My March 2023 reads

Another month, another amazing pile of books…

In March, I enjoyed a good mix of historical and contemporary novels that had me “traveling” from the chilly seaside of Devon in the UK to hectic suburban life in Canada and finally, to another beach journey – this one in sunny southern California.

My “time travels” had me back in post-Civil War Richmond, Virginia and New York City, following the Robber Barons as they replaced the Knickerbockers and shook up Manhattan society. Next, I was in seventeenth century “New France” and then back in the motherland, where  religious and societal tensions were high between the majority Catholics and minority Huguenots.

March 2023 reads

These novels did what novels do best – allowed me to immerse myself in other times, other locations and other lives.

I’ve already read (and loved) works by authors Shana Abé and Kerry Chaput, so knew I would be in good hands. Authors Liz Eeles, Jan Moran and Krista Lynne White were all new to me. Krista Lynne White’s novella was her debut – and I definitely look forward to reading more.

Here are my reviews:


An American Beauty coverAn American Beauty

Shana Abé

I absolutely adored this novel and was fully engrossed in the story, the characters and settings, and the lovely descriptions from the first page to the last.

I had greatly enjoyed Ms Abe’s previous historical novel, The Second Mrs Astor, and so jumped at the chance to read and review her upcoming release.

An American Beauty follows the remarkable rags-to-riches life of Arabella Huntington. We meet seventeen-year-old Arabella – Belle – in Richmond, Virginia in 1867 where she works in a less than reputable gambling saloon. But Belle is beautiful, talented, brave, and extremely clever, and if anyone is able to save her large family from starvation and destitution, Belle is the best placed to do so.

At the saloon, she meets the railway magnate and robber baron Collis Huntington, who quickly falls under her spell. Thirty years her senior and already married with a child, Huntington takes her as his mistress and, through Belle’s clever manipulations, moves not only Belle, but also her entire family up to New York and into a life of financial security.

What follows is a spectacular journey into the lives of the robber barons and Gilded Age New York, where the rapidly declining Knickerbocker class refuses to recognize the self-made men or the audacious women like Belle who accompany them on their journey. Belle Huntington would eventually become New York’s wealthiest woman, accumulating property and priceless art, but would never be accepted into “good” society.

This is a beautifully told story, rich in historical detail and larger-than-life characters. But at its heart, it is a tale of a brave and ambitious woman striving for more than the hand life has dealt her. A must-read novel.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy – all thoughts are my own.


Secrets at the Last House Before The Sea coverSecrets at the Last House Before The Sea

Liz Eeles

I’ve been reading a lot of historicals, and I wanted to switch it up with a simple, contemporary read. The location on the coast of Devon was a plus, as was the return from abroad of a young woman who escaped her small town, only to reevaluate her choices when she returns following the unexpected death of her mother.

It was a bit predictable, but a pleasant read. I enjoyed following along on Rosie’s journey to her hometown, where she uncovers the secrets her mother kept from her, rekindles a relationship with the locals – and the former high school heartthrob – and works to restore the stately but crumbling Driftwood House.

3.5 stars rounded up to 4.


Daughter of The Shadows coverDaughter of The Shadows

Kerry Chaput

A fast-paced historical action and adventure tale, sprinkled with romance – this novel has it all.

I enjoyed Daughter of The King, the first novel in this series. I loved the world building as we followed Isabelle from her persecution as a Huguenot in seventeenth century France through her journey to New France (Canada) as a “Fille du roi” – and the fascinating tale of the women who were sent to marry and help populate the French colony.

This second novel picks up with Isabelle’s life three years later. This is a very different novel, much more focused on action and adventure. While not my usual genre, it was still a fun ride.

I enjoyed watching Isabelle gain skills and strength from her friend, Naira, a fierce Huron warrior. Isabelle is able to internalize this strength in supporting the French Huguenots attempting to escape France. This objective takes her on a journey back to France, where she allies with like-minded Huguenots. Highly recommend this fast-paced adventure tale.

Thank you to the publisher for my advanced reader’s copy – all thoughts are my own.


The Bird Cage coverThe Birdcage

Krista Lynne White

Matt and Jillian know they are lucky. They’re a young, Canadian suburban two-career couple, with two young daughters. Matt teaches at the local elementary school, and Jillian, after having stayed at home since the girls were born, is getting her feet wet back in the workforce – having landed an executive position at a local manufacturing company.

But all is not as perfect as it appears on the surface. Matt is finding it hard to adjust to his wife’s long work hours and his increased role at home after his own tiring work day. And he fears Jillian’s distance might reflect her preference for her more glamorous colleagues. At the same time, Jillian suffers guilt at not having enough time for her family and she’s having a hard time navigating workplace landmines. It doesn’t help that her husband no longer seems interested.

This novella is told in alternating perspectives, with both Matt and Jillian recounting their fears, insecurities and missed opportunities to communicate with one another. This is an enjoyable, realistic and easy-to-read story of the inner life of a seemingly idyllic couple.

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