Book Review│The Undertaker’s Assistant by Amanda Skenandore

undertakerAs Effie explains when she’s asked how she can be an undertaker’s assistant, ““The dead can’t hurt you. Only the living can.” So sets the mood for this wonderfully dark, pervasive novel set amongst a strenuous time in our nation’s history. Effie Jones is a former slave living and working in New Orleans, a place as dark and mysterious as much of the mood of this novel is. Living now, as a freedwoman, Effie is navigating her new life and her return to life in the South as she works for a white undertaker who does not share her skills that she acquired from a Union soldier and is fighting the urge to rekindle her old life and the ties she lost to her own family.

New Orleans

While slavery is now a piece of the past, the racial tensions that are building in New Orleans are not. Effie is among many who are now living as freed people in the southern city and for many, this is not always acceptable. For Effie, there is also an overbearing sense of loss both in her identity and within her ties to her family that was lost in the upheaval of slavery. It is within her past that Effie will also find her new beginnings.

New Orleans serves as a wonderful backdrop for such a turbulent time because New Orleans is itself dark and turbulent. The city really lends itself to the morose overtones that dominate much of the novel. Together, the setting and the political battles that are igniting through the racial tensions created by the end of slavery lend to a well-charted plot and inevitable end.

Racial Tension

The tension between white and black citizens exists throughout the book. People such as Effie are struggling to find their place in the world outside of slavery.  Effie has two encounters with a charismatic state legislator named Samson Greene, and a beautiful young Creole, Adeline that slightly change her course. Up until then, Effie stayed distant from the other girls in her boarding house and had no interest in getting involved in the politics of the city. However, her chance encounters change Effie and bring her into the world of activism and politicism which leads her into her own search for the family that she had long buried in her memories.

The Undertaker’s Assistant by Amanda Skenandore is as much a wonderfully written historical fiction piece as it is the story of one woman’s coming of age in a turbulent part of our nation’s story. The novel is a bit slow in the beginning, but once you get into the meat of the novel, you become invested in the political turmoil, the mystique of the city of New Orleans and in Effie and the characters that she meets and encounters along her own journey.

Book Information

The Undertaker’s Assistant by Amanda Skenandore is scheduled to be released on July 30, 2019, from Kensington Books with ISBN 9781496713681. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was received from the publisher in exchange for this review. To be linked to special pre-order pricing, click the link above!

Book Review │ Unleashed by Diana Palmer

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I was probably a little too young when I first read a Diana Plamer book. I had to have been about 13 or 14 when I fished Magnolia out of a bag of books my grandmother had given to my mom. At that point, I had just started to write and I loved romances. I would just get lost in them and Palmer’s Magnolia did not disappoint. I fell in love with her writing and the steamy romances she whipped up with brooding, handsome men and the strong women they all always seemed to fall in love with. I went on to read all of her mercenary books and dove right into her Long, Tall Texan series of which, Unleashed is number 47 in the series.

Palmer does not disappoint us with her reserved, brooding and strong characters that she is known for. We meet Colter, a man that has been spending his time with women that he knows will never be much of anything. No woman really encapsulates him until he notices his assistant, Clancy who is battling a dark past of her own. Her brother is in jail for having hurt her in his attack on their younger brother. She is terrified that he will be released. She is also pretty smitten with Colter even though he’s not completely into her yet, as he has lingering feelings for his best friend’s former fiancee.

However, the chemistry and drama begin to burn between Colter and Clancy in a way that only Diana Palmer can deliver. The loves scenes are steamy and built with a sensuality that is exclusive to Diana Palmer novels wherein Colter is the older, experienced man while Clancy is blossoming into her own. Paralleled with the few violent scenes that are also present in the novel, Unleashed delivers to its readers a sultry read filled with drama and violence that leave you rooting for Colter and Clancy as the novel works towards its fitting end.

Unleashed (Long, Tall Texans Book 47) by Diana Palmer will be available for purchase on June 25, 2019, with ISBN 9781335659989 from Harlequin. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was provided by the publisher in exchange for this review.

Book Review: The Southern Side of Paradise by Kristy Woodson Harvey

the-southern-side-of-paradise-9781982116620_lgWhen I had received this galley, I was not aware that I was part of a series. The Southern Side of Paradise is actually the final installment of the Peachtree Bluff Series which focuses on a mother, Ansley and her three daughters: Caroline, Sloane and Emerson as they divide their time between New York City and Georgia. Each are struggling in terms of their relationships: Ansley is engaged to the love of a her, a man that she left when she was young while Caroline has discovered that her husband James has been cheating on her and Sloane is dealing with her injured husband who is back from being captured during the war.

While the first two installments of the Peachtree Bluff Series focused on the stories of the older sisters, The Southern Side of Paradise is narrated by the youngest daughter, Emerson, who is an actress with a flair for the dramatic. This installment is her story. I think her being the youngest of the girls, made the narration seem whiney and immature in parts, but it didn’t take away from the overall feel of the book. It just made for the story to be more believable since this was the story of a young woman who was beginning to find her own way.

Without having read the first two books in the Peachtree Bluff Series, I did find myself somewhat lost in reading the last book. I did not fully understand all of the conflicts and relationships as well as I could have had I had the background of the first two installments. However, The Southern Side of Paradise, was a light read that immediately plunged me into the world of the Murphy girls and their lives and adventures. After reading this installment, it made me want to go back and read the first two books so that I could not only better understand, but more so fully enjoy the lovely Southern town that Kristy Woodson Harvey created for her characters.

This was a quick read that really put me into that summer mindset. I am ready to find my own pool and big hat and enjoy the heat.

The Southern Side of Paradise by Kristy Woodson Harvey is scheduled for release on May 7, 2019 from Gallery Books with ISBN 9781982122096. This review was created using a pre-release electronic galley of the book from the publisher.