The Sea Gate by Jane Johnson

Who is cousin Olivia?  Rebecca remembered visiting her a few times when she was a child, but her mother didn’t mention her too often.

Finding letters from cousin Olivia addressed to her mother pleading for help had Rebecca on her way to Olivia’s house.

What a mess she found.  The house was in shambles, Olivia wasn’t there, her finances were very bad, and Rebecca finds a hidden tunnel in the basement which had been used during the war along with other secrets from WWII.

We go back and forth from present day to 1943 and find out about Olivia…she is some character.  The bird she has is even more upsetting than what Rebecca found out about Olivia.

It took a few chapters to get into the book, but it’s worth the wait.

I loved all the secrets of the house and Olivia’s life, and I loved Rebecca’s perseverance.

THE SEA GATE has great characters, pull-you-in writing, and a story line that will keep you turning the pages to a marvelous revelation of the secrets and an unraveling of Olivia and her life.  4/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via Edelwiess in exchange for an honest review.

The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly

One thing that draws me to a book is an old house, and Highbury House sounded amazing.

And with the mention of many gardens, I was pulled in from the start.

We meet Emma, present day, who was commissioned to restore the gardens of Highbury House that were designed by Venetia Smith to what they looked like in 1907.  Emma had no photos but did some research.

Emma’s work was definitely cut out here, but it was so exciting for her to be able to recreate these famous gardens.

We also meet two other women who had something to do with the gardens and Highbury House.  Each time we meet one of the women, we find a little more about the garden, their lives, and their connection to it all.

Venetia Smith, 1907, was the original designer of the many gardens at the Highbury House Estate.

Beth Pedley, 1944, worked on a nearby farm.  She would deliver goods to Highbury House and loved the gardens. She also wanted to and did sketch the gardens.  These sketches were helpful to Emma.

These three women were easy to like, and I loved how the gardens were the main focus for all three of them.

There were many gardens filled with flowers that represented the name of each garden.

The different gardens were: The Tea Garden, The Lovers’ Garden, The Bride’s Garden, The Poet’s Garden, The Children’s Garden, and The Winter Garden that was behind locked gates and Emma didn’t know why.

No one knew why it was kept locked or where the key was, but you will find out when you read this lovely book.

Along with the beautiful writing of Ms. Kelly, the gardens, and the story line, there also is some romance in each time period.

If you enjoy Ms. Kelly’s books, you will not want to miss this one.

This book was given to me by the  publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Children’s Train by Viola Ardone

The war is over, but Italy is still recovering and is filled with underprivileged children.

Northern Italy seems to have come back much quicker and are more prosperous.

THE CHILDREN’S TRAIN is a story based on true events that happened post WWII.

We meet young children taken from their parents by choice to live with an adopted family in Northern Italy for the winter.

The train ride was frightening for the children because they were worried about how the new families would treat them, and they missed their mothers and fathers.

There were some funny parts, though, when one of the younger girls shouted:  Look it is raining ricotta.  It was snow, and she had never seen snow before.
 
You will feel sorry for the children and hope their fears of what will happen to them subside.

We follow the life of Amerigo with his adopted family.  They actually were much nicer than his own mother.  

We see his life before he lived with his adopted family and also 50 years later.
 
I really enjoyed Amerigo and the Italian names.

If you are of Italian descent, you will love this book.

This was another event in history that I wasn’t aware of.

It is educational, uplifting, but also heartbreaking.

ENJOY!!  5/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous

Everyone seemed to like games.  One game was for a murder mystery party and another was to trick Nina’s grandfather into thinking Beth actually was Nina.​

We meet Beth and Nina in 1988 and Sadie in 2019.​​

Beth is a foster child that came to live with Nina and her odd family in Raven Hall.  ​​

Sadie is an actress who is invited to play a part in a murder mystery game.​​

​​As we move from one time to the next, we get detailed information about what is going on, but then there is always something missing and always a new character to meet.​​

The murder mystery game got out of hand with guests becoming sick, one disappearing, and the game seeming to turn into an actual attempted murder mystery with secrets that get revealed.​​

THE PERFECT GUESTS has more than one story line going on, and I enjoyed all of them.  You will think you have it figured out, and then something else happens.​​

The ending is a surprise as things are wrapped up and you find out who’s who in these games.

If you enjoy mysteries, an old house that the story was built on, and characters that are an odd sort, you will like THE PERFECT GUESTS. 5/5​​

This book was given to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Lana’s War by Anita Abriel

Lana lost everything the night the Gestapo shot her husband because he was hiding a Jewish child in his piano, and she also lost her unborn child because of the shock.​​

Did she really lose everything?  She didn’t lose her desire to help save other Jewish families and especially children.

She had to avenge her husband’s death, and an opportunity arose.​​  Lana was approached by the French Resistance to help out at the Riviera.

She was apprehensive because she would have to pretend she and a stranger were lovers as they did their work.​​  Lana didn’t have too much to do at first, but in order to not look suspicious and to get some information, she and Guy did attend lavish parties that the SS soldiers attended.

The information Lana received about what they were going to do to exterminate the Jewish community including children made her ill, but she had to attend the parties and find information so they could save as many lives as possible.​​

We follow Lana and Guy as they save lives and learn of raids the Gestapo had planned.

You will feel their anxiety and fear and marvel at their expertise as they carry out missions to save lives.​​​​​

I honestly didn’t know that the Germans and upper class carried on as if a war was not going on.​​

Lana, Guy, and Pierre were likable, authentic characters.

​​LANA’S WAR is very well written, well-researched, flows nicely, and pulls you in with Ms. Abril’s writing style and story line.  5/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin

We meet two sisters who are teachers and a blizzard that is wreaking havoc on the Great Plains just as school is about to be let out.

Raina and Gerda had to make the decision about letting the students run home or to keep them in the school.  Either choice was risky…one made the right choice and one didn’t.

The decisions made by Raina and Gerda stayed with them and affected them for their entire lives.

We follow the children, the teachers, the townspeople as the blizzard rages, as people become lost, as those at home are left worrying about their family members, and as everyone is hoping for the best.

Once the blizzard was over, the true colors of the characters came out both good and bad.

THE CHILDREN’S BLIZZARD is based on a true event that took lives and maimed many.  

It also is about families who were lured here on the pretense that they would have success, but we see they struggled through harsh winters and parched summers trying to eke out a living.

The characters were marvelously developed and interesting with most being likable.  I enjoyed learning their present and past stories.

As you read, you will grow fond of the characters and also pity them for how they have to live, even though most are very strong and resilient.

The book was a bit confusing at first with all the characters and some sections were wordy, but THE CHILDREN’S BLIZZARD is another of Ms. Benjamin’s beautifully written books and well-researched historical fiction.  4/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Our Darkest Night by Jennifer Robson

Antonina’s father had been planning how to protect her for a while since the Germans had invaded Italy and were starting to take Jewish people to camps.

His plan was to have Antonina pretend she was married to Nico.

Antonina didn’t like the idea of leaving with a stranger and leaving her father and mother, but Nico was very nice and had a wonderful family who welcomed her as his wife.  Well everyone but his sister, Rosa, but Rosa came to love Nina. 

Rosa was angry because Nico was to be a priest and this girl took him from the priesthood.  They wished they could tell everyone they really weren’t married, but it was too risky. Someone may tell on them.

I became immersed in the family’s hardworking life and the wonder and joy of the simple life they led and their care for each other.

Of course they had to be concerned about the Nazi officers who stopped by and to worry that someone would find out Nina actually was Jewish.

You will fall in love with Nina and Nico and feel Nina’s pain as she tries to fit in and learn how to be a Catholic.
 
You will actually become fond of each family member, feel their pain as well as their happiness, and want to be part of their loving family.

As in all WWII books along with the beauty and the strength of the people, there is death and cruelty.

The beauty of family and caring citizens will pull you into this marvelously written, well-researched book and help ease the horror of what was going on.

Do not miss this book.  5/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via Goodreads in exchange for an honest review.

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

Jane was running from something in Arizona and running right into more trouble even though she didn’t know it would be trouble.

Jane walks dogs for wealthy people, and one of the neighbors whose wife along with her friend drowned bought a dog so he could get close to Jane.

Jane jumped at the chance to walk Eddie Rochester’s dog because she knew she could make him love her and be his next wife.  Was she getting herself into something worse than what she left in Arizona?

For Jane, the rich, catty women were the worst, but Jane was getting her plan to work and into place. She nabbed a rich man; now all she had to do was become his wife.

Did Eddie have plans of his own, though, are they already in the works, or have they been carried out?

Then a wrench gets thrown in – the police find out his wife’s friend was murdered, and they think Eddie’s wife was too.

What will happen next?  A lot happens.

Everyone in this book seems to have a secret, and they are ones that may be difficult to keep. Everyone is also pretty good liars.

I would be sure to put this book in your TBR….it is that good. 5/5

This book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wrong Alibi Christina Dodd

Petie had no luck.

She was put in a juvenile detention center for something she didn’t do because she had been part of a group that was arrested.

We meet her as the story goes from present day back to her release from the detention center and to a new, promising job in Alaska.  She goes from sunny California to frigid Alaska for a job that sounded perfect.  

But…is her job with Donald White really the perfect job?

I didn’t trust Donald.  He has a house and a car in someone else’s name and oodles of money, antiques, and investments. 

Donald was a problem Petie didn’t need.

The writing style in WRONG ALIBI pulled me in, and the storyline was excellent and different. 

This book is truly one you don’t want to miss because it touched so many emotions and will have you wondering how you would handle the situations Petie had to endure. 

It will also have you asking yourself if you really can trust the people in your life no matter who they are. 

I would call it a thriller with some tense moments that had me on edge, but I would also call it a thoughtful read.  5/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Pretty Little Wife by Darby Kane

A teacher not showing up for the day?  

Mr. Payne never misses a day.

Where could he be?

Aaron’s wife Lila said he was gone when she woke up, but that is normal.  

Lila said she had no idea where he could be, but Lila doesn’t always tell the truth, and we know that Aaron was very controlling to the point of being abusive.

Lila had also found something on his phone that infuriated her, that he denied, and that caused a huge fight.

A nosey neighbor comes on the scene, and the school principal and a fellow teacher had called the police without Lila’s knowledge.

Lila is a former attorney and knows how to stay cool, even though she isn’t cool on the inside…she wonders where Aaron is when she knows he couldn’t have gone anywhere.

When a note written on an index card is stuck in the sliding back door, its indication scares Lila because perhaps things didn’t go as planned. 

Who is Lila besides Aaron’s wife?  Will the police find out?  And more importantly who is Aaron?

PRETTY LITTLE WIFE takes us through the investigation as tension mounts and Lila gets more nervous because she keeps getting notes but doesn’t know who they are from.  She is hoping they aren’t from Aaron.

I kept thinking it had to be Lila who made Aaron disappear, but then someone else pops up.  

It is difficult to figure out what happened to him.  

Will you figure out where Aaron is and how he got there?  This is a guessing game until the very end.

There are some nice surprises.  

ENJOY!!  5/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.