Stray Drop of Blood 

I have so enjoyed Roseanna M. White's recent releases that I've slowly been making my way through her earlier works. I was not entirely sure what to expect with "A Stray Drop of Blood," but that was okay - once I got into the novel, every time I thought I had figured out what would happen next I was always wrong! That's some strong storytelling right there.

Our heroine is Abigail, a young Hebrew slave who lives in Jerusalem. Her mistress is also Hebrew, while the master is a Roman soldier who believes in the One True God. Despite being a slave, Abigail is treated more like a daughter, loved and educated throughout her upbringing.

Things shift drastically when the master's son Jason returns from Rome, having been away for several years. Seeing Abigail's beauty, he believes he must have her for himself, no matter the cost to Abigail or his parents.

Tensions run high in Jerusalem as the words of the teacher Jesus are much reported, and Barabbas wreaks havoc in the streets as he leads an uprising. From the fateful Passover day that changed the course of the world to the beginning of the church in Rome, Abigail's tumultuous journey will keep you glued to the pages.

This book does not shy away from the debauchery of the times, so I would not recommend it for readers under 18 years of age. If sexual assault or abuse is a trigger I would also caution readers to look elsewhere. For a technical note on the writing, I found the vast number of point of view characters to be a different approach. In general I do not prefer to have so many come and go, though it helped with the suspense of never knowing which direction this story would turn. Overall this book was quite reminiscent of a classic story I loved as a teenager: "The Robe" by Lloyd C. Douglas. I would recommend "A Stray Drop of Blood" for adult readers who enjoy Biblical fiction or looking into life as it might have been at the time of Jesus.
 Historical fiction is my favorite genre, so which books claimed favorite of the favorite status?

Daring Venture

A Daring Venture by Elizabeth Camden

In 1908 there are not many female biochemists, and none are catching more attention than Dr. Rosalind Werner as she seeks to prove that chlorine is safe for water treatment. You'll never read a more suspenseful or romantic book on eradicating waterborne diseases!

More Than Meets the Eye

More Than Meets The Eye by Karen Witemeyer

Logan Fowler is bent on getting revenge, until he meets gentle Evangeline Hamilton, whose mismatched eyes have made her a social outcast. How could he destroy her brother when he wants to protect this sweet young woman?

An Hour Unspent

An Hour Unspent by Roseanna M. White

Barclay Pearce is a fiercely loyal older brother and a reformed thief now working to help the British government during World War I. He's not going to let anything stop him from doing what he thinks is right... even if the woman he loves walks away from him.

We first fell in love with London's premier family of thieves in A Name Unknown, and continued following their adventures in A Song Unheard. Now oldest brother Barclay finally gets his turn to star on the pages, and he cuts quite a dashing figure as he tries to help Mr. V and the Admiralty with anything they need while the Great War rages.

Barclay has worked hard to build their family - a collection of orphans who have banded together to escape life on the streets. He is fiercely protective of each one of them, and even though he's now reformed from his life of stealing to earn bread, there is still an element of his background coming into play in his honest work for the British government. Barclay is assigned to attain the design of a gear that is being developed by a local clockmaker, and Barclay approaches him with honesty rather than the subterfuge that would once have marked his steps.

The clockmaker's daughter, Evelina Manning, has tried hard to fight for her independence, both personally with her recovery from a childhood bout of polio, and also politically as an active suffragette. She is passionate about issues close to her heart. Her world receives a serious setback, however, when her fiancee breaks their engagement and enlists in the war. She was on the cusp of attaining a higher place in society to better proclaim her social ideals, but now she's relegated to being at the mercy of her demanding mother and aunt once again.

Evelina's spark draws Barclay towards her, and for her part, the alluring and somewhat mysterious Barclay makes an excellent diversion from her current unpleasant reality. His family is also highly intriguing. Their friendship will be tested as it becomes apparent that the Admiralty isn't the only one interested in Mr. Manning's gear, and German zeppelins begin their bombing raids over London. It's a dangerous time to live and love, and Roseanna M. White brings it to life beautifully in this engrossing story.

I loved Barclay. His all-out passion for his siblings is something I understand, as well as his lonely musing about romance: "Maybe... Barclay [was] destined to spend his life with children aplenty but no wife by his side to care for them." As a sister and a teacher, that's a sentiment I relate to! I thoroughly enjoyed his story, and I hope Roseanna decides to write another series about this unusual family - there are enough of them to carry us readers through for quite a while!

I received my copy of the book from the publisher. All thoughts in this review are my own.
 A Song Unheard

Willa Forsythe plays the violin by ear - but only to her friends and family. That's partially because her family is a collection of London orphans who have banded together to form a group of highy experienced thieves, and therefore secrecy is highly desirable. After her sister Rosemary's success in providing information for mysterious government contact Mr. V, the family is all set to lay aside petty thievery and focus on tasks that actually help Britain in The Great War. When Mr. V contacts Willa and asks her to retrieve a cypher key from famous violinist Lukas De Wilde, Willa can hardly believe it. She's admired Mr. De Wilde's work for so long and has even heard him play before! Now with both British and German agents seeking his deceased father's famous cypher, Willa is under scrutiny to find it and report back to Mr. V as quickly as she can without arousing suspicion.

After barely suriviving the German attack on his home, Lukas De Wilde finds himself in Wales with other Belgian refugees. Worried sick about his mother and sister, Lukas is determined to make it back and find them as soon as he is able. Meanwhile he must play with the refugee orchestra and raise funds to help those still in their war-torn country. 

When Lukas and Willa meet, he is captivated from the moment he allows her to play his Stradivarius. He can't believe someone with her talent has never had lessons and taught herself to read music. He would do anything to help her further her abilities, even though he knows that she will eclipse him if her proficiency becomes known. He's never met anyone more fascinating, or more guarded, or more determined to not to let their relationship develop a romantic side. 

While Willa cannot believe Lukas De Wilde has actually taken notice of her, she works hard to fulfill her job for Mr. V - and doubly hard to make sure her heart does not become entangled. She can't fall in love with Lukas, because romantic love has only caused people to abandon her. But she does care for him, and when it becomes clear that his life is in danger because of the secrets he carries with him, she's willing to risk her life to save his.

This is a wonderful story that will have readers racing through the pages. I thought the faith aspect was well done, showing both the power of redemption and the realistic reasons that Willa would hold God at arm's length. The adventure is exciting, and the history thoroughly researched. Another Roseanna M. White novel that I recommend for all history fans!

I received my copy of the book from the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.
 a woman in a mask

If you have read Roseanna M. White's "Ring of Secrets," you won't want to miss this follow-up novella that tells us the rest of Isaac Fairchild's story. When last we saw him he had lost his suit to win the hand of Winter Reeves, but now it is 1789 and Isaac is back in his native Europe. Agreeing to a special task, Isaac travels to France to search for a friend's wife and daughter.

Julienne has captivated the French court at Versailles, and has been receiving particular attention from Remi, a crafty courtier who has been promising soon to make Julienne his wife. Julienne knows Remi is dangerous and has no desire to marry him, but she has no idea how to escape his grasp. When she meets someone at a masquerade it seems as if there might still be reason to hope for faith and goodness in the world. But who is he? Will she ever see him again?

Isaac must find a way to reveal not only his own identity to Julienne, but also the fact that hers is not what she has been led to believe. It will be a precipitous path to get out of Versailles and Remi's clutches, but first she must believe him.

This is a nice companion book to White's Culper Ring series, though not a story I would recommend on its own. I can't wait to read the next book in the set!

Winter Reeves wants to do something for the cause during the Revolutionary War. Her friend Robbie Townsend is a part of George Washington's spy network, known as the Culper Ring, and Winter keeps her ear to the ground as she is courted by a British officer. She pretends to be a feather-brained socialite to appease her grandparents and throw off all suspicion that she could be involved in the Patriot cause.

New to the city of New York, Bennet Lane has arrived with the express purpose of finding members of the Culper Ring. When his path crosses with that of Winter, he can tell that there is more to the lovely young woman than what meets the eye. While others laugh at him for paying court to someone known for her simple mind, he is willing to wait for the real Winter to reveal herself.

Not only does Winter face danger if it is discovered that she is involved in espionage, her grandparents are harsh and unrelenting in wanting her to secure the best marriage possible. They are pushing her towards Mr. Lane, but even though Winter enjoys his company, she fears he sees too much and that his Loyalist ties might prevent any true happiness from arising between them.

I enjoyed this quite a bit! There are shades of The Scarlet Pimpernel, and the historical accuracy is strong and interesting. There are a fair number of real historical characters scattered throughout, including Winter's friend Robbie Townsend. I look forward to reading more in this series!
 woman in Edwardian dress

The Fire Eyes. A pair of incredibly rare red diamonds which is said to be cursed. We first saw them in The Lost Heiress, and their story continued through The Reluctant Duchess. Now we come to their conclusion, and this time our heroine is the ever optimistic Lady Ella Myerston. She knows about the Fire Eyes but doesn't realize they are in her possession until she comes face to face with the man who will stop at nothing to get them for himself.

Lady Ella has gone to visit the Duchess of Stafford, better known as heroine Brook from Book One in this series, with the express and secret purpose of learning more about the Fire Eyes. Everyone thinks she is too innocent to know about the diamonds, but she is determined to find out all she can and find a way to get them far away from her family. She never counted on her quest becoming complicated by not one but two men who begin courting her!

Lord Cayton believes that his bad choices have broken too many hearts, and while he is drawn to Ella's sunshine, he's determined not to hurt her by forming a romantic relationship. The only thing greater than his own self-loathing is the desire to protect Ella when she starts receiving the very unwelcome attention of Lord Pratt. Pratt thinks Cayton is on his side and will help him use Ella to find the Fire Eyes. Cayton decides it's worth risking Ella's heart if he can save her from harm.

From one intrigue to the next, Ella and Cayton do everything they can to outsmart Pratt and save their families and friends before the greed over the Fire Eyes takes any more lives. Meanwhile a host of minor characters help drive the story along, and Roseanna M. White does a great job tying up the whole Ladies of the Manor series as we race towards its exciting culmination.

I have to say that this series is one of the best trilogies I have read. Each story is gripping, each hero or heroine well-drawn with real emotions and conflicts. I'll be recommending this to many!
 woman in Edwardian dress

It was less than a year ago that I first read one of Roseanna M. White's books, but she has quickly found a place among my favorite historical authors. The Lost Heiress and A Name Unknown have both been captivating and charming stories, but this one really took it up a notch, and from the very first pages I did not want to put it down.

Lady Rowena Kinnaird rarely left her Scottish home while growing up, and more and more the Highland castle has come to feel like a prison, with her father's overbearing ways and a cruel relation looking to make Rowena his wife. The story opens two weeks after Rowena has been assaulted, and she fears she may be with child. Unknown to her, in order to secure Rowena's safety and to give legitimacy to any child she might be carrying, her father and her maid hatch a scheme to get her married off within days to the nearest man they can catch.

The duke of Nottingham is visiting his mother's ancestral home when he receives a rare invitation to dinner with the Kinnairds. Brice has hardly met anyone from the surly Scotsman's family, but he accepts, willing to be neighborly. When he meets Rowena, he begins feeling a tug from the Holy Spirit that she's someone he is supposed to help in some way. Within hours it's clear that Brice has been set on a path to force him into a quick marriage, and while on principle he's prepared to fight the claims of Rowena's father, he is unable to turn aside from a woman who is clearly scared and in danger, even though he does not know the extent of the situation.

Feeling wounded and betrayed on every side, Rowena wants to be honest with Brice even though it would likely blow up the plans her father has set. If she is carrying a child, it would be a despicable secret to pretend it's Brice's. And how could she pretend if she has too much past trauma to let him even touch her? Maybe there won't be a baby and she won't have to face this additional crisis.

Besides the weight of a new wife, skittish and not exactly excited to become his duchess, Brice is also the bearer of the Fire Eyes, a pair of red diamonds that were a focal point in The Lost Heiress, and he knows his life is in danger. He's determined to out the treacherous siblings who are desirous to steal them from him, but having Rowena depending on him certainly complicates matters. He may have brought her out of one danger only to introduce her to a greater one.

Through intrigue, tragedy, misunderstanding, and multiple villains, Rowena and Brice seek to find their way through to what seems like the impossible: a loving marriage. This book is full of wonderful characters, well-depicted emotions and personal growth, and a plot that will keep you racing from one chapter to the next. I'm so glad I have the third book in this series already in hand! Be watching this space for its review soon.

(Please note: Due to content, I would not recommend this for anyone who is triggered by personal assault and the long road of healing it requires.)

It's 1914 in England and loyalties are being questioned as Europe braces for war. Peter Holstein is under suspicion of being a spy due to his German heritage and his friendship with the British monarchy. This peaceful man with a stuttering tongue has done nothing to endanger his country, but he does have secrets. He's a novelist publishing under the name Branok Hollow, and he keeps to himself to have plenty of time to write letters and tinker with his current manuscript.

Rosemary Gresham grew up a London street urchin and has done what it takes to survive. Now an accomplished thief, Rosemary delights in the challenge of each new and difficult job she's hired to do. When the mysterious and well-paying Mr. V secures her services to prove Peter Holstein has ties to Germany, Rosemary sets off for his Cornwall estate to pass herself off as a librarian.

While Peter is thrilled to have help putting his family's papers in order, Rosemary is ever mindful of the information she is seeking to uncover for Mr. V. The Holstein family have been book hoarders for years, and Rosemary's task is no small one. Her curiosity grows as she observes Peter locked in his study day after day, where she can hear him using his typewriter for hours at a time. What is he typing? While Rosemary finds Peter a kind and gentle man, he comes under more suspicion every day and pressure mounts for her to produce the evidence of where his allegiance lies.

This was a fun and captivating novel! I enjoyed the glimpse into this particular time in history and the real historical figures who make appearances. Roseanna M. White's new Shadows Over England series is off to a promising start. Book 2 releases in January!

I received my copy of the book from LitFuse Publicity. All opinions in this review are my own. If you would like to see what other people are saying about "A Name Unknown," click here.

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Raised as a prince's daughter in the palace in Monaco, Brook is a free-spirited and highly cultured young lady. Yet the longing to find her true identity tugs insistently at her heart, and when her dearest friend returns to her with the news that he's found her biological father, it is with trembling hope that Brook journeys to northern England to meet the Earl of Whitby. She possesses enough links to undeniably be the earl's lost daughter, and he immediately welcomes her with the full joy of his heart. Other family members and household staff are not so sure, however, and Brook must handle their disapproval as well as the adjustment of missing her Monegasque home.

Having safely seen Brook to her new home, her friend Justin Wildon finds himself in a predicament. Not only is he in a time of grieving and inheriting his father's title and responsibilities, but now that Brook has been ushered into a home with every future luxury ensured, he feels awkward to think of courting her at this point, when she might think he was only changing the nature of their relationship due to her new fortune. Deciding the best course of action is to let her settle in, Justin pushes Brook away and throws himself into learning his own new position in society.

Brook is soon inundated with new friends and suitors, some genuine and some who are only fortune hunters. There are also cousins and relatives to meet and get to know. Even as she cherishes the growing relationship with her father, Brook longs for more of the freedoms she's used to, and she misses Justin and his ability to help her make sense of her life.

It soon becomes clear that there is a mystery underfoot. Brook is attacked for something called the Fire Eyes, and she realizes that one of her servants has been betraying her. There is also the lingering doubt as to why her mother left England before her death, giving infant Brook to a stranger with instructions to keep the child out of the country. When it becomes clear that there are those who will stop at nothing to gain the mysterious Fire Eyes - even though neither Brook nor her father know what they are - every attempt goes to keeping Brook's life safe. Danger lurks everywhere, including among those who call themselves family.

This was the first book by Roseanna M. White that I have read, but it won't be the last! It was easy to get lost in fictional 1910 Europe, and while sometimes the characters drove me crazy with their choices, you always hoped for the best for them. The story of the Fire Eyes continues throughout the next two books in this series, and I'll be doing my best to read them soon!



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