns out, Anna’s father has died, making Anna a very wealthy young woman, but she is utterly alone in the world. Maggie, of course, immediately invites Anna to move in with her and her new husband, Noah, and his son. Maggie would finally have the complete family she had always longed for.

But, things go awry almost immediately when Anna and Noah clash, exposing large cracks in the veneer of Maggies's perfect family. But, as tense as things have become between Maggie and Noah, as strained as their marriage has become, Maggie never could have imagined a day when her husband would stand trial for the murder of her only child. Did Noah cross a line with Anna? Did he murder her?

Lisa Scottoline is usually pretty solid, and I enjoy most of her books. But, I really found myself caught up on this one, more so than usual, probably because of the courtroom drama. I haven’t read any clever courtoom scenes, like this one, in so long I felt like I’d found an oasis in a desert. The trial was absolutely fantastic!!

The family drama is interwoven within all the legalese, as Noah recalls the events that led up to his arrest for Anna’s murder.

Although, it didn’t take long for me to figure out what was going on, at least to some extent, I still suspected anyone and everyone along the way of being complicit or involved in some way, which of course, is exactly the way I like it. However, the story almost careened too far off course, in the second half, putting all that carefully crafted momentum at risk. I had to suspend belief a little more than I would like to, but, at the end of the day, I think things evened out enough to give the book a strong finish.

The suspense is taut, not just from a criminal aspect, but from an emotional one, as well.

Relationships are always complex, and this book explores the ways a seemingly perfect marriage and family has vulnerabilities, and be hacked into just like with technology. One has to be on guard at all times for potential malware. Personality traits and certain tendencies can work for us or against us when we are thrown into bizarre, unimaginable circumstances.

Once everything was said and done, I think a few of these characters were much stronger after having faced this type of adversity. Prioritizing what is really important in life is something we can all strive for, but hopefully we won’t have to face such catastrophic challenges before we see the need to keep things in perspective.

Although the story has a few weak spots one will have to overlook, because the legal aspects were so strong, because I cared about the characters, and because I loved the ending, and the message I gained from this story, I feel this is a strong and entertaining effort from LS.





Lisa Scottoline is The New York Times bestselling author and Edgar award-winning author of 30 novels, including her upcoming, AFTER ANNA. She also writes a weekly column with her daughter Francesca Serritella for the Philadelphia Inquirer titled “Chick Wit” which is a witty and fun take on life from a woman’s perspective. These stories, along with many other never-before-published stories, have been collected in a New York Times bestselling series of humorous memoirs including their most recent, I Need A Lifeguard Everywhere But The Pool. Lisa reviews popular fiction and non-fiction, and her reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Lisa has served as President of Mystery Writers of America. Lisa graduated magna cum laude in three years from the University of Pennsylvania, with a B.A. degree in English, and her concentration was Contemporary American Fiction, taught by Philip Roth and others. She graduated cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania Law School where she taught a course she developed, "Justice and Fiction." Lisa is a regular and much sought after speaker at library and corporate events. Lisa has over 30 million copies of her books in print and is published in over 35 countries. She lives in the Philadelphia area with an array of disobedient pets, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Twofer Tuesday- The Pilot's Wife and The Stars Are Fire- by Anita Shreve- Feature and Review


A pilot's wife is taught to be prepared for the late-night knock at the door. But when Kathryn Lyons receives word that a plane flown by her husband, Jack, has exploded near the coast of Ireland, she confronts the unfathomable-one startling revelation at a time. Soon drawn into a maelstrom of publicity fueled by rumors that Jack led a secret life, Kathryn sets out to learn who her husband really was, whatever that knowledge might cost. Her search propels this taut, impassioned novel as it movingly explores the question, How well can we ever really know another person?



The Pilot's WifeThe Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve is a 1999 Bay Back Books publication.

I read this book a long time ago, before I become a member of Goodreads and well before I started writing book reviews.
But, when I heard of Anita Shreve’s passing, this book came back to the forefront of my mind, as I recalled bits and pieces of it quite vividly.
Although I have so many books to review, with deadlines, no less, I couldn’t resist giving this book a second look.
This novel, when it was first released, benefited greatly from the press that resulted from Oprah Winfrey’s having selected it for her book club. However, initially, I wasn’t sure if it was my kind of book and didn’t immediately rush out and buy a copy at the peak of its popularity. But, eventually, my curiosity got the best of me. I never could have imagined the impact this book would have on me, or the way it would guide my reading habits from that time forward.

Briefly, for those who may not have read the book or just a quick refresher for those who have- Kathryn’s husband, Jack, is a pilot, and together they have a teenage daughter. Life is pretty good, and Kathryn has learned to accept the ebbs and flows within her marriage. But, when she gets the news a plane Jack was piloting exploded in midair, everything she thought she knew about her daughter, her husband and even herself is thrown into question. Was it a mechanical malfunction, or pilot error- or something far more sinister?

Jack’s occupation explains his absences from home, but it is an adjustment his family has had to learn to live with. His job also comes in handy when it comes to sustaining secrets and hiding things from his wife and daughter. Many may question how naïve Kathryn was, but I didn’t feel as though she buried her head in the sand. Of course, as the story unfolds, episodes from the past all click into place and Kathryn realizes she was naïve, perhaps complacent, was too trusting, too confident in her life, but didn’t she have the right to be? Or should she have remained in a state of hyper awareness at all times? Is is wrong to enjoy contentment?

Even now, with the passage of time, the emotions the book stirred in me the first time around, resurfaced once again, as strong as before, maybe even more so, even knowing everything that was going to happen in advance. The story still held my rapt attention and sucked me into Kathryn’s mind -numbing vortex as she stumbles across one shocking betrayal after another.
The suspense is still nearly unbearable at times, the characterizations firm, if not always likeable, and the tantalizing and teasing pacing, is genius.

The story does seem dated a little, at this point, and as a more jaded reader, I may have figured things out a lot quicker if I’d been reading it for the first time, but it is still a powerful heart wrenching novel of suspense and riveting family drama. I have read several other books written by Shreve over the years, but so far, although very well written, they didn’t quite manage to have the same effect on me as this one did.






In October 1947, after a summer-long drought, fires break out all along the Maine coast from Bar Harbor to Kittery and are soon racing out of control from town to village. Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her husband, Gene, joins the volunteer firefighters. Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie's two young children, Grace watches helplessly as their houses burn to the ground, the flames finally forcing them all into the ocean as a last resort. They spend the night frantically protecting their children and in the morning find their lives forever changed: homeless, penniless, awaiting news of their husbands' fate, and left to face an uncertain future in a town that no longer exists. In the midst of this devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms--joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain--and her spirit soars. Then the unthinkable happens and Grace's bravery is tested as never before.


MY REVIEW: The Stars Are FireThe Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve is a 2017 Random House publication.

I must confess, I had this book sitting on my TBR pile for a while, not in any big hurry to read it, until I heard the news of Anita Shreve’s passing. I decided to do a blog post in her honor and wanted to include the first book I’d read of hers- “The Pilot’s Wife” and thought it would be fitting, in a way, to feature the last book she published. So, I while I was re-reading TPW, I slowly worked my way through this one, as well.

What captured my interest about this book, initially, was that it is centered around true events. In 1947 a massive fire in Maine burned over a quarter of a million acres of land, and destroyed many homes in its wake, leaving sixteen dead. I’d never heard about this fire until I read the synopsis of this book. After doing a few Google searches I was interested to see how Shreve would weave a story around such a monumental occurrence.

Grace Holland is in an unhappy marriage, the mother of two small children, with another one on the way, when her husband, Gene, volunteers to help fight the fire. He goes missing, presumed dead, leaving Grace, her children, and her mother to find a way to survive on their own.

Just when Grace is hitting stride, feeling more confident, enjoying the relief and release she feels without Gene, life throws Grace a curve ball she never saw coming.

“Doubt thou the stars are fire; / Doubt thou the sun doth move; / Doubt truth to be a liar; / But never doubt I love.” - Hamlet

This story is not incredibly long, but due to its bleakness, which depicted the hardships that resulted from a horrific disaster, while detailing the limited options women had in the forties, it often felt like the story was moving at the speed of molasses.

However, I would advise readers to stick it out, because this is not a book that is meant to be a fast-paced novel of suspense or action. It’s beautifully written piece and an amazing character study, focused on Grace Holland. Grace will go from being at the will and mercy of a cold, bitter husband, to finding the strength and courage to search for inner peace, and maybe even happiness, against all odds.

Women, especially, stayed in miserable marriages to avoid the stigma associated with divorce, and because of the lack of career opportunities. But, for Grace, duty and responsibility figure into things, as well. But, the book also points to how rigid, assigned roles, and duties also impacted men.

Gene might have felt trapped, and certainly felt intense pressure to provide for his family, which began to change him from a rather amiable sort, to a resentful, cold, and very bitter man. His anger soon manifests itself in very dangerous ways, which is where the marital tensions often become so taut, and so intense, it is nearly unbearable.

Yet out of the dust and burnt ash, this story emerges into one of great resilience and courage. Grace does the best she can, takes risks, capitalizes on advantageous situations and is helped by good people and wonderful friends along the way. Even when she seems to hit rock bottom, with no way out of her misery, she rises to the occasion, determined to escape her phyical and metaphorical incarceration.

While this book is mostly well-received, it did have a few mixed reviews, which gave me pause, but as is often the case, a book will speak to one in a very different way than it speaks to someone else, if at all.

For me, I was very impressed with Shreve’s portrait of marriage during a time when people were basically forced to remain in an untenable relationship. I was in awe of her in depth creation of Grace Holland, who is ultimately a survivor, a person who is inspirational, determined to live life on her own terms and refuses to allow convention to dictate her destiny. Her journey is a long, labored trip, and is not going to end all wrapped up in a nice, neat package. This may bother some readers, but, I thought it was fitting and, did justice to Grace’s character.

Having said that, one can’t avoid the impression that Grace will reinvent herself, will be in control of her own destiny, embarking on a whole new adventure in life, no matter which path she winds up on or how things turn out.

In all honesty, based on the books I’ve read by this author, this one was not my all -time favorite, and I don’t know that it’s Shreve’s best effort, but it is still a very solid, atmospheric and compelling novel. I really enjoyed the history, the writing, and the deep character study, and how the tragedy of the fire, ultimately provided a way for Grace to experience freedom and forge a new life for herself.

Overall, I thought this book was very thought provoking and would make a very good book club selection. This may be our last novel by Anita Shreve, and if that is the case, I’d say she left us with a very positive impression of her and her books.





This blog post is dedicated to the late Anita Shreve. 

Anita Shreve was an American writer, chiefly known for her novels. Shreve's novels have sold millions of copies worldwide. She attended Tufts University and began writing while working as a high school teacher. One of her first published stories, Past the Island, Drifting, (published in 1975) was awarded an O. Henry Prize in 1976. Among other jobs, Shreve spent three years working as a journalist in Kenya. In 1999, while she was teaching Creative Writing at Amherst College, Oprah Winfrey selected The Pilot's Wife for her book club. Her novels The Weight of Water and Resistance became a films of the same name. CBS released The Pilot's Wife as a movie of the week.

She died on March 29, 2018, at her home at Newfields, New Hampshire, from cancer; she was 71. 

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!