Monday, June 26, 2017

Tour Book Review: A Stranger At Fellsworth, by Sarah E. Ladd

A Stranger at Fellsworth
(Treasures of Surrey, Book 3)
Trade Paperback, 336 pages
Thomas Nelson
May 16, 2017
Christian Fiction, Historical Romance,
Mystery, Women's Fiction

 Could losing everything be the best thing to happen to Annabelle Thorley?

In the fallout of her deceased father’s financial ruin, Annabelle’s prospects are looking bleak. Her fiancé has called off their betrothal, and now she remains at the mercy of her controlling and often cruel brother. Annabelle soon faces the fact that her only hope for a better life is to do the unthinkable and run away to Fellsworth, the home of her long-estranged aunt and uncle, where a teaching position awaits her. Working for a wage for the first time in her life forces Annabelle to adapt to often unpleasant situations as friendships and roles she’s taken for granted are called into question.

Owen Locke is unswerving in his commitments. As a widower and father, he is fiercely protective of his only daughter. As an industrious gamekeeper, he is intent on keeping poachers at bay even though his ambition has always been to eventually purchase land that he can call his own. When a chance encounter introduces him to the lovely Annabelle Thorley, his steady life is shaken. For the first time since his wife’s tragic death, Owen begins to dream of a second chance at love.

As Owen and Annabelle grow closer, ominous forces threaten the peace they thought they’d found. Poachers, mysterious strangers, and murderers converge at Fellsworth, forcing Annabelle and Owen to a test of fortitude and bravery to stop the shadow of the past from ruining their hopes for the future.

I received an ARC of this novel 
from TLC Book Tours 
in exchange for an honest review.

I love the Regency period just as much as Sarah Ladd does, and thoroughly enjoyed falling into this great story that reminded me of the novels of Charlotte Brontë and Jane Austen (but especially the former).

The plot of this novel is a very interesting combination of elements -- romance, an overview of the relationship between the higher and working classes, the hardships endured by women at this time in history, and even mystery. It was all handled beautifully, too, and kept me turning pages!

The characters and the world they lived in were very believable. At first sight, the villains in the story might appear a bit predictable and one-dimensional, were it not for the fact that real people of this time period did engage in the types of nefarious activities depicted in this novel.

Annabelle Thorley is a wonderful, kind, thoughtful person, not at all like many upper-class women of the time. However, she has the misfortune of being tyrannized by a cruel, selfish brother who attempts to force her to marry a man she cannot love.  Thomas Thorley is only interested in covering his debts, as Cecil Bartrell, the man he wants his sister to marry, is very wealthy. Thomas has absolutely no concern for Annabelle's happiness and wellbeing. As for Bartrell, he's the classic misogynist who loves to treat women as property, as well as physically mistreat them.

I thoroughly enjoyed how Annabelle stood up to this bully. Although she couldn't count on her brother's emotional or physical support in this matter, she refused to cower before Bartrell; instead, she courageously defied him every chance she got. 

Annabelle initially tries to be patient with her brother, but must finally take matters into her own hands. I admire her courage in doing so; she has to leave everything behind in order to escape this forced marriage. In the process, her whole life changes. In this she reminded me very much of Jane Eyre, who similarly had to make a life-changing decision, although hers was motivated by a different matter entirely.

I was so happy to see a working-class hero in this story! This is not at all common in Regency romance novels. Usually, these novels depict romantic relationships strictly within the upper classes. Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, written and published in the Victorian period, broke with this tradition, as Jane is a governess, while Rochester is an aristocrat. In the case of A Stranger at Fellsworth, the situation is reversed. Annabelle is the aristocrat, while Owen Locke is a gamekeeper.

The sweet, tender relationship between Annabelle and Owen develops gradually, while other events are going on, and in the relative solitude of a village school, run by Annabelle's uncle, who has been kind enough to take in the niece he had not seen in many years, and offer her employment at the school.

I love Owen! He's such a gentle, honorable man, who is totally devoted to his motherless daughter. He is also a man of high moral principles, a perfect match for Annabelle. The more he interacts with her, the greater his attraction to her, and hers to him. Annabelle was a balm to Owen's wounded soul, while he was a refreshing change for her. 

It was also wonderful that Annabelle never for one moment thought that Owen was beneath her. On the contrary, she admired him for his character, and ended up falling in love with him because of it. But then, she was not a shallow silly person, but instead, a woman of substance. The fact that she adjusted so well to having to work for a living, after having lived such a privileged life, speaks very highly of her.

Another thing I loved about Owen was that he was never condescending toward Annabelle, nor did he ever attempt to force her to do anything against her will. Quite the contrary! In marked contrast to Bartrell, he was always respectful toward her, and not only because of her station, but also because he simply did not believe in mistreating women, but instead, gave them respect and any assistance they might require of him. Although he did feel protective toward Annabelle, he never made her feel that she was in any way "a second-class citizen" just because of her gender.

The secondary characters are well-developed, too. I especially liked Annabelle's Uncle Edmund, her deceased mother's brother, as well as his wife. They both welcomed Annabelle to their home with open arms. When they finally learned the reason for her coming to them for help, they immediately offered her a safe haven, giving her much needed love in the process.

I also loved Annabelle's relationship with Hannah, Owen's daughter. She not only helped the girl with her studies, but also protected her from bullies at school. Furthermore, she also taught Hannah how to paint with watercolors.

One secondary character I tried to like, and could not, was Margaret Crosley, Annabelle's maid. There was always something about her that made me think she was untrustworthy, and my hunch proved right in the end. It was really too bad, as Annabelle did try to be friends with her when they both began to work at Fellsworth School. 

This is one aspect of the novel I do wish the author had handled differently. It would have been absolutely wonderful if Annabelle and Margaret could have developed a new friendship as equals. Instead, Margaret turned out to be harboring resentment and envy toward Annabelle. This became clear later on in the novel.

The prose style is wonderful, and the settings vividly described. I was strongly reminded of Lowood School and its environs (from Jane Eyre), except that in Ms. Ladd's novel, the children are well treated, disciplined in a fair manner, and Edmund is certainly not in any way to be compared with the hypocritical clergyman who ruled Lowood with a merciless, iron hand. Still, this part of the novel did bring back memories.

I also liked that Ladd refers to Annabelle's mother having kept a prayer journal, and mentions that Annabelle is struggling with her faith. These details made her female protagonist more believable and realistic, as well as someone the reader could easily relate to.

The plot of this novel came to a very satisfactory conclusion, with no plot lines left dangling, and no cliffhangers, either. The action was mixed in with parts in which character development, chiefly through dialogue, took place. Toward the end, things did speed up as the villains moved in on Annabelle, and Owen stepped up to the plate in order to protect her.

In spite of my comment regarding Annabelle and Margaret, I loved this wonderful tale that included a touch of mystery and intrigue! Furthermore, even though it's part of a series, it can be read as a standalone.

In short, A Stranger at Fellsworth is a very enjoyable historical romance, with great characters and a very sweet love story. I can't recommend it highly enough to all Regency fans, especially as a great escape on a rainy afternoon!


Purchase Links


Sarah E. Ladd has always loved the Regency period — the clothes, the music, the literature and the art. A college trip to England and Scotland confirmed her interest in the time period and gave her an idea of what life would have looked like in that era. 

It wasn’t until 2010 that Ladd began writing seriously. Shortly thereafter, she released the first book in the Whispers on the Moors series, The Heiress of Winterwood, which was the recipient of the 2011 ACFW Genesis Award for Historical Romance.

To access the complete tour schedule, just click on the button below!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Book Blogger Hop No. 99: Reading Interruptions

Welcome to the Book Blogger Hop,
hosted by Billy @

For more information, and 
to find out the topic of next week's question, click HERE.

This Week's Question

If you are at a really good point in 
a book, and either the phone or doorbell rings, do you stop 
reading, or let the phone or doorbell
go unanswered?

(Submitted  by Elizabeth @ 

My Answer

I wish I could say that I would be able to ignore the phone or doorbell, and just keep on reading.....However, I'm totally unable to do that. Once I hear that very annoying sound (my husband and I don't have a doorbell, but, if someone were to knock on the door, the effect would be the same), my concentration is completely broken, and I'm thrown "out of the book" -- whether fiction or nonfiction -- that I happen to be reading at the time.

If it's the door, I do need to answer it, because it might be something important, such as the delivery of supplements from the pharmacy, or an urgent message from the Condo Association, for example. 

If it's the phone, and my husband is not at home, I also need to answer it, because it might be him calling with something important, or perhaps he wants me to get him some information that he needs, and forgot to take with him.  It could also be one of my relatives, with some urgent request, or simply wanting to have a nice little chat. (Of course, sometimes I do let them know -- ever so subtly -- that they've interrupted my reading. Lol.)

I do get spam calls sometimes, but I have a call block app that takes care of them, so that's not even an issue anymore. 

After I deal with these interruptions, I will then go back to whatever I was reading. Unfortunately, it will take me a while to get immersed in the book again, but it's not impossible for me to do so -- eventually.

I think it's better for me to deal with the interruption, and get it out of the way, so that I will then be free to continue with my reading. If, instead, I were to stubbornly refuse to answer the phone or the door, I would be left with a nagging doubt as to what it could have been about, and this will DEFINITELY make it impossible for me to focus on my book once more.

The perfect alternative would be to simply shut off my cell phone (we no longer have a land line at home) when I want to get down to some serious reading. Lol. But that leaves the problem of the door....

I have indeed found the perfect solution, though. I just read late at night. People don't make calls at midnight or thereafter, unless, of course, there's some emergency (God forbid!). As for the door, no one would come knocking at those hours, either, unless, again, there were some emergency.

Yes, indeed.....the late hours are the absolute BEST for reading! (Or blogging, for that matter, lol.) I happen to be a lifelong night owl, and it's not at all unusual for me to turn in around 4:00 AM! Since I no longer have a 9 to 5 job, this is perfect for me! After all, I don't have to start my part-time job until 3:30 PM, and I get off at 9:30 PM. I'm usually back home by 10:00 PM. Then I change into something more comfortable and settle down to do some blogging. After I'm done with that (usually around 1:00 AM), then it's uninterrupted reading time, until I start nodding off......

Needless to say, I LOVE the night owl life!! 

What are your thoughts on
this topic?
Please leave a comment!
If you're participating in this meme,
I'll go comment on your 
own BBH post.
If not, I will then comment on one 
of your blog posts!
Thanks for visiting!!! 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Tour Book Review: Kiss Carlo, by Adriana Trigiani

Kiss Carlo
Adriana Trigiani
Trade Paperback, 544  pages
HarperCollins Publishers
June 20, 2017
   Diverse Reads, Historical Fiction, Humor,
Literary Fiction, Romance, Women's Fiction

From Adriana Trigiani, the beloved New York Times-bestselling author of The Shoemaker’s Wife, comes an exhilarating epic novel of love, loyalty, and creativitythe story of an Italian-American family on the cusp of change. 

It’s 1949 and South Philadelphia bursts with opportunity during the post-war boom. The Palazzini Cab Company & Western Union Telegraph Office, owned and operated by Dominic Palazzini and his three sons, is flourishing: business is good, they’re surrounded by sympathetic wives and daughters-in-law, with grandchildren on the way. But a decades-long feud that split Dominic and his brother Mike and their once-close families sets the stage for a re-match. 

Amidst the hoopla, the arrival of an urgent telegram from Italy upends the life of Nicky Castone (Dominic and his wife’s orphaned nephew) who lives and works with his Uncle Dom and his family. Nicky decides, at 30, that he wants more—more than just a job driving Car #4 and more than his longtime fiancée Peachy DePino, a bookkeeper, can offer. When he admits to his fiancée that he’s been secretly moonlighting at the local Shakespeare theater company, Nicky finds himself drawn to the stage, its colorful players and to the determined Calla Borelli, who inherited the enterprise from her father, Nicky must choose between the conventional life his family expects of him or chart a new course and risk losing everything he cherishes.

From the dreamy mountaintop village of Roseto Valfortore in Italy, to the vibrant streets of South Philly, to the close-knit enclave of Roseto, Pennsylvania, to New York City during the birth of the golden age of television, Kiss Carlo is a powerful, inter-generational story that celebrates the ties that bind, while staying true to oneself when all hope seems lost.

Told against the backdrop of some of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies, this novel brims with romance as long buried secrets are revealed, mistaken identities are unmasked, scores are settled, broken hearts are mended and true love reigns. Trigiani’s consummate storytelling skill and her trademark wit, along with a dazzling cast of characters, will enthrall readers. Once again, the author has returned to her own family garden to create an unforgettable feast. Kiss Carlo is a jubilee, resplendent with hope, love, and the abiding power of la famiglia.

I received a complimentary ARC of 
this enthralling novel from TLC Book Tours 
for an honest (and honestly enthusiastic!) review.

This wonderful novel was my introduction to Adriana Trigiani, who is now one of my favorite authors! With Kiss Carlo, she has delivered a totally riveting, compelling story that actually plays like a movie from the year in which these events take place -- 1949.

I was so captivated by the book's cover, when I first saw it, that I decided to take the risk of going outside my comfort zone; I don't normally read historical family sagas. I'm so very glad that I did in this case, though!

I was immediately swept up into this richly-told story of a large Italian-American family living in South Philadelphia. The evocative writing, the combination of drama and humor, along with the idiosyncratic characters, all came together to make this a totally exhilarating reading experience for me! I quickly fell in love with the world so skillfully evoked by Trigiani, to the point that I am now feeling nostalgic for it.

One of the fascinating things about this novel is that the author interweaves some profound reflections on one's destiny with the other plot elements.

Nicky Castone, the novel's central character, drives a cab for the Palazzini Cab Company, owned by his family. But one day, he is suddenly forced to face the fact that mortality is an inescapable part of the human experience. This epiphany makes him aware, for the first time, that he's simply always gone blithely along with whatever his family expected of him. He suddenly realizes that he wants much more out of life. 

Nicky's questioning is one that many readers, including myself, can easily relate to. However, Trigiani does not focus on this to the exclusion of all else. Instead, she skillfully develops the plot into a series of tragi-comical events that upset the status quo in the Palazzini family, as well as the DePino family. The results are paradoxically hilarious as well as heartbreaking.

Nicky is such a relatable, funny, irrepressible, and totally honest character! It took a lot of courage for him to call off his seven-year engagement to Peachy DePino and go off on a self-searching quest. (Although this quest was, comically enough, propelled by the prospect of facing Peachy's furious father.) 

Nicky had already discovered that he loved acting at Borelli's Theater, where he works alongside Calla Borelli, the original owner's daughter, who directs all the plays performed there. Although Nicky does feel attracted to Calla, he considers her a friend, as she has her own boyfriend.

Calla is a very compelling character in her own right. She is passionately dedicated to the Borelli Theater, which is in danger of going under. She is also very devoted to her father, whom she cares for at the house they've shared for years. Furthermore, Calla is a very strong, determined young woman. 

The relationship between Calla and Nicky plays out gradually, and I loved that they were friends first. Sometimes "love at first sight" can work, but other times not. In this case, both of these characters came to realize that they had unconsciously loved each other all along, although they did the honorable thing, since they were committed to other people. Their mutual passion for the theater, and especially Shakespeare's plays, plus their similar outlook on life, ultimately brought them together, after they had each taken separate paths.

The "supporting cast" Trigiani has assembled is just perfect, from Nicky's Aunt Jo and Uncle Dom, who took him in as an orphan, to his brothers and sisters-in-law, to the people of Roseto, a small town located about 60 miles to the north of Philadelphia. Some of the memorable characters living there are Mamie Confalone, who plays a small part in Nicky's life, and the very funny mother and daughter duo of 'wanna-be femme fatales', Cha Cha and Rosalba Tutolola. 

The most interesting of all these secondary characters, however, is Hortense Mooney, an African-American woman who has been working as a dispatcher and telegraph operator at the Palazzini Cab Company for the last twenty years. 

Hortense is a guardian angel of sorts to Nicky, to whom she gives her unconditional love, as well as emotional support. She's actually like a second mother to him, and he really values her advice and help.

I loved Hortense's wit, her frequent references to Eleanor Roosevelt -- a woman I have long admired -- and her shrewd observations on the Palazzini family interactions, as well as life in general. I also greatly enjoyed her budding friendship with Minna, a lonely woman who lives in Roseto. I would love it if Trigiani wrote a spinoff novel about Hortense! 

Minna is a very poignant character. She has actually lived in a self-made prison since the death of her husband. When Hortense arrives in Roseto, and the two women get to know each other, Minna begins to change. This is a very touching part of the novel.

Sam Borelli, Calla's father, was another great secondary character. I loved his quiet strength, as well as his close relationship to his daughter, Calla. Although the reader doesn't get to know him as well as Hortense, his influence is felt by the actors at the theater. He has shaped their lives in very important ways, thus leaving a legacy of love for the theater that will survive the impact of the new television technology of the time.

This love of the theater is a very important aspect of this novel that makes me even more enthusiastic about it! I especially like the fact that the actors at the Borelli Theater exclusively perform Shakespeare's plays. Nicky ends up acting in "Twelfth Night", which is very much pertinent to the plot of Kiss Carlo, as it, too, involves a case of mistaken identity. Trigiani includes several quotes from the play, thus making her love of Shakespeare a part of her novel. She skillfully interweaves the action in the play with that of her plot, thus creating an interesting contrast between the events on the stage and those in the novel.

I have to add that I couldn't help feeling a bit sorry for Peachy. The fact that she's a rather shallow, conventional person didn't stop me from feeling this way, either. I liked that Trigiani evaded the very easy route of making her a totally one-dimensional character. She loved Nicky, if in her own limited way. Trigiani handled the conflict between these two characters  beautifully, avoiding too much drama and pathos.

Although Nicky's escapade does create some very funny reading, this is a well-balanced book, as there are some losses, as well. Even though this saddened me, it did make the novel more realistic, and the characters even more appealing. It was heartwarming to see how they supported each other through these situations. 

The most important quality of a great novel is how deeply the reader is touched, to what degree the reader feels that they have actually lived another life in the reading of that novel. In Kiss Carlo, Trigiani certainly achieves this quality. Readers will feel as if they, too, had lived in South Philly in 1949, sharing in all the crazy, humorous, and sad interactions of the Palazzini family, as well as getting the feel of what it means to be an Italian-American.

I did not want this novel to end, and am already looking forward to reading it again in the future! These characters are just too unforgettable and likeable for me to simply put this book on a shelf and never dip into it again! Bravissimo, Ms. Trigiani!!



Praise for Kiss Carlo: “A world of warm, lively characters whose charming idiosyncrasies lead them to collide and ricochet along the way to love.... A delightfully sprawling comedy full of extended families.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Praise for Adriana Trigiani: “A comedy writer with a heart of gold” (New York Times)

“Delightful, energetic.... Trigiani is a seemingly effortless storyteller.” (Boston Globe)

“Seamlessly superb storytelling.... Trigiani never loses hold of the hearts of her characters, of the wisdom that tragedy and redemption are also part of life.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

“If you’re meeting her work for the first time, get ready for a lifelong love affair.” (Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help)

“Trigiani is a master of palpable and visual detail.” (Washington Post)

Purchase Links

Photo by Tim Stephenson

Beloved by millions of readers around the world for her “dazzling” novels, (USA Today) Adriana Trigiani is the New York Times bestselling author of 17 books in fiction and nonfiction. She is published in 35 countries around the world.

Adriana is also a playwright, television writer/producer and filmmaker. “A comedy writer with a heart of gold,” (New York Times) Adriana is the award-winning director of the documentary film, "Queens of the Big Time". She wrote and directed the major motion picture "Big Stone Gap", filmed entirely on location in her Virginia hometown. "Big Stone Gap" spent 11 weeks in theaters in the fall of 2015, and was the #2 top-grossing romantic comedy of the year.

Adriana co-founded The Origin Project with Nancy Bolmeier Fisher, an in-school writing program which serves over a thousand students in the Appalachian mountains of Virginia.

Her latest novel, Kiss Carlo, described as “a delightfully sprawling comedy full of extended families, in all their cocooning warmth and suffocating expectations” (Kirkus) was published June 20, 2017. A new expanded edition of Cooking with My Sisters will be everywhere in November, 2017.

She lives in New York City with her family and their rescue pets. Adriana speaks to book clubs and classrooms regularly. To invite her and schedule a Skype session, please reach out to her at, join her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or visit her at her website. 

To access the complete tour schedule,
just click on the button below!