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Book Review: “Shadows in the Mind’s Eye” by Janyre Tromp

Tromp’s debut was a pleasant surprise and I especially enjoyed the Southern voice she adopted. It’s the 1940s in the small town of Hot Springs and Sam Mattas has just returned from war suffering with combat fatigue (which we now know as PTSD). He arrives unexpectedly to an empty house which sets the scene for much of the early tension of the story.

Annie, his wife, returns from town to find Sam asleep in the barn and even though warmly welcomed it’s clear not all is as it should be. Annie has been well supported in Sam’s absence by his brother, Peter, and best friend, Doc and immediately he senses he’s the misfit. Sam also returns to his daughter, Rosie, who he hasn’t met, she being born soon after his departure for war.

The first half of the story focuses on the tension between Annie and Sam as they seek to settle into their new lives together. But his combat fatigue keeps getting in the way making both of them question his sanity and her safety. Doc’s strong friendship with Annie also adds cause for unease.

In parallel, there’s this undercurrent of corruption that is rife within the town and how Sam, at one point, was involved in it to some extent being employed by Annie’s father, The Judge, who happens to be up to his eyeballs in no good working for the Mayor who encourages it. Or is he?

A lot can happen in 3 years; people change, towns change.

A story that starts as a relatively sleepy small town tale of a marriage reunion suddenly takes off in the second half to a thrilling suspenseful one that makes the reader keep turning the pages. It’s tremendous writing as the twists and turns keep on coming. Who are the good guys and who can you trust?

The characters are rich in their portrayal and Tromp demonstrates her story telling skills with the deftness in which we are kept guessing.

I was very fortunate to receive an early ebook version of the story from Kregel via NetGalley as a result of being part of Audra Jennings PR Blogging tour. This had no impact on my review.

Book Review: “The Debutante’s Code” by Erica Vetsch

This was a delightful surprise for me. A Regency novel full of mystery and amateur sleuthing. I happily turned the pages as Lady Juliette, the debutante of the title, discovers her extended family is more than it seems.

Lady Juliette returns to London after 7 years at a Swiss school and is hoping to be met by her parents whom she hasn’t seen for the duration. However, they have disappeared to the family country estate on urgent business and Lady Juliette finds she will be escorted to her ‘coming out to society’ ball by her uncle, who has been tasked with looking after her.

It’s not long before mayhem erupts from one posh gathering to the next as a series of recently arrived artwork is being mysteriously stolen. It’s a lot of fun as our debutante gets stuck in the middle of it all and is thrown into the world of amateur sleuthing under the stewardship of her uncle.

Enter Daniel Swann, a local police detective who is tasked with investigating these thefts. But he is on his last chance to deliver for his pompous boss, or else he’ll be looking for a new vocation. It will take all of his intelligence and a share of good fortune for him to track down those responsible.

There a moments of madcap and suspense as a number of different players are caught up in the mayhem. Vetsch does a wonderful job keeping is on our toes with various layers of intrigue that keeps us guessing as to the culprit.

Juliette is a delightful character who is easy to like, so to Daniel, and we are left with many possibilities of what might eventuate in Book 2 of this fascinating and cleverly written series. I can’t wait to see where Vetsch takes us next.

I was very fortunate to be receive an early ebook copy as part of Audra Jennings blogging tour via NetGalley with no expectation of a favourable review.

Book Review: ‘Under the Bayou Moon’ by Valerie Fraser Luesse

This was a charming story of Ellie Fields who leaves her Alabama home to take up a solo teaching position in Bernadette, a small town situated on one of many bayous of the Atchafalaya Delta Basin in Louisiana. Ellie is a fish out of water and perhaps settles in a little too easily for someone who is new to the mixed culture of the area.

I delighted in reading the Cajun history and sampling a small element of its unique and varied culture through Ellie’s eyes. And the bayou, its sounds, smells and sights were a joy to behold. At times, Luesse took my breath away. And then there was the white alligator – the piece de resistance. Oh what a gorgeous creature and what a beautiful connection it had with Raphe who seemed to be the only human it dared to be seen by.

There is so much to like about this story and it was such an easy read even though Luesse often led us in the Cajun dialect and French as well. The plot was quite simple and as another reviewer stated, there were a number of threads that just fizzled out. The romance between Ellie and Raphe was a little unrealistic – full of sweetness but for two who came from such diverse backgrounds didn’t seem to struggle as a couple.

There were some good themes explored: racism, the clashing of multiple cultures, the hardship of poverty but the trauma both Ellie and Raphe experienced either before this story or during it were superficially handled when there was a lot more that could have been explored.

It was a good read and I’m thoroughly pleased to have spent some time Under the Bayou Moon.

I received an early ebook copy from Revell as part of their Revell Reads Program via NetGalley with no expectation of a favourable review.

Book Review: Stories that Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner

This is my first Susie Finkbeiner story and gosh, what a delightful surprise it was. It starts slowly and never really increases in pace which is unusual for the stories I mostly read. But it wasn;’t long before I was captivated by this story of family.

We meet Betty Sweet, recently turned 40, in the early 60s. Her husband, Norman, dies suddenly and there is a void in her life. Small town LaFontaine, not too far from Detroit, is the setting featuring a Main Street with the family-owned and run bakery: The Sweet Bakery, Betty’s in-laws where Norman also worked.

Norman’s family comes around Betty in her grieving and we get to meet Albert, his brother and Marvel, his sister plus Pop, the patriarch of the family. We could meet these characters on the street, there’s no frills, simply true to life people. Marvel has twin ten year old boys: Nick and Dick, who are full of energy and mischief as one expects of twins at that age.

Finkbeiner writes short chapters which typically are split between Betty telling us a story of the past: her mom, her childhood with sister Clara, meeting Norman and their courtship and then the current time. They’re usually linked in some manner and so what gradually builds is a family portrait, one full of the love, loss, struggles with mental health and the everyday meanderings of life. Nothing much happens but it’s engrossing.

And then there’s Hugo. He shines a light into Betty’s world. He’s a special little boy, and Finkbeiner ever so gracefully deals with issues of race and prejudice with this innocent child. It’s beautiful to read.

I was sad the book ended even though not much happened but Finkbeiner’s soft touches with the character’s faith, familial love and gentle portrayal of mental health are captivating. I feel privileged to have read this beautiful story.

Now to locate Susie’s earlier ones.

I received an early release ebook copy from the Revell Reads programs enabled by NetGalley with no expectation of a positive review.