Tag Archives: Regency fiction

Audiobook Mini-Review: A Spy’s Devotion

27 Dec

In England’s Regency era, manners and elegance reign in public life — but behind closed doors treason and deception thrive. Nicholas Langdon is no stranger to reserved civility or bloody barbarity. After suffering a battlefield injury, the wealthy, well-connected British officer returns home to heal—and to fulfill a dying soldier’s last wish by delivering his coded diary.

At the home of the Wilherns, one of England’s most powerful families, Langdon attends a lavish ball where he meets their beautiful and intelligent ward, Julia Grey. Determined to maintain propriety, he keeps his distance — until the diary is stolen and all clues lead to Julia’s guardian. As Langdon traces an evil plot that could be the nation’s undoing, he grows ever more intrigued by the lovely young woman. And when Julia realizes that England — and the man she is falling in love with — need her help, she finds herself caught in the fray. Will the two succumb to their attraction while fighting to save their country?


Melanie Dickerson is the New York Times bestselling author whose two favorite time periods are Medieval, which she has combined with her love of fairy tales, and Regency England, which stems from her love of Jane Austen. She is a 2-time Christy Award finalist, a 2-time Maggie Award winner, winner of The National Reader’s Choice Award for 2010’s Best First Book, and winner of the 2012 Carol Award in Young Adult fiction. She earned her bachelor’s degree in special education from The University of Alabama and has taught children with special needs in Georgia and Tennessee, and English to adults in Germany and Ukraine. Now she spends her time writing, hanging out on facebook, and being with her husband, two daughters, and two guinea pigs near Huntsville, Alabama. Visit her on the web at http://www.MelanieDickerson.com.


My Impressions:

As I have shared on numerous occasions, I listen to audiobooks during my morning walks and am always on the look out for a book that is easy to pick up day after day for an hour at a time. I have read several of Melanie Dickerson’s fairy tale retellings and knew that her writing style is a perfect match for my reading preferences. So when I saw that she had written a Regency-inspired novel with spies, I couldn’t resist. I am so glad that I picked up A Spy’s Devotion, book 1 in Dickerson’s Regency Spies of London series. It definitely checked all the boxes — Regency romance, mysterious goings-on, and a clean and inspiring reading experience. Dickerson captures the manners and customs of the Regency period and combines them with the intrigue of the Napoleonic Wars. The characters are endearing and complex, and the romance, which is not without obstacles, still ends in a happily-ever-after. The narrator of the audiobook does a good job of capturing the time and place.

A Spy’s Devotion was a great listening experience, and I look forward to reading more in the series.


Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(I purchased the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)


First Line Friday — The Christmas Edition!

22 Dec

Only 3 days to Christmas! Yay! I hope you have all your shopping/baking/etc. done so that you can relax with family and friends and maybe a good book! Still have a frenzied to-do list? Consider downloading an audiobook to accompany you on your errands and chores. It just might bring the stress level down.

The folks at Hoarding Books are featuring Christmas on this First Line Friday. I have chosen a book that combines a lot of what I love — Christmas, Jane Austen, and mystery. I am looking forward to cracking open Jane And The Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron and getting lost in a Regency mystery. To find out what Christmas books other bloggers are sharing, click HERE.

Jane Austen turns sleuth in this delightful murder mystery set over the twelve days of a Regency-Era Christmas party.

Christmas Eve, 1814: Jane Austen has been invited to spend the holiday with family and friends at The Vyne, the gorgeous ancestral home of the wealthy and politically prominent Chute family. As the year fades and friends begin to gather beneath the mistletoe for the twelve days of Christmas festivities, Jane and her circle are in a celebratory mood: Mansfield Park is selling nicely; Napoleon has been banished to Elba; British forces have seized Washington, DC; and on Christmas Eve, John Quincy Adams signs the Treaty of Ghent, which will end a war nobody in England really wanted.
Jane, however, discovers holiday cheer is fleeting. One of the Yuletide revelers dies in a tragic accident, which Jane immediately views with suspicion. If the accident was in fact murder, the killer is one of Jane’s fellow snow-bound guests. With clues scattered amidst cleverly crafted charades, dark secrets coming to light during parlor games, and old friendships returning to haunt the Christmas parties, whom can Jane trust to help her discover the truth and stop the killer from striking again?


What is the first line of your Christmas read?

Top 10 Tuesday: Austen-Esque Covers

2 May

It’s all about cover love at The Broke And The Bookish this week. Bloggers are talking about book covers and have free rein to share. I am a big Jane Austen fan and love the many Jane knock-off inspired novels that abound. This week I am featuring a few that currently reside on my shelves, but have yet to be read. Some are serious books. Others, I admit, I bought for their uniqueness. Have you read any of these books? I’d love to know which one I should move to the top of the TBR pile.

Top Austen-Inspired Covers

Eliza’s Daughter by Joan Aiken

Mr. Darcy’s Daughters by Elizabeth Aston

The Second Mrs. Darcy by Elizabeth Aston

Presumption by Julia Barrett

Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma by Dianna Birchall

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James

The Phantom of Pemberley by Regina Jeffers

Vampire Darcy’s Desire by Regina Jeffers

Frederick Wentworth, Captain: None But You by Susan Kaye

Which Austen-Inspired novel should I read first?


Book Review + Giveaway!: The Elusive Miss Ellison

20 Mar

Handsome appearance counts for naught unless matched by good character and actions.

That’s the firm opinion of not-so-meek minister’s daughter Lavinia Ellison. So even though all the other villagers of St. Hampton Heath are swooning over the newly returned seventh Earl of Hawkesbury, she is not impressed. If a man won’t take his responsibilities seriously and help those who are supposed to be able to depend on him, he deserves no respect from her. In Lavinia’s pretty, gray eyes, Nicholas Stamford is just as arrogant and reckless as his brother–who stole the most important person in Livvie’s world.

Nicholas is weighed down by his own guilt and responsibility, by the pain his careless brother caused, and by the legacy of war he’s just left. This quick visit home to St. Hampton Heath will be just long enough to ease a small part of that burden. Asking him to bother with the lives of the villagers when there’s already a bailiff on the job is simply too much to expect.

That is, until the hoydenish, intelligent, and very opinionated Miss Ellison challenges him to see past his pain and pride. With her angelic voice in his head, he may even be beginning to care. But his isn’t the only heart that needs to change.

These two lonely hearts may each have something the other needs. But with society’s opposition, ancestral obligations, and a shocking family secret, there may be too many obstacles in their way.


Carolyn Miller lives in New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. A longtime lover of Regency romance, Carolyn’’s novels have won a number of RWA and ACFW contests. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Australasian Christian Writers.

Find out more about Carolyn at https://www.carolynmiller.org.


My Impressions:

Fans of Austen-esque Regency novels will be happy to have another go-to author. Carolyn Miller’s debut novel, The Elusive Miss Ellison, meets all the requirements: an independent heroine, a hunky hero with more than a few flaws, and a love story filled with obstacles, yet possessing sweet hints of a happily-ever-after. Jane aficionados will recognize the many nods to Pride And Prejudice, but this novel is not a copy-cat. It’s firm foundation in faith is a very welcome addition. I give this one a recommended rating.

Miss Lavinia Ellison has very decided opinions, one of which is that the newest Earl of Hawkesbury should be helping his tenants and the village of St. Hampton Heath. But the relationship between the independent Miss Ellison and Nicholas Stamford is marred by their common past, a past filled with tragedy and unforgiveness. Both will need to break through their walls for a future that just may include love.

As stated above, The Elusive Miss Ellison pays homage to Jane Austen. You can hear hints of Austen in the dialog and in the characters that Miller has created. Familiar phrases sprinkle the conversations and there may be more than a little bit of Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins and Caroline Bingley in a few of the minor characters. Miller even uses a familiar plot device — get a sick heroine into the home of the hero to advance the story. But Miller’s theme of forgiveness extended and accepted is all her own. That theme, as well as a heroine that holds if not modern, then before-her-time, convictions, adds depth to the novel.

If you are looking for a Regency romance that is more than just fluff, then The Elusive Miss Ellison is one to try.


Audience: older teens to adults.

To purchase, click HERE. (Hurry! Today it is FREE for Kindle!)

(Thanks to Kregel for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)


Settle in for a cozy night of reading with a cuppa and a Kindle from Carolyn!

One grand prize winner will receive:
A copy of The Elusive Miss Ellison
A Kindle Fire
Two William Morris mugs (winner’s choice)
A box of tea

Enter today by clicking HERE, but hurry! The giveaway ends on March 22. The winner will be announced March 23 on the Litfuse blog.

Top 10 Tuesday — What’s Up Next in The TBR Pile

28 Feb

The folks at the Broke And The Bookish are taking a short and well-deserved break this week. Six years of hosting this great meme! Our hats are off to you! So that means bloggers are coming up with their own topics. I’m taking the easy way out and sharing what I will be reading in the coming weeks. Have you read any of these books? Let me know what you think.


Top 10 Books in The TBR Pile

By Cat or By Crook by Patricia Fry

Doctor’s Dilemma by Richard Mabry

The Elusive Miss Ellison by Carolyn Miller


Exit Katrina by Chris Link

A Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti

Home at Last by Deborah Raney

A Lady in Disguise by Sandra Byrd


Redeeming Grace by Jill Eileen Smith

A Trail of Crumbs by Susie Finkbeiner

When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin


What book is next up for you?


Book Review: Dawn at Emberwilde

14 Jun

The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

Dawn-at-EmberwildeIsabel Creston never dared to dream that love could be hers. Now, at the edge of a forest filled with dark secrets, she faces a fateful choice between love and duty.

For as long as she can remember, beautiful and free-spirited Isabel has strained against the rules and rigidity of the Fellsworth School in the rolling English countryside. No longer a student, Isabel set her sights on a steady role as a teacher at the school, a safe yet stifling establishment that would enable her to care for her younger sister Lizzie, who was left in her care after her father’s death.

The unexpected arrival of a stranger with news of unknown relatives turns Isabel’s small, predictable world upside down, sweeping her and her young charge into a labyrinth of intrigue and hidden motives.

At her new family’s invitation, Isabel and Lizzie relocate to Emberwilde, a sprawling estate adjacent to a vast, mysterious wood rife with rumors and ominous folklore—along with whispers of something far more sinister. Perhaps even more startling, two handsome men begin pursuing Isabel, forcing her to learn the delicate dance between attraction, the intricate rules of courtship, and the hopes of her heart.

At Emberwilde Isabel will discover that the key to unlocking the mystery of her past may also open the door to her future and security. But first she must find it—in the depths of Emberwilde Forest.

SLadd-318Sarah E. Ladd received the 2011 Genesis Award in historical romance for The Heiress of Winterwood. She is a graduate of Ball State University and has more than ten years of marketing experience. Sarah lives in Indiana with her amazing family and spunky Golden Retriever.

Find out more about Sarah at http://www.sarahladd.com.


My Impressions:

Sarah Ladd returns to Surrey, England with her Regency-inspired novel, Dawn at Emberwilde. Book 2 in her Treasures of Surrey series, this novel is perfect for fans of Jane Eyre. An independent and determined heroine and a house filled with secrets combine with sweet romance for a recommended read. Definitely put this book on your Summer TBR list!

Isabel Creston has trained as a teacher following years at Fellsworth School and the death of both her parents. Charged with the guardianship of her young sister, Lizzie, Isabel is expecting a a message on her future life. But nothing prepares her for the astonishing news that family awaits her at the manor house of Emberwilde. A new life brings ease and opulence, but also danger, betrayal and a hope for love.

The setting of Dawn at Emberwilde sets the stage for mystery and intrigue. The large home harbors family secrets while the adjoining forest is feared for its storied curses. There is a definite gothic vibe going on in this novel. Main character Isabel is a quiet and seemingly compliant character, yet has an innate curiosity and a backbone developed through years of living with little money and low expectations for the future. Other characters are often not what they seem, and both Isabel and the reader must figure out just whom to trust. Fans of romance will be pleased with the love triangle that Isabel faces. A subtle faith message is woven throughout Dawn at Emberwilde — Isabel must learn to judge whom to trust based on their hearts, not on their outward appearances. I especially liked the wisdom imparted by Isabel’s friend, Mary, and hope that we will see more of her in an upcoming novel.

If you are looking for a page-turner featuring history, mystery and romance, look no further than Dawn at Emberwilde. I really liked this standalone novel, and I’m betting your will too!


Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Thomas Nelson and LitFuse for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Author, Author! — Sarah Baughman

5 May

b14vwsbw6qs-_ux250_Please welcome Sarah Baughman to my blog today. Find out what inspires this author of Regency-era romance. Thanks, Sarah, for visiting today!

By The Book — Many authors say that they have always been a writer — making up stories as a child. When did you first become a writer?

Sarah Baughman — I first wrote a “book” in third grade, when we were supposed to write a story, which we then copied into a blank picture book. We were supposed to write ten pages, but I, being the overachiever that I was, wrote thirty and broken them into several chapters. It was called The Day Sara Went Back In Time; my mother recently dug it out of storage in their basement and sent it to me. Later, in middle and high school, I was always writing something or other. Even then, I favored historical fiction. My writing took an academic turn in college, but a few years after my husband and I married, we had our first child and I began writing fiction again. That’s when my Regency Silhouettes series was born.

BTB — Was there a special someone, such as a teacher, parent, or other relative, who encouraged you to pursue writing?

Sarah — My parents have always been supportive, but I think that there’s some level of “They’re my parents; they have to think I write well” involved in my thinking there. I’m not naturally a confident person, and it’s taken me some time to be able to say, “I do _____ well.” On some level, even now, I have to talk myself into being courageous enough to put myself out there. I’ve had many excellent teachers through the years who encouraged my writing, from elementary all the way through college. It is difficult to name just one, but my middle school advanced placement teacher, who later was also my creative writing teacher in high school, was probably the most influential and encouraging. She always gave me honest, encouraging feedback, and really helped me begin to believe that I wrote well. Several years ago, I met a friend who has really become my sounding board and so much more for my writing. Don’t get me wrong, she’s also an encourager in my personal life, in my faith, and in so many ways. And I pray that I’m the same for her. She was the first to read my current books, and I know I can always count on her for honest feedback. I also have to mention my husband. He’s never read my books (He picked up my proof copy of Penelope’s Hope and read the first few lines, then immediately put it back down. He’s more of a Harry Turtledove or Star Trek reader, and he teaches Ancient History at the college level. Regency Romance isn’t his genre of choice. But he’s always been nothing but encouraging, even in the face of the large financial commitment self-publishing demands. He believes in me, and knowing that he wouldn’t enjoy my books really grounds me and gives me a healthy perspective in this: not everyone will like my books, and that’s just fine. I know I have a narrow readership by choosing this genre, but I love it, and enjoy writing it, and if I can touch just a few lives, it is worth it.

BCoverBTB — Your novel, Penelopeʼs Hope, contains a strong Christian message. Do you have a particular motivation to write books that contain faith threads?

Sarah — I love that you term it “faith threads”  . . . it describes beautifully how I see our lives, and how I want my books to reflect life in a fictional setting. I’m a sew-er. I love to sew, it’s a creative release for me, and I love using my hands and my mind in tandem to create something. I’d love to take up weaving, but quite frankly, I don’t have the time or the space. Our lives are woven together by the Master Weaver, created with a specific pattern in mind, sharing threads with other people we meet. Sometimes some threads have to be cut or ripped out, sometimes new threads are woven in, but it’s all part of the same fabric that makes us who we are. My faith is a constant part of my life, and one that I am so very grateful to have been given by the Master Weaver (God, if you haven’t picked up on that 😉 ). It colors all I do, and without it, the fabric of my life would look a lot different. However, it isn’t the only thread in there. There’s compassion and patience, impatience with my children at times, insecurities and uncertainty and unwavering holding to the cross of Christ. Not all the threads are ones I want, and some I wish were stronger. But they make up me. And as my life goes on, and God continues to weave my life together, those threads change and strengthen or weaken, and He continues to make me into the woman He would have me be.

Now, as to my writing. I know that my life isn’t perfect. I don’t trust as I should, I know my failings and struggle against them. However, I also know that I’m a continual work in progress. And that’s what I really want to show in my writing. No one is made perfect on this earth; we will always struggle with sin until we are made new in the New Creation. It’s hugely important to me that my characters are working on things, are struggling with pet sins or with their understanding of who God is and what His heart looks like. Because we all are. But by His grace, He uses the experiences and hardships we face to reveal to us more and more of who He is.

BTB — What does a typical writing day look like? Are you structured or informal in your writing schedule?

Sarah — I want to be more formal in my writing schedule. During this season of my life, though, that isn’t possible. I’m a mom of four, the eldest of whom was received into our family last (he’s a cousin of my husband), and therefore requires a good deal of emotional energy to help adjust to life in our family after the death of his mother. It’s been almost five years, but the struggle is still real. Add into that my part-time job at the preschool where my youngest attends, and the involvement of both my husband and myself in our church’s activities, and I really just don’t have time to write every day. Some semesters, my husband doesn’t teach at a time that I’m not working, and he will often stay home from his office in the history department of the university he teaches at, allowing me to go to a coffee shop and write. I also have a friend with a son close to the same age as my youngest, and we will trade boys twice a week; this also gives me some time. So, I carve out time when I can.

BTBPenelopeʼs Hope is a Regency-era romance. Why did you choose this genre? What challenges did you have in creating the “flavor” of this era?

Sarah — I’ve loved Jane Austen’s novels for a long time, and what could be more fun than writing something taking place in her lifetime? As I started researching the era, and learning about other books set during the period, I also discovered the Regency Romance. I sometimes find it strange that I began writing it without realizing there was an entire sub-genre of this time period. Once I learned of the era, and discovered Georgette Heyer, the mother of the Regency Romance, I started reading several of her books, as well as some others (Linore Burkard, Julie Klassen) as a means of getting a feel for the genre, as well as rereading some of Austen’s work. Once I had my own plotline and faith-story-arcs, I began researching the historical era. It’s a fascinating time, filled with incredible social disparity, an off-kilter moral compass in much of society (and Society), and a culture on the brink of change. Add into this the Napoleonic Wars, which caused a great deal of loss to people personally, as the wars demanded the lives of men called to battle as well as the dedication of resources that reduced the standard of living for many. Granted, the upper classes’ reduction was proportionally lower than others’, but none remained unaffected. My biggest challenge in writing the flavor of this genre was keeping it once I found it. With my busy schedule, there were times that I didn’t write for days. Coming back to the story after such an absence was difficult. Once I found ways to be sure that I wrote nearly every day, it was much easier to keep.

BTB — What kinds of research did you do for this book?

Sarah — Aside from the questions of “What was happening in London, in England, and in the world during the months when this took place?” and “What did people wear during this time period?”, I needed to learn about painting during that time. Ready-made canvases in packs of two and airtight seals on tubes of paint were not really available. Sure, some artists would be able to purchase canvases already stretched, and possibly pay someone to mix their paints. But for Penelope, who was on a very tight budget, it was necessary to know how she would mix paints, what surfaces she would paint, and the like. In creating the character of the Invisible Painter, I also needed to consider how a professional artist would conduct business—especially if he (or she) wished to remain anonymous!

BTB — What do you want your readers to take away with them after finishing your novel?

Sarah — I had to take a breath and think a moment before answering this one. It’s been interesting reading the reviews left or the emails readers have sent me, and seeing all of the different things they take away. I think before publishing, I would have said I wanted them to take away a sense of hope, even in the darkest of circumstances. However, now that I’ve seen that different readers take different things, most likely dependent on the different seasons of life they are in – seasons of want or plenty; seasons of confidence or uncertainty; seasons of hope or sadness or peace or turmoil – I want them to take whatever God speaks to their hearts.

BTB Penelopeʼs Hope is the first book in a series? When can readers expect to read book 2 and can you give us a little sneak peek of the novel?

Violet CoverSarah — Yes, Penelope’s Hope was started after I had already written most of Book Two, entitled Violet’s Daybreak. Each book in the series will focus on different characters, but they are all connected to one another by family or friendly ties. The release date for Violet’s Daybreak is May 1st. The final edits are being implemented, the cover photos are taken, and the cover reveal is scheduled for April 1st. 

BTB —  What would you like to share about your personal life?

Sarah — My personal life is pretty open. It’s busy, and so full of blessings and challenges and happiness and so much more. I believe I mentioned before that my husband and I have a large family; we were married almost thirteen years ago, and have since been blessed with three children by birth, as well as the custody of one of my husband’s cousins when the child’s mother passed away. My husband teaches ancient history, focusing on the Roman Empire and the early Christians. Our firstborn is ten now, and loves drawing, painting, sculpting . . . anything art-related. She was part of my inspiration for that aspect of Penelope’s Hope. Our second-born, a seven-year-old boy, is into all things train. He loves having fun with his siblings and can be a stinker one minute and the sweetest thing the next. I was about five or six months pregnant when we received custody of our now-eldest. He’s almost fifteen now and enjoys playing baritone in band and poring over maps and books of geography. Our youngest is a four-year-old bundle of energy who loves art and sports, trains and building, maps and jokes. I love seeing how he imitates his elder siblings (most of the time I love it, anyway) while still maintaining his own unique personality. Besides working part-time at the preschool and caring for my family as best I can, my husband and I both are very active at our church, both in the Sunday School and the College Ministry. Life is a bit hectic at times, but I really love how full it is. I know someday I’ll miss the craziness my kids bring to my life, so I’m doing my best to enjoy it and roll with it while I can. God is certainly good through it all.

Thanks so much, Sarah, for sharing with us today!

Sarah Baughman grew up in Ohio and received her Bachelor’s degree from Concordia University Chicago. She was married after college, and has lived in Missouri, Michigan, and Alabama before moving to Texas. Along the way, she and her husband had three wonderful children and received guardianship of a fourth. Besides writing, she enjoys volunteering at church, sewing historic clothing, and spending time with her family.

Having written stories almost since picking up her first pencil as a child, Sarah is thrilled to be publishing her first novel, Penelope’s Hope. Look for the release of Violet’s Daybreak, the second installment of the Regency Silhouettes series in the winter of 2015-2016. It is her prayer that her writing will uplift and encourage her readers while also giving glory to God.