Category Archives: Vickie McDonough

Review: A Mortal Likeness by Laura Joh Rowland

Title: A Mortal Likeness by Laura Joh Rowland
Victorian Mystery Series Book Two
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Historical, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


A photographer in 1889 London, Miss Sarah Bain runs a private detective agency with her friends, Lord Hugh Staunton and former street urchin Mick O’Reilly. Their sole credential is that they solved the Jack the Ripper case, a secret they can never tell because they did it outside the boundaries of the law. Their new big case arises when a wealthy banker, Sir Gerald Mariner, posts a handsome reward for finding his missing infant. All of London joins in the search. But Sarah has an advantage—a photograph she took during a routine surveillance job, which unexpectedly reveals a clue about the kidnapping.

After Sir Gerald hires Sarah, Hugh, and Mick to find his son, they move into his opulent mansion and discover a photograph of baby Robin. It eerily resembles postmortem photographs taken of deceased children posed to look as if they’re alive. Was the kidnapping real, or a cover-up for a murder? Is the perpetrator a stranger, or someone inside the troubled Mariner family? The case hits close to home for Sarah as it intertwines with her search for her father, who disappeared after he became the prime suspect in a murder twenty-three years ago. She finds herself on the wrong side of the law, which threatens her budding romance with Police Constable Barrett. But Sarah must uncover the truth about Robin’s kidnapping, and her own family, before her past catches up to her in A Mortal Likeness, the gripping follow-up to award-winning author Laura Joh Rowland’s The Ripper’s Shadow.


A Mortal Likeness by Laura Joh Rowland is a twisty turny historical mystery. This second installment in the Victorian Mystery series easily stands on its own, but I highly recommend book one, The Ripper’s Shadow, as well.

Photographer Sarah Bain and her close friend Lord Hugh Staunton are attempting to get their private inquiry business up and running. Their current case involves suspected adultery and while attempting to obtain photographic proof, Sarah and Hugh inadvertently stumble into the middle of a double homicide and a kidnapping case involving a baby. Sir Gerald Mariner, whose son Robin is missing, suspects the kidnapper is someone close to the family so he hires them to investigate. Will Sarah and Hugh uncover the kidnapper’s identity? Will they find Robin before harm befalls the missing boy? And what will the personal fallout be once Sarah’s Police Constable boyfriend, Thomas Barrett, discovers she has not been completely honest with him about her involvement in the case?

Upon their arrival at Sir Gerald’s estate, Hugh and Sarah must investigate a rather large pool of suspects. Robin’s mother, Lady Alexandra is keeping to herself with only her sister Tabitha Jenkins by her side. They also discover Gerald has a bit of a strained relationship with his children from his previous marriages. Oldest son Tristan is a member of the clergy and he is no longer in line to inherit his father’s vast wealth. Seventeen year old daughter Olivia is rather volatile, impetuous and angry with her father for shipping her off to boarding school. Non family members include bodyguard John Pierce who resents Hugh and Sarah’s presence and their investigation. Sarah is deeply suspicious of medium Raphael DeQuincey but just because she believes he is a charlatan does not necessarily mean he is involved in Robin’s disappearance.

Then there is the matter of baby Robin’s last photograph which was taken about six months before his disappearance. Sarah picks up on a bit of an irregularity in the picture that deeply troubles her.  She and Hugh learn some rather disquieting information from the servants that might support Sarah’s suspicions. However, this theory is just one of many they consider throughout their investigation.

A Mortal Likeness is an intriguing mystery with a very perplexing crime to solve. Sarah and Hugh are extremely close but they find themselves at odds throughout their investigation and their friendship becomes precarious as they search for the truth. Sarah is dismayed when her romance with Thomas is threatened when he discovers her involvement in Robin’s case.  Laura Joh Rowland brilliantly keeps readers on the edge of their seats with a dazzling array of stunning twists and turns.  While the current case is completely wrapped up by the novel’s end, Sarah’s discoveries about her long missing father will leave fans breathlessly awaiting the next installment in the Victorian Mystery series.

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Filed under A Mortal Likeness, Crooked Lane Books, Historical, Laura Joh Rowland, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense, Vickie McDonough, Victorian Mystery Series

The Long Trail Home by Vickie McDonough

Title: The Long Trail Home by Vickie McDonough
Texas Trail Series
Publisher: Moody Publishing Inc
Genre: Historical, Inspirational, Romance
Length: 272 pages
Book Rating: B

Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through NetGalley

The Long Trail Home is third in a six-book series about four generations of the Morgan family living, fighting, and thriving amidst a turbulent Texas history spanning from 1845 to 1896. Although a series, each book can be read singularly.

When Riley Morgan returns home after fighting in the War Between the States, he is excited to see his parents and fiancée again. But he soon learns that his parents are dead and the woman he loved is married. He takes a job at the Wilcox School for the blind just to get by. He keeps his heart closed off but a pretty blind woman, Annie, threatens to steal it. When a greedy man tries to close the school, Riley and Annie band together to fight him and fall in love.

But when Riley learns the truth about Annie, he packs and prepares to leave the school that has become his home and the woman who has melted his heart. Will he change his mind and find the love he craves? Or will stubbornness deprive him from the woman he needs?

Through painful circumstances, Riley and Annie learn that the loving and sovereign hand of God cannot be thwarted.

The Review:
The Long Trail Home by Vickie McDonough is a delightful addition to the Texas Trail series. With the Civil War at an end, Riley Morgan returns to Waco, TX. Stunned by the death of his parents and heartbroken over his fiancée’s marriage to another man, he cannot bring himself to live on the ranch. Instead, he works as a handyman at the Wilcox School for the Blind in exchange for room and board where he befriends owner Laura Wilcox and her assistant Annie Sheffield.

Riley is kind and caring man whose life has dealt him many harsh blows. Struggling to put the horrors of war behind him, he quickly settles into a routine at the blind school. He enjoys an easy rapport with Annie, and to his surprise, he finds his feelings for her are deeper than friendship. With the loss of so many of his loved ones, he has lost his faith in God and he closely guards his wounded heart.

Abandoned by her father, Annie Sheffield calls the Wilcox School for the Blind home. She aids Laura in the day to day operations of the school and she cares deeply for the children attending the school. Her feelings for Riley are rapidly evolving from caring to love, but she fears his reaction when she reveals the deep secret she has been harboring.

Laura Wilcox’s need to open her school for the blind came at high cost, but one she has never regretted. With the possibility of losing her school looming, she begins to re-evaluate some of her previous decisions. Like Riley, she too has misplaced her faith in God.

A compelling sermon by a traveling preacher at a revival serves as a catalyst in all the key characters’ lives. Reverend James’s powerful sermon resonates deeply with Riley, Annie, and Laura, and they are finally able to make peace with their respective pasts.

The Long Trail Homeis a complex, multi layered novel. A charming cast of characters and various subplots quickly engage the reader. An underlying message of faith provides The Long Trail Home with added dimension and interest. Vickie McDonough’s epilogue is touching and perfectly wraps up this heartwarming romance.

This review is also posted at The Reader’s Roundtable

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Filed under Historical, Inspirational, Moody Publishing, Rated B, Romance, Texas Trail Series, The Long Trail Home, Vickie McDonough