The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller

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The Widow of Rose House was written by Diana Biller. I’m a big fan of historical romance; I don’t read very much of American historical romance, but the premise piqued my interest.

Alva Webster has returned to New York after living abroad, accompanied by her scandalous reputation. She intends to renovate a Hyde Park mansion, detailing the process in an interior design book full of photographs, an innovative and creative venture that hasn’t been done before.

But the workers have abandoned the project because they say the house is haunted.

And then this pesky scientist keeps popping up because he wants to study the ghosts.

Alva doesn’t want to rely on anybody but herself, but Samuel Moore is sweet and kind and very earnest. Read more

The Business of Blood by Kerrigan Byrne

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The Business of Blood is the first book in Kerrigan Byrne’s new Victorian-era historical mystery series. I have enjoyed her previous books: historical romance novels with angst-ridden heroes, and so I was very excited to read something completely different than Byrne’s usual fare.

This is, indeed, a departure: even though Byrne’s historical romance novels are darker than most of the books in the genre, potential readers should know that The Business of Blood is not a cozy historical mystery. There are fairly graphic descriptions of crime scenes, and while I don’t think it’s any worse than the depravity some of Byrne’s other characters have demonstrated, it’s still worth mentioning.

Fiona Mahoney, an Irish immigrant living in London, works as a crime scene cleaner. There is no shortage of work, and she is not easily shocked- until she arrives at the home of a murdered man posed in a gruesome fashion. All signs point to Jack the Ripper, who has been dormant for years. Fiona has been haunted by this elusive killer, and wonders if this is her opportunity to track down the man who killed her childhood best friend. Read more

No Good Men by Thea McAlistair

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No Good Men is a historical mystery novel written by Thea McAlistair. This book piqued my interest because it’s set in the 1930s and features gangsters and a m/m romantic subplot.

Alex is in his early 20s, and working alongside his mentor Donnie as a bodyguard for the mayor. They’re at a nightclub one night, and while Alex is talking to a man at the bar during his break, the mayor and Donnie are both shot and killed.

It turns out that Sev, the man Alex was taking to, is the nightclub’s manager, and he has mob ties. The mayor’s death might also be linked to organized crime, and so Alex begins asking questions, although it is more for his mentor’s sake than for the mayor.

And of course, the mayor’s murder wasn’t an accident, or even one disgruntled citizen. As more people connected to the case are killed, it’s clear that Alex is in the middle of a dangerous situation. Read more

Murder at Kensington Palace by Andrea Penrose

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Murder at Kensington Palace is the third book in Andrea Penrose’s Wrexford & Sloane series of Regency-era historical mystery novels. I’ve read the other books in the series, so I was interested to see how the unlikely duo was going to handle their newest investigation.

This time, the victim is Cedric, a young man who recently inherited a barony. The prime suspect is Nicholas, the victim’s twin brother- the two were overheard arguing about the inheritance and the unfairness of Cedric receiving everything simply because he had the good fortune to be born a few minutes earlier. Read more

Who Slays the Wicked by C.S. Harris

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Who Slays the Wicked is the fourteenth book in C.S. Harris’ Sebastian St. Cyr series of Regency-era historical mystery novels. I was excited about the opportunity to read this book because I have read the last few entries in the series, and I was looking forward to finding out what was going to happen next- especially when I saw whose murder Sebastian was investigating. Read more

Standish by Erastes

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Standish is a historical fiction novel written by Erastes. I’d seen this book mentioned in various places, so when my library network purchased a digital copy, I knew it was finally time to check it out.

The first thing you need to know about Standish is that this is not a conventional m/m historical romance. If that is what you’re expecting, then you’re going to be disappointed.

Ambrose Standish is a sickly young man who lives in the English countryside with his sisters. They spend their days in genteel poverty in the shadow of Standish- the great country house that their grandfather lost in a card game.

Ambrose’s life changes forever when Rafe Goshawk returns from Europe to take up residence at Standish. Rafe is looking for a tutor for his son, and sees hiring Ambrose as a way to apologize for the whole losing-your-birthright thing.

There’s a minor amount of resisting forbidden urges, but eventually Ambrose and Rafe give in to temptation. How lovely! Sounds great! Happily ever after? Not so fast!  Read more

Hexbreaker by Jordan L. Hawk

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Hexbreaker is the first book in Jordan L. Hawk’s Hexworld series of m/m paranormal historical romance novels. I’ve been a fan of Hawk’s Widdershins books, but after hearing about the Hexworld books in a Facebook group, I knew that I had to read them as well.

Hexbreaker takes place in the 1890s in an alternate version of New York City. Magic plays an important role in everyday life. Hexes are spells that can help or harm people. Witches are aided by familiars- assistants who have the ability to shift into an animal form. A witch needs to bond with a familiar in order to achieve their full potential, but bonding is a serious undertaking that can’t easily be undone.

Tom Halloran is a police officer with several big secrets. He has built a new life for himself, but his newest case is reminiscent of the terrible crime similar to the one that sent him into hiding, and he’s one of the only ones who can stop it from happening again.

Cicero is a cat familiar whose friend has been kidnapped. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to find his friend, including working with Tom, who has revealed that he is a hexbreaker. It’s unclear why somebody with a rare and powerful talent like that would be working as a nonmagical police officer, but they need to work quickly because Cicero’s friend is in grave danger. Read more

Carols and Chaos by Cindy Anstey

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Carols and Chaos is a young adult historical fiction novel written by Cindy Anstey. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book because I have enjoyed her three previous books.

Carols and Chaos serves as a companion to Suitors and Sabotage, but each of the two books offers a very different perspective. Both books are set during the Regency era and both have young adults as their protagonists, but Suitors features members of the gentility whereas the two protagonists in Carols are servants. Upper servants, yes, but servants nonetheless.

Kate Darby has established herself as a lady’s maid. This is not to be a permanent occupation- Kate intends to open up her own dress shop one day when she has saved up enough money. The young ladies she assists are amiable, but her job is not always easy because her mother (who lives nearby) asks for help and doesn’t understand that Kate’s focus needs to be on her duties at the manor house. Kate also does not need to be distracted by the handsome Matt Harlow, who serves as valet to the Steeple brothers, who have come to stay at the house for the Yuletide season. Read more

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier

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Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster is a middle grade historical fiction novel by Jonathan Auxier. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book because I’ve enjoyed some of Auxier’s other books, and I thought it would be a good fit for my three girls who are in the fourth and sixth grades.

Nan Sparrow works as a chimney sweep in Victorian London. It’s a miserable existence, with no end in sight, but that changes when she meets Charlie, a gentle creature who befriends her. Nan has never really had a friend, and she is fiercely protective of Charlie. She understands that he would never hurt anyone, but is there a place in the harsh world for a monster? Read more

Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens

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Mistletoe and Murder is the fifth book in Robin Steven’s Wells & Wong series of middle grade historical mysteries. My oldest daughter is eleven years old, and she is a big fan of this series. We actually own the UK editions of most of the series (including this one), but we were super excited when we received the opportunity to read an ARC of the American edition.

In fact, my daughter was so excited about reading this book (again) that she asked if she could write the review. So, here you go:

My review on Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens

Note: this is my first review EVER so, sorry if you think it’s short :/

Hello whoever is reading this! This is my review on Mistletoe and Murder.

This book is part of a series called Wells and Wong in the US, but in England, it’s called A Murder Most Unladylike.

The book takes place during Christmas time in England, and Hazel and Daisy-the main characters- are staying in wintry Cambridge for the Christmas holidays.

But-of course-a murder happens. Two days before Christmas, a person is murdered, and Hazel and Daisy have to solve the case- But they have competition with the Junior Pinkertons, a rival agency, and they have to find the killer before Christmas day! Talk about all that stress!

But a big twist comes at the end, something you’d never see coming!

If you liked Mistletoe and Murder, you should try more Murder Most Unladylike books! I DEFINITELY recommend them, the books are so great, like this one! Robin Stevens is an amazing author, and I definitely love this series!

Okay, back to my adult/mom perspective now!

Boarding school books are my absolute favorite, so I was a little sad to see Daisy and Hazel leave their school for the holidays. However, it was quite pleasant to see them reunite with some of the characters from previous books in the series.

I found the mystery to be quite satisfying, and although I did pick up on the direction the book was going to take in its earliest stages, I was surprised by the Big Reveal. I do think it’s great that Hazel and Daisy go about solving their cases. Everything is very methodical and organized. Details and observations are written down in a notebook, and they discuss points before reaching conclusions.

I loved the way this book tackled tough subjects like gender and race in such a meaningful way by incorporating them organically into the plot. I also loved the evolution of Daisy and Hazel’s friendship; like many teen girls, their friendship has suffered ups and downs, but manages to persevere.

I would absolutely recommend Mistletoe is Murder to middle grade readers. I would suggest starting with the beginning of the series and then reading the books in order. Stevens is an extremely talented author, and the books are surprisingly nuanced- not your typical middle grade fare! As a mom to girls, I cannot say enough how much I appreciate such a wonderful series with strong female leads who work together and are very very clever. We are both eagerly looking forward to finding out what is going to happen next for our intrepid sleuths!

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book.