The Life of a Vaudeville Star

30320011I think Nicola Italia has become my new favorite romance writer.  This time in The Vaudeville Star, we are introduced to Ruby Mae Sutton, a southern belle from Mississippi who is sent off to finishing school in Connecticut when she is 15.

Ruby has been madly in love all her life with Ford Rutledge, who is engaged to her sister.  Ruby doesn’t want Ford to marry her sister.  She thinks her cold-hearted sister is very wrong for Ford.  So she decides to convince him, putting him in a compromising position, hence sending Ruby to finishing school.

While at the finishing school, Ruby discovers her singing voice and decides she wants to be a vaudeville singer.  Ruby builds fans including the King of New York who becomes obsessed with Ruby.  This is also where Ruby meets Ford again and finds her love for him still exists.

The characters are well developed and their personalities came through strong.  As I was reading, I felt invested in the characters’ lives and was cheering for them.  At almost 300 pages, I thought there was more to tell.  I wanted more of Ruby, Ford, Bessie and the other Vaudeville performers.  This book was well worth my time and it will be well worth your time.  Pick it up today.

Book Description:
On a Mississippi Plantation, Ruby Mae Sutton throws herself into the arms of the only man she has ever loved, Ford Rutledge.  At fifteen years old, she has given her heart away and is not ashamed to brazenly declare her love to the twenty-five-year-old man, who is also the fiancé of her sister.

But Ford has no intention of taking advantage of the blond beauty, even though her reckless behavior causes his engagement to be broken.  Ruby is sent off in disgrace to a boarding school in Connecticut, where she remains for the next three years.

Once in Connecticut, Ruby discovers her singing voice and decides to leave after graduation for the bright lights of New York and the vaudeville stage.  Ford also decides to make his home in New York and suddenly finds himself face-to-face with Ruby Sutton, the very grown and very beautiful rising star of the vaudeville stage.

As Ruby’s star ascends, she makes a huge conquest with the King of Manhattan: William Parker.  King Parker begins to take an interest in Ruby’s career, and more importantly Ruby herself, as Ford finally realizes he is in love with her.

King finances a tour to Europe as his interest in Ruby takes a turn toward the more obsessive.  Ruby finds herself torn between her true love for Ford and the obligation she owes King.  She must tread carefully between the two men, and the brutal murder of someone they all know causes everyone to wonder who had the motive.

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Find out what happened to two abducted best friends

25226082In Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee by Mary G. Thompson, Amy and Dee are abducted when they were 10 – and 12-years-old by a man named Kyle, who had a thing for dolls.  Six years later, Amy returns home but where is Dee?  Amy won’t tell anyone what happened over the six years and why Dee isn’t with her.  But slowly the story comes out.  This book is told from the view of Amy, or Chelsea as Kyle calls her.

Mary Thompson does a great job of showing what can happen to the mind when someone is kept in captivity by an abductor who is slightly off mentally and can be violent.  I really felt for Amy and her family and several times I was brought to tears.

When you are on the outside, you always wonder what an abduction and being held in captivity for years does to a person, how they can survive to live a normal life and what happens to the families left behind who don’t know where their loved ones are.

This was such a good story and well written that kept my attention.  I didn’t want to put the book down.  I’m glad I got the chance to read it through the Penguin Random House First To Read Program.

Book Description:
A bittersweet homecoming holds dark secrets in this heart-wrenching story of loss, love, and survival for readers of Room.

When sixteen-year-old Amy returns home, she can’t tell her family what’s happened to her. She can’t tell them where she’s been since she and her best friend, her cousin Dee, were kidnapped six years ago—who stole them from their families or what’s become of Dee. She has to stay silent because she’s afraid of what might happen next, and she’s desperate to protect her secrets at any cost.

Amy tries to readjust to life at “home,” but nothing she does feels right. She’s a stranger in her own family, and the guilt that she’s the one who returned is insurmountable. Amy soon realizes that keeping secrets won’t change what’s happened, and they may end up hurting those she loves the most. She has to go back in order to move forward, risking everything along the way. Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee is a riveting, affecting story of loss and hope.

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New twist on Sherlock Holmes

28588390Charlotte Holmes of A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas brings a fresh new twist to the Sherlock Holmes franchise.

As a child, Charlotte Holmes, youngest of four sisters, has always been a little different.  She rarely speaks unless she has something to say, she likes to be alone and she is great at coming up with accurate conclusions after observing a situation.  Her father finds Charlotte entertaining, which made her his pet.

Charlotte’s domineering mother is determined to make Charlotte a proper young lady and get her married off.  But Charlotte doesn’t want to get married.  She would rather be the headmistress of an all girl’s school.  Sir Henry Holmes withdraws his promise to fun her training, which forces Charlotte to take drastic measure by ruining her reputation with a married man, ensuring she would not be married off to an eligible bachelor.  Not only did she ruin her reputation, she is publicly disgraced and is the center of a huge scandal.

After the scandal hits, Charlotte runs away to avoid spending her days out in the country alone, where her mother hopes the scandal will die down if Charlotte is out of sight.  Charlotte soon encounters an older, flamboyant lady who she feels an almost instant connection.  Of course this is Mrs. John Watson, a former actress and the widow of an army officer who perished in Afghanistan years earlier.

Soon the bodies start lining up including the mother of Charlotte’s lover.  The reclusive detective Sherlock Holmes is on the case but how effective will he be since he has taken to his bed with a serious illness and Inspector Treadles of Scotland Yard must consult with Holmes through his “sister” Charlotte.  Then there is Lord Ingram Ashburton who is in love with Charlotte but can’t act on his love for her because he is married, even if there is no love in the marriage.  He is an honorable man and will not act on his love.

If you are a Sherlock Holmes fan, or even just a murder mystery fan, then you will want to pick up A Study in Scarlet Women.  This will be a great series to enjoy for years to come.

I was able to read an advanced copy through the First to Read Program from Penguin Random House.

Book Description:
USA Today bestselling author Sherry Thomas turns the story of the renowned Sherlock Holmes upside down…

 With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society.  But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.

When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name.  She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her. But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.

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Murder at The Dollhouse

30039173The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis is such a fascinating story!  This is a story about Rose Lewin who in 2016 moved into the Barbizon Hotel in New York City with her newly divorced boyfriend and Darby McLaughlin who in 1952, moved from Ohio into the hotel to attend classes at the Katherine Gibbs secretarial school.

Barbizon Hotel had a long history as a safe and secure place for young women who came to New York City to study, look for a job or look for a husband.  Over the years it eventually was turned into condos.

Rose, a former network reporter takes a job that is a step down so she can be with her boyfriend.  As she is leaving the building, she meets an unfriendly elderly resident in the elevator.  She finds out that a few of the long-term tenants of the former hotel are living on the fourth floor.  She learns that the unfriendly woman was involved in an accidental death that took place back in the 50’s.

As Rose starts to investigate the accident from the 1950’s, we learn about Darby’s life at the Barbizon Hotel where she wasn’t treated nicely by the women on her floor and how she becomes friends with the hotel’s maid named Esme.  Esme introduces Darby to the darker side of New York City.

The story switches back and forth between Darby’s story from the 1950’s and Rose in 2016.  It shows how their lives progress and eventually intertwine.  I remember reading about rooming houses in New York where women lives with a housemother.  The Barbizon hosted famous women like Sylvia Plath, Liza Minelli, Candace Bergen and Joan Crawford.

I loved this book and found it so fascinating.  It was hard to put it down.  Fiona does a great job pulling the reader into the lives of the women at Barbizon Hotel.

I was able to read this book through the First to Read Program from Penguin Random House.

Book Description:
Fiona Davis’s stunning debut novel pulls readers into the lush world of New York City’s glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side-by-side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success in the 1950’s, and where a present-day journalist becomes consumed with uncovering a dark secret buried deep within the Barbizon’s glitzy past.

 When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren’t: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn’t belong—a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she’s introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that’s used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.

Over half a century later, the Barbizon’s gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby’s involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman’s rent-controlled apartment. It’s a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby’s upstairs neighbor, to resist—not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose’s obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed.

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Sri Lanka tea plantations are a fascinating topic

25237718It’s always enjoyable to read a good historical literature, especially when it’s set in a location I know nothing about.  That is one of the great things about The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jeffries.

The story starts in 1925 as 19-year-old Gwendoline meets Laurence Hooper and quickly marries him.  She sails to Ceylon to join Laurence at his tea plantation.  Life on the plantation has a big racial divide between the British Colonists who own the plantations and the workers who are Indian Tamils and the Sinhalese.

The residents of the Hooper tea plantation are very interesting.  We meet Nick MacGregor, the plantation manager who treats the workers like objects and not human beings.  Gwen doesn’t understand why Nick treats the workers this way.  She believes the workers deserve a better life and wants to give them better health care, better living conditions and better nutrition.  Nick doesn’t like Gwen butting into his business when she tries to befriend the workers.

There is Laurence’s sister Verity.  This woman is very messed up and jealous of any female who is more important to Laurence than she is.  Verity has an aversion to working and acts like Laurence needs to support her.  She’s a spoiled little brat who I wanted to just go away.  I think I even said “go away, go away, go away” when Verity yet again moves into the plantation house.

Then there is ex-mistress Christina Bradshaw who blatantly flirts with Laurence right in front of Gwen.  Christina and Laurence do business together but Christina wants more.  Another character I wanted to go away and leave Laurence and Gwen alone.

The Tea Plantation’s Wife highlights a very volatile time in history and Jeffries does a great job bringing the era to life.  There are also lots of secrets in this family that are hidden for many years and slowly come to light.  Because of this story, I have researched more information about Ceylon and about tea plantations in Sri Lanka. This is definitely well worth the read.  I was able to read this book through the First to Read program with Penguin Random House.

Book Description:
#1 International bestselling novel set in 1920’s Ceylon, about a young Englishwoman who marries a charming tea plantation owner and widower, only to discover he’s keeping terrible secrets about his past, including what happened to his first wife, that lead to devastating consequences

Nineteen-year-old Gwendolyn Hooper is newly married to a rich and charming widower, eager to join him on his tea plantation, determined to be the perfect wife and mother. But life in Ceylon is not what Gwen expected.

The plantation workers are resentful, the neighbours treacherous, and there are clues to the past – a dusty trunk of dresses, an overgrown gravestone in the grounds – that her husband refuses to discuss.

Just as Gwen finds her feet, disaster strikes. She faces a terrible choice, hiding the truth from almost everyone, but a secret this big can’t stay buried forever…

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With Love from the Inside is a heartbreaking story

27833799With Love from the Inside by Angela Pisel is a story about a mother, Grace, accused of killing her infant son, William, and what the accusation did to her husband and daughter.  Grace insisted she is innocent but is convicted of Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome.  After serving 17 years, she is now awaiting execution.  She hasn’t seen her daughter Sophie for 11 years and wants to see her one last time before she is executed.

While Grace has been sitting on death row, her husband always believed she was innocent and worked hard trying to get her conviction overturned.  After her father died, Sophie started to doubt her mom and thinks she really is guilty.  Sophie decides she needs to move on and doesn’t want anything to do with Grace so she stops visiting.  She wants to just live a normal life.  But she can’t quite do that knowing Grace is about to be executed.

The story is told from two perspectives – Grace and Sophie.  Grace is a very strong woman who has accepted her fate and has made her life behind bars the best that it can be.  This book is sad in so many different ways.  I was really surprised the emotion the story brought out of me.

When I was first married, there was a woman in my apartment complex who was charged with Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome so this story really interested me.  I’m so glad I had the chance to read this story.  It was well worth my time.  I want to thank Penguin Random House for the advanced copy I received through their First to Read program.

Book Description:

Grace Bradshaw knows the exact minute she will die.  On death row for murdering her infant son, her last breath will be taken on February 15 at 12:01 a.m.  Eleven years, five months, and twenty-seven days separate her from the last time she heard her precious daughter’s voice and the final moment she’d heard anyone call her Mom.  Out of appeals, she can focus on only one thing—reconnecting with her daughter and making sure she knows the truth.

Secrets lurk behind Sophie Logan’s big house and even bigger bank account.  Every day when she kisses her husband good-bye, she worries her fabricated life is about to come crumbling down.  No one knows the unforgivable things her mother did to tear her family apart—not her husband, who is a prominent plastic surgeon, or her “synthetic” friends who live in her upscale neighborhood.

Grace’s looming execution date forces Sophie to revisit the traumatic events that haunted her childhood.  When she returns to her hometown, she discovers new evidence about her baby brother William’s death seventeen years ago—proof that might set her mother free but shatter her marriage forever.

Sophie must quickly decide if her mother is the monster the prosecutor made her out to be or the loving mother she remembers—the one who painted her toenails glittery pink and plastered Post-it notes with inspiring quotes (“100 percent failure rate if you don’t try”) all over Sophie’s bathroom mirror—before their time runs out.

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Take me to the South of France

25546135I’ve always had a fascination with Europe.  Living in an ancient house in a small village in the south of France sounds like heaven.  I don’t speak the language but I don’t care, I would live there anyway.  In The Promise of Provence by Patricia Sands, I get to live in the south of France through Katherine, a 55-year-old woman who need to escape after finding a note from her husband asking for a divorce instead of an anniversary card.

Katherine decides to get away so she takes part in a house swap that takes her from Toronto to south of France.  For two weeks she enjoys mixing with the locals and immersing herself in the French culture where she makes friends with the neighbors.  France is such a pull, that Katherine goes back for a longer stay.

This book took me away to a beautiful part of the world and made me want to immediately participate in a home swap so I can live for a little while in Provence.   The thought of living in a chateau, riding a bicycle down to the town square to purchase local wares, sounds like heaven.  Sands does such a great job with descriptions I was right there next to Katherine living in the south of France.  This was so worth my time and I can’t wait to read the other two books in the trilogy so I can spend more time in the south of France.

Book Description:

On the evening of her twenty-second wedding anniversary, Katherine Price can’t wait to celebrate. But instead of receiving an anniversary card from her husband, she finds a note asking for a divorce.

Fifty-five and suddenly alone, Katherine begins the daunting task of starting over. She has her friends, her aging mother, and her career to occupy her, but the future seems to hold little promise—until, after a winter of heartbreak, Katherine is persuaded to try a home exchange holiday in the South of France.

In Provence, bright fields of flowers bloom below medieval hilltop villages with winding cobblestone streets. Charmed by the picturesque countryside, the breathtaking Côte d’Azur, and the enchantment-filled boulevards of Paris, Katherine feels life opening up once again. Lavender perfumes the air, and chance encounters hint at romance and passion. But memories of heartbreak and betrayal linger—and her former life waits for her back home. Can she find the courage to begin again?

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