Friday, December 11, 2020

Book Review: The Garden of Promises and Lies by Paula Brackston

 Book Review

The Garden of Promises and Lies

(Found Things Book 3)

 Paula Brackston


Book Description:

The third installment of a bewitching series "brimming with charm and charisma" that will make "fans of Outlander rejoice!" (Woman's World Magazine).

New York Times 
bestselling author Paula Brackston's second novel in the Found Things series, Secrets of the Chocolate House, was called a "time-swapping romance [that] will please fans of Alice Hoffman" (Publishers Weekly). Now, Brackston returns to the Found Things series with a third book, The Garden of Promises and Lies.

As the bustle of the winter holidays in the Little Shop of Found Things gives way to spring, Xanthe is left to reflect on the strange events of the past year. While she's tried to keep her time-traveling talents a secret from those close to her, she is forced to take responsibility for having inadvertently transported the dangerous Benedict Fairfax to her own time. Xanthe comes to see that she must use her skills as a Spinner if she and Flora are ever to be safe, and turns to the Spinners book for help.

It is then that a beautiful antique wedding dress sings to her. Realizing the dress and her adversary are connected in some way, she answers the call. She finds herself in Bradford-on-Avon in 1815, as if she has stepped into a Jane Austen story.

Now in Xanthe's time, Fairfax is threatening Xanthe into helping him with his evil doings, and demonstrates all too clearly how much damage he is capable of causing. With Fairfax growing ever more powerful, Xanthe enlists the help of her boyfriend Liam, taking him back in time with her. It is a decision that might just ensure she prevails over her foe, but only by putting her life—and his—on the line.


Release Date: December 15, 2020

Buy at:

Amazon Kindle or Hardcover


My 5-Star Review:

We return to the Little Shop of Found Things in the third novel of the Found Things series. Xanthe is upset over having unintentionally transported the evil Benedict Fairfax to modern times and is scared of what his presence might mean to her and her mother. This leads her to try to find a way to not only get him to leave their time period, but possibly destroy him once and for all. When an antique wedding dress calls for her, Xanthe realizes it might be the very item to take her back in time to where she can have a final showdown with the crafty Fairfax. But doing so might be her undoing.

The Garden of Promises and Lies is another brilliantly written novel by the ever-talented Paula Brackston. As I always say in my reviews of her books, I love how she writes. Her style is so beautiful and descriptive, but she also weaves an interesting story that keeps you turning the pages. I highly recommend this series and this novel to anyone who enjoys historical and time-travel novels.



About the Author:

Paula Brackston lives in the historic city of Hereford on the Welsh border. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, and has been a Visiting Lecturer for the University of Wales, Newport. Before becoming a writer, Paula tried her hand at various career paths, with mixed success. These included working as a groom on a racing yard, a travel agent, a secretary, an English teacher, a script reader, and a goat herd. Everyone involved (particularly the goats) is very relieved that she has now found a job she is actually able to do properly.

In 2007 Paula was shortlisted in the Creme de la Crime search for new writers. In 2010 her book 'Nutters' (writing as PJ Davy) was shortlisted for the Mind Book Award. The following year she was selected by the BBC under their New Welsh Writers scheme. 'The Witch's Daughter' became a New York Times bestseller. Her books are translated into five languages and sold around the world.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Book Review: The Bachelor’s Bride by Holly Bush

 Book Review

The Bachelor’s Bride

(The Thompsons of Locust Street Book 1)

Holly Bush


Book Description:

Meet the Thompsons of Locust Street, an unconventional family taking Philadelphia high society by storm…

1868 Elspeth Thompson is the middle daughter in a family with tightly held secrets. While she loves her family, she longs to break out from their overprotective hold, to find herself, to be noticed for who she is rather than as chaperone to her beautiful younger sister, Kirsty, or underling to her elder sister, Muireall. A chance meeting under scandalous circumstances offers her the opportunity to be seen for herself, but the repercussions could lead to the downfall of her family.

Confirmed bachelor Alexander Pendergast enjoys his position as the right-hand man of one of the most influential and powerful politicians in Philadelphia. Heir to the largest textile mill on the east coast, Alexander is handsome, charming, and the ultimate catch on high society’s matrimonial market. But he has no interest in settling down with a pampered debutante. He doubts the perfect woman for him actually exists…until he meets Elspeth Thompson.

But the Thompsons and Pendergasts move in different circles, and Elspeth has no desire to be judged and found wanting by Philadelphia’s first families. Though she tries to resist Alexander’s charms, when he comes to her family’s rescue, she knows there’s more to him than she’d first thought. But Alexander realizes that his ambitions may have placed Elspeth and her family in grave danger. With an unseen enemy determined to uncover the Thompson family’s secrets, Alexander grapples with secrets of his own, secrets that could cost him the only woman he’s ever truly cared about.

When Elspeth finds herself in terrible danger, can she muster the inner strength of her ancestors to save herself and her family and find the courage to meet love head on?


Buy Now:

Amazon Kindle


B&N Nook

Apple Store


My 5-Star Review:

Elspeth Thompson is young and headstrong and longs to be independent of her over-protective family. She is slowly learning that secrets run deep in her family, and dislikes being treated like a child. On a chance encounter, she meets the handsome Alexander Pendergast, and although she has the wrong impression of him at first, she can’t help but be intrigued by him. Unfortunately, her older sister and brother are bound and determined to hold the family secrets tight and aren’t happy with Elspeth’s growing relationship with Alex.

The Bachelor’s Bride is the first book in the Thompsons of Locust Street series. Once again, author Holly Bush has created an interesting cast of characters who you are eager to read more about. Set in 1868, she does a wonderful job of pulling the reader back in time with little references to speech, clothing, lifestyles, etc. An excellent story with a little mystery and of course, romance. Perfect for readers who enjoy historical novels.


About the Author:

“I love you. With every bit of myself, until we are old and infirm. Until the only thing left is love.”

Holly Bush books are set during the turbulent and transformative years of the late 1800’s. The Thompsons of Locust Street, Philadelphia, features five siblings from Scotland with some family secrets that could place them in danger. The first book is The Bachelor's Bride, Elspeth's story. The next book, The Bareknuckle Groom, is set to release in the spring 2021. This will be a five book series.

The Gentrys of Paradise begins with the novella Into the Evermore where readers meet Virginia horse breeders, Eleanor and Beauregard Gentry. The following books feature their children, Adam, Matthew, and Olivia. For the Brave is Matthew’s story and is the first full length book of the series. Olivia's book is For This Moment and Adam's story, For Her Honor, is the final book in the series.

The Crawford Family Series following the fortunes of the three Boston born Crawford sisters and includes Train Station Bride, Contract to Wed, Her Safe Harbor, and companion novella, The Maid’s Quarters. Cross the Ocean and Charming the Duke are both British set Victorian romances. Fan favorites stand-alone historical romance novels include Romancing Olive and Reconstructing Jackson. Holly's books are described as ‘emotional, with heartfelt, sexy romance.’

Holly makes her home with her husband, one happy Labrador Retriever and a clever Jack Russell rescued from the pound, and two difficult cats in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Connect with Holly at, on Twitter @hollybushbooks, and on Facebook at Holly Bush. Follow Holly on her Amazon author page to receive new release updates and sale information.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Book Review: The Chanel Sisters by Judithe Little

Book Review

The Chanel Sisters

Judithe Little


Book Description:


A novel of survival, love, loss, triumph—and the sisters who changed fashion forever

Antoinette and Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel know they’re destined for something better. Abandoned by their family at a young age, they’ve grown up under the guidance of nuns preparing them for simple lives as the wives of tradesmen or shopkeepers. At night, their secret stash of romantic novels and magazine cutouts beneath the floorboards are all they have to keep their dreams of the future alive.

The walls of the convent can’t shield them forever, and when they’re finally of age, the Chanel sisters set out together with a fierce determination to prove themselves worthy to a society that has never accepted them. Their journey propels them out of poverty and to the stylish cafés of Moulins, the dazzling performance halls of Vichy—and to a small hat shop on the rue Cambon in Paris, where a boutique business takes hold and expands to the glamorous French resort towns.

But the sisters’ lives are again thrown into turmoil when World War I breaks out, forcing them to make irrevocable choices, and they’ll have to gather the courage to fashion their own places in the world, even if apart from each other.

The Chanel Sisters explores with care the timeless need for belonging, purpose, and love, and the heart’s relentless pursuit of these despite daunting odds. Beautifully told to the last page.” —Susan Meissner, bestselling author of The Last Year of the War


Release Date: December 29, 2020

Historical Fiction

Preorder now:



My 5-Star Review:

Left at a convent orphanage at an early age, the three Chanel sisters, Julia, Antoinette, and Gabrielle, were raised under sparse and harsh circumstances. Told by the nuns that they would never be anything more than they were, Gabrielle was determined to prove them wrong. This determination is what drove her and her sister Antoinette to not only rise above their means, but to become famous.

The Chanel Sisters by Judithe Little is a wonderful novel following the life of the three sisters from their days at the convent through WWI. I’ve read so many novels about Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel during WWII, but this one really sets the stage of describing the how and why of Coco’s life and the choices she made. Exquisitely written – you will not be able to put this novel down. Highly recommended to lovers of historical fiction.


About the Author:

Judithe Little grew up in Virginia and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia. After a brief time studying in France and interning at the U.S. Department of State, she earned her law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law where she was on the Editorial Board of the Journal of International Law and a Dillard Fellow. She lives with her husband and three children in Houston, Texas.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Book Review: Lana's War by Anita Abriel

 Book Review

Lana’s War

Anita Abriel


 Book Description:

Paris 1943: Lana Antanova is on her way to see her husband with the thrilling news that she is pregnant. But when she arrives at the convent where he teaches music, she’s horrified to see Gestapo officers execute him for hiding a Jewish girl in the piano.

A few months later, grieving both her husband and her lost pregnancy, Lana is shocked when she’s approached to join the resistance on the French Riviera. As the daughter of a Russian countess, Lana has the perfect background to infiltrate the émigré community of Russian aristocrats who socialize with German officers, including the man who killed her husband.

Lana’s cover story makes her the mistress of Guy Pascal, a wealthy Swiss industrialist and fellow resistance member, in whose villa in Cap Ferrat she lives. Together, they gather information on upcoming raids and help members of the Jewish community escape. Consumed by her work, she doesn’t expect to become attached to a young Jewish girl or wonder about the secrets held by the man whose house she shares. And as the Nazis’ deadly efforts intensify, her intention to protect those around her may put them all at risk instead.

With Anita Abriel’s “heartfelt and memorable” (Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author) storytelling, Lana’s War is a sweeping and suspenseful tale of survival and second chances during some of the darkest days of history.

Release Date: January 12, 2021

Historical Women's Fiction

Preorder now:



My 5-Star Review:

In 1943, Lana’s entire life falls apart when she is witness to the murder of her husband by the Gestapo. Grieving, Lana agrees to join the resistance and goes to the French Riviera where she is thought to be the mistress of a wealthy Swiss industrialist named Guy Pascal. With her new connections, she can openly spy on German officers and help the resistance save the lives of many Jewish people in the area. But her new life of espionage puts not only her life in danger, but she also risks losing her heart to the handsome Guy.

Lana’s War is an intriguing story of one woman’s loss and how she finds a way to get her revenge while learning to love again. I’ve read dozens of WWII stories lately, and this was one of my favorites. Intrigue, suspense, and romance – what more could you want? Highly recommended.


About the Author:

Anita Abriel was born in Sydney, Australia. She received a BA in English Literature with a minor in Creative Writing from Bard College, and attended UC Berkeley's Masters in Creative Writing program. She lives in California with her family and is the author of The Light After the War which was inspired by her mother's story of survival during WWII.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Book Review: Before the Crown by Flora Harding

Book Review

Before the Crown

Flora Harding


Book Description:

Windsor Castle, 1943

 As war rages across the world, Princess Elizabeth comes face to face with the dashing naval officer she first met in London nine years before.

 One of the youngest first lieutenants in the Royal Navy, Philip represents everything she has always been taught to avoid. Instability. Audacity. Adventure.

 But when the king learns of their relationship, the suitability of the foreign prince is questioned by all at court.

 He is the risk she has never been allowed to take. The risk not even the shadow of the crown will stop her from taking…

 Step through the palace gates and discover a captivating historical novel of royal secrets and forbidden love exploring the tempestuous courtship between Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in the wake of WWII.

Buy now on Amazon

My 5-Star Review:

Absolutely charming. Author Flora Harding did an amazing job of bringing the reader into the life and thoughts of both Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip prior to their marriage. It reminded me of the series, The Crown, but with so much more detail. Beautifully written, interesting from beginning to end. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who loves a novel about the royal family.


About the Author:

I started writing to fund a PhD on waste disposal in the Elizabethan city and have been juggling fact and fiction ever since. I write across various fiction genres and have written a number of histories and guides, too, on subjects ranging from cathedrals and car distributors to royal palaces. I'm a walker, a traveler, a cook and a card player, and I live in the center of York, a historic city in the north of England, although I spend a lot of time yearning for the big skies and open horizons of moorland, coast or desert. 


Friday, September 18, 2020

Book Review: The Lost Jewels by Kirsty Manning

 Book Review

The Lost Jewels

Kirsty Manning



Book Description:

Why would someone bury a bucket of precious jewels and gemstones and never return?  

Present Day. When respected American jewelry historian, Kate Kirby, receives a call about the Cheapside jewels, she knows she’s on the brink of the experience of a lifetime. 

But the trip to London forces Kate to explore secrets that have long been buried by her own family. Back in Boston, Kate has uncovered a series of sketches in her great-grandmother’s papers linking her suffragette great-grandmother Essie to the Cheapside collection. Could these sketches hold the key to Essie’s secret life in Edwardian London? 

In the summer of 1912, impoverished Irish immigrant Essie Murphy happens to be visiting her brother when a workman’s pickaxe strikes through the floor of an old tenement house in Cheapside, near St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The workmen uncover a stash of treasure—from Ottoman pendants to Elizabethan and Jacobean gems—and then the finds disappear again! Could these jewels—one in particular—change the fortunes of Essie and her sisters? 

Together with photographer Marcus Holt, Kate Kirby chases the history of the Cheapside gems and jewels, especially the story of a small diamond champlevé enamel ring. Soon, everything Kate believes about her family, gemology, and herself will be threatened.

Based on a fascinating true story, The Lost Jewels is a riveting historical fiction novel that will captivate readers from the beginning to the unforgettable, surprising end.

Buy Now:

Amazon Kindle


 My 5-Star Review:

An interesting duel-timeline historical story of a granddaughter searching for answers to her family’s history through antique jewels. The story of her grandmother’s past is rich and beautifully written, and the history of the jewels throughout the centuries is quite interesting. I really enjoyed this story and recommend it to readers who love a story that brings the past and present alive.



About the Author:

 Kirsty Manning grew up in northern New South Wales. She has degrees in literature and communications and worked as an editor and publishing manager in book publishing for over a decade. A country girl with wanderlust, her travels and studies have taken her through most of Europe, the east and west coasts of the United States and pockets of Asia. Kirsty's journalism and photography specializing in lifestyle and travel regularly appear in magazines, newspapers and online.

In 2005, Kirsty and her husband, with two toddlers and a baby in tow, built a house in an old chestnut grove in the Macedon Ranges. Together, they planted an orchard and veggie patch, created large herbal 'walks' brimming with sage and rosemary, wove borders from chestnuts branches and constructed far too many stone walls by hand.

Kirsty loves cooking with her kids and has several large heirloom copper pots that do not fit anywhere easily, but are perfect for making (and occasionally burning) jams, chutneys and soups. With husband Alex Wilcox, Kirsty is a partner in the award-winning Melbourne wine bar Bellota, and the Prince Wine Store in Sydney and Melbourne.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Blending Fact with Fiction Part Two: Ah-Gwah-Ching Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Walker, Minnesota

When I began writing my latest novel, THE ONES WE LEAVE BEHIND, last year, I had no idea we’d be living in the middle of a pandemic by the time it was released. It seemed strange since a portion of my novel takes place during the tuberculosis epidemic. In order to write about it, I did a significant amount of research, which thankfully I enjoy.

In one chapter of my book, the main character, Anna, goes with her father to the Ah-Gwah-Ching Sanatorium in Walker, Minnesota to receive treatment. Since Anna isn’t infected, she can’t live at the sanatorium and is taken in by one of the doctors to work as a mother’s helper. I researched Ah-Gwah-Ching extensively and came up with some interesting facts about the sanatorium.

If you watch any of those ghost hunting shows, they’d have you believe that tuberculosis facilities were full of scary procedures and horrendous care. It was quite the opposite at Ah-Gwah-Ching. The setting was beautiful, the staff worked hard to care for patients, and many, many patients survived to live long full lives.

Originally built in 1907 to house up to sixty-five patients, the Minnesota Sanatorium for Consumptives (its original name before it was changed to Ah-Gwah-Ching in 1922) was founded. By 1927, it grew to 300 patients, and additional buildings had sprung up. Ah-Gwah-Ching – meaning “out of doors” in Objibwa – was built to be self-sufficient in many ways. Located two miles south of the town of Walker, it originally had its own train depot, farm for fresh food, and a dairy herd for fresh milk and other products. The idea was to give patients fresh food and fresh air in order to heal their diseased lungs. There were several types of treatments, such as aspirating the fluid from lungs, collapsing diseased lungs so they could heal, and placing patient beds beside open windows, even in the winter, so they could breathe in the fresh air while lying under warm blankets to keep their bodies warm. In the summer, patients were sent outdoors to lie in the sun because it was thought that the ultra-violet rays could also heal them. (When COVID-19 started this past spring, there was talk about killing the virus with UV light. It wasn’t a new concept – they’d used it for TB patients.)  

The first few months that a patient was at the sanatorium, they were restricted to complete bed rest. That meant never leaving their beds. If they had to be moved, it was done by moving the bed or in a wheelchair. As you can imagine, people grew bored lying in bed for weeks. Many used their time writing letters to family and friends, reading, knitting, crocheting, or tatting. Many of the men even learned how to crochet or knit in order to pass the time. On site, there was a craft shop where patients could sell their fancywork and other items they made to other patients. Some would sell items like gift wrap, bows, and stationery that they’d purchased for resale from companies found at the back of a magazine. A sound system with headphones for each patient was set up throughout the compound so patients could listen to music, prayer services on Sunday, and even sports.

The site consisted of several buildings for patients in varying stages of illness. If you moved from one building to another, it was a big deal. You knew you were healing. In 1934, the Chippewa Indian Sanatorium at Onigum on Leech Lake burned down, and the native residents were transferred to their own building at Ah-Gwah-Ching. A Penal Camp, connected to the St. Cloud Reformatory, was also set up at Ah-Gwah-Ching in 1935, and the prisoners worked the farm and dairy and other jobs around the campus. Unfortunately, because of its remote location, it was easy for many prisoners to escape, and they had to eventually end that program.

Because of the rural nature of the sanatorium, it was difficult to recruit and retain nurses and aides as well as other workers. The turnover was high. Many of the native nurses began working in the facility. Patients rarely saw friends or family because of the distance between the sanatorium and their homes. Many would go months, even years, without visitors. Because of that, the patients grew close to one another, almost like their own little family. If a resident died, they’d all mourn. If someone went home, they’d all cheer.

In 1964, Ah-Gwah-Ching became a state nursing home for patients with “challenging behaviors.” State offices were also located in the facility. In fact, my mother-in-law worked in the offices at Aw-Gwah-Ching in the late 1960s for a while. In the early 2000s, it was still being used as state offices, and a woman I worked with in the non-profit sector had an office there, too. I asked her once if the building was haunted. She told me that she’d heard it was but hadn’t seen any ghosts. So much for the sad souls haunting the sanatoriums.

Ah-Gwah-Ching closed, and all the buildings were demolished in 2008. Much like Diane in my novel, I find that sad. It would have been nice to have even one of the buildings left to remind us of the time when so many lives passed through there in its 100 years of operation. For me, though, it’s personal on a small level. Remember how my character, Anna, went to live with a doctor to care for his children while her father received treatment? That actually happened to my grandmother. Sometime around 1923, my twelve-year-old grandmother accompanied her father to Ah-Gwah-Ching so he could be treated. Her mother has already passed away, and she had nowhere else to go. A doctor kindly took her in for nearly two years, and she helped his wife by babysitting their children. Some of her fondest memories were of swimming in Leech Lake with the children.

While my novel is fiction, I strive to add as much truth as possible because I feel it adds depth to the story. That is the joy of writing historical fiction novels; delving into the past and hopefully preserving it, even after it’s long gone.

My novel, The Ones We Leave Behind, is available for purchase on Amazon in ebook, paperback, and audiobook.


Sunday, September 13, 2020

Book Review: Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

 Book Review

Magic Lessons

Alice Hoffman


Book Description:

In an unforgettable novel that traces a centuries-old curse to its source, beloved author Alice Hoffman unveils the story of Maria Owens, accused of witchcraft in Salem, and matriarch of a line of the amazing Owens women and men featured in Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic.

Where does the story of the Owens bloodline begin? With Maria Owens, in the 1600s, when she’s abandoned in a snowy field in rural England as a baby. Under the care of Hannah Owens, Maria learns about the “Unnamed Arts.” Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift and she teaches the girl all she knows. It is here that she learns her first important lesson: Always love someone who will love you back.

When Maria is abandoned by the man who has declared his love for her, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts. Here she invokes the curse that will haunt her family. And it’s here that she learns the rules of magic and the lesson that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. Love is the only thing that matters.

Release Date: October 6, 2020

Buy on:

Amazon Kindle


My 5-Star Review:

If you are a Practical Magic fan and have always wondered about Maria Owens’ story, you no longer have to wait. Alice Hoffman has graced us with another amazing story about the Owens’ women starting with the very first one.

Magic Lessons begins when Maria is left in a snowy field as a newborn and Hannah Owens finds her and takes her into her cottage. She raises the girl as her own, teaching her the art of magic. Tragedy marks Maria as a young girl many times, leaving her vulnerable and alone. But when she falls in love with a man who makes promises he doesn’t keep; Maria places the curse that will follow the Owens’ women for centuries.

Magic Lessons has everything you’d expect from a novel by Alice Hoffman. Maria’s story is filled with all you’d expect and so much more. It’s a beautifully written tale that will satisfy your desire for the complete story of the Owens’ women. Another wonderful novel by the talented Alice Hoffman.


About the Author:

Alice Hoffman was born in New York City on March 16, 1952 and grew up on Long Island. After graduating from high school in 1969, she attended Adelphi University, from which she received a BA, and then received a Mirrellees Fellowship to the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, which she attended in 1973 and 74, receiving an MA in creative writing. She currently lives in Boston and New York.

Hoffman's first novel, Property Of, was written at the age of twenty-one, while she was studying at Stanford, and published shortly thereafter by Farrar Straus and Giroux. She credits her mentor, professor and writer Albert J. Guerard, and his wife, the writer Maclin Bocock Guerard, for helping her to publish her first short story in the magazine Fiction. Editor Ted Solotaroff then contacted her to ask if she had a novel, at which point she quickly began to write what was to become Property Of, a section of which was published in Mr. Solotaroff's magazine, American Review.

Since that remarkable beginning, Alice Hoffman has become one of our most distinguished novelists. She has published a total of eighteen novels, two books of short fiction, and eight books for children and young adults. Her novel, Here on Earth, an Oprah Book Club choice, was a modern reworking of some of the themes of Emily Bronte's masterpiece Wuthering Heights. Practical Magic was made into a Warner film starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. Her novel, At Risk, which concerns a family dealing with AIDS, can be found on the reading lists of many universities, colleges and secondary schools. Her advance from Local Girls, a collection of inter-related fictions about love and loss on Long Island, was donated to help create the Hoffman (Women's Cancer) Center at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA. Blackbird House is a book of stories centering around an old farm on Cape Cod. Hoffman's recent books include Aquamarine and Indigo, novels for pre-teens, and The New York Times bestsellers The River King, Blue Diary, The Probable Future, and The Ice Queen. Green Angel, a post-apocalyptic fairy tale about loss and love, was published by Scholastic and The Foretelling, a book about an Amazon girl in the Bronze Age, was published by Little Brown. In 2007 Little Brown published the teen novel Incantation, a story about hidden Jews during the Spanish Inquisition, which Publishers Weekly has chosen as one of the best books of the year. In January 2007, Skylight Confessions, a novel about one family's secret history, was released on the 30th anniversary of the publication of Her first novel. Her most recent novel is The Story Sisters (2009), published by Shaye Areheart Books.

Hoffman's work has been published in more than twenty translations and more than one hundred foreign editions. Her novels have received mention as notable books of the year by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, Library Journal, and People Magazine. She has also worked as a screenwriter and is the author of the original screenplay "Independence Day" a film starring Kathleen Quinlan and Diane Wiest. Her short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, Kenyon Review, Redbook, Architectural Digest, Gourmet, Self, and other magazines. Her teen novel Aquamarine was recently made into a film starring Emma Roberts.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Blending Fact with Fiction: The Minnesota State Reformatory for Women

 Blending Fact with Fiction: The Minnesota State Reformatory for Women

In my latest historical novel, THE ONES WE LEAVE BEHIND, the main character, Anna Craine, is released from the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Shakopee, Minnesota, after having served a sixty-five-year sentence for murder. (The original name of the facility was The Minnesota State Reformatory for Women.) In fact, the building on the book’s cover is the original building from 1919 called the Isabel Higbee Hall, named for the woman who literally died at the state capital after testifying in 1915 to the committee of men that women needed their own reformatory rather than being housed at Stillwater Prison. Her death prompted the committee to move forward with her request.

Although my character, Anna, doesn’t go into great detail about her life in the reformatory, we hear tidbits of her time there. That meant I needed to do my homework about the facility, and I was surprised by what I’d found. Completed in 1919, the reformatory began as one large, two-story building that housed eighteen individual rooms for the women, a general assembly room, a dining room, bathrooms, and matron’s rooms. The first floor had staff rooms, a large kitchen, a hospital wing, and the room for the superintendent. The basement housed the sewing room and laundry. There were no bars on the windows or locks on any of the rooms, even the inmate’s rooms. There was no fencing around the grounds. The idea was to reform the women by reward rather than punishment. Over the ensuing years, several cottages were added to the campus to house more women.

The first superintendent, Florence Monahan, is credited with molding the reformatory into the unique place that it became. Prior to running the facility, she was sent by the state to several women’s reformatories across the country to learn how they were run and what she could do better. She was the person who decided that reward rather than punishment was the best way to reform women. The women were expected to work eight-hour days, six days a week. Various jobs included working in the kitchen, cleaning, sewing, working in the office, and outside on their own farm that grew the majority of their food. They were paid six to fifteen cents per day and were allowed to buy personal items through the superintendent’s office once a month. If their behavior was good, they would earn privileges, if not, they’d lose privileges. It worked well for most of the inmates. They were learning skills in a positive environment so that one day they might leave and become respectable members of society.

Word soon spread about the reformatory in Shakopee, and many superintendents of women’s prisons around the country and the world came to visit. They were impressed by how Monahan was running the reformatory and by the behavior of the inmates. Many returned to their own facilities with the hope of making changes that mirrored Shakopee.

As time went on, the number of inmates decreased, and soon two of the cottages were closed. The state decided to use one of the cottages, the Anne Howard Shaw Cottage, as a home for mentally disabled children in 1951. Thirty young girls between the ages of four and twelve were sent there to be cared for and were designated by the state as unable to learn. But between their state-paid caretakers and the inmates who requested to work with the children, they proved the state wrong. The children flourished, as did the inmates who worked with them. The program gave the women a chance to care for someone else and the children an opportunity to learn in a loving environment.

Another program run at the reformatory was the Braille Project in the mid-1950s to 1970. It began with four of the inmates completing their training and becoming Volunteer Braille Transcribers. In the ensuing years, they translated thousands of pages of books and textbooks into braille, earning recognition for their service.

Over the years, the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Shakopee has seen many changes. The old buildings were replaced by newer ones, and the farm is long gone. But the women’s correctional facility is still running, and to this day, still has no fence surrounding it. It’s incredible how one woman’s vision, carried on by many other determined women, could bring positive change in society for decades.


THE ONES WE LEAVE BEHIND is available on Amazon Kindle, in paperback, and audiobook.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

The Ones We Leave Behind Giveaway!

In celebration of my upcoming new release - let's have a giveaway!

The Ones We Leave Behind Giveaway!

Two lucky winners will have a chance
to each win one $50 Amazon Gift Card.

Contest runs August 8th through
September 7, 2020.

It is open to everyone!

Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter.

You may enter by leaving a comment below instead, but I urge you to use the Rafflecopter.

Thanks for entering!

Don't forget that


will be available September 8, 2020

Preorder on Amazon

Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Book Review: A Week at the Shore by Barbara Delinsky

Book Review

A Week at the Shore

Barbara Delinsky

Book Description:

One phone call is all it takes to lure Mallory Aldiss back to her family’s Rhode Island beach home. It's been twenty years since she's been gone—running from the scandal that destroyed her parents' marriage, drove her and her two sisters apart, and crushed her relationship with the love of her life, Jack Sabathian. Twenty years during which she lived in New York, building her career as a photographer and raising her now teenage daughter Joy.

But that phone call makes it clear that something has brought the past forward again—something involving Mallory’s father. Compelled by concern for her family and by Joy’s wish to visit her mother’s childhood home, Mallory returns to Bay Bluff, where conflicting loyalties will be faced and painful truths revealed.

In just seven watershed days at the Rhode Island shore, she will test the bonds of friendship and family—and discover the role that love plays in defining their lives.

Buy Now:

My 5-Star Review

I’ve been reading Barbara Delinsky’s books for years and have never been disappointed. In her latest novel, A Week at the Shore, we meet the Aldiss family—three sisters who’ve grown apart over the years and their aging father who is slowly succumbing to dementia. Mallory has stayed away from her family home since the scandal that broke her family apart and since losing the man she once loved, Jack. Now, after years creating a life for herself and her daughter, Mallory is called back home by a brusque phone call by Jack to check on her sister and father. Reluctantly, Mallory returns and is quickly pulled back into the mystery of what happened to Jack’s mother that fateful night everything fell apart, and in doing so, finds she is still attracted to the man she left all those years ago.

A Week at the Shore is a heartfelt family story with a touch of mystery that will keep you reading long into the night. Beautifully written, clever, and touching, you are sure to enjoy this amazing novel by the talented Barbara Delinsky. Highly recommended.

About the Author:

Barbara Delinsky, author of A WEEK AT THE SHORE (May 2020), BEFORE AND AGAIN (2018), BLUEPRINTS (2015), SWEET SALT AIR (2013), ESCAPE (2011), and NOT MY DAUGHTER (2010), has written twenty-five New York Times bestsellers, with many more of her books on other national bestseller lists. There are nearly forty million copies of her books in print, including those published in thirty languages worldwide.

Barbara's fiction centers upon everyday families facing not-so-everyday challenges. She is particularly drawn to exploring themes of motherhood, marriage, sibling rivalry, and friendship.

A lifelong New Englander, Barbara earned a B.A. in Psychology at Tufts University and an M.A. in Sociology at Boston College. As a breast cancer survivor who lost her mother to the disease when she was only eight, Barbara compiled the non-fiction book Uplift: Secrets from the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer Survivors, a handbook of practical tips and upbeat anecdotes. She donates her proceeds from the sale of this book to her charitable foundation, which funds an ongoing research fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Barbara enjoys knitting, photography, and cats. She also loves to interact with her readers through her website at, on Facebook at, on Instagram at, and on Twitter as @BarbaraDelinsky.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

First Chapter Reveal: THE ONES WE LEAVE BEHIND by Deanna Lynn Sletten

Hi all,

I'm so thrilled to share the first chapter of my upcoming novel: THE ONES WE LEAVE BEHIND. It is an historical women's fiction novel about a woman growing up in the 1930s - 1950s and how her life turns tragic in one terrifying moment. At age ninety-five, she is let out of prison. Her granddaughter finds her and soon learns the details that led up to that fateful night.

THE ONES WE LEAVE BEHIND can be purchased on Amazon Kindle

First Chapter

Chapter One


Diane Martin strode down the hallway of the Rosewood Senior Living Apartments, smiling and waving to the many residents she passed. The hallway walls were painted a soothing light gray with dark gray wainscoting on the bottom half. Lovely watercolor paintings depicting lake, river, and woodland scenes decorated the walls, and each door displayed a cheerful flower or autumn leaf wreath. But the calming interior did nothing to soothe Diane’s frayed nerves. It was Friday afternoon, and she’d just come from the high school where she taught history and social studies. She was tired, but she still had to take her mother shopping and out to dinner as she did every Friday. It wasn’t that she minded helping her mother; it was the fact that her mother could be difficult at times and Diane could never gauge when her mother’s mood might change. Diane was eager for the day to end.

Walking up to room 212, Diane steeled herself before knocking twice, then slowly opening the door. “Mom? It’s me,” she called.

“Come in. Come in,” an impatient voice called from inside the bedroom. “I’ll be ready in a minute.”

Diane stepped inside the space and quietly closed the door. Her mother, Joan Hartman, had a two-bedroom apartment with a small kitchen and a good-sized living and dining room combination. She’d moved into the senior apartment building a year ago after she’d fallen and broken her hip. Once it had healed, the seventy-year-old had finally decided she could no longer live alone in her house and had moved in here. It wasn’t exactly a care facility—many of the residents still drove and cooked their own meals. But Joan did have the choice of eating all her meals in the dining room, and there were security devices in each apartment so residents could call for help if needed.

“You’ll never believe what Lucy Sutton did at lunch today,” Joan said, coming out of her bedroom. She was dressed in a pair of slacks, a light sweater, and flats. Her gray hair was cut short and styled nicely. “She choked on a cut-up grape.”

Diane’s brows rose. “Is she okay?”

“She’ll live,” Joan said offhandedly. “But it was quite the spectacle when Arnold jumped up and tried to do the Heimlich maneuver on her. He grabbed her around the waist and squeezed, and they both almost fell over backward.” Joan laughed. “If the lunch attendant hadn’t intervened, they’d both be in the hospital.”

“Mom. That’s not funny,” Diane said, pushing her shoulder-length blond hair behind one ear. “They could have been seriously hurt.”

Joan swatted her hand through the air. “They’re fine. It was funny, watching them. We’re all old. It’s nice to have some excitement once in a while.”

Diane shook her head at her mother. Joan wasn’t very tall, and she was petite in size, but she could be a tough one when he wanted to be. She’d always been a tough cookie.

The phone on the end table started ringing and Diane headed over to answer it.

“Leave it alone,” her mother ordered. “Let’s go. I have a lot of shopping to do.”

Diane stopped, startled by her mother’s brusque tone. Diane was fifty-one years old and three inches taller than Joan, but her mother still insisted on talking to her as if she were a child.

The phone stopped ringing, so Diane ignored it. “You should bring a light jacket,” she told her mother. “The fall weather is nice right now, but once the sun goes down, it’ll be chilly.”

Joan nodded and walked slowly toward the closet by the door to get her jacket. She moved slower now since her hip had been replaced. She had other health issues as well, with arthritic knees and hands, and her eyesight wasn’t the best, even when wearing her glasses. Moving into the senior apartments had been a relief for Diane. Living in a place where Joan could get help if needed meant Diane didn’t have to worry about her mother falling and needing assistance. Winters could be harsh in their town of Minnetonka, MN, with the threat of snow and ice causing a bad fall. Having her mother live in Rosewood took a lot of stress off Diane.

The phone began ringing again. Diane watched as Joan turned and glared at it but didn’t move to answer it.

“This is silly,” Diane said, annoyed, heading for the phone. “I’ll just answer it.”

“Don’t!” her mother yelled.

Diane ignored her and picked up the handset. “Hello?”

“Hello? Mrs. Hartman?” a male voice asked, sounding rushed. “I’m from the Sun-Times. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions.”

Diane frowned and looked at her mother. Joan was waving her hands through the air and saying, “Hang up!”

“I’m sorry,” Diane said into the receiver. “What do you want?”

“I’d like to ask you a question. How do you feel about your mother being let out of jail today after sixty-five years?”

Diane’s mouth dropped open. She looked again at Joan, whose shoulders had sagged in defeat. Hanging up the phone, Diane approached her mother. “My grandmother is alive?”

Joan nodded. “Yes."

The phone began ringing again as Diane’s whole life felt like it was spinning out of control.


Want to read more?


releases on September 8, 2020

Buy now!