Book Review: The Knotted Ring by Myra Hargrave McIlvain

  • Title: The Knotted Ring
  • Author: Myra Hargrave McIlvain
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Would I recommend: Absolutely. It was hard to tear myself away from this one.

Synopsis:

Susannah Mobley, expecting her slave lover’s baby, submits to an arranged marriage to Hezekiah James, who is headed to Texas to claim a land grant. Caught in a series of lies about her pregnancy, as well as the beautiful ring woven from her red hair, Susannah embarks on the harsh trip to Texas, grieving for her lost love and determined to control her destiny. On the wagon train journey, Hezekiah’s beliefs and strength are tested by Native Americans and the strange Madstone. Soon, Susannah will have to decide if she can live with the consequences of her lies and open herself to the man who shows every form of contrition, or if she will allow longing for the child to destroy her life.

Susannah Mobley is the pampered daughter of a wealthy Natchitoches planter. She plays the harp and attends private school in New Orleans. She grew up with slave children as playmates, teaching them to read and write as they played at school, not seeing any difference between herself and them. And she has made the grievous mistake of falling in love with one of her father’s slaves, and he with her. In pre-Civil War era Louisiana, this could have disastrous consequences for both parties and for any children that might result. A child indeed results here when Susannah and Philippe can’t fight their growing attraction for each other any longer.

Her father arranges for Susannah to marry Hezekiah James, who is heading for Texas with big dreams and looking for a wife to share them with. Susannah is appalled at the prospect of marrying someone she doesn’t know, and thinks she can get the whole thing called off when she tells him she is pregnant with a slave’s child. But Hezekiah is determined to forge ahead, and they leave the polite society of Natchitoches behind to carve a path and claim land in the wilderness that was Texas before it was even a republic.

Myra Hargrave McIlvain was inspired to write this story by a discovery in her own family history. She has clearly done her research, and she gives us a story that digs deep into some difficult territory and calls forth powerful emotions. As a Louisiana native, I’m aware of our state’s history with slavery, of the treatment of Black slaves, of the penalties that could be handed out for having a romantic entanglement that crossed racial lines. Reading the part of the story leading up to Susannah’s pregnancy being revealed had me in knots for fear of how strongly her father might react.

The story also deals with the institution of slavery and the treatment of slaves on a larger level. Susannah’s mother tells her that Blacks and Indians don’t love the same as white people, but Susannah knows from her own experience that that simply isn’t true. Susannah’s father owns slaves and treats them well so long as it benefits him to do so. If they step out of line, he shows no compunction about responding swiftly and harshly. Hezekiah owns slaves, but treats them with respect and dignity, causing some consternation among people who don’t share his views. But can even the kindest treatment make it agreeable to a man that all the steps he takes are under another person’s ultimate control?

Susannah lied about the circumstances that led to her pregnancy, and as tends to happen, the truth eventually came to light. There were consequences to her lies, and they created distance between Susannah and Hezekiah. It was clear early on that he wanted a genuine marriage for the two of them, but Susannah’s inability to be open and honest about her past made that difficult. They were both good people, and I really wanted to see both of them rip the band-aid off, talk it all out, and get things straight so they could move forward together.

It’s clear from the description that the journey to settle in Texas wasn’t for the faint of heart. Sometimes life happened, and you had to choose between giving up or finding the courage to keep going. I really enjoyed the bits of Texas history woven into the story, as well as descriptions of all the effort that had to go into just surviving on the frontier, let alone thriving. Susannah, protected young woman that she was, had some hard adjustments to living on the trail and being responsible for her own household. She had a lot to learn, and the description of her trying to milk a cow made me chuckle. I figure I would have about the same success she first did were I to try it myself!

I don’t want to give away anything, so I’ll stop here. The story is so wonderfully written, I want y’all to read it and get to experience all the highs and lows of the characters for yourselves. I recommend it for anyone who loves good historical fiction, especially if you’re interested in pre-Civil War Southern/Southwestern fiction, and Texas history.

About the author:

Myra Hargrave McIlvain, a sixth-generation Texan, is a storyteller who has written Texas historical markers (yes, real people write those things lining Texas highways), articles for newspapers and magazines such as Texas Highways, and six nonfiction books about famous and infamous Texas characters and places.

McIlvain found her real love when she wrote her first historical fiction. All her tales take place in Texas during major periods of its history. However, The Knotted Ring was inspired by an old family story, and in her search to understand what may have happened, she imagined their lives set in a time that she knew well––the establishment of the first Anglo colony.

McIlvain views history as the story of a people; the people she knows best have made Texas home.

WEBSITE  |  FACEBOOK X/TWITTER | AMAZON GOODREADS

Posted in Book Reviews, Historical Fiction, Lone Star Book Blog Tours, Lone Star Literary Life, Southern Fiction, Texas History | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Book Review and Blog Tour: When the Flames Ravaged by Rhonda Dragomir

Welcome to the Blog Tour for When the Flames Ravaged by Rhonda Dragomir, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

About the Book

When the Flames Ravaged

Title: When the Flames Ravaged
Series: A Day to Remember
Author: Rhonda Dragomir
Publisher: Barbour Publishing
Release Date: March 1, 2024
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

Will Faith Perish in the Big Top’s Flames?

Introducing a new series of 6 exciting novels featuring historic disasters that transformed landscapes and multiple lives. Whether by nature or by man, these disasters changed history and were a day to be remembered.

Evelyn Benson’s husband perished in the Bataan Death March but not her faith. The World War II Gold Star widow is taken in by her brother and soothed by the love of his wife and children. Evelyn refuses to cower to grief. She may not understand God’s mysterious ways, but she has never questioned Him—until the circus fire.

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus train chugs into Hartford, Connecticut, on a sweltering day one month after the Allies invaded Normandy. Among the roustabouts is a reluctant clown, Hank Webb. He may hide from his murky past behind grease paint as Fraidy Freddie, but God wants to offer Hank a chance to be found. Though first, what little Hank believes about God will endure a fiery trial.

On Thursday, July 6, 1944, a devastating blaze of unknown origins consumes the circus tent along with Evelyn’s hopes and Hank’s anonymity.

PURCHASE LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | ChristianBook | Bookshop | BookBub

Evelyn Benson is mourning the death of her husband in World War II, but the love of her remaining family – her brother, sister-in-law, niece, and nephew – sustains her. Since her husband was killed in action, she’s lived with her brother and his family, and the arrangement benefits them all.

Hank Webb, or Fraidy Freddie, as his clown persona is known, is hiding from his past. He can’t face up to what he did or what his family certainly now thinks of him. Is Hartford, Connecticut far enough removed that he might be able to breathe a little?

Evelyn and Hank cross paths at the diner where Evelyn works. When a fire rips through the big top, they are both impacted. Evelyn’s family was attending the circus that day, and Hank is determined to help her find them. As they search, attraction grows between them. But will hard truths and secrets coming to light tear them apart before they even have a chance to begin?

This was an incredible story! Rhonda Dragomir beautifully captures the promise that God never leaves us nor forsakes us. Evelyn questions why God allowed so much suffering into her life. It seems like the hits just keep on coming – her husband, her family, financial difficulties – and Evelyn wrestles mightily with doubt. But hope, though battered, is never lost. A neighbor who becomes a friend is an anchor for Evelyn, helping her find her way back to faith even when storms assail.

In Hank, we see a glorious picture of redemption. He thought he had committed an unpardonable act in a moment of foolishness, and he fled, obscuring even his name. He didn’t want to face the consequences of his actions, and he didn’t want to bring what he imagined was untold shame to his family. But when it was necessary, he stood up to do the right thing, regardless of the potential cost to himself. And as Scripture says, “Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light” (John 3:21 NIV).

I read this book in one sitting. The subject matter is deep and heavy at times, and there are a a couple of descriptions of injuries that, while not excessively gory, may evoke a a wince or two if you’re squeamish. But the story is compelling, and Dragomir’s writing style is lyrical without being overly flowery.

In When the Flames Ravaged, Rhonda Dragomir spins a captivating tale that will have you reaching for the tissues and keep you glued to the pages. Highly recommended if you love well-written historical fiction with a thread of sweet romance woven in.

I received an advance copy of this book from JustRead Publicity Tours. I was not obligated to leave a review. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

About the Author

Rhonda Dragomir

Rhonda Dragomir is a multimedia creative who treasures her fairy tale life in Central Kentucky, insisting her home is her castle, even if her prince refuses to dig a moat. She is an award-winning author with published works in several anthologies and periodicals, and she co-wrote numerous Bible studies used weekly by more than 20,000 women worldwide.

Barbour Books will release her debut novel, a historical romance, March 1, 2024. She is often invited to speak at writers’ conferences on topics related to technology and graphics.

Connect with Rhonda by visiting rhondadragomir.com to follow her on social media and sign up for email updates.


Tour Giveaway

(2) winners will each win a signed, print copy of When the Flames Ravaged by Rhonda Dragomir and a print copy of The Hartford Circus Fire: Tragedy Under the Big Top by Michael Skidgell!

When the Flames Ravaged JustRead Tours giveaway

Full tour schedule linked below. The giveaway begins at midnight February 26, 2024 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on March 4, 2024. Winners will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US/CAN only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to JustRead Publicity Tours Giveaway Policies.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Covers/Titles with Things Found in Nature

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. Check out upcoming Top Ten themes on Jana’s blog and go here to see what others have on their Top Ten Tuesday lists!

Golly, it’s been a hot minute since I did a Top Ten Tuesday! Life has been a bit hectic, but my proofreading business has been thriving, so that’s a good thing.

This week’s TTT topic: Covers/Titles with Things Found in Nature. Trees, sky, bodies of water, flowers, plants, animals – anything you’d normally see in nature counts. So that’s what I’ve got today!

Cajun Crow and the Mockingbird – Jimmie Martinez
Pathway to Lavender Valley – Tammy L. Grace
Ruby Falls – Deborah Goodrich Royce
The Orchid Hour – Nancy Bilyeau
They Say He Flies at Night – Amy Matayo

Ellie Dwyer’s Great Escape – Diane Winger
Rosemary and Rue – Seanan McGuire
Stutter Creek – Ann Swann
The Seamstress of Acadie – Laura Frantz
When the Jessamine Grows – Donna Everhart

Bonus tidbit: I’ve actually been to Ruby Falls, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It’s pretty amazing. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

Have you read any of these books? Are they on your TBR? Do you think you might like to read them?


Posted in Book Memes, Top Ten Tuesday | Tagged , | 11 Comments

Word of the Week: February 25, 2024

Word of the Week: a bookish meme hosted here on Mondays in which we share a word that we find entertaining, enlightening, edifying, or just plain fun to say! Share your own word on your blog, then help me grow the meme and come share it here on mine!

This week’s word is fun to say!

Have you ever heard this word before? If not, that’s not surprising. According to Haggard Hawks, it’s “a vanishingly rare word, found in only a handful of literary records dating from the late 1500s….” The word eventually resurfaced in 19th-century literature and made its way into the Oxford English Dictionary, where it lurks even now, waiting for someone to find it and use it. You can read more about the etymology of the word on the Haggard Hawks entry linked above.

Do you think this word might find its way into your vocabulary?

Got a word? Share it below. Then share the meme to help it grow!

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Book Blitz and Giveaway: The Knotted Ring by Myra McIlvain

THE KNOTTED RING
BY MYRA HARGRAVE MCILVAIN
Historical Fiction / Family Saga / Historical Romance
Publisher: Next Chapter
Page Count: 412
Publication Date: December 7, 2023
Scroll down for Giveaway!
Susannah Mobley, expecting a baby by her lover, a slave owned by her family, submits to an arranged marriage to Hezekiah James who is headed to Texas to claim a Spanish land grant. Caught in a series of lies about the origin of a beautiful ring woven from her red hair and the circumstances of her pregnancy, Susannah embarks on the harsh trip to Texas, grieving for her lost love and determined to control her destiny.
On the wagon train journey, Hezekiah is tested by his beliefs and strengths with his slaves and Native Americans, as well as a strange Mad Stone. His determination to build a plantation as fine as Susannah’s home place and to make the best decisions for Susannah fails. Susannah will have to decide if she can live with the consequences of her lies and open herself to this man who shows every form of contrition or if she will allow longing for what she cannot have to destroy her life.
~~~
The Knotted Ring is currently a semi-finalist status
in the Laramie Awards for Western and Americana Fiction.
“An often engrossing and well-handled story of the 19th century.”
Kirkus Reviews
~~~
CLICK TO PURCHASE!

Barnes & NobleGoogleKobo

Review Header

Be sure to check out my review of The Knotted Ring!

Myra Hargrave McIlvain, a sixth-generation Texan, is a storyteller who has written Texas historical markers (yes, real people write those things lining Texas highways), articles for newspapers and magazines such as Texas Highways, and six nonfiction books about famous and infamous Texas characters and places.
McIlvain found her real love when she wrote her first historical fiction. All her tales take place in Texas during major periods of its history. However, The Knotted Ring was inspired by an old family story, and in her search to understand what may have happened, she imagined their lives set in a time that she knew well––the establishment of the first Anglo colony.
McIlvain views history as the story of a people; the people she knows best have made Texas home.
————————————–
GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!
THREE WINNERS
1st Prize: Autographed hardcover & tote bag; 2nd Prize: Autographed paperback + candle; 3rd Prize: Autographed paperback
(US only; ends midnight, CST, 02/29/24)
Posted in Book Blitz, Historical Fiction, Lone Star Book Blog Tours, Lone Star Literary Life | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Rhythm of Fractured Grace by Amanda Wen

The Rhythm of Fractured Grace JustRead Takeover Blitz

Welcome to the Takeover + Review Blitz for The Rhythm of Fractured Grace by Amanda Wen hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

About the Book

The Rhythm of Fractured Grace

Title: The Rhythm of Fractured Grace
Series: Sedgwick County Chronicles #3
Author: Amanda Wen
Publisher: Kregel Publications
Release Date: February 20, 2024
Genre: Christian Split Time Romantic Women’s Fiction

Is Siobhan too far gone to respond to the song of a God who’s calling her back to him?

When a new customer brings a badly damaged violin into Siobhan Walsh’s shop, it is exactly the sort of challenge she craves. The man who brought it in is not. He’s too close to the painful past that left her heart and her faith in shambles.

Matt Buchanan has had a rough start as the new worship pastor. A car accident on his way into town left him with a nearly totaled truck, and an heirloom violin in pieces. When he takes it to a repair shop, he’s fascinated with the restoration process–and with the edgy, closed-off woman doing the work.

As their friendship deepens and turns into more, they both discover secrets that force them to face past wounds. And the history of the violin reveals more about their current problems than they could have ever expected.

On the nineteenth-century frontier, a gruesome tomahawk attack wiped out most of Deborah Caldwell’s family. Her greatest solace after the tragedy is the music from her father’s prized violin. Given her horrendous scars, she’d resigned herself to a spinster’s life. But Levi Martinson’s gentle love starts to chip away at her hardened heart, until devastating details about the attack are revealed, putting their love–and Deborah’s shaky faith–to the ultimate test.

Full of forgiveness and the message that no one is too damaged for God’s healing touch, the final book in the split-time Sedgwick County Chronicles will thrill fans of Rachel Hauck, Lisa Wingate, and Kristy Cambron.

PURCHASE LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | Christianbook | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | BookBub

More Books in Series

Roots of Wood and Stone The Songs That Could Have Been

In the modern day, Siobhan Walsh is a woman who has been deeply hurt by the church, to the point that she wants no part of it. In 1876, Deborah Caldwell is a woman who has been ravaged by a vicious attack, yet she somehow survived. Their stories cross when Matt Buchanan, himself pretty seriously injured in a car accident, brings a broken violin, only valuable for what it means to him, to the repair shop where Siobhan works.

I do love a good dual-timeline story, and Amanda Wen gives us a fantastic one! (It was so good, I sat down, got sucked in, and read it in about two hours!) Deborah struggles with the idea that she will never find love, never be a wife and mother. When Levi Martinson needs a mother for his daughter and asks for Deborah’s hand, at first she balks, longing for a marriage of more than convenience. She questions why God let her survive the attack if this was all He had in mind for the rest of her life. Siobhan used to sing, play the violin, pour her heart out in worship as part of a large church’s worship team. But the actions of one person drove her away, and she’s farther from God than she’s ever been, wondering where He went.

Both Siobhan and Deborah are damaged, Deborah physically, Siobhan emotionally. Both must find courage they don’t think they have. When Deborah learns that her attacker was not a Sioux Indian, as she’d always believed, but someone much closer, she must decide whether she will allow God to help her forgive. Siobhan’s past experience has left her shying away not only from God, but from the idea of a relationship with anyone. When she starts feeling things for Matt that she swore never to let herself feel again, she is faced with a choice: cut Matt off and walk away, or face her past in order to move into a future with him?

The story deals sensitively with a timely topic in its treatment of abuse of power and position within the church. Siobhan left her church and her faith because no one believed her when she tried to tell the truth. She wasn’t the one responsible for putting butts in the pews and winning souls to Christ, so her version of the story clearly carried less weight. My heart just hurt for her, and for anyone who’s been in that position in real life.

The violin reaches across the years to connect Deborah’s and Siobhan’s stories. As Siobhan works to restore the damage to the violin, so we see God work in both women’s lives to restore faith, dignity, and hope. It made me think of kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery using lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum powder.

Matt even noticed at one point in the book that Siobhan looked different. He was able to see a physical change in her after God mended her emotional and spiritual wounds. The broken, made beautiful.

Faith is a central component of the book, but it never feels heavy-handed. This is no fire and brimstone “repent or die” story. Rather, God draws both Deborah and Siobhan back to Himself with tender love and concern for them, and He works through their weakness to give them strength to do the hard things they are faced with. What a gorgeous picture of redemption and God’s unfailing love!

Thanks to JustRead Publicity Tours and NetGalley for an advance copy. I am reviewing this book voluntarily. All opinions are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.


About the Author

Amanda Wen

Amanda Wen is a Selah Award–winning, Parable best-selling author of inspirational romance and split-time women’s fiction, including Roots of Wood and Stone and The Songs That Could Have Been, and a professional musician. Wen currently lives in Wichita, Kansas, with her husband and three children.

Connect with Amanda by visiting amandawen.com to follow her on social media or subscribe to email newsletter updates.


Tour Giveaway

(1) winner will receive a signed copy of the book, a mug, chai mix, and a kitsugi heart necklace!

The Rhythm of Fractured Grace JustRead Giveaway

Be sure to check out each stop on the tour for more chances to win. Full tour schedule linked below. Giveaway began at midnight February 21, 2024 and lasts through 11:59 PM EST on February 28, 2024. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

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Book Review and Blog Tour: Dance of Stars and Ashes by Nisha J. Tuli

Book: Dance of Stars and Ashes

Author: Nisha J. Tuli

Pub Day: Feb 16th 2024

Buy Link(s):  Amazon 

About the book:

A love that burns brighter than starlight. A gift that could leave her world in ashes. It’s time for Zarya to release the fire within.

In the jeweled city of Dharati, Zarya found passion and adventure for the first time. A mysterious stranger named Rabin helped to free the power within her—a dark, ancient magic that should not exist.

Now, Zarya learns Rabin’s true identity. A warrior prince, born to rule, he is as deadly as he is beautiful. He’s also insufferable. Arrogant and superior, with dangerous secrets of his own.

Zarya wants nothing to do with him. Terrifying demons are gathering beyond the walls and Zarya’s friends are rushing to complete a ceremony that will protect the city. Her mind is fixed on saving her home and finding the origin of her magic.

But every discovery and every dream pulls her back to Rabin. Does an enchantment bind them, or is it pure desire? Will opening her heart give Zarya the power to turn back the demons, or will it let the darkness devour her?

Dance of Stars and Ashes is the second book in an addictive series that builds from a slow burn to irresistible steamy romance. Packed with tension, action, and heart-stopping twists, it will keep fans of Sarah J. Maas, Jennifer L. Armentrout, and Rebecca Yarros reading late into the night.

Nisha J. Tuli started off her Nightfire Quartet in fantastic fashion with Heart of Night and Fire (see my review here). I had high hopes for Dance of Stars and Ashes, the second in the quartet, and it delivers!

This book picks up where Heart of Night and Fire left off. Dharati is under magical attack, and everyone is rushing to complete the ceremony that will allow Amrita to protect the city as queen. But will it be enough? Can Zarya accept her forbidden magic and learn to control it? And where will things go between her and Rabin?

Tuli’s world-building is again superior. I love the use of Indian/South Asian mythology and culture as the basis for her setting. It’s easy to imagine the sights and sounds because she writes them so strikingly.

The magic system in this world is, well, spellbinding. The ritual that gives Amrita the ability to guard the city is fascinating to me, and a little bit heartbreaking. Zarya thinks it’s heartbreaking, too, because she’s determined to take Amrita out for a night on the town before her life is changed irrevocably. And that’s where the action begins, as the city is attacked while they’ve whisked Amrita away without permission. (Small spoiler: nobody dies – yet.)

Descriptions of each of the different characters’ magical abilities is intriguing, and we get a good helping of magic here. We see Zarya learn more about her magic, and start to learn whether “the darkness” that’s part of it is truly something to fear. The action is pretty fast-paced, with assaults on the city growing closer together and more severe. This ramps up the tension as they race against time to get Amrita installed as queen.

There’s tension of another kind, too, between Zarya and Rabin. They dang near set the pages on fire with the heat they generate. (If you aren’t a fan of on-page spice, either this will not be the book for you, or you’ll become a fan after reading this!) There’s still a fair bit of “enemies” between them when the book opens, and there may be some of that feeling left when the book ends. I’m not going to tell you. Go read for yourself and find out. But they’ve got chemistry by the truckloads between them, and it’s a lot of fun.

There are battles. A villain is revealed. Some beloved characters come close to death, and some may not survive the book. (You might want to have some tissues handy.) And of course the book ends on a colossal cliffhanger that has me beside myself waiting for the next installment!

With Dance of Stars and Ashes, Nisha J. Tuli has earned a place on my must-buy authors list. If you love a beautifully written fantasy with a smokin’ hot side of romance, you need to read this book!

Thanks to Second Sky Books and NetGalley for an advance copy. I am writing this review voluntarily. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

About the author:

Nisha J. Tuli is the bestselling author of Trial of the Sun Queen—the first in the Artefacts of Ouranos series—which became a BookTok hit thanks to her amazing fans. The originally self-published series was acquired by Forever Publishing and Orbit UK in 2023, and will soon be published in 15 other languages around the world. 

She’s also the author of Heart of Night and Fire, a South Asian-inspired fantasy romance and the first in a four-book series. Look for her rom-com debut in 2025 with NSFW (Not Suitable for Work), a workplace rivals to lovers rom-com publishing with Forever. 

Nisha lives in Canada, where she spends most of her time reading and writing while enjoying travel, food, and camping with her partner, two kids, and their fluffy Samoyed, Mora. 

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Book Review and Blog Tour: Whisper House (Rylan Flynn #3) by Dawn Merriman

Book: The Whisper House

Author: Dawn Merriman

Pub Day: Feb 13th 2024

Buy Link(s): 
https://geni.us/B0CQRJRJ1Csocial

Synopsis:

In a haunted mansion, ghosts are not the only danger…

I’m Rylan Flynn. I hunt for ghosts and restless spirits, and solve the mysteries that make them haunt the living.

My ex-boyfriend Declan never believed in my abilities. Now he thinks his home is haunted and he’s pleading for my help. Declan lives in a huge mansion, full of history and secrets.

When I arrive at the house, I find a dying woman in the gardens. It seems like the spirit in Declan’s house may be the only witness to a murder.

For the first time, Detective Ford Pierce asks for my help. Inside the mansion, we find mysterious locked rooms and shattered windows, but the ghost stays hidden. Why won’t it speak to me?

I’m almost ready to give up when my best friend, Mickey, is snatched from her home in the middle of the night. The killer has her, and time is running out.

I’ll do anything to bring Mickey back. But will my desperate search for clues uncover the truth, or lead me right into the killer’s hands?

The Whisper House is the third book in Dawn Merriman’s thrilling and addictive Rylan Flynn series. With twisting mysteries and a touch of romance, it’s perfect for fans of Wendy Wang, Heather Graham and Dean Koontz.

I’ve started in the middle of a series again, jumping into The Whisper House, the third of Dawn Merriman’s Rylan Flynn series, without reading the first two. Whoops! I don’t think my enjoyment of the story suffered, though.

Rylan Flynn can communicate with ghosts. And now her ex-boyfriend, Declan Rathborne, is calling. He used to make light of her abilities, but now he’s asking her to come check out his palatial mansion to see if it’s haunted. Rylan and her best friend, Mickey Martinez, plan to use the mansion as an episode on their ghost-hunting show, but they get more than they bargain for when they see a woman dash into the gardens. There’s a murder on their hands, literally, as the woman dies in Rylan and Mickey’s arms as they try to help her.

But that’s not the only mystery Rylan finds herself involved in. Even more traumatic, Mickey is kidnapped not long after the unknown woman is killed, after she and Rylan had a falling out. Who took Mickey, and why? In both cases, spirits may hold the key to solving the mystery, and Detective Ford Pierce isn’t above asking Rylan to do what she can to help.

Merriman gives us a likable heroine in Rylan, and one who’s dealing with issues of her own. Her ability to speak to spirits is due to a childhood trauma. Her dead mother’s ghost lives in her house. A mysterious howling something lurks in her brother Keaton’s old room. And will Ford Pierce ever see her as anything other than a friend’s little sister?

Merriman also weaves multiple threads together skillfully, and she kept me guessing as to whether the two mysteries were connected. We’ve got the investigation into the unknown woman’s death and Mickey’s abduction. Rylan’s Aunt Val is dealing with her own unresolved issues. And Rylan is trying to figure out whether her feelings for Ford are reciprocated and what the heck is up with Declan. It all combined to make for a quick, entertaining read!

There were a couple of things that stuck in my craw just a bit. First, Mickey’s parents came into town when their daughter went missing, and apparently they demanded that the state police be given jurisdiction. It’s been a while since my prosecutorial days, but I don’t recall family members of crime victims being able to demand that a particular law enforcement agency get involved in a case. I can see a chief deciding to take officers off an investigation because of their personal involvement, but I don’t think victims’ families get to say what agency has jurisdiction. Not unless things have changed since my prosecutorial days.

Second, I really appreciate that Merriman makes the effort to inject a little faith into her paranormal mystery. The book had no adult situations, no swearing to speak of (if there was any, it wasn’t enough to stand out in my mind), and I do love a good, clean story. But Rylan’s use of prayer to seek divine assistance in communicating with spirits doesn’t really square with my understanding of Scripture. It’s a fun story idea, but I wouldn’t recommend praying for help talking to any deceased loved ones.

Those two things notwithstanding, this book still gets high marks. Characters I cared about, not one but two mysteries, keeping me guessing almost until the big reveal – these add up to The Whisper House being a delight to read! I can’t wait to see what Rylan gets up to next.

Thanks to Second Sky Books and NetGalley for an advance copy. I am writing this review voluntarily. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

About the author:

Dawn Merriman writes creepy small town murder mysteries from her small farm in northeast Indiana where she lives with her husband and teenage children. You can often find her with muck boots on her feet and a story in her head. She enjoys animals, auctions, snorkeling and archaeology.

Dawn Merriman grew up a small town farm girl, on a small time pig farm in Indiana. She spent her young adulthood sitting on her bedroom floor scribbling stories in notebooks. She won the “Northeast Indiana Young Writers” award as a sophomore in high school.

After battling severe depression, she wrote her debut novel “How Murder Saved My Life” as therapy, mixing her love of murder mysteries and farming with climbing out of the darkness of illness.

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Word of the Week: February 12, 2024

Word of the Week: a bookish meme hosted here on Mondays in which we share a word that we find entertaining, enlightening, edifying, or just plain fun to say! Share your own word on your blog, then help me grow the meme and come share it here on mine!

This week’s word is one I’ve heard and used before, but never in this context. I learned a new definition for it from RobWords.

Everybody knows the skunk, the black-and white striped mammal with the outrageous odor. I’d always heard “skunked” used as a verb in the context of one of Merriam-Webster’s definitions, that is, to soundly defeat or shut out an opponent in sports. But I learned from RobWords’ video that dictionary writers use the term to refer to a word that has been used in such a way as to take on an alternate meaning. (Start at about 1:49 for the discussion of “skunked,” but watch the whole video because it’s interesting!) This fascinated me both on a personal level and on the editorial level. If I ever have an opportunity to edit a dictionary, I’ll know what someone means when they say a word has been skunked!

Had you ever heard “skunked” used in this manner before? Do you ever see yourself using it in conversation?

Got a word? Share it below. Then share the meme to help it grow!

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Book Blitz: Amethyst, The Shallows by Kellye Abernathy

Welcome to my stop on the #LoneStarLit book blitz for Amethyst, The Shallows by Kellye Abernathy! You may remember my review of Abernathy’s book The Aquamarine Surfboard. I loved it, and I’m really excited to share this companion novel with you.

AMETHYST, THE SHALLOWS
The Companion Novel to
The Aquamarine Surfboard
By KELLYE ABERNATHY
Young Adult / Magical Realism / Coming of Age
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Pages: 296 pages
Publication Date: February 6, 2024
NEW RELEASE!

“This is a night for being brave.”

In the aftermath of a devastating sickness that shatters their close-knit beach town, six lonely kids are drawn together during the unpredictable autumn equinox. Among them are fourteen-year-old Lorelei, who yearns to be an oceanographer, and her peculiar younger brother, Tad, who possesses an otherworldly curiosity.

When Lorelei has a strange and almost deadly encounter in a sea cave, her loyal boyfriend, Casey, cannot reconcile her fantastical experience with the rational world. Condi, Lorelei’s best friend, understands ocean magic but isn’t free to share what she knows. Kait, a girl from Ireland, regrets her impulsive move to America-all because of an odd occurrence involving her deceased boyfriend’s lost surfboard. When tides turn and the moon shifts, Isaac, the new kid in town who despises the ocean, is forced to face the truth-a profound and powerful magic lives in the deep.

Guided by a wise surf master, mystical old women known as the Beachlings, and an open-hearted grandmother, six kids embark on transformative adventures that challenge their beliefs about possibilities and the intense nature of love.

Amethyst, The Shallows is the brand-new companion novel

to The Aquamarine Surfboard.

****

PRAISE FOR AMETHYST, THE SHALLOWS Amethyst, The Shallows‘ sensitive and potent prose stirs the reader, leaving a lasting impression. Although this novel is the second installment in a series, it stands strong independently, welcoming newcomers and returning readers alike.” Literary Titan

CLICK TO PURCHASE:

Kellye Abernathy’s passions are writing and serving trauma survivors as a yoga teacher and practical life skills advocate. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary English Education from the University of Kansas. Her home is in land-locked Plano, Texas—where she’s dreaming of her next trip to the sea!
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FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH BLOG PARTICIPATING IN THIS BOOK BLITZ!
And don’t miss the Lone Star Book Blog Tours Pop-Up Blog-Hop,
Starting March 25, 2024, for book reviews, special features, and a giveaway!

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