The Secrets of the Bastide Blanche

The Secrets of the Bastide BlancheThe Secrets of the Bastide Blanche by M.L. Longworth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I fell in love with The Secrets of Bastide Blanche the minute I read the first page. Beautiful, intriguing, captivating – these three words just begin to describe how I felt about this novel. The writing, the setting, and the storyline were all beautiful.

The novel begins with le famous but retired author Valere Barbier, who decides to write an autobiography and pitches the story to his new publisher. A few months prior, Monsieur Barbier buys La Bastide Blanche, a big but extremely old and antique house in a quiet Aix en Provence, not too far from Paris. As Valere settles in, he learns a little secret about le grande house – it’s hunted. With a help of his new and bubbly employee Sandrine, he tries to cleanse the house. While the hunted mansion occupies Valere’s time, the news of le famous author is spread around the little village, and Valere starts to make new acquaintances faster than he expects.

One of Valere’s new friends are college professor Marine Bonnet and a judge Antoine Verlaque. Out of the blue, Verlaque is contacted by an old and retired friend who once worked on a missing case of Agatha Barbier. As we learn, over twenty years prior, monsieur Barbier’s wife has gone overboard during their summer vacation. Her body was never recovered, therefore the case was never closed. And now the files are in Verlaque’s hands for a second look. Marine, who is also a huge fan of Agatha and Valere, cant pass on a chance to learn the truth about what has happened that one unfortunate night on the boat.

While Marine and Antoine are analyzing the history of Barbier family, many interesting events are happening at the Bastide Blanche: many new visitors, kidnapping, blackmail. This thrilling novel keeps the reader on their toes from the first till the last pages.

The Secrets of Bastide Blanche is a fascinating, well-written, richly described story about new and old friendships, loyalty, secrets, life, loss, and love. Marvelous ending with quite compelling twists that I didn’t expect. Marvelous and full of live characters with fantastic personalities. I didn’t realize this book is a part of the Verlaque and Bonnet mystery series, now I can’t wait to read all the previous books! Thank you Penguin Books and M.L.Longworth for sending me this advance copy of the novel. I highly recommend this book to any francophiles and mystery lovers.


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WhippoorwillWhippoorwill by R.L. Bartram

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When Robert Bartram contacted me and asked to read his book, I knew from the description that I would love this story. It’s a fast and captivating read, romance meets revenge.

When Ceci Prejean was a mischievous fourteen years old, she breaks a nose of a young boy, Trent Sinclair. After this incident, her father forces Ceci to give up her boyish behavior and assigns Hecubah to give Ceci etiquette lessons. Four years later, at her coming out ball, Ceci meets Trent again, and this time falls over hills in love with him. Young Sinclaire shares her feelings, and promises to marry Ceci after his training at the military academy is complete. The first half of this book is very funny and entertaining. Hecubah’s witty remarks and her relationship with Ceci makes this part of this book very amusing. But I learned my lesson a few years ago, don’t trust the authors! This is just a calm before the storm.

While I flipped the pages and entered the second half of the book, Ceci is thrown into the horrors of a civil war: loss, anger, revenge. She trades a white wedding gown for a soldier uniform and begins a dangerous path to vengeance. Since that point author takes us on a fast and wild rollercoaster ride, I was flipping the pages so fast, I could not get enough of Ceci’s adventures. And when the time came and she stood face to face with a person who caused all the grief in her life, Ceci… well, that’s for me to know and for you to find out my dear book dragons.

This book is not even close to what I expected it to be. I don’t say it often, but it was hard to say goodbye to the characters, especially to Ceci’s stubbornness and Hecubah’s sassiness. I love the storyline, just when you think everything is ok – something is about to go down. Thank you, Robert Bartram, for this fantastic adventure!


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Victoria: The Widow and Her Son

Victoria: The Widow and Her SonVictoria: The Widow and Her Son by Hector Bolitho

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m very interested in English monarchy history, however, I never had a chance to read more of Queen Victoria. I was very pleased to come upon this book on NetGalley. This is not only my very first book about Queen Victoria, but it’s my first book written by Hector Bolitho. Fantastic writing followed by a fair introduction of two English sovereigns.

The book begins right after the passing of Victoria’s most Dear Angel – Albert. As we already know, Victoria grieved the death of her husband for the rest of her days. The author mentions her heartbreak, however, the main focus of this book is on Victoria’s reign after the passing of Albert and her mentorship of the next King of England.

At the beginning of this book, Victoria is portraited as a grieving widow who lives in the shadow of her departed husband, Albert. But years pass by and Victoria learns to separate her sorrow from running her kingdom. Her relationship with her children improves as they grow older. As one of the longest-lived British monarchs, thru 64 years of her reign, Queen Victoria had built a strong Empire. The United Kingdom not only went thru changes in industrial, cultural, political, scientific, and military fields but also expanded its territory. This book is another proof that Queen Victoria was an incredibly smart and very patient monarch.

Queen Victoria’s successor, Prince Albert Edward, followed his mother’s footsteps. He had no choice but to grown up fast and dedicate his life to the English throne. In this book we learn that he was a people’s prince, he took a great part of improving education, health reforms, and social welfare.

Wonderful book, filled with many details of Queen Victoria and Prince Edward’s personal and political lives. One other part that I loved about the book – it includes parts of Queen Victoria letters. I’ve become fond of Hector Bolitho’s writing and would love to read more of his books in the near future.


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Five Days That Shocked the World

Five Days that Shocked the World: Eyewitness Accounts from Europe at the end of World War IIFive Days that Shocked the World: Eyewitness Accounts from Europe at the end of World War II by Nicholas Best

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Five Days That Shocked The World covers the events that took place during the last five days of WWII. Nicholas Best’s writing is exceptional, he chronologically describes each day with eyewitnesses statements in each chapter. Many well-known people and their recollections of those specific days are included in the book. In my opinion, this book is very distressing, as so was WWII.

The story begins with Mussolini’s capture and execution. The author does not sugarcoat anything in the book. Eyewitness’s statements bring us back to those tragic days when the whole world was waiting for Germany to surrender and for Hitler to be captured.

I’ve read many books about WWII, nonetheless, when I opened this book I was not prepared for the horror and barbarity that took place during WWII. The book is dark and distressing, I was shocked by how much cruelty and inhumanity people had in themselves during those devastating days.

I think it takes a strong character to write a book like this. Yes, the stories inside the book are heartbreaking and wicked, but it has to be told. The world needs to know and remembers those dreadful events. This is my first book by Nicholas Best, and I am very impressed by his work. I already added few of his previous books to my TBR list.


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Bachelor Girl

Bachelor GirlBachelor Girl by Kim van Alkemade

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bachelor Girl is a sweet and heartwarming novel that is based on a true story of one of New York Yankees early owners. This story also touches the subjects such as female rights, homosexuality, abortion, and racial discrimination. This an incredible work of fiction touched my heart and will stay with me for a long time.

The novel takes place in a wonderful town – New York in early 1920s. After a long illness, Helen along with her mother and little brother are invited to the Yankees game by their family friend – Colonel Ruppert. While at the game, Helen meets and falls deeply in love with Colonel’s personal secretary – Albert. Since that day Helen’s life changes. Overnight, from an unknown actress, she becomes a theater manager, play producer and finally Colonel’s companion. As years go by Albert and Helen’s relationship grows as well, but the secret that Albert hides from the world keeps them apart. However, Albert is not the only one with the secret that can shock New York’s society.

This marvelous novel is perfect for historical fiction lovers like myself.


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The Teddy Bear Chronicles, Saved in Paris

The Teddy Bear Chronicles (Saved in Paris! #1)The Teddy Bear Chronicles by Donnalyn Vojta

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Teddy Bear Chronicles – Saved in Paris is a unique thriller novel. The stories are being told by three teddy bears, but be prepared – this is not your typical happy bear story. Although the teddy bears have a great sense of humor, the last third of the book turns very dark very fast.

Fair Bear story – The teddy bear lives in a happy home with Mark and Kelly. Well, it seems to be happy and lovely home, but behind the curtains, Mark turns into a controlling and at times abusive person. Kelly plans to leave him, however, his recent threats scare her. A few weeks prior, Kelly finds Mark’s dark secret. She realizes that her life is in danger. Will she be able to escape her abuser on time?

Love Bear story – Richard has a successful career in a pharmaceutical industry, however, he is unlucky in love. He finally decides to go to the city of love to find amour de sa vie. That’s where he meets a fun and amusing American girl who offers to help him in the search for his future Mrs. Will this trip bring Richard closer to his “happily ever after” part?

Sleepy Time Bear story – Ms. V is a lovely young lady that recently took a position of a drama teacher in an orphan home. One sunny day she meets and tall blond stranger, and starts to fall for him. However, our charming Ms. V has a few tiny secrets under her belt. Should she share her secrets with Mr. Right, or should she continue her charades?

This is a very entertaining thriller, perfect for an evening read under a warm blanket with a glass of wine (yes, you will need it!). I was very happy to come upon this gem and can’t wait to read a sequel.


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The Verdun Affair

The Verdun AffairThe Verdun Affair by Nick Dybek

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a huge fan of European history, especially WWI and WWII, I just had to read this book.

The story starts in 1950, Hollywood. Two old friends, Tom and Paul meet nearly thirty years after their last meeting. They agreed to get together for a dinner and reminisce about the event that brought them together in Bologna, Italy in late 1920.

Three decades prior, Tom was an ambulance driver who also gathered bones from the battlefield in a small French town – Verdun. Tom’s father passed away when Tom was a young boy, a local priest took an interest in him and helped Tom find work and place to live. Instead of returning back to Chicago, where Tom is originally from, he decides to stay in Verdun, where a few years later he meets Sarah, a young woman who is searching for her missing husband. Sarah’s beauty, personality, and a strong will draw Tom closer to her. And after their short acquaintance, the two begin a love affair. However, their romance is short lived. Sarah must continue the search for her husband, and Tom relocates to Paris and finds a new job – newspaper reporter.

However, a couple of months later, Tom and Sarah meet again, this time in a Bologna, Italy. Tom is sent there to cover a story of a “Douglas Fairbanks” – a soldier with amnesia, whom Sarah claims is her missing husband. This is where Tom meets a fellow Austrian journalist Paul, who also has a personal interest in the amnesiac.

This is a great plot idea. However, there were way too many very long stories in the book that could have been avoided and/or shortened. It was too much material and info to keep up with that didn’t really affect the main story. I appreciate the fact that an author was trying to show us a bigger picture, it just felt overdone. Less is more. Other than that – a wonderful story with an interesting ending, that left me thinking if there will be a sequel.


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