21 Feb 2024

The Lost Boys of Barlowe Theater: 2023 Catchup

 Published 10th October 2023, Bethany House
Print, Ebook and Audio

Dual Timeline Historical Fiction

It promises beauty but steals life instead. Will the ghosts of Barlowe Theater entomb them all?

Barlowe Theater stole the life of Greta Mercy's eldest brother during its construction. Now in 1915, the completed theater appears every bit as deadly. When Greta's younger brother goes missing after breaking into the building, Greta engages the assistance of a local police officer to help her unveil the already ghostly secrets of the theater. But when help comes from an unlikely source, Greta decides that to save her family she must uncover the evil that haunts the theater and put its threat to rest.

Decades later, Kit Boyd's best friend vanishes during a ghost walk at the Barlowe Theater, and old stories of mysterious disappearances and ghoulish happenings are revived. Then television ghost-hunting host and skeptic Evan Fisher joins Kit in the quest to identify the truth behind the theater's history. Kit reluctantly agrees to work with him in hopes of finding her missing friend. As the theater's curse unravels Kit's life, she is determined to put an end to the evil that has marked the theater and their hometown for the last century.



 My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


The Lost Boys of Barlowe Theater delivered everything I enjoy in Jaime Jo Wright’s novels: excitement, thrilling mystery, danger and an exhilarating story with a hint of romance. Some of this author’s novels get very dark in terms of the subjects and material which they touch on, this one doesn’t so much. It does go into attitudes towards the urban poor and disadvantaged and how these can perpetuate the cycle of poverty and crime. 

Although I did enjoy this one, and I would certainly give it a re-read along with some of my other Jaime Jo Wright novels I didn’t feel there was very much new about it. I don’t know, except for the setting in a theatre, there was a lot that reminded me of the author’s previous books. Maybe that’s a good thing, as it gives the reader a sense of familiarity and so we know what to expect, I don’t know.

Also, I found the modern heroine a bit vapid. She’s like a lot of other female protagonists in mystery novels with little to make her stand out.

Thanks to Bethany House for approving my request for this title via Netgalley. This didn’t influence my opinions in any way and all opinions expressed are my own.

Of Love and Treason Jamie Ogle

 Published 23rd January 2024, Tyndale House
Print, Ebook and Audio


Historical Fiction: Ancient Rome

Rome, AD 270. In the wake of the emperor’s marriage ban, rumors swirl that there is one man brave enough to perform wedding ceremonies in secret. A public notarius and leader of an underground church, Valentine believes the emperor’s edict unjust and risks his own life for the sake of his convictions. But as his fame grows, so do fears for his safety.

Iris, the daughter of a Roman jailor, believes regaining her sight will ease the mounting troubles at home. Her last hope rests in searching out Valentine and his church, but the danger of associating with people labeled a threat to the empire is great. Still, as Iris's new friends lead her to faith in God, Iris is drawn to Valentine and they both begin to hope for a future together beyond the treacherous empire.

But when a past debt and a staggering betrayal collide, Valentine, Iris, and everyone they love must fight for their lives . . . and wrestle with trusting a God who can restore sight yet does not always keep His followers from peril.



 My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


 Of Love and Treason was a wonderful, heartfelt and encouraging book. Like the author, I wasn't very keen on Valentine's Day, especially as it’s marked these days, and I only vaguely knew the story of St Valentine, whom it was meant to be named after.

By the end, I was left with immense admiration for the man who defied the emperor to do what he thought was right, and kept his faith to the last, despite horrific tortures and death. I don't think I will ever view Valentine’s Day in the same way again.
It is to be noted that there is not much evidence for his existence or life - so this is largely the author's interpretation: but it’s one that fits well into the historical context.

This book both touched and challenged me, which I am inclined to believe, is good in a work of fiction. Especially one which is the author's debut. Can we trust God in the hard times when the ultimate price may be paid and not just when he does what we want? 

Lillian Kelly did a good job with the narration of this book, and with the male as well as female roles.

Thanks to Tyndale House for approving me for this title on Netgalley. This did not influence my review and all opinions expressed are freely given and my own.

15 Jan 2024

The Polluted Font by Mel Starr Review

Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton #16 
Lion Fiction, October 23rd 2023, 192 Pages
Print and Ebook 

Setting: Late 1300s/14th century England
Genre: Crime and Mystery/Historical

When Hugh and Kate's new-born son is taken to the church to be baptized, they are astounded to find that the locked font is completely dry. The possibility of a leak is quickly ruled out, and just as Hugh is beginning to wonder if there may be a sinister explanation for the stolen holy water, Fr Robert is found lying motionless by the rood screen in a pool of blood . . .

Meanwhile, parliament has passed a poll tax, stipulating everyone above the age of 14 is to be taxed equally. Folk are soon scrambling to find the money to pay and, inevitably, unscrupulous elements in society see an opportunity to feed off people’s desperation and make some cash . . . But what connection can there possibly between this and events at Bampton?

Mel Starr's latest novel is a thoroughly enjoyable medieval crime mystery. It may be enjoyed as complete in itself, or as part of the Hugh de Singleton series.


Rating: 🌠🌠🌠🌠

I’ve been reading the Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton almost since the beginning, and I’m more than willing to admit some of the books were better than others. This one, I think was one of the better ones. Mel Starr has managed to so something quite remarkable in this book- allow for there to be a complex mystery, investigation and a satisfactory conclusion with no murder having taken place. A man is attacked and left with a head injury but is not killed.

Another interesting aside: this series has spanned a length of time almost as long as I have been reading the series. The first book was set in 1364 and this one take place in 1377. I first discovered this series in 2011. Twelve years to Hugh’s thirteen. 
Considering how some of the laws and political changes at the time the story is set might have impacted on ordinary people was the backdrop of the story.

My only sort of gripe was the negative portrayal of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. Hugh never met the man, so why does he consider him corrupt, greedy and untrustworthy? 
Seems more like the interpretation of modern historians if you ask me. I’ve read a biography of John of Gaunt and I don't think this image reflects reality, or at least its too simplistic.

Anyway, The Polluted Font was an interesting and detailed mystery which also managed to explore the importance of compassion and forgiveness, and even to make you feel sorry for the antagonist. It also explores the importance of religion to 14th century people, without some of the pitfalls of the genre which include treating all Medieval Catholics as bad and the anacronistic proto-Protestant character as the only real believer.

Thanks to SPCK and Lion Fiction for approving me for this title via Netgalley. This did not influence my review and all opinions expressed are my own. 

5 Jan 2024

Forever, Lovely by Linore Rose Burkard

Forever in Time #2
November 28th, 2023

When Miss Margaret Andrews travels to the future to find her missing sister, she never expected to find true love. In 1819 England, Margaret is a bluestocking with dreams of becoming an inventress, but when the Tallit, a magical time-travel shawl, goes awry she finds herself stranded in 21st Century Manhattan.

At a Jane Austen conference, she meets Stewart Russell, a grad student studying early British female writers. Stewart is immediately taken with Margaret and her effortless use of the speech and manners of Jane's day—until she claims to be FROM Jane's day! Worse, due to a mix-up, he is a wanted man and the clock is ticking. Margaret must find a way to get them both back to 1819—before the unthinkable happens.

If you enjoyed the time-travel romance of Outlander, then you'll love Margaret and Stewart's story in Forever Lovely.


 My Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was the follow-up to Forever, Lately which came out a couple of years ago. These two books are funny and sweet romances which involve time travel instigated by a tallit, or a Jewish prayer shawl. You heard that correctly.

I love how the author combined her love for the Regency period happily-ever-after love stories and life in the modern world. You can tell she's done her research, but the reactions of 19th century characters to modern technology and inventions still manage to be both credible and funny at the same time. Margaret encountering a bus and a computer for the first time, and then a mobile phone was hilarious.
Anyhow, I love Margaret. She's a nerd who considers herself unlovable and unmarriageable because of what others and her sister said. I have a weakness for romances with protagonists who don't fit the mould of beautiful and perfect.

Although there’s a fair bit about regency customs in this novel though, be prepared for the fact that this is *not* a serious historical novel. Its very much fantasy with the time-travel aspect, and if you can suspend your disbelief its just a very nice, sweet story to pass the hours when you want something that is both fun, wholesome and edifying at the same time. Great for the Christmas Season or really any time of the year when you want something which isn’t too taxing.

There’s a lot of religious content in this which some might not expect if they weren’t aware that Linore Rose Burkard writes Inspirational/Christian Fiction. Its not an issue for me, or for most readers to be honest because there is enough story to just get lost in.

I read this title via Book Sirens. All opinions expressed are my own and freely given.

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