Review: The Key to Everything, by Valerie Fraser Luesse

book coverSynopsis

Peyton Cabot’s fifteenth year will be a painful and transformative one. His father, the heroic but reluctant head of a moneyed Savannah family, has come home from World War II a troubled vet, drowning his demons in bourbon and distancing himself from his son. A tragic accident shows Peyton the depths of his parents’ devotion to each other but interrupts his own budding romance with the girl of his dreams.

Struggling to cope with a young life upended, Peyton makes a daring decision: He will retrace a journey his father took at fifteen, riding his bicycle from St. Augustine, Florida, all the way to Key West. Part declaration of independence, part search for self, Peyton’s journey will bring him more than he ever could have imagined–namely, the key to his unknowable father, a longed-for reunion, and a calling that will shape the rest of his life.


Disclaimer: Although I received a copy of this book from the publisher, the words and opinions below are my own.

Savannah in Georgia and St Augustine in Florida are two of my favorite location in the southeastern United States. I visited both in December of last year, so memories of both are fresh in my mind. This novel, set in 1947, took me straight back and I fell in love quickly. Continue reading

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Review: The Woman in the Green Dress, by Tea Cooper (w/ giveaway)

The Woman in the Green Dress
by Tea Cooper

Publication Date: June 16, 2020
Thomas Nelson
Paperback, eBook, & AudioBook

Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery



A cursed opal, a gnarled family tree, and a sinister woman in a green dress emerge in the aftermath of World War I.

After a whirlwind romance, London teashop waitress Fleur Richards can’t wait for her new husband, Hugh, to return from the Great War. But when word of his death arrives on Armistice Day, Fleur learns he has left her a sizable family fortune. Refusing to accept the inheritance, she heads to his beloved home country of Australia in search of the relatives who deserve it more.

In spite of her reluctance, she soon finds herself the sole owner of a remote farm and a dilapidated curio shop full of long-forgotten artifacts, remarkable preserved creatures, and a mystery that began more than sixty-five years ago. With the help of Kip, a repatriated soldier dealing with the sobering aftereffects of war, Fleur finds herself unable to resist pulling on the threads of the past. What she finds is a shocking story surrounding an opal and a woman in a green dress. . . a story that, nevertheless, offers hope and healing for the future.

This romantic mystery from award-winning Australian novelist Tea Cooper will keep readers guessing until the astonishing conclusion.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound | Kobo


“Readers of Kate Morton and Beatriz Williams will be dazzled. The Woman in the Green Dress spins readers into an evocative world of mystery and romance in this deeply researched book by Tea Cooper. There is a Dickensian flair to Cooper’s carefully constructed world of lost inheritances and found treasures as two indomitable women stretched across centuries work to reconcile their pasts while reclaiming love, identity and belonging against two richly moving historical settings. As soon as you turn the last page you want to start again just to see how every last thread is sewn in anticipation of its thrilling conclusion. One of the most intelligent, visceral and vibrant historical reads I have had the privilege of visiting in an age.” —Rachel McMillan, author of The London Restoration

“Refreshing and unique, The Woman in the Green Dress sweeps you across the wild lands of Australia in a thrilling whirl of mystery, romance, and danger. This magical tale weaves together two storylines with a heart-pounding finish that is drop-dead gorgeous.” —J’nell Ciesielski, author of The Socialite

About the Author

Téa Cooper is an award-winning, bestselling author of Australian historical fiction. In a past life she was a teacher, a journalist and a farmer. These days she haunts museums and indulges her passion for storytelling.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

My Review

Disclaimer: Although I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher and Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, the words and opinions below are my own.

I love opportunities to review books by authors I’ve not previously read. Tea Cooper has written several novels, but The Woman in the Green Dress is the first one I’ve come across. This was an opportunity to read something set in a place I was blessed to visit over 30 years ago (and where my father should have been this month had it not been for COVID-19), written by a woman who lives in and knows well the state of New South Wales.

The book starts in London – Armistice Day – and Cooper captures the sights and sounds of London in her opening pages. Fleur is torn between celebrating the end of the Great War and working so she can pay her bills. She’s waiting for her Australian husband to return from the front and whisk her away to his home, but the gentleman who comes to visit her teashop has news of a different kind for her. The action then shifts back to 1853 and two young women on a farm who are waiting for a delivery of food, drink, and business materials. There are interactions with the local indigenous community, and a rare albino kangaroo, but a storm is headed their way. Meanwhile, an Austrian army captain has arrived in Sydney on the hunt for a precious gemstone and has enlisted the help of an enterprising street boy. Cooper weaves these storylines together toward a beautiful finish in a book that I read in one afternoon.

The book was incredible. I found myself looking up the various locations Fleur visits on a map. I was reminded of how little I’d seen of Sydney all those years ago as I followed Fleur around. This is a city before the iconic bridge and opera house were even dreamed of, let alone built. I traced her passages on the Hawkesbury and MacDonald Rivers, and wished that I could go there and explore the communities Cooper described. This isn’t a pretty historical narrative either; Cooper has included some of the darker parts of Australia’s history such as exploitation and physical attacks against the Aboriginal people. I was also humbled by some of the things I learned. For example, how did I not know that opals could be found on other continents besides Australasia?

I’m not someone who gives every book I read a five-star rating. My main criteria for giving such a rating is how the book left me emotionally after the last page. If I desperately need Kleenex, then it gets the full five stars. The Woman in the Green Dress is definitely one of these books, and I’ll be looking for more by Tea Cooper in the future.

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, June 16
Review at Bitch Bookshelf

Wednesday, June 17
Review at McCombs on Main
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books
Interview at The Caffeinated Bibliophile

Thursday, June 18
Review at Passages to the Past

Friday, June 19
Review at The Lit Bitch
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Saturday, June 20
Feature at What Is That Book About

Monday, June 22
Review at Captivated Pages
Review at Books and Backroads

Tuesday, June 23
Interview at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, June 24
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Friday, June 26
Review at View from the Birdhouse
Review at Books, Writings, and More

Saturday, June 27
Review at A Darn Good Read

Sunday, June 28
Review at Rejoice in Reading

Monday, June 29
Feature at I’m All About Books
Review at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals

Tuesday, June 30
Interview at Jorie Loves A Story


During the Blog Tour, we are giving away 5 paperback copies of The Woman in the Green Dress! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on June 30th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Paperback giveaway is open to the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

Woman in the Green Dress Giveaway


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Fiction Review: A Gilded Lady, by Elizabeth Camden

book coverSynopsis

Caroline Delacroix is at the pinnacle of Washington high society in her role as secretary to the First Lady of the United States. But beneath the facade of her beauty, glamorous wardrobe, and dazzling personality, she’s hiding a terrible secret. If she cannot untangle a web of foreign espionage, her brother will face execution for treason.

Nathaniel Trask is the newly appointed head of the president’s Secret Service team. He is immediately attracted to Caroline’s quick wit and undeniable charm, but his job leaves no room for distractions. Anarchist plots have led to mounting threats against the president, forcing him to put duty before his growing love for Caroline.

Amid the glamorous pageantry of Gilded Age Washington, DC, Caroline and Nathaniel face danger and heartbreak that shakes them to their core and tests all they know about love and sacrifice.


Disclaimer: Although I received an electronic advance copy of this book from the publisher, the words and opinions below are my own.

Elizabeth Camden continues her Hope and Glory trilogy with a new novel set at President William McKinley’s White House. It’s the dawn of a new century and a time of great divide in America. Caroline Delacroix is one of the fortunate ones during the Gilded Age, a period of history which fascinates me. But it’s a time that can’t and won’t last forever. William McKinley will be assassinated less than 18 months later, at a location just over 60 miles away from where I live, in Buffalo. Continue reading

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Review: What Momma Left Behind, by Cindy Sproles

book coverSynopsis

In the face of overwhelming obstacles, she’ll need courage, grit, and a tender heart

Worie Dressar is seventeen years old when influenza and typhoid ravage her Appalachian Mountain community in 1877, leaving behind a growing number of orphaned children with no way to care for themselves. Worie’s mother has been secretly feeding several of these little ones on Sourwood Mountain. But when tragedy strikes, Worie is left to figure out why and how she was caring for them.

Plagued with two good-for-nothing brothers–one greedy and the other a drunkard–Worie must fight to save her home and the children now in her begrudging care. Along the way, she discovers the beauty of unconditional love and the power of forgiveness as she cares for all of Momma’s children.


Disclaimer: Although I received an electronic advance copy of this book from the publisher, the words and opinions below are my own.

There are some Christian historical fiction writers whose newest novels I cannot wait to read. Cindy Sproles is one of that select group. I have read her previous novels, Mercy’s Rain and Liar’s Winter, and loved them both. In my mind, they were both five star reads. I was excited to get a copy of What Momma Left Behind, even if it was an electronic version marked “not final text.” Continue reading

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Non-fiction Review: James Monroe: A Life, by Tim McGrath

book coverSynopsis

Monroe lived a life defined by revolutions. From the battlefields of the War for Independence, to his ambassadorship in Paris in the days of the guillotine, to his own role in the creation of Congress’s partisan divide, he was a man who embodied the restless spirit of the age. He was never one to back down from a fight, whether it be with Alexander Hamilton, with whom he nearly engaged in a duel (prevented, ironically, by Aaron Burr), or George Washington, his hero turned political opponent.

This magnificent new biography vividly recreates the epic sweep of Monroe’s life: his near-death wounding at Trenton and a brutal winter at Valley Forge; his pivotal negotiations with France over the Louisiana Purchase; his deep, complex friendships with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison; his valiant leadership when the British ransacked the nation’s capital and burned down the Executive Mansion; and Monroe’s lifelong struggle to reckon with his own complicity in slavery. Elected the fifth president of the United States in 1816, this fiercest of partisans sought to bridge divisions and sow unity, calming turbulent political seas and inheriting Washington’s mantle of placing country above party. Over his two terms, Monroe transformed the nation, strengthening American power both at home and abroad.

Critically-acclaimed author Tim McGrath has consulted an extensive array of primary sources, many rarely seen since Monroe’s own time, to conjure up this fascinating portrait of an essential American statesman and president.


Disclaimer: Although I received an electronic Uncorrected Proof of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, the words and opinions below are my own.

Growing up in Britain meant I didn’t really know much about American history prior to World War Two. Whereas I could recite all the kings and queens of England from 1066 onwards (I can still recall half of them today), I couldn’t have done similar with the American presidents, and probably still can’t today. What I knew about James Monroe before reading this new biography of his life could fit on the proverbial back of a postage stamp. I’d heard of the Monroe Doctrine, but couldn’t tell you what it was and, if pressed, I could probably tell you that of course he must have something to do with the capital of Liberia since it was named after him but nothing more. Continue reading

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