Review: The Undertaker’s Assistant, by Amanda Skenandore (with link to giveaway)

The Undertaker’s Assistant
by Amanda Skenandore

Publication Date: July 30, 2019
Kensington Publishing Corp.
eBook & Paperback; 304 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction



Set during Reconstruction-era New Orleans, and with an extraordinary and unforgettable heroine at its heart, The Undertaker’s Assistant is a powerful story of human resilience–and of the unlikely bonds that hold fast even in our darkest moments.

“The dead can’t hurt you. Only the living can.” Effie Jones, a former slave who escaped to the Union side as a child, knows the truth of her words. Taken in by an army surgeon and his wife during the War, she learned to read and write, to tolerate the sight of blood and broken bodies–and to forget what is too painful to bear. Now a young freedwoman, she has returned south to New Orleans and earns her living as an embalmer, her steady hand and skillful incisions compensating for her white employer’s shortcomings.

Tall and serious, Effie keeps her distance from the other girls in her boarding house, holding tight to the satisfaction she finds in her work. But despite her reticence, two encounters–with a charismatic state legislator named Samson Greene, and a beautiful young Creole, Adeline–introduce her to new worlds of protests and activism, of soirees and social ambition. Effie decides to seek out the past she has blocked from her memory and try to trace her kin. As her hopes are tested by betrayal, and New Orleans grapples with violence and growing racial turmoil, Effie faces loss and heartache, but also a chance to finally find her place . . .

My Review

With thanks to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and the publisher for my copy of The Undertaker’s Assistant. The following review consists of my own thoughts and opinions on this title.

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A Special Discount for my Followers

Haiti artisan and childYou may have seen my posts about my “day job” as a Compassionate Entrepreneur/Partner with fair trade business, Trades of Hope. Today, Trades of Hope announced that we now partner with artisan groups in SEVENTEEN countries! That means women in SEVENTEEN different countries are now able to provide for their families, and/or escape sexual exploitation through their work with us. In Haiti, women no longer have to give up their babies to orphanages. In Asia, women are able to escape the brothels. In Cambodia, survivors of acid attacks now have back their dignity and pride. In Kenya, women with disabilities now have jobs and can provide for those around them. In Uganda, a refugee now has a leadership position in her community.

coupon code HOPE17To celebrate this number, I’m able to offer you a special three-day discount. When you place an order through my website (click on the graphic to the right) between now and 11:59 CDT on Wednesday, July 17th, enter the coupon code HOPE17. When you take advantage of this special offer, you’re helping the women like the ones I described above. And, the more demand there is for fair trade products, the more people the artisan groups can hire. You can make a huge difference in the lives of others. And, by the way, the artisans aren’t negatively impacted through promotions like this. They’ve already received payment for their work. Instead, the more that gets sold, the more empty space Trades of Hope needs to fill, which means more work for our artisans. It’s a WIN for everyone.

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Review: The Portrait, by Cassandra Austen (with link to giveaway)

The Portrait
by Cassandra Austen

Publication Date: December 31, 2018
Apollo Grannus Books
eBook & Paperback; 340 Pages

Genre: Historical/Romance/Suspense



Lady Catherine, banished to the countryside as a useless girl with a lame leg, got her revenge by playing a dangerous game. And now it will ruin her.

When the old earl dies, his only child feels no sorrow. The earldom will now revert to the crown and Lady Catherine will continue to live life exactly as she pleases. But when she learns that she is the heir to a secret family title, everything changes. Marriage had once seemed unnecessary and out of the question; now it is the only thing she wants. The two men in her life both need her influence and wealth. Whom shall she choose? The kind but secretive Captain Avebury? Or the notorious Sir Lyle, the handsome smuggler? Both men deal very differently with honor. And when Catherine’s secret self-destructs, which man can be trusted to save her?

The Portrait is about a strong woman, foolish decisions, trust, and the definition of honor. Fans of Jane Austen’s independent women will recognize in Catherine a voice which will not be silenced.

My Review

With thanks to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and the publisher for my copy of The Portrait. The following review consists of my own thoughts and opinions on this title.

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Review: Gold Digger, by Rebecca Rosenberg (with link to giveaway)

Gold Digger
by Rebecca Rosenberg

Publication Date: May 28, 2019
Lion Heart Publishing
eBook & Paperback; 312 Pages

Genre: Fiction/Romance/Historical




One look at Baby Doe and you know she was meant to be a legend! She was just twenty years old when she came to Colorado to work a gold mine with her new husband. Little did she expect that she’d be abandoned and pregnant and left to manage the gold mine alone. But that didn’t stop her!

She moved to Leadville and fell in love with a married prospector, twice her age. Horace Tabor struck the biggest silver vein in history, divorced his wife and married Baby Doe. Though his new wife was known for her beauty, her fashion, and even her philanthropy, she was never welcomed in polite society.

Discover how the Tabors navigated the worlds of wealth, power, politics, and scandal in the wild days of western mining.

My Review

It’s April 1878, and young Lizzie McCourt is newly married to Harvey Doe. They’re moving west so Harvey can manage one of his father’s mines. In the first couple of pages of Gold Digger, readers get an immediate idea of these characters. If other readers are like me, they’ll be impressed with Lizzie’s determination and figure Harvey for a bit of a wimp (or something similar). And this is the way the narrative continues: Lizzie “Baby Doe” Tabor consistently comes across as a likeable and sympathetic personality. The term Gold Digger isn’t so much a slight on her character as a hint of her occupation. She really does (and did) go down in the mines and work to support the men in her life, be they Harvey Doe or Horace Tabor.

Baby Doe Tabor was real, as were her husbands, but Gold Digger reads like a pure work of fiction that sprang from the author’s mind. A number of other real life historical personalities also make an appearance, such as Doc Holliday and Oscar Wilde, because they spent time in Leadville, Colorado. Since I read an Advanced Uncorrected Copy there wasn’t a bibliography. It left me wondering what was true and what was embellished. I also expected the story to continue until her death. It doesn’t, but the author shares news of a sequel – Silver Dollar – to be released next year.

Two things stood out to me in the narrative. Firstly, there was a great emphasis on Baby Doe’s Catholic faith. There are several descriptions of her holding and praying the Rosary. Her faith caused problems with her Doe in-laws. She then found it difficult to find a priest willing initially, to preside over her marriage to Tabor and, later, to baptize her first daughter. Despite the difficulties, she stuck to her faith, and felt guilt for some of her actions.

The other massive element was the role of money and riches. Gold Digger asks what it means to be rich: is it money or relationships? Baby Doe’s family disowned her after her divorce, until she began sending them money. Then they wanted more. She only got a priest to baptize her daughter after Tabor made a substantial donation to the church. She was a social outcast, but found joy in being charitable. Giving money wasn’t just about what the Tabors could get in return. Lizzie remembered where she’d come from, and wanted to ensure others didn’t endure her hardships. Meanwhile, I got the impression that Horace was a workaholic, and his family life suffered as a result. In his story, we perhaps get the answer to the above asked question.

With thanks to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and the publisher for my copy of Gold Digger. The above review consists of my own thoughts and opinions on this title.

(note: this review was originally posted to my other blog, ProverbialReads)

Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Praise for Gold Digger

“Rosenberg’s rollicking Western adventure strikes gold with a gutsy, good-hearted spitfire of a heroine and action aplenty.” —THELMA ADAMS, bestselling author of Bittersweet Brooklyn and The Last Woman Standing

“Gold Digger tells the true story of Lizzie ‘Baby Doe’ Tabor, a beautiful young woman who in 1878 marries the son of a wealthy miner in order to save her family from penury. Shrewd and stubborn, Lizzie fights back-biting Victorian society, wins and loses vast fortunes, and bests conniving politicians in her larger-than-life story. A twisting tale worthy of Mark Twain, with a big-hearted heroine at the center.” —MARTHA CONWAY, author of The Underground River

About the Author

A California native, Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where Jack London wrote from his Beauty Ranch. Rebecca is a long-time student of Jack London’s works and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian London. The Secret Life of Mrs. London is her debut novel.

Rebecca and her husband, Gary, own the largest lavender product company in America, selling to 4000 resorts, spas and gift stores. The Rosenbergs believe in giving back to the Sonoma Community, supporting many causes through financial donations and board positions, including Worth Our Weight, an educational culinary program for at-risk children, YWCA shelter for abused women, Luther Burbank Performing Arts Center to provide performances for children, Sonoma Food Bank, Sonoma Boys and Girls Club, and the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home.

For more information, please visit Rebecca’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Goodreads. Visit the Facebook page for The Secret Life of Mrs. London.

Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, May 15
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Thursday, May 16
Review at Passages to the Past

Friday, May 17
Review at View from the Birdhouse

Monday, May 20
Interview at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, May 21
Excerpt at Donna’s Book Blog

Friday, May 24
Feature at Just One More Chapter

Monday, May 27
Review at Orange County Readers

Tuesday, May 28
Excerpt at Kimber Li
Review at Diana_bibliophile

Wednesday, May 29
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Review at Oh, the Books She Will Read

Thursday, May 30
Review at A Bookish Affair
Excerpt at The Book Junkie Reads

Friday, May 31
Interview at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Monday, June 3
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, June 4
Excerpt at Maiden of the Pages

Wednesday, June 5
Review at A Book Geek

Thursday, June 6
Review at Comet Readings

Friday, June 7
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Saturday, June 8
Interview at Comet Readings

Monday, June 10
Review & Guest Post at Clarissa Reads it All

Tuesday, June 11
Excerpt at Old Timey Books

Wednesday, June 12
Interview at T’s Stuff
Review at Proverbial Reads

Thursday, June 13
Review at Cheryl’s Book Nook

Saturday, June 15
Review at Suzy Approved Book Reviews

Monday, June 17
Author Spotlight at RW Bookclub

Tuesday, June 18
Review at Books In Their Natural Habitat

Thursday, June 20
Review at A Holland Reads

Monday, June 24
Review at RW Bookclub
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, June 27
Review at Mama’s Reading Corner

Friday, June 28
Review at Coffee and Ink
Review at Cover To Cover Cafe


During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away a copy of Gold Digger, a gold facial mask & soap set, and recipe brochure to five winners. Three winners will receive an ebook of Gold Digger.

To enter, please use the giveaway link below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on June 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Gold Digger Giveaway (external link)

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Non-fiction Review: Freedom’s Detective, by Charles Lane

book coverWho was Hiram C. Whitley, second Chief of the United States Secret Service and the man who broke up KKK during the Reconstruction era? In this easy to understand narrative, journalist Charles Lane describes an enigma of a man who didn’t exactly play by the rules. Despite being known as a pivotal figure in the fight against the Klan, Whitley had previously betrayed abolitionists on the Underground Railroad. Did the man have a change of heart regarding slavery and the plight of the freedman, or was he an opportunist? Continue reading

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Global Spotlight: Virginia from Kenya, and the Trade Bracelet

(This is one in a series about fair trade artisans around the world. They are all employed by groups partnering with Trades of Hope, with which I’m a Compassionate Entrepreneur. The text in these entries are the words of Trades of Hope. If you purchase any Trades of Hope product after clicking a link in this entry, I receive a commission. Please see my World Changer post for more info.)

The Trade Bracelet first made its debut with Trades of Hope in February of 2018, available in limited quantities. The bracelet was so well-loved; we couldn’t be happier to bring it back in our Spring 2019 Catalog line! The group that makes this bracelet help women defy the odds in Kenya.

Virginia is a wife and mother of two. She is one of several artisans who earns a sustainable, dignified income by crafting the Trade Bracelet. Virginia has been skillfully creating products for over 6 years. She is but one part of something larger that also serves and helps her community! You see, the workshop is located in one of the fastest growing and poorest slums in Kenya. The vast majority of the 300,000 residents (living within a mere 4 square miles!) live in extreme poverty, without basic necessities like clean water and sanitation. Crime is rampant as high unemployment plagues the area. Children have been orphaned due to disease and forced to live on the streets.

The group of which she is a part puts a high emphasis on investing in the lives of those around them. They built a community center, focused on outreach programs that provide clean water for their community as well as mentorship, and discipling for the youth. Entire families and communities are engaged and lives are being transformed.

Virginia and her fellow artisans earn an income while receiving education and healthcare for their families – so vital to breaking the cycle of poverty!

The Trade Bracelet measures 6.5” on a stretchy elastic cord and features multicolor glass and brass beads. The trade beads which were historically used as currency in Kenya, but now have been transformed into a vehicle providing empowerment for an entire community!

Priced at $28.00, you can help Kenyan mothers provide food for their families today and hope for tomorrow!

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Global Spotlight: Meet Margaret from Uganda

(This is one in a series about fair trade artisans around the world. They are all employed by groups partnering with Trades of Hope, with which I’m a Compassionate Entrepreneur. The text in these entries are the words of Trades of Hope. If you purchase any Trades of Hope product after clicking a link in this entry, I receive a commission. Please see my World Changer post for more info.)


When illness brought Margaret to the brink of death, she feared what would happen to her little boy, Sam. As a single mother living in the slums of Uganda, she was already marginalized and vulnerable. In Africa, single moms like Margaret often become victims of oppression, AIDS, and extreme poverty. Margaret worried that her son would become an orphan. Unable to care for herself or her son, Margaret was desperate and alone. Until one woman planted a seed of hope in another woman’s life… and it continues to grow and multiply.

Katie Bracelet Set

Katie Davis Majors, the young founder of a local beading circle, took Margaret into her home and cared for her until she recovered. For over six months, Katie provided a safe place for Margaret to heal and prepare for a new life of purpose and growth. Over time… little by little… bead by bead… Margaret grew into a skilled artisan.

As an artisan creating jewelry for Trades of Hope, Margaret’s life has become both hopeful and fruitful. Margaret has discovered and cultivated her unique gifts and abilities that make her special and valuable to her community. One of the only English-speaking members of their community, Margaret gratefully “gives back” by helping as a translator.

Waterfall Necklace, Mercy Bracelet Set

Margaret has become the voice of hope in the slums of Uganda as she shares her experience with other women, encouraging them to grow and cultivate their own gifts and abilities. Every time Margaret shares her story, she plants another seed of hope for future generations.

The 2,874 fruit trees provided in February through our Planting Hope incentive will continue to multiply and produce more seeds for many years to come. Every single seed can impact a family for generations. Like the seeds of the fruit trees, one seed of hope can grow and multiply in a community for generations. Katie planted a single seed of hope in Margaret’s life – who planted many seeds of hope in the lives of other women in their community.

Will you be the one woman who planted a seed of hope in another woman’s life?

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Visiting: Ulinger’s Maple Farm

Did you know New York State is home to the largest resource of tappable maple trees in the USA? Because of that, the state uses maple and maple syrup as a tourism tool. I don’t know when the first Maple Weekend was held, but the last two weekends in March are now part of Maple Weekend, when maple syrup producers throughout the state open their doors and put on special events. We try to get to at least one producer a year, although it doesn’t always happen.

This year, thanks to a Facebook advertisement (yes, those targeted Facebook ads do work on occasion!), we discovered Ulinger’s Maple Farm, in East Otto, New York. They were promoting ice cream with maple syrup and that was a decider for me! Following directions from a map app on my phone, we drove over muddy back roads after church last Sunday with the dog in the back seat. We weren’t sure what there’d be when we got there: some operations pull all the stops out with wagon rides and a petting zoo while others simply offer samples and a store. Continue reading

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Non-fiction Review: The Vikings: From Odin to Christ, by Martyn Whittock & Hannah Whittock

book coverYou would think that a book on history and Christianity would appeal to me. Add in the fact that I used to live near York, formerly known by the Viking name of Jorvik, and this should be a book I find fascinating. My introduction to the Vikings was through the Jorvik Viking Museum in York, a museum that seemed impressive 30 years ago and even more so when I last visited in 2014. Despite those visits, I wasn’t sure how much I knew about the Vikings before starting this book. It turns out I knew quite a bit but had forgotten it over the years! Continue reading

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Global Spotlight: Meet Mae from Asia

(This is the first in a series about fair trade artisans around the world. They are all employed by groups partnering with Trades of Hope, with which I’m a Compassionate Entrepreneur. The text in these entries are the words of Trades of Hope. If you purchase any Trades of Hope product after clicking a link in this entry, I receive a commission. Please see my World Changer post for more info.)

Mae from AsiaMae is an artisan in Asia whose parents thought it a waste of time and money for girls to be educated. Only her brothers went to school; Mae would stand outside the school gates, listening and wishing she could learn, too.

Mae was trafficked into brothels to help support her family. Other girls had also been sent to the brothels by their families – none of them had imagined being forced into prostitution!

One day a visitor came by their location to tell her how she could create jewelry for Trades of Hope and earn an honorable living. Mae accepted the offer and is now living in a safe, clean shelter where she is fed and given medical care. Her childhood dreams are even coming true now as she has learned to read, write, use computers, and is currently learning English as part of her free artisan training. She is so thankful to receive an education, but also to be treated as a gifted woman of purpose who can now see her worth for the first time.

handcrafted jewelry from AsiaMae and her fellow artisans make pieces such as the Restoring Hope Necklace and the Holly Necklace, both featured in our Spring 2019 catalog, as well as 4 other necklaces available online: the My Beloved Charm, May Lee, Endurance, and Fay Necklaces.

Your purchases of these products from Asia help this group continue to reach out and pour into young women’s lives. Women who only knew rejection and shame now have hope and community, earning a livable wage in a trade where they are supported and treated with dignity!


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