Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Review and Giveaway: The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The thrilling conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Tearling trilogy.

In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has transformed from a gawky teenager into a powerful monarch. As she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, the headstrong, visionary leader has also transformed her realm. In her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies—including the evil Red Queen, her fiercest rival, who has set her armies against the Tear.

To protect her people from a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable—she gave herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy—and named the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign, imprisoned in Mortmesne.

Now, as the suspenseful endgame begins, the fate of Queen Kelsea—and the Tearling itself—will finally be revealed.

The Queen of the Tearling and The Invasion of the Tearling were two-thirds of an exciting trilogy by Erika Johansen. Now the series concludes with The Fate of the Tearling, where we learn the learn the outcome of the narrative that Johansen has been building.  While I enjoyed The Queen of the Tearling very much, looking back I now feel that I enjoyed the sequel even more than the opening volume. This led me to anticipate The Fate of the Tearling very much.

While the world of the Tearling does broaden and deepen in many ways, I felt that the story took a turn down a dark alleyway and never really returned.  Almost every aspect of the tale became difficult and shadowed, with dark magic, revenge, cruelty and coldness abounding throughout almost every corner.  I did still find the story compelling and the characters interesting, but more often than not, I found myself enduring the fantasy tale, rather than purely enjoying it.

Like many characters in the world of the Tearling, main character Kelsea longs for “a better world” with little to no crime, negligible violence, employment for all, great medical care for all. While she aspires to a utopian society, she knows it would never be perfect, but she strives for a better world nonetheless.  Sometimes she makes grievous mistakes, but at her core she wants what’s best for her kingdom.  She also longs to be truly known and loved, as we all do. Like many of Johansen’s characters, she is very human while still inhabiting magical qualities.

It was Kelsea’s likeability that kept me hanging on throughout the story. I truly wanted to observe her (and her kingdom’s) fate as she strove for that better world, fighting against cruel, dark forces that ran rampant throughout history.  Kelsea’s quest, as well as the quests of like-minded people in her world, was a difficult one, and as a reader I frequently felt like I was being pulled into a dark hole to observe torturous events that may or may not turn out in a glorious ending.

I wouldn’t characterize my opinion of the novel as purely negative. Johansen did keep my attention throughout, and her writing is very strong.  I just felt that the content continued down a dark path that I became weary of after so many hundreds of pages. I needed a bit more light, and a bit less darkness in the world of the Tearling. And although there was a brief redeeming moment toward the conclusion of the book, I also tired of the horribly poor image of the church. As mentioned in my previous reviews, the Christian church seen in the Tearling is so far removed from what Christ intends, and unfortunately close to what many people see the church to be today.  While I concede that the Body of Christ is not perfect, it has been my overwhelming experience that Christianity is a blessing to the world, and not something to despise or virtually extinguish from society.  This is not to say that I was offended by the portrayal. I understand that the church has meant many things to believers and non-believers alike over the centuries, and it has had its share of missteps along the way.  I just became fatigued with its horrible role in that fictional civilization.

Overall, I would say that my impression of the series as a whole is a moderately positive one. The Invasion of the Tearling was particularly interesting, and I loved how the world opened up into multiple timelines and perspectives.  It is certainly a magical tale, one that yearns for that better world, one that we all hope for one day.  The Tearling series truly speaks to the fact that we were all created for a better place.  Unfortunately, we live in a fallen world, surrounded by imperfect people with innumerable passions and ambitions.  As a Christian I know that this “better world” is still ahead of us, and I do look forward to it myself.  In the meantime, we all can be like Queen Kelsea, doing our best to bring as much of that better world into our current existence, within our own personal kingdoms, one day at a time.


Giveaway:  The Invasion of the Tearling

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Learn more about The Fate of the Tearling HERE

About Erika Johansen

Erika Johansen grew up and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She went to Swarthmore College, earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and eventually became an attorney, but she never stopped writing.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Book Excerpt and Giveaway: A Very Darcy Christmas by Victoria Kincaid

A Pride and Prejudice variation. Elizabeth and Darcy are preparing for their first Christmas at Pemberley when they are suddenly deluged by a flood of uninvited guests. Mrs. Bennet is seeking refuge from the French invasion she believes to be imminent. Lady Catherine brings two suitors for Georgiana’s hand, who cause a bit of mayhem themselves. Lydia’s presence causes bickering—and a couple of small fires—while Wickham has more nefarious plans in mind….The abundance of guests soon puts a strain on her marriage as Elizabeth tries to manage the chaos while ensuring a happy Christmas for all.

Meanwhile, Georgiana is finding her suitors—and the prospect of coming out—to be very unappealing. Colonel Fitzwilliam seems to be the only person who understands her fondness for riding astride and shooting pistols. Georgiana realizes she’s beginning to have more than cousinly feelings for him, but does he return them? And what kind of secrets is he hiding?

Romance and merriment abound as everyone gathers to celebrate a Very Darcy Christmas.

Today we have an excerpt from Victoria Kincaid's latest Austenesque novel, A Very Darcy Christmas, just in time for the holiday season!  Mrs. Bennet is up to her usual hysterics, and Darcy must attend to her as best he can.  After you enjoy this fun excerpt, be sure to enter to win a copy of the book. But be quick-- this giveaway ends at the stroke of midnight Christmas morning, about the time that Santa will be leaving our homes here on the east coast of the U.S.!

Thanks to Victoria for the excerpt, and I hope you all enjoy.  Merry Christmas!

Darcy straightened his cravat as he strode toward Pemberley.  Wickham was safely stowed at the Lambton Inn, and Darcy had rented the room for a week.  Hopefully the Wickhams would be gone by then.  At least that resolves one of my headaches.  Unfortunately, the number of remaining headaches was sufficient to keep him occupied for the rest of the day.

Why must Elizabeth and I possess such troublesome relatives? Darcy wondered as he neared Pemberley’s grand front entrance.  Or perhaps the better question was: why were the troublesome relatives the ones who visited?  Why could it not have been Charles and Jane who showed up unexpectedly on their doorstep?  Or some other reasonable relative like…?  Darcy thought for a moment.  As Georgiana and Richard were already at Pemberley, he could think of no other candidates.

The moment Darcy pushed open the solid oak front door, his ears were assaulted by a piercing shriek.  “Oh, Mr. Bennet!  You have no compassion for my poor nerves!”

Elizabeth’s father stalked down the staircase while his wife fluttered behind him.  Elizabeth trailed after them, rolling her eyes.  Perhaps I should have stayed longer with Wickham, Darcy mused—and then immediately recognized it as a sign of desperation.

The moment Mrs. Bennet saw Darcy, she hurried up to him.  “Mr. Darcy!  How fortuitous you are here!  You must begin drilling your men immediately.”

Darcy blinked.  “My men?”

Behind Mrs. Bennet, Elizabeth had a hand covering her mouth.  Was she trying not to laugh—or cry?
“This morning the maid told me that the footman had told her that his cousin had heard that the maid at the Lambton Inn said there was a Frenchman in town!” Mrs. Bennet announced triumphantly.

She paused to await his reaction.

“Indeed?” Darcy finally said.

“Yes!  The Frenchman had lunch at the inn yesterday.”

“I see.”

“Do you not understand the import?” Mrs. Bennet asked.  “He must be a scout!”

“Scout?” Darcy asked blankly.

“For the invading force!” Mrs. Bennet explained.  At this pronouncement, Mr. Bennet threw his hands in the air and stalked out of the room.

Darcy massaged the back of his neck with one hand.  “There are many French men and women who live in England.  Most escaped from the ravages of the revolution and fled the guillotine.”

She lowered her voice.  “But why would such a person be in Derbyshire—so far from the coast?”

Elizabeth rubbed her temples as if a headache were coming on.

Darcy decided to take another tack.  “Madam, the French army is quite occupied fighting in Spain right now.  I am certain they have no intention of invading England.”

“But the paper described unusual troop movements!  And French ships have been spotted by people in Brighton and Dover!”

“France is not far from Brighton and Dover,” Darcy pointed out.  “So one might reasonably be expected to see French ships from there.”

Elizabeth chimed in.  “Even if France were to invade, we are very far north here.  It would take them a long time to reach Derbyshire.”

“That is what they want us to believe,” Mrs. Bennet said in a tone so low it was practically a whisper.  “They want to lull us into a sense of safety—and then they will attack!”

“We are safe,” Darcy insisted.  “We are very far from France here.  I assure you—”

Mrs. Bennet interrupted him.  “You must prepare to defend Pemberley!  Your footmen must train every day.  Are any of your tenants versed in weaponry?”

Darcy sighed, beginning to understand why Mr. Bennet’s response to his wife’s tirades was often silence.  “I do not know.  Although my steward might.”

She gave an approving nod.

There must be some way to distract this woman!  Surely she could not think about imminent invasion every minute of the day.  “Have you been to visit the shops in Lambton?” he asked her.  “Mrs. Reynolds said the milliner has just received some ostrich plumes.”

“Ostrich plumes!”  Mrs. Bennet’s face lit up.  While popular in London shops, the feathers were rare in the country.

“One of the footmen could escort you into town,” Darcy offered eagerly.

She pursed her lips.  “But they must stay and drill.”

Of course.

“Papa can take you,” Elizabeth volunteered.  “It is the least he can do.”

Perhaps there was a way to temporarily rid them of another troublesome guest.  “Would Mrs. Wickham like to go as well?”

“An excellent suggestion!” Mrs. Bennet cried and ran for the bottom of the stairs.  “Lydia!  Lydia!”  Her voice echoed and reverberated off the marble throughout the hall.

Darcy winced as Elizabeth gave him an apologetic look.  While Mrs. Bennet made a commotion bellowing and ascending the steps, Darcy sidled over to Elizabeth.  “Do you recall those ostrich plumes we bought for Georgiana that she did not care for?”  Elizabeth nodded, understanding dawning in her expression.  “Would you be so good as to ask Mrs. Reynolds to collect them and send them to the milliners immediately?  I believe I can delay your parents’ departure sufficiently.”

Elizabeth’s eyes sparkled with mischief as she set off in search of the housekeeper.

Giveaway - A Very Darcy Christmas

Author Victoria Kincaid has generously offered a copy of her novel A Very Darcy Christmas for one of our readers!  The contest is open internationally, and the winner may choose between a print edition or ebook copy.  The giveaway period ends at 12am EST on December 25, 2016.   Utilize the Rafflecopter widget below to enter.  Good luck! 

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About the Author

The author of best-selling Pride and Prejudice variations, historical romance writer Victoria has a Ph.D. in English literature and has taught composition to unwilling college students. Today she is a freelance writer/editor who teaches business writing to willing office professionals and tries to give voice to the demanding cast of characters in her head.

She lives in Virginia with an overly affectionate cat, two children who are learning how much fun Austen’s characters can be, and a husband who fortunately is not jealous of Mr. Darcy. A lifelong Austen fan, Victoria has read more Jane Austen variations and sequels than she can count – and confesses to an extreme partiality for the Colin Firth miniseries version of Pride and Prejudice.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Review and Giveaway: The Inkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen

The lifeblood of the village of Ivy Hill is its coaching inn, The Bell. When the innkeeper dies suddenly, his genteel wife, Jane Bell, becomes the reluctant landlady. Jane has no idea how to manage a business, but with the town's livelihood at stake and a large loan due, she must quickly find a way to save the inn.

Despite their strained relationship, Jane turns to her resentful mother-in-law, Thora, for help. Formerly mistress of The Bell, Thora is struggling to overcome her losses and find purpose for the future. As she works with Jane, two men from her past vie for her attention, but Thora has promised herself never to marry again. Will one of them convince her to embrace a second chance at love?

As pressure mounts from the bank, Jane employs new methods, and puzzles over the intentions of several men who seem to have a vested interest in the place, including a mysterious newcomer with secret plans of his own. With the help of friends old and new, can Jane restore life to the inn, and to her empty heart as well?

In her latest novel, award-winning author Julie Klassen takes her readers to the charming English village of Ivy Hill.  There we meet Jane Bell and a colorful cast of characters, all connected to a local inn called The Bell.  The year is 1820, and coaching inns are still a staple of 19th century life, with their ability to care for overnight tenants as well as travelers stopping for a short respite on their journeys. This time period, setting, and set of characters are rife with opportunities for storytelling, and Julie Klassen has done a fabulous work in this initial offering in her Tales from Ivy Hill series.

While the number of individuals is plentiful throughout the story, Klassen’s writing is such that I was able to compartmentalize their narratives and grow to enjoy each storyline as it unfolded. Yes, Jane Bell is the main character here, but there is so much going on throughout the novel. There is drama, suspense, and a touch of romance.  This is no edge-of-your-seat thriller, but a pleasant and captivating story, much along the lines of Cranford or North and South. Fans of Downton Abbey would also probably enjoy The Inkeeper of Ivy Hill, not because of any opulence (because there really isn’t much to speak of) or because of an upstairs/downstairs theme, but because of the rich nature of the relationship tales that are told and the multiple plotlines that are woven in this bit of historical fiction.

To quote the novel:

“All those employed by or benefited by the inn, in turn patronize the remaining businesses and give to the charity guild and poor fund. Village life is like an ivy vine climbing a great oak. You cut off the vine at the root, and all the way up the tree, the leaves wither. We’re all connected.”

This interconnectedness can be seen in most of the relationships in Ivy Hill, as Jane and her associates fight to keep the inn solvent, and other members of the community experience their own hardships as well.  Although they are dealing with difficult issues, Ivy Hill is a sweet, pleasant, sometimes romantic tale that I found relaxing and a delight to read. The personalities are diverse, and some are not always what they seem.  At times, there was an air of mystery to the plot, and there was one revelation near the end that took me by surprise.  A character I thought to be a villain turned out to be a standup fellow after all. While The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill is very family-friendly and written by a Christian author, it was not overly “religious” and simply was a charming, heartwarming story.

I’m so pleased to know that with The Inkeeper of Ivy Hill, Julie Klassen’s readers have only just begun their time with this new set of characters.  The next book in the series, The Ladies of Ivy Cottage is set for release in December of 2017, and I greatly look forward to that next release from such an entertaining author.

About the Author

JULIE KLASSEN loves all things Jane--Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full-time. Her books have been honored with the Christy Award for Historical Romance, the Minnesota Book Award, and the Midwest Book Award, among others. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. For more information, visit

Click Here to visit the new
to learn more about the series,
including a village map,
character list, photos, videos,
a separate giveaway and more!

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill Blog Tour Schedule

December 5: Author Q&A on Pemberley to Milton
December 6: Excerpt on My Love for Jane Austen
December 8: Review on Laura's Reviews
December 9: Book Spotlight on More Agreeably Engaged
December 10: Review on A Bookish Way of Life
December 11: Review and Excerpt on Delighted Reader Book Reviews
December 12: British Show Inspiration Guest Post on Living Read Girl
December 13: Historical Background Guest Post on English Historical Fiction Authors
December 14: Review on The Calico Critic
December 15: Excerpt on So Little Time
December 16: Review and Author Q&A on My Jane Austen Book Club
December 17: Review on Just Jane 1813
December 18: Excerpt on Babblings of a Book Worm
December 19: Review on Austenesque Reviews
December 20: Guest Post on Jane Austen in Vermont
December 21: Review on Luxury Reading


Be sure to enter the giveaway before you leave—the winner will receive a $20 Teavana gift card and a package of four inspirational British romances from four different eras (The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen, A Haven on Orchard Lane by Lawana Blackwell, The Lost Heiress by Roseanna M. White, Not by Sight by Kate Breslin). The winner will be notified on December 22. 

You can also stop by the official Ivy Hill website and enter to win one of ten copies of the book. Entries accepted through January 6, 2017.

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