Monday, December 19, 2016

The Illusionist's Apprentice

Illusionist and vaudevillian Wren Lockhart was once the famous Harry Houdini's apprentice, and holds tantalizing secrets about her former mentor.  Months after Houdini's death, Wren finds herself helping the newly formed FBI investigate spiritualist Horace Stapelton, whose recent publicly performed illusion left a man dead.  As the investigation progresses and Wren finds herself in danger, she must decide if she can trust Agent Elliot Matthews with the secrets of her vaudeville act as well as those of her little-known past.  Will  Elliot discover who is trying to discredit Houdini's legacy and silence Wren before her entire world falls apart?  When he finds himself just as drawn to Wren's non-stage persona-- the quiet and caring Jenny Charles-- as he is to the eccentric and bold public performer, will Elliot convince Wren to finally let her guard down?

Kristy Cambron takes her readers on a fascinating tour of the Jazz Age's world of vaudeville in The Illusionist's Apprentice.  With a perfect blend of mystery, suspense, historical detail, complex characters, and compelling romance, Cambron's latest is a true delight.  Wren's struggle to reconcile her two personas with the woman she wishes to be is both believable and intriguing, and Elliot is the perfect combination of responsible lawman and brave rescuer to be an excellent romantic lead.  The plot moves along quickly and includes plenty of action to keep the reader guessing and engaged.  I enjoyed every last page.

 I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Rescue Me

Hard-working and dependable Deputy Sam Brooks takes his job and various responsibilities seriously.  That's why he's convinced practical and organized Sierra Rose is perfect for him.  Unfortunately, after months of dating, he still can't seem to convince her that they truly belong together.  Sierra's impulsive younger sister Willow, however, has been in love with Sam for years.  While Willow understands Sam better than most people, she wants her sister to be happy and settle down with a good man after a recent heartbreak.  Though Willow tries to push her sister and Sam together, she and Sam manage to find themselves stranded with a group of teenagers in Glacier National Park.  Will their journey to safety bring them closer together, or simply prove that their opposing personalities make them incompatible?  Will Willow prove that she can be a trusted and responsible youth leader, or will the perceptions others have of her break her spirit?  Will Same ever learn to trust others and enjoy life, or will he continue to shoulder everyone else's responsibilities?

In Rescue Me Susan May Warren takes readers back to the splendor of Glacier National Park, and the charming characters of Mercy Falls.  As with Warren's first installment in the series-- Wild Montana Skies-- I couldn't manage to put this novel down.  The rustic setting, the complex characters, and good old-fashioned romance kept me absolutely engaged, and I finished the book in a single evening. While certainly interesting, Warren's character development can be a bit heavy handed: Willow has always felt abandoned, so she has trust issues... Sam blames his irresponsible brother for their father's death, so he takes on too much responsibility... Sierra is still in love with her boss, but somehow can't see it... etc.  Regardless, the novel manages to delve into the compelling issues of trust, forgiveness, and truth while telling an entertaining love story.  I thoroughly enjoyed my lazy evening with this book, and look forward to my next trip to Mercy Falls.

 I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill

Widow Jane Bell had absolutely nothing to do with the running of her husband's inn in the small village of Ivy Hill.  When her year of mourning has passed, however, she realizes that not only is The Bell suffering financially, but her husband had taken out a large loan before his death that the local bank is demanding be repaid immediately.  In order to save her own livelihood and those of many of the local townspeople, she turns to her prickly mother-in-law for advice.  Can Thora and Jane look past old wounds and misunderstandings to turn The Bell around, or will Jane's innovative changes and inexperience bring around its destruction?

Julie Klassen, with her typical talent for story-telling, takes readers on a charming journey to Wiltshire in The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill.  As the first installment in Klassen's very first series-- Tales from Ivy Hill-- the book takes a while to get interesting.  Klassen spends most of the first third of the novel introducing a whole host of characters, and I couldn't quite figure out who I should care most about.  Unlike most of Klassen's works, this one didn't immediately grab and keep my attention until the very last page, and it honestly took an unusual amount of time for me to feel engaged.  Once I was about half-way through, however, I thoroughly enjoyed the read and am looking forward to any subsequent installments.

The village of Ivy Hill and its residents are charming, lovely, and believable.  As per tradition, Klassen deftly has several of her characters recite quotes from British Regency classics.  This work, though, lacks any of the gothic mystery and suspense that marks many of my favorite Klassen novels.  Even worse, there was a stark lack of swoon-worthy romance in this particular attempt.  Even so, as a devoted Klassen fan I will anxiously await the next opportunity to visit Ivy Hill, and hope that since the setting and characters have been well established, the story itself can progress a bit more quickly next time, and end on a more satisfying note.

 I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.