The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

The Illusionists Apprentice

by Kristy Cambron

 

About the Book

Not all illusions happen on the stage.

Wren Lockhart, apprentice to master illusionist Harry Houdini, uses life on a vaudeville stage to escape the pain of her past. She continues her career of illusion after her mentor’s death, intent on burying her true identity.

But when a rival performer’s act goes tragically wrong, the newly formed FBI calls on Wren to speak the truth—and reveal her real name to the world. She transfers her skills for misdirection from the stage to the back halls of vaudeville, as she finds herself the unlikely partner in the FBI’s investigation. All the while Houdini’s words echo in her mind: Whatever occurs, the crowd must believe it’s what you meant to happen. She knows that if anyone digs too deep, secrets long kept hidden may find their way to the surface—and shatter her carefully controlled world.

Set during one of the richest, most vibrant eras in American history, this Jazz Age novel of illusion, suspense, and forgotten pasts is perfect for fans of The Magician’s Lie, challenging all to find the underpinnings of faith on their own life’s stage.

 

My thoughts

One of my favorite things about Kristy Cambron’s books is they make me look at history and historical figures in a way I never have before. Sure I’ve heard the names John Ringling and Harry Houdini but other than a general knowledge of what they did to make a living, I’ve not thought about them too much more.

The Illusionist’s Apprentice made me take notice. In fact, it drove me to look him up online and learn a little more about his life, especially the part Cambron focuses on—his effort to reveal fraudsters.

 

 

But this book was about so much more than Houdini’s life. In fact, while he’s mentioned and has impact on some of the characters, he is not one in the book. This story is really about Wren Lockhart, Houdini’s apprentice and perhaps the only person who knows his secrets. A woman whose life has become an illusion in itself. While she puts on the trousers, stage makeup, demeanor, and confidence of Wren, she has another life she keeps well-hidden from the public.

Yet when FBI agent Elliott Matthews enters her carefully constructed life, he sees beyond the facade and desires to learn more about this intriguing woman. As the two work together to solve a mysterious death that occurred during another entertainer’s planned spectacular.

Cambron paints a vivid picture of the vaudeville life from the costumes to the stage, the acts to the competitiveness to be known as the best, and the convoluted relationships. While there, readers also get a glimpse into the newly formed FBI, the prohibition era, and Boston.

 

My Rating:

 

Disclosure statement:

I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including Netgalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

 

An Uncommon Protector by Shelley Shepard Gray

An Uncommon Protector by Shelley Shephard Gray (available now)

 

About the book

 

Overwhelmed by the responsibilities of running a ranch on her own, Laurel Tracey decides to hire a convict—a man who’s just scary enough to take care of squatters and just desperate enough to agree to a one-year post.

The years following the war have been hard on Laurel Tracey. Both her brother and her father died in battle, and her mother passed away shortly after receiving word of their demise. Laurel has been trying to run her two-hundred-acre ranch as best she can.

When she discovers that squatters have settled in her north pasture and have no intention of leaving, Laurel decides to use the last of her money to free a prisoner from the local jail. If she agrees to offer him room and board for one year, he will have to work for her to pay off his debt.

Former soldier Thomas Baker knows he’s in trouble when he finds himself jailed because he couldn’t pay a few fines. Laurel’s offer might be his only ticket out. Though she’s everything he ever dreamed of in a woman—sweet and tender-hearted, yet strong—he’s determined to remain detached, work hard on her behalf, and count the days until he’s free again.

But when cattle start dying and Laurel’s life is threatened, Thomas realizes more than just his freedom is on the line. Laurel needs someone to believe in her and protect her property. And it isn’t long before Laurel realizes that Thomas Baker is far more than just a former soldier. He’s a trustworthy hero, and he needs more than just his freedom—he needs her love and care too.

 

 

My thoughts

 

Let me start with the most important information. I loved this book!! I’ve only read a couple books written by Shelley Shephard Gray but after reading An Uncommon Protector, I’m a fan.

 

The development of both Thomas Baker and Laurel Tracey in this book were spot on. The author manages to introduce the reader to a man who has lived a hard life and is currently in prison in such a way that they sympathize with him instead of disliking him. Thomas Baker has a past but he also is a man you can respect. While readers get a glimpse of Laurel’s bravery from the first chapter, as the story continues, the layers of her character are revealed.

 

The attraction between these two is evident from the first time they see each other and only builds throughout the book. But that’s not what the book is really about. Both Thomas and Laurel are struggling to stand on their own two feet, to find their places in life. But maybe standing beside each other is better than standing on their own.

 

 

 

Disclosure statement:

 

I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including Netgalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Because You’re Mine by Colleen Coble

Because You’re Mine by Colleen Coble

 

About the book

Amid the beauty of Charleston, not all is as it seems.

When her husband Liam is killed by a car bomb while their Celtic band is on tour in Charleston, singer and Irish beauty Alanna doesn’t quite know where to turn. Her father-in-law is threatening to take custody of the baby she carries, but Alanna knows she can’t lose the only piece of Liam she has left.

Alanna’s manager offers her a marriage of convenience to obtain U.S. citizenship and allow her to escape her father-in-law’s control. It seems like the perfect solution until she arrives at the family home of her new husband—a decaying mansion with more questions than answers.

Strange things begin happening that threaten Alanna’s life and the life of her child. Are they merely coincidences? Or is something more sinister at work?

A mysterious painting, a haunting melody, and a love stronger than death leave Alanna questioning where darkness ends and light begins.

My thoughts

While the story was a quick read, I had some mixed emotions about a few things going on.

The mystery behind Jesse’s actions wasn’t so much a mystery for me. I had that one figured out almost from the beginning. But Barry, his family home, and his motivations were not as clear until the end of the book. And there were some great action/suspense scenes in this one too.

Set in the Charleston, SC area, the book takes on an almost gothic quality (ala Jane Eyre) once Barry and Alanna return from Ireland and set up their lives in Barry’s ancestral home. Alanna’s career, her upbringing, and her family are all integral to the story and give readers deeper insights into her character.

I didn’t love how quickly Alanna was to give in to Barry on several occasions. Yes, she’s grieving but her husband has only been gone a few weeks (if that—the timeline wasn’t extremely clear).

If you’re looking for a read with a hint of the supernatural (which is all explained away by the end), Because You’re Mine may fit the bill. Overall, an entertaining read with a few scenes I’m still not sure how I feel about, but the ending was worth my time.
Disclosure statement:
I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including Netgalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Twilight at Blueberry Barrens by Colleen Coble

Tell me if you can relate. Every once in a while, there’s a book on my TBR pile (and yes, sometimes they’re ones I’m supposed to review) that takes you forever to get to it? But then you finally, finally get some time to read it and you’re like, “Why didn’t I read that sooner?”

That’s exactly what happened with Colleen Coble’s Twilight at Blueberry Barrens. Once I started reading this story, I didn’t want to put it down.

But first, let’s take a minute to admire this beautiful cover. I love the colors on this one.

This is part of the Sunset Cove series that takes place in Maine but it can be read alone (in fact, I haven’t read the other two books but after this one, I’m going back to them).

When her family’s blueberry crop does not yield enough fruit to sustain her, Kate Mason needs to find another source of income and fast. When a potential renter is thrown into her lap with the additional income of a possible nanny position, Kate’s eager to help the man with his two little girls.

Drake Newham is determined to find out the truth behind his brother’s and sister-in-law’s deaths. If it means moving to the rugged coast of Maine for several weeks, he’ll do it. But digging into the truth will require leaving his nieces with someone.

As the attraction between Kate and Drake build, so does the suspense. Kate’s uncle has escaped from prison, someone keeps breaking into Kate’s house, and a local peeping Tom has the women in town looking over their shoulders. Can they, with the help of local law enforcement, solve the mysteries surrounding them before someone else pays the price?

There’s a lot happening in this book (which is why it was hard to put it down when I had other obligation—like work). And while I had an inkling of what was happening, the solution went deeper than I realized.

Coble creates loveable characters. As a reader, I rooted for Kate and Drake. Kate’s past is riddled with trials and unfair circumstances. Now that she’s found so much, I wanted her to have all of the good things she deserves in her life without having to earn them. Drake is skeptical at first but he grew on me quickly. And as a supporter of other Christian fiction authors, it was fun to read mentions of Denise Hunter’s Summer Harbor series and Carrie Stuart Parks’ Gwen Marcey series in this book.

Disclosure statement:
I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including Netgalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson

Once again, Melanie Dickerson has delivered and engaging and unique perspective on a classic fairy tale. This time around, Ariel from The Little Mermaid gets a remodel in Dickerson’s The Silent Songbird.

When Evangeline’s cousin, the King of England, informs her that she will marry his closest advisor (a man twice her age whom she believes is hiding an evil streak from everyone), she does the only thing she can. She runs.

Disguising herself as a mute peasant girl named Eva, she and her companion travel to the village of Glynval with a small group of servants. Their leader, Westley le Wise (anyone else notice the nod to The Princess Bride here?) is both handsome and kind, but Evangeline realizes the secret she carries will end any hope of attachment between them before it can ever begin.

Something sinister is occurring in Glynval which puts Westley’s life in danger. Will Eva reveal her secret to save a man she admires? And if she does, will her send her back when he learns of the lies?

There’s a lot happening in this book (as with most of the Hagenheim series) but it all culminates in a satisfying way. I laughed at some of the escapades as Eva learns to do the servant’s work, grew agitated at the way another person treated Eva, longed for her and Westley to see what is right in front of them, and my heart pounded along with Eva’s when Westley’s life is in danger.

Dickerson is a fan-favorite of these types of books and with the attention to detail and the riveting storylines, there’s no question why that is.

I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including Netgalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.