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For every woman who’s had to choose between the secrets that protect her and the people she loves the most…
Katherine Arthur and her family are back and it’s time to collect the money Mrs. Mellet left them in her will. The tidy sum will allow the family peace of mind and a future that’s stable and fulfilling. But when things don’t go exactly as planned, Katherine steps up to do more than her share. Hired as a kitchen mistress, her intuition (with the help of a mysterious recipe book), cooking prowess, and work ethic make her the perfect partner for the enigmatic, wealthy woman next door. Then Aleksey Zurchenko arrives.
Violet Pendergrass is a well-heeled, progressive woman with half a fortune in one hand and a plan for enduring prosperity in the other. Resourceful, shrewd, and tough, Violet doesn’t realize her one and only weakness leaves her vulnerable as she attempts to solidify her independence. She sees unparalleled value in Katherine’s gifts and does her best to keep the girl close, to keep her true work secret from her mother and the world.
Katherine’s loyalties to her mother and Violet grow strained and soon her commitment to both frays even further as her feelings for Aleksey grow. Katherine must decide if pursuing her work with the formidable Violet and protecting her family are more important than following love. Can she do it all? Love, hope, joy, secrets buried in walls and hearts; all are threatened by those who claim to care about the Arthurs. Can Katherine separate what’s right and true from what it takes to survive? Are they even different things?
The Last Letter Series of novels by Kathleen Shoop is set in the Midwest of America in the late 19th and early 20th century. Shoop takes readers on an emotional journey through love, loss and redemption. Inspired by family letters, the novels pull from historical events and places and feature the life and times of the fictional Arthur family as they make their way in the world.
The Kitchen Mistress Review
I jumped into this series at book two and was excited when this one was ready for reviews! My husband opened it up, saw that it was over 700 pages, and just shook his head at me. He knew I was gone for a few days!! I curled up on a rainy weekend and took myself back in time. The historical aspect to this series envelopes you with such detail that it feels like you’re literally watching while hovering above all of the characters.
Jeanie and her family have been through some of the most difficult and painful situations. Just when you feel like they can’t take any more, the family is dealt the hand of being homeless and struggling to obtain the basics needs of life. A bit of hope comes in Miss Violet’s offer of a place to live and work but as with everything in life, there are still complications that come along with it.
I loved how Kathleen Shoop takes the time period and wraps it into an intriguing story about a young woman who is wise beyond her years. She’s had a hard life but in each tribulation, I feel this young woman blossoms even more into her own self – including finding a special gift that could rip her family apart even more or possibly bring them closer. Only time will tell!
The Kitchen Mistress pulled a lot of things together for me as well as opened new doors. The anticipation is almost unbearable for the next in the series!
I received this book to review through Beck Valley Books Book Tours, all the opinions below are 100% my own.
“Kathleen Shoop is a master of emotional depth and creativity.” – K.C.Finn, Readers’ Favorite Reviewer
“The Kitchen Mistress is a beautiful story beautifully told. Kathleen Shoop is a master storyteller with a great gift for the first-person narrative, a voice she harnesses so well to create a dramatic effect on readers… One of the things I enjoyed about Shoop’s writing is her mastery of the conflict. It is introduced very early in the narrative and it escalates pretty fast. I read the story nonstop, waiting eagerly for the satisfying denouement.” — Romuald Dzemo for Readers’ Favorite
“The Kitchen Mistress is a beguiling story, with characters that feel so real the reader could almost believe they walk the same road with them. The protagonist has a complex world to navigate and it is interesting to see how she deals with her secrets, faces the challenges of her relationships and her work, and how she connects to herself. The Kitchen Mistress is delicately written, with a beautifully imagined plot, great prose, and memorable characters. I was seduced by the expert writing and could not stop reading until the last page.” — Arya Fomonyuy for Readers’ Favorite
In the summer of 1905 Katherine Arthur’s mother arrives on her doorstep, dying, forcing her to relive a past she wanted to forget. When Katherine was young, the Arthur family had been affluent city dwellers until shame sent them running for the prairie, into the unknown. Taking her family, including young Katherine, to live off the land was the last thing Jeanie Arthur had wanted, but she would do her best to make a go of it. For Jeanie’s husband Frank it had been a world of opportunity. Dreaming, lazy Frank. But, it was a society of uncertainty–a domain of natural disasters, temptation, hatred, even death.
Ten-year-old Katherine had loved her mother fiercely, put her trust in her completely, but when there was no other choice, and Jeanie resorted to extreme measures on the prairie to save her family, she tore Katherine’s world apart. Now, seventeen years later, and far from the homestead, Katherine has found the truth – she has discovered the last letter. After years of anger, can Katherine find it in her heart to understand why her mother made the decisions that changed them all? Can she forgive and finally begin to heal before it’s too late?
**Independent Publisher Awards**
2011 Gold Medal, Best Regional Fiction-Midwest
**National Indie Excellence Book Awards**
2011 Finalist Award-Historical Fiction
2011 Finalist Award-Regional Fiction
**USA Best Books 2011 Awards**
Finalist, Best New Fiction
**International Book Awards**
2011 Finalist Award-Historical Fiction
2011 Finalist Award-Best New Fiction
1891—Living separately for three years, fourteen-year-old twins, Katherine and Tommy Arthur, have done their best to make each boarding house feel like home. But unrest grows as they are driven to questionable actions just to survive. Meanwhile their desperate mother is confronted with breaking yet another promise to her children. Then a miracle descends. Hope rises on a cold, rainy night and changes everything. If Jeanie could just get word to Katherine and Tommy, she knows she can set their lives right again. Agitators, angels, and dangerous “saviors” illuminate the Arthurs’ unmatched determination and smarts.
1905—Though she tries to forget the awful years that hurt so much, the memories still haunt Katherine. Now, tearful mourners at her mother’s funeral force her to revisit a time in her life that both harmed and saved her in the most unexpected ways. Tommy grieves his mother’s passing as well. He too is thrust backward, compelled to rediscover the events in his life that shaped the man he has become. Will he commit to reconstructing his broken life? The Arthurs come to understand that forgiveness is the only way back to hope, the only way to find all that was good in the misfortune that transformed their lives forever.
The Family Letters
Luckily for author Kathleen Shoop, her ancestors kept hold of letters that are now between 100 and 120 years old. The first set of letters was handed down to Shoop from her mother. They appear in the collection called My Dear Frank. They are sweet and hopeful love letters written to Frank Arthur from his then-fiancé, Jeanie Scouller. My Dear Frank only contains Jeanie’s letters to Frank, as his were lost or destroyed at some point. However, for readers who love to bask in the past, Jeanie’s letters make it easy to understand much of what Frank had said, as she responds as quickly as she possibly could. (Read more about My Dear Frank.)
The second set of letters, Love From Mama, was written in the early 20th century. This collection is larger than the love letters as it contains correspondence by Jeanie, Frank, her children, some friends and also relatives. This non-fiction look into the past is a treasure for anyone who loves history in its raw, but real form! (Coming Soon)
About Kathleen Shoop
Bestselling author, Kathleen Shoop, holds a PhD in reading education and has more than 20 years of experience in the classroom. She writes historical fiction, women’s fiction and romance. Shoop’s novels have garnered various awards in the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY), Eric Hoffer Book Awards, Indie Excellence Awards, Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Readers’ Favorite and the San Francisco Book Festival. Kathleen has been featured in USA Today and the Writer’s Guide to 2013. Her work has appeared in The Tribune-Review, four Chicken Soup for the Soul books and Pittsburgh Parent magazine. Kathleen coordinates Mindful Writing Retreats and is a regular presenter at conferences for writers.
I adore writing historical fiction (The Letter series, After the Fog and Donora Stories that are coming soon!) but am having a blast writing romance like Home Again, Return to Love and Tending Her Heart (Endless Love series). Thank you so much for the time you take to read.
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