Butterfly Palace, by Colleen Coble

book coverPublisher’s Summary:

Elegance and wealth. Privilege and politics. The extravagance of the Butterfly Palace overwhelmed Lily’s senses and nearly smothered her painful memories. She pushed away her misgivings . . . She was perfectly safe in this huge house.

Austin, Texas—1904: Abandoned by the love of her life and still mourning the loss of her mother, Lily Donaldson has turned her back on the pain and come to Austin for a fresh start, working for the Marshall family as a kitchen maid in their luxurious mansion, the Butterfly Palace. The tasks before her are legion, and her mistress less than pleasant, but at least Lily’s new life will be, if nothing else, distracting. 

But one night, while serving at a dinner party, Lily recognizes the man who abandoned her, Andy, her liaison from the livery stable, the blacksmith’s son . . . sitting among the distinguished guests. Though he recognizes her, Andy does not acknowledge her aloud, and Lily is left reeling, flabbergasted, and irate. 

But before she can get an explanation, the path of the Servant Girl Killer swerves very close to the Butterfly Palace, sowing terror among the maids. Having come to Austin to start anew, Lily suddenly feels trapped in a spider web. How can she know who to trust in a house where lies come dressed in fine suits and deceit in silk gowns the colors of butterfly wings?

My Take:

There’s a dedication before chapter one. Take a moment to read it. Colleen Coble wrote it to her friend, Diann Hunt, who sadly lost her battle with cancer at the end of last year. This dedication was evidently written when Hunt was still alive, and it made me pause and think briefly about life before I moved on to the book.

Butterfly Mansion is a meaty read of twists and turns, suspicion and murder. Lily hadn’t seen her former fiancé since the night their fathers were killed in a fire. She was stunned to see him hobnobbing with Austin’s elite, and the explanation he gave her was almost unbelievable. Had their fathers been murdered because of a counterfeiting operation? Was it possible her new employer was involved? What was the connection between a prized butterfly collection and a spate of murders in the city?

I find something about butterfly collecting vaguely disquieting, and so I read the sections about the hobby quickly. Thankfully, there aren’t many where the dead insects were described in all their morbid glory. There are many characters to keep track of in this book, and that makes for plenty of red herrings. Any one of them could’ve been the main villain and I only began to narrow the possibilities near the end. To be honest, I felt some scenes could’ve been cut without causing problems in term of plot progression and perhaps some of the characters also. The plot was interesting enough to keep me reading to the end, even though I was sick at the time, but I was disappointed that a couple of threads were left undone.

Read an excerpt from Butterfly Palace   

Have you read Butterfly Palace? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Publication Date: 21 January 2014

Page Count: 336

Read more on:   Colleen Coble’s Website   Thomas Nelson’s Website

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Sadie’s Secret, by Kathleen Y’Barbo

book coverLouisiana, 1890—Sarah Louise “Sadie” Callum is a master of disguise, mostly due to her training as a Pinkerton agent but also from evading overprotective brothers as she grew up. When she takes on a new assignment with international connections, she has no idea her new cover will lead her on the adventure of a lifetime.

Undercover agent William Jefferson Tucker is not looking for marriage—pretend or otherwise—but his past is a secret, his twin brother has stolen his present, and his future is in the hands of the lovely Sadie Callum. Without her connections to the world of upper-crust New Orleans, Jefferson might never find a way to clear his name and solve the art forgery case that has eluded him for years.

Only God can help these two secret agents find a way to solve their case and uncover the truth about what is going on in their hearts.

Here we are at the end of The Secret Lives of Will Tucker series. Who is Will Tucker? Will he be permanently stopped from his misdeeds? Is there a prison that can hold him? He’s left distraught women in his wake, and is indirectly responsible for the death of another. A number of Pinkerton agents have pursued him with varying degrees of success. Now, he’s pulled off the most audacious of all his crimes: somehow he’s managed to convince authorities that he’s his twin brother. As a result, William John Tucker is a free man, while William Jefferson Tucker languishes behind bars. Only Agent Sadie Callum can recognize the difference between them.

Sadie’s Secret is slightly different from the previous two titles in that a woman is the official lead character. Despite Sadie’s name being in the title, however, Jefferson is equally important to the novel’s progression. What is glaring is the lack of the steam punk gadgetry that defined the other titles. Jefferson does eventually use a couple of items, but they play a very minor role. Kyle Russell from Millie’s Treasure has a sizable role, and it’s worth having read that and Flora’s Wish first. Will (John) Tucker is the common denominator in all three books, but the majority of the plot here revolves around the art case and it was easy to get caught up in it. Secondary characters such as Seamus Callum and Uncle Penn are a delight. As for the conclusion, one part of it is somewhat predictable. To have it be resolved in any other way, however, would’ve meant a not so tidy ending to the series.

Thank you to Harvest House Publishers for my free electronic copy of Sadie’s Secret, which I downloaded from NetGalley. No review was required.

Have you read Sadie’s Secret? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Read an excerpt from Sadie’s Secret

Publisher: Harvest House

Publication Date: 01 February 2014

Page Count: 352

Read more on:   Kathleen Y’Barbo’s Website   Harvest House’s Website

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With Autumn’s Return, by Amanda Cabot

book coverShe’s planning on instant success. She didn’t plan on love.

When Elizabeth Harding arrives in Cheyenne to open her medical practice, she is confident that the future is as bright as the warm Wyoming sun. Certain she’ll have a line of patients eager for her services, she soon discovers the town may not welcome a new physician–especially a lady doctor. Even Jason Nordling, the handsome young attorney next door, seems to disapprove of her chosen profession.

When a web of deceit among Cheyenne’s wealthiest residents threatens to catch Elizabeth and Jason in its snare, they must risk working together to save one of Elizabeth’s patients–even if it means falling in love.

Sometimes, it’s hard to think about a time when women couldn’t do things that we take for granted. They couldn’t vote, they often couldn’t go places unescorted, and they were limited if they wanted a career. A woman was supposed to marry well and raise a family. She certainly wasn’t expected to become a doctor. The reasons – mostly created by men – varied from women weren’t smart enough to it wasn’t seemly for a woman to treat a man. In With Autumn’s Return, Elizabeth Harding is ready to challenge those ideas. After proving to her fellow medical students that she was smart enough to study with them, she now has to persuade the Cheyenne townspeople that she’s capable enough to treat them. They’re used to old Doctor Worland, with his quack medicines and leeches, a man who learned his trade on the fields of the Civil War. Her neighbor, lawyer Jason Nordling, is quick to warn her of probable failure. But he’s just experienced the biggest failure of his fledgling career and his reputation has taken a beating.

With Autumn’s Return is the third in Cabot’s Westward Winds series. While there are references to events in the previous titles, it’s not essential to have read them first. I was able to enjoy With Autumn’s Return without having read either of them. There are characters you will either love or hate, and some that will grow on you. I found myself surprisingly sympathetic toward one gentleman. The main drama was both expected and surprising. I knew something was going to happen concerning a couple of the characters, but I couldn’t predict what that something would be. It was also interesting to read that some medical issues aren’t exclusive to the present day. Abortion is discussed and there is a side story of a woman with low self-esteem going taking extreme measures because she fears the man she likes isn’t attracted to her physical self. There were a couple of situations which I felt weren’t fully resolved by the end, but you can’t have everything. This is definitely a book I had difficulty putting down and I now want to read the earlier books, which focus on Elizabeth’s older sisters.

Thank you to Revell for my free copy of With Autumn’s Return, which I received in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read With Autumn’s Return? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Read an excerpt of With Autumn’s Return

Publisher: Revell (A division of Baker Publishing)

Publication Date: 21 January 2014

Page Count: 416

Read more on:   Amanda Cabot’s Website   Revell’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Christianbook.com