Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

My first read of 2020! A book filled with intrigue and murder in 19th century Guatemala City

The Woman on the Windowsill: A Tale of Mystery in Several PartsThe Woman on the Windowsill: A Tale of Mystery in Several Parts by Sylvia Sellers-García

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really loved reading The Woman on the Windowsill: A Tale of Mystery in Several Parts. It reads as an account of life in Guatemala in the 1800s. I appreciate the author’s in-depth analysis of crime, social thought and class/gender divisions within the culture at the time. As I was reading, I found myself considering how much time and effort Sylvia Sellers-García must have spent researching for this book. Her research goes beyond the events surrounding the severed body parts and encompasses many of the aspects of everyday life in Guatemala at the time. Having a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology, I am fascinated by many of the avenues Sellers-García explores when considering gender roles, the concept of violence and the role colonialism played in the formation of Guatemala city’s criminal governance. The descriptions of Guatemala City, the San Juan de Dios Hospital, the residential areas and cemetery help to develop a setting that makes you feel like you are walking through 19th century Guatemala. The brief glimpses of the past from the hospital records and criminal cases also really caught and held my interest as a reader.

The historical information and the evaluation of viewpoints at each stage of the investigation deserves a 4/5 for me on my overall rating of this book. It was historically fascinating to read and taught me many things about Guatemalan history that I was not aware of. On one side, I absorbed all of the intriguing the content in this book, but on the other side, the format left me wanting more of a narrative to keep it cohesive. I will be honest in saying it reads more like an essay or a research paper, than a novel or book. The chapters are almost irrelevant; the last chapter especially deviates too far from the core investigation to keep the narrative cohesive. The epilogue brings it back somewhat, at least in my opinion. I was hoping for more of a narrative fictional or non-fictional from this book which is why I have only given it 4 out of 5 stars.

I would still highly recommend this book to people, especially those who share my passion of history in Central and South America. I have been to Guatemala City and Antigua and The Woman on the Windowsill: A Tale of Mystery in Several Parts really brought me back to recalling my own experience in these cities. I had the opportunity to stay for a night in the home of a resident of Guatemala City. Their home’s vast and elaborate interior was exposed upon entering through large wooden doors fronting an otherwise average street. I recall being amazed at how large and welcoming the home was and how I never would have been able to guess what it held inside just passing by on the street. So I want to thank Sellers-García for bringing back some of those memories for me. I also want to thank NetGalley and Yale University Press so the opportunity to read and review this book!

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A Perfect Summer Read Leaving You Dreaming of the French Riviera

 

Fatal InheritanceFatal Inheritance by Rachel Rhys

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fatal Inheritance checks off ALL of my “summer read” boxes! This story is light-hearted with an adventurous heroine who is off to discover the secret behind her unexpected inheritance. The setting is the delectable French Riviera and the author definitely delivers on character development, plot and setting. The scenery enticed me and left me dreaming of the Mediterranean coastline and the essence of the holiday lifestyle of the elite.

In the beginning, Eve, the main character is slightly naive, trusting and vulnerable. However, through her journey we see a new Eve emerge who is quite audacious and self-sufficient. She meets so many fascinating people along her journey and Eve discovers the world can offer her so much more than she has imagined. I almost envision this novel as a coming of age book; Eve is realizing the world is much bigger and more exciting than she has been lead to believe. The author does a great job at integrating each of the supporting characters into the plot and making them unique and memorable. Noel is brooding and mysterious while at the same time he makes the reader want to know more about him. And don’t even get me started on Sully! I love his quirkiness and his ability to connect everyone who comes in contact with Villa La Perle.

I generally judge a book by the way in which I am captivated by the story as well as how I feel after finishing it. With Fatal Inheritance I was sad to have the story end; I wanted to find out more about Eve’s adventures and what else lies ahead for her. I also read the novel quite quickly which is often a good sign that it is entertaining enough for me to want to keep reading. The plot is full of twists, secrets and excitement. There are dinner parties to attend with famous people whom Eve has never imagined she would ever cross paths with. I also appreciated the theme of “love” throughout; it was definitely something people lost hope in during this time in history.

If you are looking for an enchanting, adventurous read while sitting at the beach this summer, I would highly recommend Fatal Inheritance!

I appreciate being able to read an ARC of Fatal Inheritance and I would like to thank NetGalley and the Publishers Simon & Schuster Canada / Washington Square Press for the opportunity to read and review it.

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A Historical Fiction for Outlander Enthusiasts!

The LairdThe Laird by Virginia Brown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Laird was an unexpected delight to read. I imagine this novel will be scooped up by Outlander and Historical Fiction enthusiasts alike. The characters are complex and genuine. Virginia Brown does an excellent job describing the Scottish history and landscape leaving the reader dreaming about life in the highlands. Judith Lindsay is the heroine of the novel. Judith is a widow and has yet to find a place where she really feels a sense of belonging. Because of her past, Judith sets her expectations high and holds her ground even when she doesn’t have a reason to have hope. The confident and ambitious Robert Campbell is an equal force to reckon with. Rob is determined to stay true to his morals and obligations no matter what the cost. He is limited it seems, only by his physical body, which occasionally fails him.

My one criticism for this novel is the excessive use of figurative language in the first few pages. The flowery prose was a bit unnecessary and as a result the sentences did not flow as naturally as they could. Although, once you trek on past the first few pages the writing style becomes more natural and effortless to read.

Overall I thought The Laird was a wonderful and after reading it, I am excited to delve into more of Virginia Brown’s novels to see what they are like. I would definitely recommend reading this book!

I also want to thank NetGalley and Bell Bridge Books for the opportunity to have an advanced e-book of The Laird to read and review.

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A Moody Fall Read: An Old Manor House, A Tragic Mystery and a Missing Family Heirloom – “The Clockmaker’s Daughter” by Kate Morton

The Clockmaker's DaughterThe Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Expected Publication October 09, 2018

Birchwood Manor is a brooding historic home with more than a few stories to tell. Birdie, one of the main characters acts like a narrator for the story. We get to know fragmented parts of her story but we also get to see all of the other lives inexplicably drawn to the home as well. Throughout the years people have come and gone, each person unknowingly becoming part of the home’s story.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter is my first read by Kate Morton and I have mostly only positive things to say about it. The novel has such a picturesque setting and who doesn’t love a large historic home just waiting for someone to unravel its mysterious past? As readers we get multiple points of view which gives us a birds eye view of Birchwood Manor throughout its history. However, the alternating points of view can also be occasionally difficult to navigate from chapter to chapter. Some reviewers have mentioned that the story was hard to follow, but I actually enjoyed getting to hear all about the lives of each of the characters. I think Morton did an excellent job at navigating the complex plot while still being able to give us enough about each character to be able to connect with them. Some of the branches in the plot did die off, but I didn’t really miss them and did not feel they added to the success of the book overall.

Elodie is another one of the stories main characters and she is easy to connect with right away. She seems like she is a down to earth girl who just gets drawn into the history of Edward Radcliffe and his family’s story. Edward Radcliffe came from a wealthy family and was an aspiring artist. But how did his life become surrounded in tragedy and what caused his seemingly sudden demise? Elodie finds a leather satchel that hides clues to the Radcliffe family’s tragic history and leads Elodie down a path she can’t help but follow.

I would definitely recommend this book to my friends and think it will be a book which will stay in my memory bank for a while.

I want to thank NetGalley and the Publishers Simon & Schuster Canada and Atria Books

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Happy Reading!

Mantelpiece Clock

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2017 Reading Log and Looking Ahead to 2018

Happy New Year! It is officially January 1, 2018. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas Season and I am sure many of you are diligently trying to make a New Years Resolution for the year ahead. For those of you who have followed along with me, I have challenged myself to READ50 books each year. Every year I set the goal at 50 with hopes to well surpass that goal. In addition, I also set a general goal for myself to improve the literature I chose as well as what I do with the information gained once I have read each book. See below for my READ list from 2017, 60 books in total. Feel free to also follow me on Goodreads if you want to see what I am currently reading or find a review on many of the books I read in 2017. https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/38629860-adrienne-b

2017 was the first year I joined NetGalley and delved into the world of online reading and reviewing ARC books (Advanced Reader Copies). The draw of free pre-publication books was compelling but with the free ebooks also comes a sense of obligation to give an “honest” but well written review. For me this has been a challenge for sure. Some books are just not well written or full of unnecessary plot complications. With NetGalley your review (good or bad) goes right to the Publisher and if they want they can also contact you back. The thought of a publisher reading my review can be intimidating to me. However, the feedback I have received in the process has been complimentary and usually just an attempt from the Publisher or Author to have to spread the word as much as you can about their upcoming novel. If you are interested in the book reviewing side of the great world of books, you can join NetGalley here: https://www.netgalley.com Amongst hundreds of Auto-Approved books, there are also books that have to be requested. Join prepared to be declined as well. Some publishers will only approve those who have a large blog following and/or can prove they have more than several thousand followers. 

If you are more of a quick, casual book reviewer, I would recommend starting with GoodReads, Amazon and/or Chapters/Indigo’s websites first. Chapters/Indigo even gives you plum points for every review you provide which is a great incentive to post on their website. 

One of my lofty goals for 2018 is to convince my 10 year old son to start recording some of the books he is reading. I might even get him to include a quick review or jot down some thoughts on how he liked or disliked the books he is reading. He loves the The 39 Clues Series and is on to the 2nd Series The 39 Clues: Cahills Vs. Vespers. He is also into the Bone Series books by Jeff Smith right now too. Fingers crossed that on my next post you will hear a bit about what my son has been reading in 2018 too!!

My READ50 + List 2017

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Happy Reading in 2018!

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Fall Reading and New Releases

If you need a few book recommendations, here are a few new books that are my most recent reads:

Glass Houses by Louise Penny 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35197712-glass-houses

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The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor 

Release Date August 01, 2017

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32600721-the-cottingley-secret?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

“Because the world was still at war, we needed to believe in something better. In that moment, and perhaps for much longer, it seemed to me that the possibility of believing in fairies was more important that one little girl telling the truth.” – The Cottingley Secret, Hazel Gaynor

32600721

The Last Piece of My Heart by Paige Toon

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UPDATE: Now that I have read the entire novel, I would definitely recommend picking up a copy of this book this Fall. It is fun and energetic. You will warm to Bridget’s character quickly and her emotions feel authentic. Definitely a must read!

Original Post: So far so good! I have only read the Prologue and the first three chapters but I am left wanting more! I hope Bridget’s story continues along the path of being exciting and fun with hint of romance. There is a small chance that the plot of this novel will be predictable but as it is my first time reading a novel by Paige Toon I cannot say for sure one way or the other. I can say that so far the first three chapters are entertaining, convincing and witty and that Paige Toon’s novel has drawn me in. I can’t wait to read The Last Piece of My Heart in its entirety. Thank-you also to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for the opportunity to read a pre-release teaser of the novel. https://read50.wordpress.com/2017/05/25/light-summer-reading-and-spring-2017-new-releases

In the Midst of WinterIn the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende
Expected Publication October 31, 2017
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Richard, Lucia and Evelyn’s lives collide and intertwine in a way that none of them could have predicted. Richard, a man who struggling with his own inner demons is forced into a situation where he needs to react, make decisions and take control of his own happiness. Lucia is a feisty woman who is originally from Chile but has carved a life out for herself in Brooklyn, NY. Lucia is an optimist who is always able to help those around her but when it comes to making decisions for herself she is unusually hesitant. Evelyn is a young woman from Guatemala who has struggled and been forced to see and experience things that no one should ever have to endure. An unexpected accident thrusts these three individuals together into a journey it seems only lifetime could have prepared them for.

I really appreciated Isabel Allende’s newest novel In the Midst of Winter. She dug deep into the hearts of what would otherwise be unremarkable people. She took an underpaid young house maid and gave her a history that is unimaginable but real at the same time.

Allende also explores some BIG, real social and political events in Latin American history. I might argue that one of these events would be enough for the novel. In the Midst of Winter tackles three characters each with very different and very tragic lives. At times some of the political events got lost in transition for me. I found myself stopping to think about which thread was being described, which country and which character.

The beginning of the novel was very good in my opinion. It drew me in and kept my attention. Once the action began for the conflict I was reading quickly and cared less about how Richard, Evelyn and Lucia resolved their situation. The climax seemed rushed, almost like you could see the author writing and someone over their shoulder saying, “alright, now resolve and finish this novel in 5 pages or less”.

However, there are too many good elements to this story for me to give it less than a four. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to my friends and I think it would be excellent for a book club.
***I also want to thank NetGalley and the Publisher for the chance to read a pre-release copy of this book.

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Mystery and Intrigue in London in the 1800s

Just a quick book review if you are looking for a recommendation for some light reading this April! A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain is a time-shift historical fiction available April 11, 2017.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30334200-a-twist-in-time?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

A Twist in Time is chock-full of mystery and secrecy in upper class British society. The novel which takes place against the backdrop of London in the 1800s is a surprisingly good read! When I read the description I was expecting it to be a bit like Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict but this book was far better!

Julie McElwain gives us a vivid view of life in 1815. Kendra Donovan the heroine of the series struggles to accept that she has been dropped somehow in 1815 and is thrown into a series of murder investigations. The literary is style engaging and Kendra’s character is confident and adventurous. The plot of “A Twist in Time” keeps up a good pace moving from scene to scene and I didn’t feel like there were any long and drawn out sections. Some time-shift novels have an heightened sense of implausibility but because Kendra has chose to trust the Duke of Aldridge and his nephew Alec with her secret, it somehow makes her presence in the 1800s more plausible. I also appreciated the author changing the point-of-view intermittingly from Kendra to some of the other characters to allow for differing perspectives. Kendra Donovan is an intelligent, solid and delightful heroine and I cannot wait to read more about her adventures.

I also want to thank NetGalley and Pegasus Books for a pre-release copy of the book to read and review.

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The Final Countdown

Happy Holidays! It’s the last month for my 2015 READ50 challenge and I only have 3 more books to go!

I have finished up the last published books in the C.S. Harris series Sebastian St. Cyr. I really enjoyed all of these books. At the core of each of the stories is a little piece of true British and/or French history as well as some conspiracy theories which the author uses as inspiration for her fictional tales. The historical aspects of the novels are what draw me in and the author does a good job at making the events in the story seem historically believable.

I would classify this series as solidly in the Historical Fiction genre but leaning slightly towards Mystery. Romance is not prevalent in the themes of these novels but rather they are mysteries full of revenge, conspiracy and murder. Some threads in the storyline progress very slowly and leave me wishing there was more development to Sebastian and Hero’s characters from novel to novel. I find as a reader I only get tiny bits of what Sebastian and Hero are thinking. Furthermore, Hero plays a very small role in the last few novels. It would be nice if she came more to the forefront in the next book(s) in the series because I think she has the makings of a strong heroine.

C. S. Harris’ next book in the Sebastian St. Cyr series, When Falcons Fall, is scheduled to be published March 01, 2016. If you are looking for a good mystery series I highly recommend these books. For those in the Leduc Public Library system you usually have to request the books as they all seem to be scattered around Alberta rather than one library holding the entire series.

P.S. Random fact: The author C.S. Harris is just a pen name and the author’s real name is Candice Proctor. She also pens under the name C.S. Graham for a Thriller Series. http://www.csharris.net/author.php

47 ~ Who Buries the Dead by C. S. Harris

  • Beheadings, Slave Traders and Murder

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18590094-who-buries-the-dead?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

46 ~ Why King’s Confess by C. S. Harris

  • Lost Dauphin, Peace talks between France and England, French Revolution

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18114102-why-kings-confess?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

45 ~ When Maiden’s Mourn by C. S. Harris

  •  Camelot, Lady of Shallot, Murder of Upper Class Maiden

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11879594-when-maidens-mourn?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

44 ~ Where Shadows Dance by C. S. Harris

  •  International Politics, Natural vs. Unnatural Death, Lies and Diplomacy

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8450509-where-shadows-dance?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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READ50 Books ~ 40, 41, 42 and 43

It’s not long now until 2015 is over! Christmas is coming up quickly! Some of the books leading up to the end of my READ50 list are: The Bee Keepers Apprentice by Laurie R. King, The Painted Lady by David Ashton, Who Buries the Dead, When Maidens Mourn, Why Kings Confess (all by C. S. Harris).

43 ~ Recipes for Love and Murder: A Tannie Maria Mystery by Sally Andrew

LOVED it! I think this novel just made my top 5 books for 2015. I thought the idea of blending food and recipes with a strong female heroine were the perfect mix. Tannie Maria is a superb character. I envy her forcefulness and her desire to make the most out of her life. Tannie Maria goes through a tough marriage and comes out a better person; through her experiences she is able to discover what she is passionate about. Her concern for those around her also seems very genuine. Sally Andrews does an excellent job at portraying life in the small village in South Africa. Tannie Maria lives in the Klein Karoo in a remote house where she enjoys testing new recipes, feeding her chickens and sitting on her deck with a coffee while watching the wildlife. To make some money, Tannie Maria is happy working for the Gazette writing a food column only to have her column changed to a love AND food advice column. She starts to receive all sorts of letters from readers asking for love advice and in return Tannie Maria writes back with honest love advice along with recipes which she believes will help their situations. Tannie Maria believes that different foods can help different situations and she is constantly cooking and bringing people food. BUT don’t be tricked by all my talk of food, there is a murder mystery underneath all the yummy cooking. It takes the whole village to work together to solve the murder(s) and even a few handsome police officers.

Definitely you should read this book!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26010158-recipes-for-love-and-murder

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2874812.Sally_Andrew

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1435836813

https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/38629860-adrienne-b

42 ~ What Remains of Heaven by C. S. Harris (Book #5 Sebastian St. Cyr Series)

I have been really enjoying this series. A mystery with a little bit of suspense and romance thrown in; I can’t wait to get to the next books.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6423507-what-remains-of-heaven

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/22067.C_S_Harrishttps://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1435834404

41 ~ The Next Always by Nora Roberts (Book 1 of Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy)

Not horrible, but a 3 star. This novel has a great cover which piqued my interest but the storyline felt a bit forced and elaborated. The descriptions of the Inn were in-depth to say the least and the stalker Sam felt like he was added in as an afterthought to add drama. A quick read and a feel good novel but fell a bit short for me on content. Interesting to find out that Nora Roberts and her husband actually renovated and own the Inn.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10305231-the-next-always?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

40 ~ Where Serpents Sleep by C. S. Harris (Book #4 Sebastian St. Cyr Series)

A fun easy read. Not a romance really, more of a mystery/detective novel. I read the first book in the series and didn’t love it but decided to give it another chance. Just starting book #5. I appreciated that there was enough mystery and action to keep to me interested and wanting to find out who was killing everyone and why. The story has Hero Jarvis, who is very independent and an early feminist type character. She claims that she does not want to get married but would not mind having children of her own if she could without society rejecting her. She follows class protocol most of the time but occasionally throws it off to accomplish her own agenda. Secondly there is Sebastian who is trying to recover from his heartbreak with Kat. He is not ready for a relationship either but he and Hero work well together in solving the murders.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3142581-where-serpents-sleep?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

 

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The Other Daughter, Circling the Sun and Orphan #8 (37, 38, 39)

39 ~ Orphan #8 by Kim van Alkemade

I found this book a bit tough to get through. I was intrigued by the historical plot of Jewish Orphans but quickly realized it was in fact quite horrible for the orphans at the Hebrew Infant Asylum (Hebrew Infant Home in the novel). I don’t mind learning about history but I found each time the novel had a flashback to Rachel Rabinowitz’s life at the Orphan Home I wanted to skim read. Experimentation on children and the lifelong impact on the children’s general wellbeing is hard to read about. I remember not thinking much of Rachel’s description of her bright red hair until mid book when I realized what that was foreshadowing (the permanent loss of hair due to excessive X-rays). Orphan #8 was also a great deal more historical than cultural, as a reader I wanted a bit more of the Jewish heritage to come through.

On a side note, I agree with other reviewers on the fact that Rachel’s love life didn’t seem to fit the story. Rachel’s history is complex enough with the murder of her mother and Rachel and her brother being sent to the Hebrew Infant Home, therefore, I’m not sure if her being a lesbian really adds to her overall character development. I would have liked to hear more about her relationship with her brother and possibly any other connections from her childhood experiences that she carried with her into adulthood.

Orphan #8 manages to capture a dark time in history and I think because of its uniqueness it is very memorable.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23287179-orphan-number-eight

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6306189.Kim_van_Alkemade

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1361928222

https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/38629860-adrienne-b

38~ Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Circling the Sun was a pleasant surprise. I had previously read  The Paris Wife also by Paula McLain and not really liked much about it. I gave this novel a try because I love historical fiction and the plot of British ex-pats in colonial Africa really intrigued me. Circling the Sun is a historical novel which bases its plot on the life and events of Beryl Markham in a fictional way.

Beryl Markham was not only the first female to fly solo over the Atlantic from Europe but she was also many other things. Beryl was a farmer, a horse trainer, a wife, a pilot and later in life, an author. She was an independent thinker and very ambitious. Raised on a farm in Kenya by her father, Beryl learned to fend for herself even after consecutive failures. She wrote a memoir about all of her adventures in 1942 but it was not well received at the time. Her memoir West with the Night wouldn’t become popular until it was re-released in 1983, 3 years before Beryl’s death.

If you are intrigued by the life of Beryl Markham I would highly suggest reading Circling the Sun.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23995231-circling-the-sun

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/290189.Paula_McLain

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1420520244

37 ~ The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig

A short and easy read but still an enjoyable novel. The plot was unique for this genre but the romantic interests weren’t entirely convincing. Not much to review on this book but the plot could be summaries as:

-Rachel finds out that she is actually the daughter of an Earl and resorts to a disguise to gain herself access to the family.

-She is befriended by Simon who hopes to further his own agenda by helping Rachel confront her father.

-Rachel soon finds herself in the midst of many family secrets as she discovers half siblings and extended family that were previously unbeknownst to her.

-The illusion of a love triangle seems to shatter leaving an opening for Rachel to swoop in and claim her happy ending.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23014679-the-other-daughter?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

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