Book Review: Carols and Chaos by Cindy Anstey


Title: Carols and Chaos
Author: Cindy Anstey
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: October 9, 2018
Genres: Historical, Romance, Young Adult


Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iBooks // Amazon // Indiebound


Carols and Chaos
Cindy Anstey
Swoon Reads, October 2018
ISBN 978-1-250-17487-1
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

A lady’s maid and a valet become entangled in a yuletide counterfeiting scheme in this romantic Christmas YA adventure.

1817. The happy chaos of the Yuletide season has descended upon the country estate of Shackleford Park in full force, but lady’s maid Kate Darby barely has the time to notice. Between her household duties, caring for her ailing mother, and saving up money to someday own a dress shop, her hands are quite full. Matt Harlow is also rather busy. He’s performing double-duty, acting as valet for both of the Steeple brothers, two of the estate’s holiday guests.

Falling in love would be a disaster for either of them. But staving off their feelings for each other becomes the least of their problems when a devious counterfeiting scheme reaches the gates of Shackleford Park, and Kate and Matt are unwittingly swept up in the intrigue. Full of sweetness, charm, and holiday shenanigans, Carols and Chaos is perfect for fans of Jane Austen and Downton Abbey.

I don’t usually start reading Christmas-y books before we’ve even gotten to Halloween and I also don’t usually read romances but something about this one caught my attention and drew me in. Partly, it’s the really appealing cover but perhaps I also had a yen to go back to the Regency era, at one time a favorite period for me. At any rate, I threw caution to the wind and I’m glad I did.

Kate Darby is a nice young woman, not a lady precisely, according to the class distinctions of her time, but she works hard, cares for her mother, and is clever and genuinely friendly. Matt Harlow is hardworking, too, and has a certain kind of loyalty to his position and the family he works for. He and Kate have eyes for each other but, really, they don’t have time right now for such goings-on, especially after it comes to light that some nefarious activity is going on at the manor.

Drama ensues, along with holiday frivolity and the expected dynamics between upstairs and downstairs. I especially appreciated having servants as the main characters rather than the high society folks we generally get and the mystery of the missing footman and perhaps related skulduggery brings Kate and Matt together as quite capable sleuths.

Apparently, Carols and Chaos is a companion or spin-off to another of the author’s books which I haven’t read but I never felt that anything was lacking because of that. More dialogue would be nice, especially between Kate and Matt, but this is a charming lighthearted entry to the holiday season and I recommend it for those who enjoy the Regency era, a bit of romance and a good mystery to solve.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2018.

About the Author

Whenever she is not sitting at the computer, throwing a ball in the backyard, gardening or reading, Cindy can be found–actually, not found–adventuring around the world with her hubby.

She has lived on three continents, had a monkey in her yard and a scorpion under her sink, dwelt among castles and canals, enjoyed the jazz of Beale St and attempted to speak French.

Cindy loves history, mystery and… a chocolate Labrador called Chester.

Author links:
Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads


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Book Review: Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin

Lincoln's Grave RobbersLincoln’s Grave Robbers
Steve Sheinkin
Scholastic Press, January 2013
ISBN 978-0-545-40572-0

As Mr. Sheinkin has just received the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award Winner, 2013 for his, Bomb: The Race to Build—And Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, I fully expected to enjoy his account of criminals’ complications that lead to an attempt to steal Lincoln’s body.  I was not disappointed.

Lincoln’s Grave Robbers is a non-fiction, historical book perfectly suited to Middle Schoolers.  It is not; however, about robbing Lincoln’s grave.  It is about counterfeiting.   I admit, at a blush, I was skeptical.  Do today’s children even comprehend paper currency?  I quickly realized—it doesn’t matter.

Mr. Sheinkin did an outstanding job of “explaining” the counterfeiters’ process.  He covered the importance of the master engraver, the tricks of the trade and how the “coneys” became wealthy using this scheme. We better understand the necessity of a meticulous engraver, as we learn what lengths the “coneys” will go to free revered engraver, Benjamin Boyd, from prison.  When bribery doesn’t work, holding a body for ransom seems like the next best thing.  Enter the plan to steal Lincoln’s body.  Oddly, this was not the first attempt to do so.

Now, the behind-the-scenes look of the planning needed to carry out this heist.   The whole picture.  Not only does the reader follow the criminals’ plan, the Secret Service’s trap to foil the body snatching and put away “coneys” that have eluded them for years, is included.  One blunder and we are reminded that even the best-laid plan can fail.

This small book is packed with historical facts and accounts.  Mr. Sheinkin imparted this wisdom masterfully.  It didn’t even feel like I was learning!  I love, love, love that this book includes a Cast of Characters listing with micro-bios at the front and the Glossary of Phrases at the end.  While I do believe that this book will often be read for pleasure; I see the potential for it to become an asset in certain school classes.  It is my hope that many young folks will be reading about these “coneys” and their quirky ideas.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2013.