The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay (Review & Giveaway)

About the Book

The Austen Escape Katherine ReayAfter years of following her best friend’s lead, Mary Davies finds a whimsical trip back to Austen’s Regency England paves the way towards a new future.

Mary Davies lives and works in Austin, Texas, as an industrial engineer. She has an orderly and productive life, a job and colleagues that she enjoys—particularly a certain adorable, intelligent, and hilarious consultant. But something is missing for Mary. When her estranged and emotionally fragile childhood friend Isabel Dwyer offers Mary a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in Bath, Mary reluctantly agrees to come along, in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways. But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes that she lives in Regency England. Mary becomes dependent on a household of strangers to take care of Isabel until she wakes up.

With Mary in charge and surrounded by new friends, Isabel rests and enjoys the leisure of a Regency lady. But life gets even more complicated when Mary makes the discovery that her life and Isabel’s have intersected in more ways that she knew, and she finds herself caught between who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who stands between them. Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this triangle works out their lives and hearts among a company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation.

Amazon // Goodreads

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Book Convention Survival Tips (with book giveaway)

Jesus calls His followers to be lights in the midst of darkness. If you’ve ever been to (or thought of going to an ABA book conference), the darkness is rampant.

During the first week of May, I got to hang with other readers at the RT Booklovers’ Convention in Atlanta, GA. This convention moves every year, and in 2018 it will be in Reno, NV. But despite the ever-changing city, the crowds flock to this convention for the parties and opportunities to meet with their favorite authors.

 

I’m by no means an expert at book conventions but this was my second RT (I went to Vegas for my first RT in 2016) and I thought I’d pass along some tips and hints to make the trip more enjoyable and worthwhile.

And if you hang with me until the end of the post, I’m doing a BIG giveaway for fans of Christian fiction (with multiple winners)!! Believe me, you’ll want to stick around and enter!!

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Favorite Reads of 2016

I’m often asked how I can read so many books (over 130 in 2016). The answer is a combination of two things: I live alone and I don’t watch TV. Reading is my entertainment. As this year draws to a close, I thought I’d share some of my favorite reads from this year with you. And one lucky reader will win a paperback copy of a book of their choice. Just leave a comment at the end telling me what your favorite book of 2016 was.

To order any of these books, click on the title. I planned to do a top 10 list, but let’s face it, with the volume of books I read, it was too hard to narrow down to this number so you get a few extras in this list.

15. The Cautious Maiden by Dawn Crandall

The conclusion of Crandall’s “Everstone Chronicles” does not disappoint. The black sheep of the family, Vance Everstone, has a reputation he’s working hard to put behind him. After years of hard living and poor choices, he’s striving to become the man God wants him to be. When he and Violet Hawthorne are found in a compromising situation, he chooses to do the right thing. This is a beautiful story of Vance’s redemption.

14. Thrill Squeaker by Christy Barritt

While a more recent book has been released in this series (and I have not had the opportunity to get to yet), the ending of this one alone makes it stand out. Add in a haunted amusement park and more adventures with Gabby St. Clair’s friends, Barritt delivers another delightful read in her Squeaky Clean Mystery series.

13. A Lady Unrivaled by Roseanna M. White

The third (and final) book in the Ladies of the Manor trilogy is a series conclusion done right. My favorite characters from the other books make an appearance and the mystery and drama revolving around the Tiger Eyes diamonds comes to a fitting conclusion. All of this while watching two engaging and unique characters fall in love while convinced they aren’t worthy of the other person.

12. Emergency Response/Silent Sabotage/Christmas Conspiracy (First Responders Series) by Susan Sleeman

Okay, so I couldn’t pick just one of the books in this series by Susan Sleeman. This team is knit together so well, each of the books added to the enjoyment of the series. A unique group of law enforcement agents that includes a sniper, a bomb tech, two negotiators, an EMT, and the group leader, the First Responders team not only works together but live together as a family.

11. Cold Shot by Dani Pettrey

Set against the Chesapeake Bay area, the first in this new series of Pettrey’s is both an introduction to the area and to the characters—a group of friends who band together when the going gets tough. Combine an ex-SWAT team sniper and a forensic anthropologist to create a page-turning suspense that ended too soon for me. Can’t wait until the next one (Still Life) coming out at the end of January.

10. Undercover Protector by Elizabeth Goddard

This story has so many unique features in it, things that are rare jewels in the book world, I couldn’t leave it out. Our slightly disabled heroine runs a Tiger Sanctuary, the hero is an agent with the US Fish and Wildlife services, and the constant barrage of threats against this couple kept me up late at night getting to that final page.

9. The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron

A story that will take you into the places under the big top most people never get to experience, Cambron’s book is a beautiful portrayal of finding their true homes. Mabel Ringling’s and Rosamund Easling’s stories are separated by twenty-five years but they are both drawn into the family of the circus (both the supportive, caring members and the jealous, vindictive ones).

8. Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

Tagg has quickly become one of my favorite contemporary romance authors. AS another author with a new book in her series out that I have not gotten to yet, I’m definitely putting this one on the list! The Walker Family and the town of Maple Valley, Iowa will draw you into their circle and make you feel at home. When Logan Walker returns home for a long-overdue break, he doesn’t expect to butt heads with reporter Amelia Bentley. But as they chase a long-held town mystery, sparks fly between them. And you can always count on Tagg for a few smiles along with a sigh-worthy happily-ever-after.

7. Missing by Lisa Harris

First of all, the Nikki Boyd files stand out on their own. This scrappy missing persons detective is resilient and smart even if her personal life seems a little messy, her career is right on track. Harris ups her game by setting this book in my hometown (Nashville). I could imagine several places like the fictional ones described in the books. But really, I don’t think anyone has had as bad a week as Nikki Boyd has in this one. The ending of this book does leave you wanting more (good thing Pursued is due out in April 2017!)

6. Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson

Ask any reader of Christian Fiction for a recommendation of a good book (and more particularly, a good romantic suspense), and you’re likely to get the recommendation of Henderson’s O’Malley series. In 2016, Henderson released the first book in a brand new series (and a novella that accompanies it in the Sins of the Past Collection which also includes novellas from Dani Pettrey and Lynette Eason). Evie Blackwell has been tapped to head up a task force solving cold cases. On her first assignment, Evie arrives in Carin, Illinois and meets town Sheriff Gabriel Thane. There are a few stories weaving into this one and many of the characters from Henderson’s previous books make appearances. Another one with a few strings left undone to lead readers to a new release in…you guessed it…2017.

5. If I Run by Terry Blackstock

When I first started reading Christian Fiction, Terri Blackstock was one of the first authors I discovered with her Newport 911 series. Years later, she’s still a favorite of mine. In If I run, Casey Cox flees the scene of her best friend’s murder. With her DNA all over the place, law enforcement is bent on finding her and hires Dylan Roberts, a war-weary Vet with PTSD, to locate her. What’s unique about this book is these two characters are separated for most of the story but as Dylan learns more about Casey, his interest increases. She doesn’t seem like a murderer. “If I’m found” will be release in February 2017. And hello, these book covers are amazing. Love how they fit together to create a larger picture (just like I hope the next book does).

4. A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

Reay is another one of my favorite authors. Her ability to combine bits of literature (whether it be Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, or Shakespeare) is a gift. In A Portrait of Emily Price she carries it a step further into the world of art. From Atlanta Georgia to the Tuscany country side, Emily Price is a character readers will grow to love as she discovers herself and uncovers a long-held secret that could tear a family apart.

3. The Captive Heart by Michelle Griep

I discovered Griep’s books last year and thoroughly enjoyed her view into middle class English society. So it was with trepidation I read this book. I mean, how can you top England? But she not only met my expectations but exceeded them in The Captive Heart. When English governess Eleanor Morgan is forced to flee her home and make her way to America, her only choice of survival is to marry a man she’s never met. Trapper and Tracker Samuel Heath lives under the shadow of the death of his wife, but his daughter needs a mother and he’s willing to go to extreme measures to make that happen. As the two embark on a journey of trusting one another, the wilderness, the rumors, and a precocious child bring them together in more ways than either expects.

2. The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan

This book was so much fun (as was the second book in the Herringford & Watts Mysteries). Set in Toronto, Canada in 1910, readers are taken on a Sherlock-ian adventure via two female flatmates turned amateur detectives. While most women are bent on finding husbands, Merinda and Jem are intent on finding answers to crime. Merinda’s pushy demeanor and go-get-em attitude keeps the story light and enjoyable even though the girls get in plenty of trouble along the way. Good thing they’ve got a constable and a report looking after them in their escapades.

1. Can’t Help Falling by Kara Isaac

As mentioned before, I have an affinity for books set in England (probably because of my love for all things Jane Austen). Isaac takes Oxford England, throws in references to C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series and gives readers a feel-good book that will stick with them. Amelia Mason is trying to make amends for her past choices and decisions which has led her to a non-profit organization in England. As a lover of Lewis’s famous children’s stories, she cannot resist every opportunity to crawl into wardrobes and check the back for the entrance to the magical land of Narnia. As she does just this her first night in England, someone opens the wardrobe and she falls out. Little does she know how entwined her life is about to become with former Olympic rowing hopeful Peter Carlisle. I loved these two characters! Both are hurting in their own ways and Amelia really needs Jesus.

There you have it, my favorite reads of this year. Have you read any of them? What book (or books) did you enjoy most this year? Leave a comment with the title(s) and on Jan 15, I will choose a winner who can book a book of their choice from my list.

Thanks for stopping by! Here’s to more great reads in 2017!

A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

If you’re read any of Katherine Reay’s previous books, you know about her unique way of weaving classic fiction throughout her stories. A Portrait of Emily Price takes it to the next level not only giving readers bits of Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and James Joyce but it also takes readers on a journey through the world of art.

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Fascinated by how things work, Emily Price is the go-to fix-it girl for the insurance company she works for. While in Atlanta on a job, Emily runs into the Vassallo brothers and agrees to help the younger brother, Ben, with fixing up his aunt and uncle’s restaurant. As the two spend time together, Emily and Ben’s relationship blooms, and when Ben asks Emily to travel to Italy with him, she agrees without hesitation.

But once in Ben’s small village in Italy, Emily finds herself out of place. Ben’s mother does not like her, the house is always crowded and more often than not, she’s lost in the conversations going on around her, and Ben’s busy at his family’s restaurant. It doesn’t take long for Emily to learn that instead of fixing Ben’s family, she’s breaking it. When she uncovers a family secret, she’s not sure she belongs there at all.

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From Atlanta to the Italian countryside, from literature to art, Reay paints Emily’s life in beautiful words. What I love about her books is that each of her characters is unique, likable but flawed, and we get to take the journey of discovery with them. For Emily Price, the lesson that has to be learned is that she can’t fix everything.

***The publisher provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

Who or What Shapes Our Future?

Who or What Shapes Our Future?

Two years ago, I read a little book called Dear Mr. Knightley and every year since, I’ve looked forward to seeing what Katherine Reay comes up with next. Lizzie & Jane did not disappoint and neither does Reay’s 2015 offering, The Bronte Plot.

the bronte plot

Lucy Alling has a great job in which she passes her love of books and a great story on to other collectors. Through that job, she meets a great man, James. But when it’s discovered that she’s using less than honest methods of selling those books and stories, she loses James’s love and faith in her.

When his grandmother, Helen, recruits Lucy for a trip to England to procure some items, Lucy is forced to go along. Spending time in London and Haworth, home of the Bronte sisters, allows Lucy to breath the lives of her beloved authors, to examine her motives and her reasons behind them. But Helen has secrets of her own, and as the two embark on this journey of releasing the past and embracing what’s ahead of them, they discover that things don’t always turn out the way you want them to.

Through Victorian-era fiction, especially the works of the Bronte sisters, Lucy discovers there’s more to life than what she’s been allowing herself. I appreciated the way literature is woven throughout the book and I felt like I was visiting the sites of London, Haworth, and The Lake District right along with Lucy. And I always love a book that brings another place to life.

In the end, it’s C.S. Lewis’s words that have the most influence on both Lucy and Helen. Come further up, come further in.

Don’t miss this endearing and thought-provoking book from Katherine Reay.

***Thomas Nelson provided me with a complimentary copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest and fair review. All opinions expressed are my own.