Tag Archives: historical suspense

The Silver Shadow Review and GIVEAWAY!

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About the Book

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Book: The Silver Shadow

Author: Liz Tolsma

Genre: Christian Historical/Suspense

Release date: May 2021

A Shadowy Figure Is Intent on Harming Denver’s Women

Book 11 in the True Colors series—Fiction Based on Strange-But True History

Denver of 1900 is still a dangerous place to be following the silver crash of 1893. And of out of the dark comes a shadow intent on harming women. Ambitious young Denver newspaper reporter Polly Blythe is searching for the big story that’s going to launch her career. On Friday evening, August 24, 1900, she gets her break when two women are cracked over the head within a two-minute walk of each other. But policeman Edwin Timmer thwarts Polly’s ideas of a serial criminal. . .until the shadowy figure strikes again. Will the reporter and the policeman team up to find the culprit before he strikes too close for comfort?

Click HERE to get your copy!

About the Author

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Liz Tolsma is the author of several WWII novels, romantic suspense novels, prairie romance novellas, and an Amish romance. She is a popular speaker and an editor and resides next to a Wisconsin farm field with her husband and their youngest daughter. Her son is a US Marine, and her oldest daughter is a college student. Liz enjoys reading, walking, working in her large perennial garden, kayaking, and camping. Please visit her website at www.liztolsma.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter (@LizTolsma), Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. She is also the host of the Christian Historical Fiction Talk podcast.

More from Liz

One of the most popular questions I’ve gotten from many readers of the True Colors Crime series is how do I come up with the ideas for the books? For the first two, Becky Germany, acquisitions editor at Barbour Publishing, had the ideas. That made my life easy. I just had to fictionalize it, and I had a book. But when I was putting together the proposals for The Gold Digger and The Silver Shadow, it was up to me to find the true crimes I wanted to use.

I went online and scoured historical crime blogs and books for ideas. I wanted crimes that I could work easily with, that made for compelling stories. As I was doing this, my husband and two daughters and I were driving home from Georgia. We were somewhere in Indiana. Don’t ask me why I remember this when I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night, but I do.

And then on Google Books, I discovered a book about crimes the world had forgotten. The first one in there sounded so good. Not too grisly, something that no one would be able to guess the culprit very easily. It was perfect. Imagine my excitement when Becky told me they would be publishing The Silver Shadow.

Then I sat down to research it more. And I could hardly find anything! What? Where was all the information on this? There had to be more. That chapter in the one book couldn’t be all there was. He had to get his information from somewhere.

Eventually I did come across some articles from various Colorado newspapers with a few details. Not many at all. None from any of the Denver papers, even though that’s where the crimes were committed.

In the end, that’s all the information I discovered. In a way, it was freeing. I could write whatever I wanted, and no one would be the wiser. Even if they did some research and some digging, there wasn’t much to find. I was able to take the facts that I did have, combine that with what I found out about Denver in 1900, and put it together in a story. I tried to use historical details wherever I could, but of my four True Colors Crimes books, this is the most fictional of them all.

My Review

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

This is the most unusual book of the True Colors series thus far, in my opinion, which only makes it all the more intriguing. I purposely avoid book summaries, except for perhaps a very bare-bones version, when choosing which books to read, and in the case of this series, I usually recognize the case very early on. As The Silver Shadow progressed, however, and I still remained clueless, I really had to fight the urge to peek ahead!

Something that struck me from the beginning is that this case reminded me of Jack the Ripper, albeit less gruesome, due to the female targets and the nocturnal timing of the crimes, as well as the fact that the perpetrator was able to strike and escape each time. Liz Tolsma, as she details in her author’s note, takes artistic liberty with The Silver Shadow because little is known about the crimes themselves. So little, in fact, that only one text appears to mention them: Famous Crimes the World Forgot by Jason Lucky Morrow. A quick Internet search of my own turned up only one article, which also references this text. I won’t spoil the story by revealing the ultimate outcome; suffice it to say that this historic crime spree offers plenty of fodder for the imagination.

Tolsma provides some of the specifics of the crimes of The Silver Shadow committed between August 1900 and March 1901 in Denver, Colorado, crafting a fictionalized storyline around a young female reporter named Polly Blythe and police detective Edwin Price. Tapping into the mindset of the time period, Tolsma writes Polly as a burgeoning careerwoman fighting against the patriarchy in order to prove herself and achieve success. Polly opines: “It’s not that I’m after fame and fortune. I want recognition of hard work. Acceptance as a capable, intelligent reporter. That’s what I would like.” Which puts her directly at odds with the Silver Shadow, who believes that women “had to learn how to stay home and put their husbands and their families first.” Polly’s dogged determination challenges Detective Price to not only solve the case and protect the women of Denver, but also to come to terms with an old burden.

An absorbing combination of psychology, romance, and mystery make The Silver Shadow a must-read for fans of the genre while simultaneously demonstrating the emergence and subsequent repercussions of women’s rights in society. The insights into the perpetrator’s mind keep readers guessing and offer a speculated motive. A summary of the victims in the author’s note at the end of the story is very helpful for gaining perspective on the case as a whole. I do wonder about one of the fictional characters in the novel, whose story I don’t feel is fully resolved. Also, a pedantic point that is very likely no fault of the author but has niggled my senses: on the back cover, the detective’s name is given as Edwin Timmer, but his surname throughout the book is Price.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

Blog Stops

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, May 25

lakesidelivingsite, May 25

Reviewingbooksplusmore, May 25

For the Love of Literature, May 26

Bigreadersite, May 26

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, May 26

Texas Book-aholic, May 27

Genesis 5020, May 27

Christian Bookaholic, May 27

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, May 28

Vicky Sluiter, May 28

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, May 28

The Write Escape, May 29

Betti Mace, May 29

Inklings and notions, May 29

Southern Gal Loves to Read, May 30

For Him and My Family, May 30

Rebecca Tews, May 30

Older & Smarter?, May 31

deb’s Book Review, May 31

Blogging With Carol, May 31

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, June 1

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, June 1

Remembrancy, June 1

Locks, Hooks and Books, June 2

Pick a Good Book, June 2

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, June 2

Connie’s History Classroom, June 3

Godly Book Reviews, June 3

Mary Hake, June 3

Through the Fire Blogs, June 4

Melissa Wardwells Back Porch Reads, June 4

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, June 4

KarenSueHadley, June 5

Amanda Tero, Blog, June 5

Tell Tale Book Reviews, June 5

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, June 6

Grace-Filled Writer, June 6

Pause for Tales, June 6

Little Homeschool on the Prairie, June 7

Blossoms and Blessings, June 7

Daysong Reflections, June 7

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Liz is giving away the grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card and copy of The Silver Shadow!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/10c96/the-silver-shadow-celebration-tour-giveaway

Hearts on Fire: A Book Review of Amanda Cabot’s “Dreams Rekindled”

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As much as I enjoyed Out of the Embers, I have to say that I loved Dreams Rekindled even more. There will be one more book in this trilogy, and I presume that it will also have a fire-inspired title. Symbolic of so many things, in this case I personally think that the connotation evokes a sense of renewal and the presence of the Holy Spirit. While the books could be read as standalones, the stories have much more depth when read in their proper order; the backgrounds of the characters and of Mesquite Springs itself all contribute to the series as a whole, and seeing how they connect enhances the impact.

Combining romance and suspense with the happenings of small-town Mesquite Springs, Texas in the 1850s, Amanda Cabot tells the story of two people on a mission to take a new direction in life—one that sets them straight in each other’s path. Sister to Wyatt from the first book in the trilogy, Dorothy Clark dreams of a career as a writer, fueled by the recent publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Brandon Holloway seeks a quiet town to start over and establish his newspaper after an editorial brings devastation. However, “A newspaper is more than entertainment or simply reporting what happened. When an editor sees important issues, it’s his responsibility to bring them to everyone’s attention,” according to Dorothy. Truly, no matter what our past and present struggles, the Lord can use them for good in ways that we would never have thought possible, and usually there is a part of the resolution that speaks directly to us as a special nudge from God.

Dreams Rekindled raises issues that are mirrored in our current society. One of these is the feeling of guilt over perceived culpability in an unexpected situation over which someone had no control, as is the case with Brandon. Most of us have experienced this to some degree at one time or another, blaming ourselves for something beyond our control and thereby carrying a heavy burden that was never meant for our shoulders. Sowing division also plays a large role in the story as well as in today’s world. Then, as now, pitting citizens against one another is a sure way to tear a community apart and ultimately destroy it. Dreams Rekindled illustrates how this is so often done through nefarious means, planting lies and turning people against one another. As the apostle Paul exhorts in 2 Corinthians 13:11: “Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”

One of the prominent themes in the novel is forgiveness. Forgiveness of self and forgiveness of others. Compassion and empathy go a long way toward healing wounds, especially when we seek to understand someone else’s point of view and perspective. Our own might not change, and while the other person may be in the wrong, some understanding can encourage better conduct and communication in the future. That is, after all, part of our mission as Christians: to be encouragers and to communicate well with the Lord and as witnesses for our faith. As Dorothy thinks to herself, “What an amazing answer to prayer.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥

Buy your copy HERE

The Silver Shadow Epic Book Launch

About the Book

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Book: The Silver Shadow

Author: Liz Tolsma

Genre: Christian Historical/Suspense

Release date: May 2021

A Shadowy Figure Is Intent on Harming Denver’s Women

Book 11 in the True Colors series—Fiction Based on Strange-But True History

Denver of 1900 is still a dangerous place to be following the silver crash of 1893. And of out of the dark comes a shadow intent on harming women. Ambitious young Denver newspaper reporter Polly Blythe is searching for the big story that’s going to launch her career. On Friday evening, August 24, 1900, she gets her break when two women are cracked over the head within a two-minute walk of each other. But policeman Edwin Timmer thwarts Polly’s ideas of a serial criminal. . .until the shadowy figure strikes again. Will the reporter and the policeman team up to find the culprit before he strikes too close for comfort?

Click HERE to get your copy!

About the Author

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Liz Tolsma is the author of several WWII novels, romantic suspense novels, prairie romance novellas, and an Amish romance. She is a popular speaker and an editor and resides next to a Wisconsin farm field with her husband and their youngest daughter. Her son is a US Marine, and her oldest daughter is a college student. Liz enjoys reading, walking, working in her large perennial garden, kayaking, and camping. Please visit her website at www.liztolsma.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter (@LizTolsma), Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. She is also the host of the Christian Historical Fiction Talk podcast.

Book Excerpt

Edwin adjusted his wire-rimmed glasses and glanced over his scribbled reports. He’d taken them in such haste, he had a difficult time reading them. “They were both struck over the head. And”—he scanned the page—“this is strange. Neither of them was robbed or

violated.”

“That’s very different.” O’Fallon snatched the notebook from Edwin. “What do you make of it?”

“Not much. A pretty typical day in Denver. I just hope both women are going to be okay.” Edwin gestured for the paper, and Ralph returned it. “I’ll go interview Mrs. Lillian Bell first. What is this world coming to when someone attacks a widow? Hopefully I’ll get the chance to speak to the other one at some point.”

“Looks like a late night.”

Edwin excavated his coffee cup from where it was buried under an avalanche of papers and took a swig of the almost-cold brew. Yes, it was going to be a long night.

As he settled into his chair to review his notes before questioning the victim, he caught a uniformed officer leading a slender, doe-eyed woman through the station. Her dark blue skirt swished across the floor as she followed him. Was this one of the victims? If so, she didn’t

bear any signs of being mugged. No cuts, no bruises. In fact, her skin was flawless.

As she approached, she straightened the fedora on her head, the paper tucked in the band labeling her as a member of the press. Fabulous.

Just what he needed.

When the officer stopped at Edwin’s desk, he scraped his chair back and stood. “What can I help you with?”

Missed Past Excerpts? Go Here

The Lady in Residence Review and GIVEAWAY!

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About the Book

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Book: The Lady in Residence

Author: Allison Pittman

Genre: Christian Historical

Release date: February 2021

Can a Legacy of Sadness be Broken at the Menger Hotel?

Visit historic American landmarks through the Doors to the Past series. History and today collide in stories full of mystery, intrigue, faith, and romance.

Young widow Hedda Krause checks into the Menger Hotel in 1915 with a trunk full of dresses, a case full of jewels, and enough cash to pay for a two-month stay, which she hopes will be long enough to meet, charm, and attach herself to a new, rich husband. Her plans are derailed when a ghostly apparition lures her into a long, dark hallway, and Hedda returns to her room to find her precious jewelry has been stolen. She falls immediately under a cloud of suspicion with her haunting tale, but true ghost enthusiasts bring her expensive pieces of jewelry in an attempt to lure the ghost to appear again.

In 2017, Dini Blackstone is a fifth-generation magician, who performs at private parties, but she also gives ghost walk tours, narrating the more tragic historical events of San Antonio with familial affection. Above all, her favorite is the tale of Hedda Krause who, in Dini’s estimation, succeeded in perpetrating the world’s longest con, dying old and wealthy from her ghost story. But then Dini meets Quinn Carmichael, great-great-grandson of the detective who originally investigated Hedda’s case, who’s come to the Alamo City with a box full of clues that might lead to Hedda’s exoneration. Can Dini see another side of the story that is worthy of God’s grace?

Click HERE to get your copy!

About the Author

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Allison Pittman is the author of more than a dozen critically acclaimed novels and a four-time Christy finalist—twice for her Sister Wife series, once for All for a Story from her take on the Roaring Twenties and most recently for the critically acclaimed The Seamstress which takes a cameo character from the Dickens’ classic A Tale of Two Cities and flourishes her to life amidst the French Revolution. She lives in San Antonio, Texas, blissfully sharing an empty nest with her husband, Mike. Connect with her on Facebook (Allison Pittman Author), Twitter (@allisonkpittman) or her website, allisonkpittman.com.

More from Allison

From Haunting to Healing: How Stories Bring New Life to Old Ghosts

If you really think about it, every story is a ghost story. Not the floating spirits of the dearly departed kind, not bumps in the night or mysterious howling in the darkness—but the best stories come from examining a haunted heart. Memories that pursue the present.

A few years ago I took the walking tour of haunted San Antonio. It was a lark, a fun tourist-y thing to do with some visiting friends. I’m not a believer in ghosts, but I am a collector of stories. The tour opens at the Alamo—sacred ground of slain soldiers. The second stop is the Menger Hotel, listed as one of the most haunted hotels in the United States by those who measure and evaluate such things. And while the tour guide waxed on about the guests’ litany of haunted experiences (including Teddy Roosevelt raging through the lobby), my mind stuck with the story of Sallie White. Sallie White is the Menger Hotel’s most famous ghost—a chambermaid whose apparition is reported to be seen walking the halls, towels draped over her arm, or to be heard as an efficient two-rap knock on your door late at night. My mind, however, didn’t dwell on Sallie the ghost, but Sallie the woman—just a normal, hard-working, poor woman, murdered in the street by a man who claimed to love her. But for that, she would have passed into history unknown. Instead, her story is told every night as strangers gather on the very sidewalk where the crime took place.

Years after first hearing the story of Sallie white, I stayed in the Menger for a few days to gather details for The Lady in Residence. I booked what they call a “Petite” room—meaning it is a room that maintains its original structure. Read: tiny. Exposed pipes, creaky wooden floors, antique furniture—the only update, the bathroom fixtures. As it turned out, my room was directly above the place where Sallie White was murdered. One night I pressed my ear against the glass and listened to the ghost tour guide tell her story. The next morning, I stood in the exact spot with a fancy Starbucks drink, thinking about her. She lives on, not because people claim to see her walking and hear her knocking in the dead of night, but because she is a woman remembered.

So, is that beautiful? Is it ghoulish? Maybe it’s both, but when I was given the chance to write a story set in and around the Menger Hotel, I was determined to make Sallie White’s story a part of it. I didn’t want to write her story—that would have required embellishment beyond those few historic, factual tid-bits that such a woman left behind. Sallie White didn’t have correspondence to catalog or a journal to give us insight to her thoughts. Instead, I wanted to tell it to readers everywhere who might never make it to San Antonio to hear it for themselves. When you read The Lady in Residence, you are going to hear the true story of Sallie White, all of it taken from a newspaper account of the time. And then, I did what all historical writers do…I folded it into my own tale and folded that tale into another.

That’s really the joy of writing a split-time novel—being able to draw back and shoot a narrative-arrow straight through the hearts of two stories, threading them together, to bring a haunting to a place of healing.

My Review

The spirit of Sallie White had stolen the spirit of Hedda Krause, and I was determined to reclaim it.

After turning the last page of Allison Pittman’s The Lady in Residence, my first thought is that this is a very cinematic novel that plays out on the pages as would a film on the screen. It is at once simple and multifaceted. A split-time story, interplay between the two time periods forms a mirror of sorts that becomes apparent as the tale progresses. The book opens in 2017 with magician Dini Blackstone, a young, somewhat reclusive performer from San Antonio who has had a lifelong obsession with Hedda Krause. Hedda’s account forms the other half of the storyline, focusing on her life at the Menger Hotel beginning in 1915 and related through excerpts from her autobiography entitled My Spectral Accuser: The Haunted Life of Hedda Krause, Published by the Author Herself.

When the two stories converge across the century that separates them, the power of the past to inform and guide the present becomes apparent, as does the bittersweet influence of love. First-person narration in Hedda’s account reinforces this truth, which forms the basis for all that will unfold. With five words, Hedda’s brokenness and sanity teeter on the edge: “Something for you, Hedda Krause.” In the present, Dini meets Quin Carmichael, whose own connection to the Hedda Krause case shares uncanny features with her own. With Quin, too, comes the only explicitly Christian content in the novel, marked by his brief but sincere comments about God and His working in the world.

The Lady in Residence offers a unique addition to the dual-timeline category and to Barbour Publishing’s new “Doors to the Past” series. I would have liked to have seen more Christian thematic elements, but I still enjoyed this story very much, and I do find the author’s note to be informative with regard to this and other topics in the story. I appreciate Pittman’s definition of a haunting as a memory of something that stays with you, expanding it beyond and even eclipsing the paranormal aspect. Also, for as much as I usually do not like magic being used, I do respect that it was defined as illusion, which forms one of the main themes of the story. Despite my reservations, I do recommend The Lady in Residence for readers of romantic split-time novels with a Gothic, somewhat supernatural feel.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 4 stars ♥♥♥♥

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, February 23

Artistic Nobody, February 23 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Fiction Aficionado, February 24

For the Love of Literature, February 24

Where Faith and Books Meet, February 24

Texas Book-aholic, February 25

Mia Reads Blog, February 25

Connie’s History Classroom, February 26

Inspiration Clothesline, February 26

Locks, Hooks and Books, February 27

Books I’ve Read, February 27

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, February 28

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, February 28

Remembrancy, March 1

Bigreadersite, March 1

For Him and My Family, March 2

Hallie Reads, March 2

deb’s Book Review, March 3

Blogging With Carol, March 3

By The Book, March 4

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, March 4

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, March 5

The Write Escape, March 5

Life of Literature, March 6

Inklings and notions, March 6

Godly Book Reviews, March 7

Vicky Sluiter, March 7

To Everything There is A Season, March 8

Pause for Tales, March 8

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Allison is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and a copy of The Lady in Residence!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/1086e/the-lady-in-residence-celebration-tour-giveaway

The Gold Digger Review and GIVEAWAY!

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About the Book

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Book: The Gold Digger

Author: Liz Tolsma

Genre: Christian/Historical/Suspense

Release Date: December, 2020

Men Are Disappearing in LaPorte, Indiana

Book 9 in the True Colors series—Fiction Based on Strange-But True History

Fiction Based on Strange, But True, History

In 1907, shy but loyal Ingrid Storset travels from Norway to support her grieving sister, Belle Gunness, who owns a farm in LaPorte, Indiana. Well-to-do widow Belle, who has lost two husbands and several children, provides Ingrid with enough money to start a small business. But Ingrid is confused by the string of men Belle claims to be interviewing for her next husband. When Nils Lindherud comes to town looking for his missing brother, who said he was going to marry Belle, Ingrid has a sinking feeling her sister is up to no good.

Click HERE to get your copy!

About the Author

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Liz Tolsma is a popular speaker and an editor and the owner of the Write Direction Editing. An almost-native Wisconsinite, she resides in a quiet corner of the state with her husband and is the mother of three. Her son proudly serves as a U.S. Marine. They adopted all of their children internationally, and one has special needs. When she gets a few spare minutes, she enjoys reading, relaxing on the front porch, walking, working in her large perennial garden, and camping with her family.

More from Liz

real-life-people

This story was so much fun to write, and the research was so interesting. It has to rank up there with one of my favorite books to write. That’s what makes my job the best around.

There are a great number of characters in The Gold Digger who are historical. Many of the places I mention are also historical. I had the pleasure of spending a day in LaPorte, Indiana, to research the book and take some pictures they had in the museum there. Research is one of my favorite aspects to writing. I could have spent much, much longer losing myself in the museum and in the archives. Good thing my cousin, who I was staying with, called me to let me know that it was getting dark and she had dinner ready, otherwise who knows how long I would have been there. Probably until they kicked me out!

One thing that the people of LaPorte would want you to know is that they really are nice people and that their town is a nice town. Lots of good people have been born there or have lived there over the years, including Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, William Mayo, who founded Mayo Clinic, and William Scholl, who found Dr. Scholl’s. They kept emphasizing to me while I was there what a great place LaPorte is. Judging by their friendliness and helpfulness, I would have to agree.

real-life-places

To help you better visualize the characters and setting, here are some photographs of the real people and places that appear in The Gold Digger.

Enjoy the book!

Liz

My Review

They were taking a risk. They both wanted answers, but different ones. No matter what happened, one of them would be disappointed. More than that. Likely devastated.

An interest in forensics has led me to a variety of TV programs and books over the years, because while the crimes themselves were heinous and reprehensible, solving them intrigued me. Considering the lack of both sophisticated equipment and knowledge about DNA until recent years, it seems quite impressive that earlier investigators were able to solve as many cases as they did. The drawback of reading material of this nature is its darkness, which can be nightmare-inducing at times, and this is why I love Barbour’s True Colors (Historical Stories of American Crime) series so much. Able to be read in any order and written by a variety of authors, each story focuses on a major criminal event that occurred in America sometime between the late eighteenth through the early twentieth century. Best of all, these books are not only clean, leaving out the graphic details, but also inspirational, with a faith message in each.

Each True Colors book proves to be fascinating, and The Gold Digger by Liz Tolsma is no exception. Even though I was already familiar with the story of Belle Gunness, I was a bit hazy on some aspects of the case, so I still very much enjoyed reading this story. With a story such as this, it is easy to recognize the draw of sinful activities that may and perhaps even do start as one-time events that escalate. The enemy knows that it is more difficult to grow and to mature in our faith walk when we’re isolated, and most of the attacks that happen in this story are perpetrated at night when the victim is alone. Nevertheless, this is when prayers need to become all the louder and more confident, knowing that the God who promises never to leave or forsake us is the same God who created us and who has numbered every hair on our heads.

Echoing the sentiment of Jesus’ parable of the rich fool as found in Luke 12, The Gold Digger exposes the raw and evil root of greed and how it negatively affects relationships. To people living in the early twentieth century, without the means of immediate communication with others regarding business and especially personal matters, family was essential. So, it seems, was keeping secrets. Ingrid Storset, Belle Gunness’ fictional sister, ruminates on the thought that “When you didn’t have family, you didn’t have anything.” As an immigrant to America, her only relative and friend is her sister, Belle; Ingrid has great difficulty in speaking with others and lives under Belle’s shadow. When the threats begin, however, Ingrid starts to wonder whom she should trust, especially as “a stranger in a strange land.” This is the current status of all of us who belong to the Lord as we await His return.

Tolsma employs chilling, clever foreshadowing throughout the narrative. It often has a double meaning, and for those who do not know the story beforehand, it is definitely worth a re-read so as to pick up on all of the delightful literary clues scattered throughout the work, pointing toward what will happen.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥

Blog Stops

Connie’s History Classroom, December 17

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, December 17

Genesis 5020, December 17

Pause for Tales, December 17

Artistic Nobody, December 18 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Sodbuster Living, December 18

21st Century Keeper at Home, December 18

Older & Smarter?, December 19

Sara Jane Jacobs, December 19

Blossoms and Blessings, December 19

The Write Escape, December 19

For the Love of Literature, December 20

deb’s Book Review, December 20

Blogging With Carol, December 20

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, December 21

lakesidelivingsite, December 21

Betti Mace, December 21

Inklings and notions, December 21

Ashley’s Bookshelf, December 22

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, December 22

All-of-a-kind Mom, December 22

Locks, Hooks and Books, December 23

Mypreciousbitsandmusings, December 23

CarpeDiem, December 23

Hallie Reads, December 23

Remembrancy, December 24

Christian Bookaholic, December 24

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, December 24

Writing from the Heart Land, December 25

Splashes of Joy, December 25

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, December 25

Through the Fire Blogs, December 26

Rebecca Tews, December 26

For Him and My Family, December 26

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, December 27

Bigreadersite, December 27

Southern Gal Loves to Read, December 27

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, December 27

Tell Tale Book Reviews, December 28

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, December 28

Mary Hake, December 28

Texas Book-aholic, December 29

Godly Book Reviews, December 29

Daysong Reflections, December 29

Melissa Wardwell’s Back Porch Reads, December 30

Little Homeschool on the Prairie, December 30

Daysong Reflections, December 30

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Liz is giving away the grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card and copy of The Gold Digger!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/104fc/the-gold-digger-celebration-tour-giveaway

How Do I Love Thee: A Book Review of Joanna Davidson Politano’s “The Love Note”

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I’ll be honest. I almost didn’t request this title. The vintage cover drew me in, though, and a fleeting glimpse at the synopsis made it sound promising, so even though I’m not much of a romance reader, I decided to give it a chance. Oh my word. I am fairly certain that this is going to be my favorite new release of 2020, and most likely the best fictional romance (historical or otherwise) that I’ve read to date. Very rarely, if ever, do I use the word “swoon-worthy,” but I have to say, this book fits that description perfectly, while also being tempestuous and haunting.

The Love Note is the first of Joanna Politano’s novels that I’ve read, despite her previous works being on my to-read list, and I now find myself wondering why I waited so long! From the first chapter, I was engaged in the story, and unlike so many others, this is one that does not lag at any point. Politano seamlessly blends an assortment of genres that keeps readers on their toes: romance, mystery, history, spirituality. As the final third of the story unfolds, the twists are so beautifully executed for maximum impact, right through the final chapter. Willa Duvall herself proclaims early on: “I had been right all along—the letter I’d found in that desk was a piece of something much larger, a story more epic than mere romance.” Nothing is clear-cut until the ending, and I love that! What’s more, Politano meaningfully brings all of the storylines together into one glorious whole.

With echoes of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, The Love Note reads like a classic. Politano’s writing style reflects that of the nineteenth century but is free of antiquated words or phrases, thereby making this an easy-to-read book. That is not to say, however, that no hard issues arise within the story. On the contrary, for all of the romance, there is also a fair share of tragedy, as Willa notes immediately: “but I couldn’t shake the tenor of underlying romance lurking in the shadows of this house. It was there, pulsing and sweeping through like a ghost, even if everyone attempted to stifle and deny it.” Through characters such as Celeste, Willa, and Aunt Maisie (a personal favorite), the importance of using one’s voice for encouraging others and the significance of women’s rights is subtly explored. Pithy epigraphs called “A scientist’s observations on love” open each chapter, and a shifting narrative voice allows for the exploration of multiple points of view. The majority of the narrative is comprised of Willa’s story as told by the character herself in the first person, and occasionally another character with whom her story intersects provides a third-person account of something happening to them. Even as readers privileged with this omniscience, though, the surprises are astounding.

As with any Christian-based novel, the best attribute is transformation, and The Love Note achieves this remarkably well. Remarkably because the characters change their hearts and attitudes in spite of their fear and in spite of the leap of faith needed to do so. Willa realizes this in her own quest, remarking, “What makes the past so intriguing, anyway? Perhaps because understanding those stories that so enchant us, those ghostly echoes of long-ago mistakes and passions, means untangling the present and changing the future.” May we glean wisdom from the past as we all strive toward the bright future that awaits us as believers in Christ.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥

Buy your copy HERE

The Black Midnight Review and GIVEAWAY!

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About the Book

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Book: The Black Midnight

Author: Kathleen Y’Barbo

Genre: Christian Historical Suspense

Release Date: August 2020

Death Seems to Follow Harriet’s New Friend

Book 7 in the True Colors series—Fiction Based on Strange-But True History

Three years before Jack the Ripper began his murderous spree on the streets of London, women were dying in their beds as The Midnight Assassin terrorized the citizens of Austin, Texas. Now, with suspicion falling on Her Majesty’s family and Scotland Yard at a loss as to who the Ripper might be, Queen Victoria summons her great-granddaughter, Alice Anne von Wettin, a former Pinkerton agent who worked the unsolved Austin case, and orders her to discreetly form a team to look into the London matter.

The prospect of a second chance to work with Annie just might entice Isaiah Joplin out of his comfortable life as an Austin lawyer. If his theories are right, they’ll find the The Midnight Assassin and, by default, the Ripper. If they’re wrong, he and Annie are in a bigger mess than the one the feisty female left behind when she departed Austin under cover of darkness three years ago.

Can the unlikely pair find the truth of who is behind the murders before they are drawn into the killer’s deadly game? From Texas to London, the story navigates the fine line between truth and fiction as Annie and Isaiah ultimately find the hunters have become the hunted.

Click HERE to get your copy!

About the Author


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Bestselling author Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee of more than sixty novels with almost two million copies of her books in print in the US and abroad.

More from Kathleen Y’Barbo

I am a tenth generation Texan, but London has held a place in my heart for over ten years. You see, I have a son who has lived there for more than a decade. Thanks to him and his family of three—my granddaughter was born there on New Year’s Eve 2019—the city will always be special to me. There is absolutely nothing like walking those streets with a thousand years of history close enough to touch.

It was on a walk with my son through this great city that the stories of nineteenth century London came alive. With fog shrouding the rooftops of buildings that were hundreds of years old and our footsteps echoing on the cobblestones, I could imagine a time when lack of electricity and CCTV would make this place less than charming on a dark night. What reminded me of my favorite childhood movie, Mary Poppins, quickly became more reminiscent of Jack the Ripper. And then a story was born.

Only I just had half the story.

The other half came to me several years later when I stumbled across an article in Texas Monthly magazine about a serial killer who rampaged through Austin, Texas in 1884 and 1885 and was never caught. Some surmised this madman, called “The Midnight Assassin” by some, might have been Jack the Ripper honing his skills before he crossed the Atlantic to begin his famous crime spree in Great Britain.

But Austin? Ironically, my other two sons lived in Austin. So while part of my heart was in London, two more parts of that same heart resided in the Texas capital. I thought I knew Austin inside out. Between one of my sons getting not one but two degrees from the University of Texas (this Aggie grad is still proud of him in spite of what I jokingly call his burnt orange rebellion) and my other son living there and managing a restaurant at the time (and who just graduated from Texas A&M Galveston last month!), I had spent many years in the city. And yet I had never heard of the Midnight Assassin.

Research turned up a tale that sounds so close to fiction I had to write about it. Discovering the theory that the Austin killer might also be the Ripper just added to my interest—neither had been caught. And I like to write about Pinkerton detectives.

From there the story unfolded. If you’ve read any of my historical romances, you know that I love incorporating actual history into my stories. As you’ll see when you read The Black Midnight, this book is no exception. While I will continue writing the historical romances I love to bring to you, I will confess that writing this book has me itching to research another one like it.

What’s next in my foray into true crime novels? Maybe Houston. You see, I have a daughter who lives there…

In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy reading The Black Midnight as much as I enjoyed writing it!

My Review

Reading another installment in Barbour’s True Colors series never fails to be an exciting experience. In recent years, I haven’t read much true crime, although the investigations and forensics have always interested me, so this series has rounded out my reading in a sense. What I appreciate most, though, is that it is Christian-based. While I do not recall any specific mention of God in this story, it is a clean read, which is quite an achievement given the subject matter. It’s refreshing to be able to read an (albeit fictionalized) account of historical crimes that includes enough detail to get the point across without devolving into vulgarity. The fact that this segment of the story is built around a personal connection between the fictional main characters ups the ante.

Because the focus of this series is American crime, almost 70% of Kathleen Y’Barbo’s The Black Midnight centers on the serial killer active in Austin, Texas from December 1884-December 1885 and known to history as the Midnight Assassin or the Servant Girl Annihilator. This part of the narrative is told as a flashback, flanked by an investigation into the infamous Whitechapel murders of 1888. Usually I am not fond of this technique, but Y’Barbo makes it work here. She drops enough hints in the beginning to raise interest in the backstory of Alice Anne (Annie) von Wettin and Isaiah Joplin, both former Pinkerton detectives. At the behest of Queen Victoria herself, they investigate the Jack the Ripper killings, taking the reader first back to their initial partnership in Texas. There is enough suspense to intrigue without delving into the realm of horror, at least in my opinion, and with such unique character backgrounds, Y’Barbo explores a range of possibilities regarding the crimes themselves.

Not being very familiar with the Midnight Assassin case, learning about the speculated connection between it and the Whitechapel murders captured my interest. Y’Barbo does a fine job of weaving together fact and fiction in a compelling narrative about two intelligent individuals with a complicated past, one which involves the British monarchy and a mysterious secret society. I will not give away whether or not a culprit is discovered, but I did enjoy reading the author’s notes at the end of the book, in which she discusses how and where she twisted the historical record for the purpose of the story. These are found in each book of this enthralling series, and I always greatly appreciate them. As long as the true identity of the perpetrators (or perpetrator) remains a real-life mystery, there will be plenty of material for series such as this one, just as there will always be a light of faith shining in the darkness.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥

Blog Stops

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, August 27

Genesis 5020, August 27

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, August 27

Inklings and notions, August 28

Locks, Hooks and Books, August 28

Ashley’s Bookshelf, August 28

Older & Smarter?, August 29

Texas Book-aholic, August 29

Artistic Nobody, August 29 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

For the Love of Literature, August 30

Connie’s History Classroom, August 30

For Him and My Family, August 31

Adventures of a Travelers Wife, August 31

Betti Mace, September 1

Robin’s Nest, September 1

Bigreadersite, September 1

deb’s Book Review, September 2

Splashes of Joy, September 2

Just Your Average reviews, September 2

Rebecca Tews, September 3

Just the Write Escape, September 3

Emily Yager, September 3

Christian Bookaholic, September 4

reviewingbooksplusmore, September 4

KarenSueHadley, September 4

Remembrancy, September 5

Through the Fire Blogs, September 5

21st Century Keeper at Home, September 6

Tell Tale Book Reviews, September 6

Blogging With Carol, September 6

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, September 7

Life of Literature, September 7

Mary Hake, September 7

Godly Book Reviews, September 8

Back Porch Reads, September 8

Daysong Reflections, September 8

Pause for Tales, September 9

Blossoms and Blessings, September 9

Hallie Reads, September 9

Giveaway


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To celebrate her tour, Kathleen is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/ffb7/the-black-midnight-celebration-tour-giveaway