Lessons In Loving by Peter McAra

Lessons in learning

Wanted: Governess. Properly qualified in English, to instruct male pupil in rural location.

Sydney, 1902. Desperate for a job, Kate Courtney travels to the faraway New England Ranges to interview for a governess position. She is greeted by wealthy landowner, ruggedly handsome Tom Fortescue, and is shocked to find that her new charge isn’t a small boy—but the grown man.

It was Tom’s mother’s dying wish that he finds a refined, elegant, English bride to marry. But a country man with country manners can never win a lady fair. Tom needs Kate to smooth away his rough edges, make him desirable to the English rose he wants to marry.

But the more time Kate and Tom spend together, the closer they become, and Tom has to decide between the dreams of his childhood, and the reality that is right in front of him.

My thoughts:

I am not a fan of Historical Romance and I rarely pick them up to read. Unless it has something more to offer than just sex scene fillers (as I call them), I am just not interested. I am delighted I decided to pick up, Lessons in Loving. What first captured my attention was the cover, a male writer and this, “…is shocked to find that her new charge isn’t a small boy—but the grown man.” I haven’t read that sort of plot twist before! I thought, “Oh, this is going to be good.”

When I began to read the story, I started to have a little doubt. I felt the beginning was not strong enough but as I read on, the story-line became stronger and I was pleased with the character development and dialogue. I am delighted to report that this story does not have sex scene fillers and I devoured this book quickly.

I did however want to knock the handsome Tom Fortescue over the head a few times but hey, his stupid choices at times makes for an entertaining read. I wouldn’t mind reading more about him.

I did like how Kate took charge in the beginning of the story, though I felt she could be a bit too trusting at times but how things turn out might surprise you.

Charming story-a tad bit predictable- but, interesting characters, enjoyed reading the interaction between Kate and Tom, lovely settings and an intriguing plot. I will be looking for more books by this author.

I rated this story: Three Stars.

Stephanie M. Hopkins


Weekend Happenings…

This weekend I have a lot going on. First there is preparing the house for family that are coming in town next week for Thanksgiving and then there is church on Sunday. If you know me, there is always reading plans in the mix. I am never far from a book. I am currently reading, A Love That Never Tires by Allyson Jeleyne. It is a Historical Romance and I generally do not read in this sub-genre unless it is an author’s work I know. However, I decided to take a chance with an unknown author to me. So far the setting of story seems to be true to the period but I have to admit, I am a bit put off by some of the sex scenes. For a reason I won’t mention until after I finish reading the story.

I want to wish you all a wonderful bookish weekend and please stay tuned to Layered Pages for lots of wonderful interviews, author guest post and much more!

A Love that Never Tires

‘Linley Talbot-Martin is a girl who likes to get her hands dirty. As the daughter of a famous archaeologist, she’s been everywhere and seen everything—except London. When the Talbot-Martin team travels there for her father’s investiture, Linley finally gets her wish. But when the time comes to trade her jodhpurs and work boots for silk gowns and kid gloves, she may be in over her head. Even though she can out-ride, out-shoot, and outsmart any girl in London society, Linley is destined to be the failure of the season. No one she meets cares about ancient pottery or lost Buddhist texts, and fundraising efforts for future expeditions keep coming up short. If the Talbot-Martin team doesn’t find money soon, they will be out of a job, and Linley will lose everything she holds dear. Patrick Wolford, Marquess of Kyre (pronounced ‘Keer’), is a man who knows his place. Well-connected and respected, he is everything everyone expects him to be, but beneath his façade, he is as neglected and crumbling as the family estate. Now the strain of keeping up appearances is taking its toll. The smart thing would be to marry the heiress nipping at his heels and be done with it, but when he meets Linley Talbot-Martin, who dares to shake up his seemingly proper world, he must choose between the life he’s always known and one he never dared to dream of.’

(Book description from Goodreads)

Book Review: Mist of Midnight by Sandra Byrd

01_Mist of Midnight

Publication Date: March 10, 2015 Howard Books Formats: eBook, Paperback Pages: 384

Series: Daughters of Hampshire Genre: Historical/Christian/Romance


Mist of Midnight is an opening story of a series I’m told. Set in Victorian England is the perfect backdrop for this story. A young girl, Rebecca Ravenshaw, returns to England from India. Her parents-missionaries-died in the Indian Mutiny. When she arrives no one believes who she says she is. A year before someone else claimed to be her and was quite convincing. The imposter died and Rebecca’s Father’s estate and his investments where given to a distant relative. His name is Captain Luke Whitfield. He and Rebecca quickly form an attraction for each other. However, her rights and who she says she is hasn’t been proven and you soon wonder what her fate will be. So begins the challenge or adventure I should say to convince everyone that she is the real Rebecca Ravenshaw.

I enjoyed the gothic mystery feel to the story and how Byrd portrays each of the characters. Even the secondary characters play an important role in the story. I was really intrigued with the details and culture of India that Byrd includes and she gives you a richly sense of time and place. Beautiful prose throughout, suspense in the right places and Byrd proves yet again you can write a good story without the vulgarity and foul language one finds often in books. This story is considered Christian Lit and Byrd does a splendid job with her characters dealing with real life situations. Often times I read in this genre and have been disappointed. I felt the characters weren’t believable and there realities seemed artificial. Sandra Byrd will not disappoint you with Mist of Midnight. In fact, she is one of my favorite writers and one of the few writers who I think can write brilliantly in this genre. I am so thrilled with this story and I will be on the lookout for more! Can’t wait!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

 Praise for Mist of Midnight

“Intriguing secondary characters and lush scenery contribute to the often sinister, even creepy, moments readers will come to anticipate. Infusing her story with mystery, tension, and emotion, Byrd (To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn) strikes a fine balance between the darkness of a Gothic mystery and the sweetness of a captivating love story. Byrd—and Brontë—fans will enjoy this first of the new Daughters of Hampshire series.” – Publishers Weekly

“A marvelous mingling of mystery and deeply moving family and romantic love, Mist of Midnight kept me guessing until the very end. A house on a cliff, a Victorian-Gothic atmosphere, a cast of suspicious characters including a dark, brooding hero and a strong heroine: shades (or mists) of Jane Eyre and Rebecca! I look forward to the next novel in this compelling new series.” (Karen Harper, New York Times bestselling author of Mistress of Mourning)

“Mist of Midnight is wonderfully atmospheric, with all the right elements for a true Gothic novel, from sounds that go bump in the night to characters who are not at all what they seem. The spiritual underpinning is solid, comforting, even as we’re trapped in the author’s finely spun web of mystery, romance, and a sense of foreboding that doesn’t lift until the final page. Charlotte Brontë? Victoria Holt? Meet Sandra Byrd, the modern mistress of Gothic romance!” (Liz Curtis Higgs, New York Times bestselling author of Mine Is the Night)

“Among the many things I love about reading a Sandra Byrd novel is knowing that her words will transport me to another place and time, that she will win me over with intriguing and complex characters, and that I’ll savor every word. Mist of Midnight is no exception. I loved this book! Sandra Byrd could belong to the writing group of the Bronte sisters if they’d had one. Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre along with crumbling mansions, mysterious distant cousins, and one woman’s journey to prove who she really is are just few layers that ripple through the mists. Bravo, Sandra! Another winner.” (Jane Kirkpatrick, award-winning author of A Light in the Wilderness)

“Richly written and multi-layered, Mist of Midnight blends traditional England and exotic India in a historical feat worthy of Victoria Holt. Breathless danger, romance, and intrigue made this series opener by the ultra-talented Sandra Byrd a compelling must-read!” (Laura Frantz, author of Love’s Reckoning)

“Once again, Sandra Byrd delivers a richly layered story that will leave you eagerly awaiting the next book in this brand-new series. Mist of Midnight has it all: intriguing and memorable characters—including a central female protagonist who is both complex and inspiring—a plot chock-full of mystery and suspense, and a Victorian gothic setting, impeccably researched and artfully and evocatively relayed. Prepare to be transported!” (Karen Halvorsen Schreck, author of Sing For Me)

“Mist of Midnight is a beautiful, haunting tale. Sandra Byrd masterfully weaves together both romance and suspense among a cast of mysterious characters. I was immediately swept into the wonder of this story, and I loved unraveling all the secrets and discovering exactly what happened at the old Headbourne House.” (Melanie Dobson, author of Chateau of Secrets and The Courier of Caswell Hall)

“Sandra Byrd’s trademark attention to historical accuracy combines with an eerily building intrigue to envelope readers in a sense of dark foreboding that hinges precariously between hope and desperation. Mist of Midnight is a subtly haunting, beautifully atmospheric, and decadently romantic Victorian tale that will find a comfortable home among the best Gothic romances of days gone by.” (Serena Chase, author of The Ryn and contributor to USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog)

“Not since Jane Eyre have I read a Gothic romance that has captured my heart so completely. From the exotic India to an English estate shrouded in mystery, Byrd’s eye for detail shines through on every page. Romance lovers are sure to devour the tale of Rebecca Ravenshaw and her search for the truth behind the mysteries of Headbourne House and the handsome young captain who lives on the estate.” (Renee Chaw, reviewer at Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot)

“From the first word to the last, Mist of Midnight is a completely absorbing romantic, and mysterious, novel. Ms. Byrd’s writing is splendid, and her characters are so complex and endearing that they leap off the pages. I couldn’t put it down. An absolutely irresistible read!” (Anne Girard, author of Madame Picasso)

Pre-Order/Buy the Book


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About the Author

03_Sandra Byrd Author

After earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd has now published more than forty books. Her adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named by Library Journal as a Best Books Pick for 2011 and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, was named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2012. Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I published in April, 2013.

Sandra has also published dozens of books for tweens and teens including the Secret Sisters Series, London Confidential Series and a devotional for tweens.

A former textbook acquisitions editor, Sandra has published many nonfiction articles and books. She is passionate about helping new writers develop their talent and their work toward traditional or self-publication. As such, she has mentored and coached hundreds of new writers and continues to coach dozens to success each year.

Please visit www.sandrabyrd.com to learn more, or to invite Sandra to your bookclub via Skype. You can also connect with Sandra on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Mist of Midnight Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, March 2 Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, March 3 Review at A Chick Who Reads Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee

Wednesday, March 4 Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Thursday, March 5 Review at Reading the Past Review & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation Review & Guest Post at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Friday, March 6 Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Monday, March 9 Review & Giveaway at Historical Readings & Views

Tuesday, March 10 Review at Just One More Chapter Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Wednesday, March 11 Review & Giveaway at The Lit Bitch

Thursday, March 12 Review at Book Drunkard Spotlight at Books and Benches

Friday, March 13 Review & Giveaway at Forever Ashley

Monday, March 16 Review at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, March 17 Review at Layered Pages

Wednesday, March 18 Review at The Eclectic Reader Review at The Book Binder’s Daughter

Thursday, March 19 Review at CelticLady’s Reviews Guest Post & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Friday, March 20 Interview & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

04_Mist of Midnight_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL




Interview with Author Merry Farmer

Merry Farmer Headshot

Merry Farmer lives in suburban Philadelphia with her two cats, Butterfly and Torpedo. She has been writing since she was ten years old and realized one day that she didn’t have to wait for the teacher to assign a creative writing project to write something. It was the best day of her life. She then went on to earn not one but two degrees in History so that she would always having something to write about. Today she walks along the cutting edge of Indie Publishing, writing Historical Romance and Women’s Sci-Fi. She is also passionate about blogging, knitting, and cricket and is working towards becoming an internationally certified cricket scorer.

Stephanie: Hello Merry! Thank you for chatting with me today. Please tell me about what genre you write in?

Merry:  I write in a couple of different genres, actually.  So far I’ve published historical romance, one medieval series and one western series set in the late 1890s in Montana.  But I also write what I like to call “Sci-fi for Women”, and I have a fun time travel series that I’d like to work on someday.  I love the fact that with self-publishing I don’t have to be bound by just one genre.  There are so many stories out there to write!  I may even try a contemporary romance someday.

Stephanie: What is the title of your latest book and will you please tell me a little about it? 

Merry: The last novel that I published is titles “In Your Arms”.  It’s part of my Montana Romance series and tells the story of Lily Singer, a Native American woman who was raised at an Indian School back east but has now returned to the west as a teacher, and her fiery romance with Christian Avery, the town’s Justice of the Peace.  They find themselves on opposite ends of a dispute over the school, and sparks fly!  I really love this one because it’s given me a chance to explore the way Native Americans were treated in this country after the “Cowboys and Indians” era of history.  And it was so much fun to write a romance with so many sparks!

Stephanie: How many books do you have published? 

Merry: I’ve published 10 all together so far, including one compilation of the three novellas in the Montana Romance series.

Stephanie: Do you find anything challenging about writing in the Romance genre?

Merry:  I think the biggest challenge is writing a well-trodden genre in a new and fresh way.  There are only so many romance themes out there, and a lot of writers are exploring them.  It’s a trick to write original characters and stories.  I think one thing I may have going for me in that regard is that I’ve never been interested in the traditional duke or billionaire.  I like writing about the regular people, the ones who usually end up as secondary characters.  The hero of the second book of my Noble Hearts series, The Faithful Heart, is actually a peasant!  Well, he started out that way.

Stephanie: When did you first begin to write and when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Merry:  I first started writing actual stories and works of fiction for my own entertainment when I was 10 years old.  I’ve always been a bit of an introvert, and in the midst of a difficult childhood, reading and writing was the perfect escape.  I think I always wanted to be a writer, but for a long time I convinced myself that that wasn’t something grownups did.  Looking back, I would say I wasted a lot of time in my 20s not writing when I should have gone for it!  The lesson there is never to let outside forces tell you that your dreams aren’t realistic.

Stephanie: What are some of the inspirations for your stories?

Merry: I find history itself incredibly inspiring.  There are so many stories that actually happened long ago that people have forgotten.  I get especially fired up by the fact that most of the history we learn in school is presented in totally the wrong way and gives people the wrong ideas.  Plus the fact that the late 19th century was incredibly advanced in terms of technology, medicine, and society, but for some reason people nowadays assume everyone was backwards.  Same goes for the middle ages.  It just isn’t so!  And I also have to add that my science fiction series, which I will start publishing this summer, actually has a very historical feeling to it.  I’m taking a lot of the same issues we faced in the past and applying them to colonists settling a new planet.

Stephanie: Do you work with an outline or just write?

Merry: That’s an interesting question!  I used to just write.  I would wait for the story to come to me organically.  But the more serious I’ve gotten about writing, especially series, the more I plan things in advance.  I still don’t sit down and outline everything before I start a book, though.  I know about four or five points I plan to hit along the way, but the only time I actually write out where the plot will go is at various times in the middle of the process when I decide I need a compass for the next few chapters.  Mini-outlining as I go has turned into an incredibly effective tool for me.

Stephanie: What have you learned about writing along the way? 

Merry: That it’s a serious commitment!  And you can never rest on your laurels and assume that what you’ve written is perfect.  I’m always open to critique, because as painful as it can be, it’s the best way to grow and become a better writer.

Stephanie: Is there a particular writer who has influenced your work?

Merry: As much as I want to say Jane Austen or J.K. Rowling or L.M. Montgomery, my favorite authors, I think the truth is that I learn the most from whatever book I’m reading at the time.  That includes beta-reading for friends.  By constantly reading new authors and revisiting my old favorites, I learn more, get more ideas, and also figure out what mistakes to steer clear of!

Stephanie: Is there a message you would like to give to your readers? 

Merry: Does THANK YOU count?  No, seriously!  I’ve been writing for myself for years, but this whole thing takes on so much more meaning when I write for other people.  And your feedback, whether in the form of reviews or chatting via my Facebook page or even the occasional email, means everything to me.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book? 

Merry: Anywhere you can buy eBooks!  Or paperback books too, although you may have to special order them.

Thank you!

In Your Arms [e-book draft b]

Lily Singer has never belonged. Taken from her tribe as a child and raised in a white man’s school, she no longer has a place in either world. Teaching has become her life. When that life is threatened by rumors and prejudice after a string of robberies, she must turn for help to the one man who spells disaster for her carefully ordered existence. Will he save her or steal her heart?

Christian Avery, Justice of the Peace, is used to having things his way. Cold Springs is his responsibility, and when its citizens blame the local Indian population for the mysterious robberies, it’s up to him to restore order and maintain calm. The one person who refuses to follow his lead is the beautiful, native-born Lily. Her defiance turns his life upside down.

But when town gossip shifts from robberies to romance after a foolish indiscretion, Lily’s job and reputation are on the line. She must choose between the only life she has ever known and the only place she has ever felt at home, in Christian’s arms.

Get In Your Arms on Amazon, Amazon UK, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks. Add In Your Arms to your Goodreads to-read shelf!

Find Merry Farmer on her websiteFacebookTwitter, and Amazon Author Page


Interview with Author Jeannie Ruesch


 Jeannie Ruesch

Stephanie: I would like to welcome, Jeannie Ruesch to Layered Pages.

Jeannie wrote her first story at the age of the six, prompting her to give up an illustrious, hours-long ambition of becoming a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader and declare that writing was her destiny. That journey to destiny took a few detours along the way, including a career in marketing and design.

Her first novel, a fairy-tale like historical romance, was published in 2009, but the darker side of life had always captivated her. So after a dinner conversation with friends about the best way to hide a dead body, she knew she had to find a way to incorporate suspense into her writing. (The legal outlet for her fascination.) Today, she continues writing what she loves to read – stories of history, romance and suspense. She lives in Northern California with her husband, their son and an 80 pound lapdog lab named Cooper.

Stephanie: Hello, Jeannie! Thank you for chatting with me today! Please tell me about your book, Cloak in Danger.

Jeannie: Thanks so much for having me today!  Here is the blurb for Cloaked:  Aria Whitney has little in common with the delicate ladies of London society. Her famous father made his fortune hunting archaeological treasures, and her rustic upbringing has left her ill-prepared for a life of parties and frippery. But when Gideon Whitney goes missing in Egypt, Aria must embrace the unknown—armed with only the short list of highborn men who’d backed her father’s venture, she poses as a woman looking for a husband. She doesn’t intend to find one.

Adam Willoughby, Earl of Merewood, finds London’s strangest new debutante fascinating, but when he catches her investigating his family’s secrets, he threatens to ruin her reputation. He doesn’t intend to enjoy it so much.

When their lustful indiscretion is discovered, Adam finds that he regrets nothing. But now, as her father’s enemy draws near, Adam must convince his betrothed that she can trust him with her own secrets…before it’s too late.

Stephanie: What genre does it fall under and what was your inspiration for your story?

Jeannie: Cloaked in Danger is a smooshing together of historical romance and romantic suspense, with a very unconventional heroine who doesn’t care much about the rules of London society.   I love the combination of history and suspense, and I’m always fascinated by the people that live on the edges of their world.  In Cloaked in Danger, there’s a melding of Aria’s world-view and the restrictions of London society, as well as a blurring of the line between the high society and the darker crime world in London.  I enjoy contrasts, I think — and that’s what inspires me to write.

Cloaked in Danger

Stephanie: How long did it take you to write your story and did you work with an outline or just write?

Jeannie: I am a plotter/outliner all the way.   My first step in writing a story is to build the outline all the way to the end.  So when I sit down to fill in the chapters, I know where I’m going, what’s next and my approximate page count.

Stephanie: Where there any challenging scenes or characters to write about?

Jeannie: Yes, absolutely.  This was a challenging book in the way that Aria, my heroine, goes through a tremendous amount through the book and I really wanted to honor the truth of that psychological place she was in.

Stephanie: How did you come up with your title?

Jeannie: The title was a blended effort with my editor and the amazing folks at Carina Press.  We threw out ideas and a bunch of different suggestions, and they came back with Cloaked in Danger. I loved it from the minute I saw it – it was perfect.

Stephanie: Have you learned anything new from writing your story?

Jeannie: I believe I learn something from every book I write, and the characters I build.  I think for all writers, we put little pieces of ourselves into our stories, sometimes without even realizing it.   And by the end of a book, I can look back at the characters and recognize what I’ve hidden inside – the parts of me, a memory, a trait of someone I love.  Also, I am always fascinated by why people do what they do — how our histories create our strengths, our weaknesses and I like to write characters who are flawed.   My heroine, Aria is very impulsive —and that’s not really meant as a strength. It’s a flaw in her character, one that’s built from the on-the-go world she lived in, one she inherited in some ways from her father and how he has reacted to things in his life.  I think every character I write teaches me something new.

Stephanie: What are some of the best compliments you have received about your book so far?

Jeannie: One reviewer said that Cloaked in Danger defied her expectations and caught her off-guard.  I was very happy to hear that, because I knew that mixing historical romance with romantic suspense would be tough for people to place.  In strictly historical romances, most other plots are subplots.  As I was writing the book, I believed the suspense plot needed as much presence and focus as the romantic connection, like you would find in modern romantic suspense.  Aria’s father is missing and her focus had to be on finding him and what she goes through in the process.  I didn’t want them to give up their goals just because they were having feelings for each other.  Another thing I like to hear is that my characters are unconventional because as I start to write,

Stephanie: What is up next for you?

Jeannie: I’m working on the next two books (writing my 3rd and plotting my 4th), as they are tied into Cloaked in Danger.  Adam, the hero in Cloaked has four sisters.  And two of those sisters are taking their turn in the spotlight in the next two books.  (My first book is about Adam’s sister, Blythe — titled Something About Her.)

Stephanie: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Jeannie: Keep writing, keep learning.  There are so many great tools, workshops, blogs and places to learn about your craft and hone your skills.  It’s well worth it to spend as much time as you can learning the “science” of writing fiction.   But that’s only one aspect of what makes writing magic —the rest is all you, your experiences, your thoughts, and the voice you want to share with the world.  Just believe in the fact that you have something worthwhile to share, because you do!

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Jeannie: Pretty much wherever digital books are sold, including:

Amazon Barnes & Noble | Kobo Chapters | Google PlayCarina Press

Praise for Cloaked in Danger

“Cloaked in Danger has all the elements readers crave— larger-than-life characters, a vivid and believable setting, heart-pounding romance and just the right amount of mystery. Don’t miss it! It kept me reading deep into the night.” — New York Times Bestselling Author Brenda Novak

“In ‘Cloaked in Danger’ Jeannie Ruesch has crafted a taut, emotional thrill-ride through the streets of Regency London. Archaeological adventure and drawing room intrigue are combined in a story that will keep you reading late into the night. Jeannie Ruesch is an author to watch.” — RITA Award Nominated Author Elizabeth Essex

Monday, January 27
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Facebook Launch Party (3:00 – 7:00pm PST)

Tuesday, January 28
Interview at The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, January 29
Spotlight & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Spotlight & Giveaway at Book Reviews & More by Kathy

Thursday, January 30
Review at History Undressed
Interview at Layered Pages

Friday, January 31
Guest Post & Giveaway at History Undressed

Monday, February 3
Review at Closed the Cover
Review at The Most Happy Reader

Tuesday, February 4
Review at The Lit Bitch
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Wednesday, February 5
Spotlight & Giveaway at Mina’s Bookshelf

Thursday, February 6
Review at Kincavel Korner
Review at I Heart Romance

Friday, February 7
Interview & Giveaway at Kincavel Korner

Publication Date: January 27, 2014
Carina Press

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