Category: Book Review

Book Review | The Captivating Lady Charlotte by Carolyn Miller

Captivating!

Lady Charlotte Featherington is entering her first London season, where she attracts the attention of several men, including the handsome and flirtatious Lord Markham, and the widowed and mysterious Duke of Hartington. She is certainly capitvating—if a little vapid and immature. However, this is Regency romance, where all the best girls were married off at the age of eighteen, so it’s not surprising that she’s that awkward teenage mix of shallow and insightful.

Charlotte is determined to marry for love.

Her parents (for reasons I didn’t quite understand) choose the widowed Duke for her. Yes, he’s a much better choice than Markham, who is the typical sophisticated and disreputable Regency rake. But he’s friends with Charlotte’s brother, which leads her to think he’s a worthy suitor (yes, immature. Although perhaps her brother should pick his friends more carefully …).

The Duke of Hartington is certainly captivated by Lady Charlotte, despite her outward resemblance to his late unlamented wife. (She might have been more lamented if she hadn’t been quite so obvious about her extramarital activities.) This did lead me to wonder why Hartington was attracted to her—I’d have thought he’d have sought a wife who wasn’t attractive enough to be tempted to wander.

The result of this was that I found the first half of the book a little confusing. But the second half was much better as we (and Lady Charlotte) get to know the Duke of Hartington better. We see his observation and consideration—he’s the only person who notices she doesn’t like champagne and brings her lemonade instead. We also see Charlotte’s character develop, which I liked.

There are three strengths to Carolyn Miller’s writing. First is the historical accuracy.

I’ve read two novels recently where the heroines travelled north to get from Bath to London. Even the most inaccurate map shows London and Bath are roughly east-west. If you’re travelling north (or south), you’re going the wrong way. Simple errors like this pull me out of a story, but I had no such moments with The Captivating Lady Charlotte.

Second, I love Carolyn Miller’s witty dialogue.

Like most readers, the two authors who introduced me to Regency romance were Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer (of course, if Jane Austen ever put a genre to her writing, she would have called it contemporary romance). Austen and Heyer are both known for their intelligent female characters, and their witty dialogue. Carolyn Miller is a worthy successor.

But the main reason I love Carolyn Miller’s novels is because of the way she naturally integrates the Christian faith into her novels.

Hartington has an active Christian faith which is important to him—which is one of the reasons his first wife’s betrayal hit him so hard. We see him live his faith, and we see Lady Charlotte observe him and see there is more to Christianity than the cultural aspect of being seen to go to the right church.

The Captivating Lady Charlotte is the sequel to The Elusive Miss Ellison. It can easily be read as a standalone novel, although those who have read Miss Ellison’s story will enjoy seeing more of her story—especially the way she and her husband influence both the Duke and Lady Charlotte.

Overall, recommended for those who enjoy Christian Regency romance.

Thanks to the author for providing a free book for review. A real book, which she posted to New Zealand!

‘My Daughter’s Legacy’ Blog Tour, Author Chat Party, and Giveaway

Meet two women in different eras but both with unfailing conviction in Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould’s new book, My Daughter’s Legacy. Therese Jennings cannot abide the thought of owning slaves. But when trouble befalls her family, can she reconcile her obligations with her beliefs? Nicole Talbot’s life is back on track after years of substance abuse. But when facts she uncovers cast doubt on her family’s legacy, she must risk all that she’s gained—her fresh start, her family’s trust, and her growing relationship with a new man—to unlock the secrets of the past.

Celebrate the release of Mindy and Leslie’s new book by entering to win the $75 Visa Cash Card Giveaway (details below) and by attending their author chat party on August 1!

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • One copy of My Daughter’s Legacy
  • One $75 Visa Cash Card

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 1. The winner will be announced at the My Daughter’s Legacy Facebook party. RSVP for a chance to connect with Mindy, Leslie, and other readers, as well as for a chance to win other prizes!

RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via social media and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 1st!

My Review

My Daughter’s Legacy is a split timeline novel with elements of both romance and suspense. It starts in the present with Nicole Talbot, who has just finished her first year of college … after a long stint in rehab. She is now going home for the summer, staying with her sister, and working as an equine therapy intern at a nearby equestrian centre.

A secret, a body, and a missing manuscript.

Nicole has a secret—something her deceased grandfather said she could never tell anyone. She knows it’s time to tell the truth, but she’s also worried that no one will believe her, especially not Nana, the family matriarch. As an ex-drug addict, she has a well-earned reputation for lying.

When she gets home, Nicole finds she’s not the only one with secrets. Her sister and aunt have been undertaking some family history research which may shed light on Nicole’s secret … but unearths a whole new set of questions about the body they found as children, which subsequently disappeared.

We then switch to the Civil War era.

This is Therese’s story (Nicole’s great-great-great-great grandmother. Plus or minus a great). Therese lives in the South, but her father was a prominent abolitionist, and she shares his views. She takes a job as a governess in Richmond. She also undertakes volunteer work at the local hospital where her friend, Polly Talbot, volunteers. Here she meets Polly’s handsome Northern cousin, Dr Alec Talbot, and also comes into contact with Polly’s brother, Michael, her teenage crush.

Although My Daughter’s Legacy is part of the Cousins of the Dove series, this is the first book I’ve read.

There were references to past events that read as though they’d been covered in more detail in previous books. I haven’t read them (although now I want to!), and I don’t think that was any loss, as I found it easy to pick up the story. There was also a nice summary at the end which rounded out the series.

A dual timeline story can be hard to read.

This is simply because there is one character or story I enjoy better than the other. I often find it hard to relate to the modern character. This is usually because the modern character has some issues that are self-inflicted, but there is no real acknowledgement that they are the author of their own problems:

My Daughter's Legacy

That was the thing I liked about Nicole. She knew she had problems. And she knew whose fault the problems were. Her own. And she was working hard to overcome those problems.

In contrast, many of Therese’s problems—internal and external—were the result of the Civil War and not knowing who she could trust. These are common conflicts in Civil War-era fiction, and meant it took me a little longer to warm to her as a character. What kept me engaged were the fascinating insights into Civil War America. For example the concept that working in a hospital was men’s work, and that hospitals were only for the destitute. Gentlemen were looked after at home.

But in the end, both stories delivered both in terms of suspense and in terms of romance.

Now I’m off to buy the first two books in the Cousins of the Dove series: My Brother’s Crown, and My Sister’s Prayer.

Thanks to Harvest House, Litfuse Publicity, and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

The Writing Desk

Book Review: The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck

Rachel Hauck’s most recent novels have all featured a present-day romance and a historical romance, with something that connects the two.

No prizes for guessing what the connection is in The Writing Desk …

In the present, Tenley Roth has just won a major writing award, but she’s convinced she’s only won because she’s the great-great-granddaughter of the author for whom the award is named. Not to mention that she’s just a hack who wrote a romance novel, and she’s exactly zero words into the manuscript that’s due in less than three months. And now she’s in Florida, caring for her estranged mother as Blanche recovers from chemo.

In 1902, Bridie Shehorn has recently graduated from Wellesley. Now Mama insists she marry and move into her rightful role as leader of the Four Hundred. Mama even has a groom picked out—Alphonse, who is from a good family, suitably rich, yet far too fond of the ladies. And he’s not Eli, the handsome Earl who is back in New York after serving in the Boer War.

I have to say that at the beginning, I was a lot more intrigued by Bridie’s story than by Tenley’s.

Most of Tenley’s problems appeared self-inflicted. She’s got an almost-fiance she stays with for no known reason, and a bad case of writers block made worse by constant lying to her agent and editor. On the other hand, Bridie’s problems were mostly caused by a controlling Mama whose idea of good parenting was to do what was best for Mama with little or no regard for anyone else. Bridie least of all.

But I grew more and more interested in Tenley’s story as the novel progressed.

She befriends Jonas, who has the large, close-knit family she always dreamed of, and begins to investigate his Christian faith. Yes, this is Christian romance, although the faith aspects are subtle to the point a reader might not even notice.

Bridie had her own subtle faith journey as well, although the focus of her story was more on her impending marriage, and her writing. Yes, Bridie was also a writer. I thought I’d picked up the connection between Tenley and Bridie early on (and the twist), but there was a lot more to the connection.

Recommended for those who enjoy dual-timeline stories.

Thanks to Zondervan and NetGalley for providing an ebook for review.

About Rachel Hauck

Author Photo Rachel HauckRachel Hauck is an award winning, New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author.

Her book The Wedding Dress was named Inspirational Novel of the Year by Romantic Times. She is a double RITA finalist, a Christy and Carol Award Winner.

Rachel sits on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers, and is the comical sidekick to Susan May Warren at the amazing My Book Therapy. She is a worship leader and speaker.

A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, Rachel is a devoted Ohio State football fan. She lives in sunny central Florida with her husband and ornery cat.

Visit her at www.rachelhauck.com or www.facebook.com/rachelhauck

Click below to buy The Writing Desk

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Book Review: Unnoticed by Amanda Deed

 5 – 9 May 2017
is Introducing
Unnoticed by Amanda Deed
(from Rhiza Press, 1 March, 2017)
About the Book:
Book Cover - Unnoticed by Amanda DeedPlain Jane O’Reilly is good at being unnoticed. Detested by her stepmother and teased by her stepsisters, Jane has learned the art of avoiding attention. That is until Price Moreland, an American with big dreams, arrives in her small town.
Does she dare to hope someone might notice her?
However, Price Moreland may not be the prince that the whole town thinks him to be. Was his desire to be a missionary a God-given call, or just a good excuse to run from his past?
Complete with an evil stepmother, a missing shoe and a grand ball, Unnoticed takes the time-old Cinderella fairy tale and gives it an Australian twist.

 

Author Photograph - Amanda DeedAbout the Author:

Amanda Deed has penned several Australian Historical Romances, including The Game, winner of the CALEB Prize for Fiction in 2010. She resides in the South Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne with her family, where she works full-time in her local church office.

Outside of work and family, Amanda loves to write stories filled with intrigue and adventure using her favourite themes as a backdrop: Australia, heritage, romance and faith. Her books include UnnoticedEllenvale GoldBlack Forest Redemption and Henry’s Run. For more information, go to www.amandadeed.com.au.

My Review of Unnoticed by Amanda Deed

An Excellent Australian Historical Cinderella Story

Book Cover - Unnoticed by Amanda DeedUnnoticed is a Cinderella story, although there were also hints of Pride and Prejudice in the characterisation of Mr and Mrs O’Reilly—at times, Mrs O’Reilly made Mrs Bennett seem astute and intelligent, and Mr O’Reilly made Mr Bennett seem like an attentive father.

Jane O’Reilly is our Cinderella figure, the unloved daughter forced to take second place to her stepmother and stepsisters—all ugly in attitude if not in looks. The description of Jane brings to mind a young Nicole Kidman, so she’s far from the Plain Jane people call her. But she doesn’t see that. She also doesn’t see that beauty is as much about who we are on the inside as on the outside, nor does she understand that God sees her and loves her for who she is. She doesn’t have to be beautiful.

Prince Charming is Price Moreland, an American who has left the country of his birth with noble intentions to bring the gospel to Australia. At least, that’s what he tells himself. But he’s soon distracted by Jane, who he thinks of as anything but plain. It’s good to see a romance where the hero and heroine both have personal faith journeys.

What raised Unnoticed above other fairytale retellings was the way the character histories were woven in. Not just for Jane and Price, but for Mrs O’Reilly (and her sister, the family cook), and Mr O’Reilly. It showed their neglect and mistreatment of Jane wasn’t because of any wrongdoing by Jane, but was a product of their own backgrounds. I especially liked the way I didn’t feel manipulated into feeling sorry for Jane’s parents.

The writing was solid, although there were a few places where it wasn’t as strong. But these are insignificant in the face of an excellent fairytale retelling with a unique historical Australian setting.

Thanks to ACRBA and Rhiza Press for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Amanda Deed at her website, and you can read the introduction to Unnoticed below:

Book Review: Trust My Heart by Carol J Post

Trust My Heart: A Perfect Romance

Jami Carlisle is a new journalism graduate who’s managed to snag a job in her tiny home town of Murphy, North Carolina. Her first assignment is to convince her friends and neighbours that she isn’t marrying long-term boyfriend Robert, no matter what he’s said. Her second assignment is to get an exclusive interview with Grant McAllister, heir to the intriguing McAllister estate.

Grant McAllister was burned by journalists over his divorce, and he’s got no intention of being made a fool of again. But this pesky reporter won’t give up, and despite everything he says to himself, he is attracted to her. And she’s helping him find his history … a history that’s different to the story he was raised on.

While this is a romance, there was also a little mystery in the story.

I thought the mystery behind Trust My Heart was excellent—the subplot around the McAllister mansion and the reclusive old lady who once lived there. And I admired Jami, for her passion, her faith, and her faithfulness. She’s a great character, one who deserves the best.

It took a while to convince me that Grant would be a good match for Jami.

She was so nice! And she was so much younger than Grant that it was tempting to think she was naïve. But she wasn’t: she’d just chosen to follow God and to pattern her thoughts and actions on Him. This gave her a depth of wisdom the older Grant didn’t have, and convinced me they’d be a great match. She also showed Grant grace and forgiveness when he messed up (which was a lot. Men).

The other thing which convinced me they should be together was that they both had the same ‘impossible’ dream … well, similar enough that they’ll complement each other. I liked that. Overall, Trust My Heart was a sweet romance built on a strong Christian foundation, but one that didn’t shy away from life’s difficulties.

Thanks to Waterfall Press and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

Review: A Woman of Fortune by Kellie Coates Gilbert

Outstanding!

(And you know how often I say that)

Claire Massey has it all. The mansion, the Maserati, the Jimmy Choo’s. The billionaire husband, the perfect son, and the daughter who is engaged to the man poised to become Texas’s youngest senator. Then it all goes wrong, when her husband is arrested as the mastermind behind a Ponzi scheme, a fall to rival that of Bernie Madoff.

It’s natural to not want to like Claire.

After all, she has everything, yet it was all built on smooth talking. That mind of success just isn’t normal. How could she not have known? Yet she doesn’t come across as the spoilt little rich girl (although her daughter, Lainie, certainly is). She’s honest, sincere, and hard-working, and believes in her husband against all the odds. Claire is one of the strengths of A Woman of Fortune. It’s tempting to not feel any sympathy for a woman who is left with a mere half million, yet somehow I did.

Another strength is Margarita, Claire’s housekeeper. While the Massey family are churchgoers, none of them show any evidence of a real Christian faith. Margarita does. In fact, all the characters are strong (they’re not all likeable, but that’s kind of the point).

A Woman of Fortune is a fascinating insight into the problems faced by a family who lose everything – money, reputation, friends – and have to navigate a range of unimaginable personal and social situations. It’s a strength of the novel that I actually sympathised with Claire, and even with her spoiled daughter, despite all the reasons not to.

Recommended.

Thanks to Revell and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Kellie Coates Gilbert at her website or watch the trailer:

You can also read the introduction to A Woman of Fortune below:

Book Review: The Wedding Shop by Rachel Hauck

A Beautiful Allegory

The Wedding Shop is a dual timeline story. In the present, there is Haley, ex-Air Force captain who has returned to her hometown of Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, to fulfil her childhood dream of reopening Miss Cora’s once-famous wedding shop. The past story is Miss Cora’s. While the two women initially appear completely different, over time we find they have a lot in common.

I thought these commonalities and the clever (and careful) way in which they were gradually revealed was one of the major strengths of the story. I often find one story in a dual timeline novel draws me in more than the other. In paper novels, I’ve been guilty of reading one timeline through to the end, then wondering if I even want to go back and read the other. Sometimes I wonder if the two stories are even linked, or if it’s simply two novellas with the same setting combined to make a “proper novel.”

That certainly wasn’t the case with The Wedding Shop.

I will admit I was initially more engaged in Haley’s story than Cora’s – until I started to see the linkages between the two. And I don’t want to say too much about that for fear of revealing a spoiler … I will say that if you find the beginning a little less than enthralling, keep going. All will be revealed. Including a big twist at the end which I had no idea was coming.

One of the issues of historical fiction is that there are elements of the plot which we know is coming. For example, Miss Cora’s story starts in the early months of 1930, not long after the 1929 stock market crash which triggered the Great Depression. We’ve heard the stories, read the novels. We know some of what is coming. And that adds external tension because we know something the characters don’t know.

And Rachel Hauck played this tension perfectly, and had matching tension in the contemporary part of the story. Combine this with two sets of great characters, and The Wedding Shop is a true winner with an underlying message of God’s forgiveness, our identity as children of God, and the lies we allow ourselves to believe.

I haven’t read The Wedding Dress or The Wedding Chapel, and it’s not necessary in order to enjoy The Wedding Shop. Those who have read the earlier novels will no doubt enjoy the references to both. Those who haven’t might not even pick up on them if they didn’t know there were previous novels.

Recommended.

Thanks to Zondervan and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Rachel Hauck at her website, and you can read the introduction to The Wedding Shop below:

Book Review: The Name I Call Myself by Beth Moran

Beth Moran Gets Better and Better

Amazon DescriptionCover image: The Name I Call Myself

All Faith Harp wants is a quiet life – to take care of her troubled brother, Sam, earn enough money to stop the wolves snapping at her heels, and to keep her past buried as deep as possible. And after years of upheaval, she might have just about managed it: she’s engaged to the gorgeous and successful Perry is holding down a job, and Sam’s latest treatment seems to actually be working this time.

But, for Faith, things never seem to stay simple for long. Her domineering mother-in-law-to-be is planning a nightmare wedding, including the wedding dress from hell. And the man who killed her mother is released from prison, sending her brother tumbling back into mental illness.

When secretly planning the wedding she really wants, Faith stumbles across a church choir that challenges far more than her ability to hold a tune. She ends up joining the choir, led by the fierce choir-mistress, Hester, who is determined to do whatever it takes to turn the motley crew of women into something spectacular. She also meets Dylan, the church’s vicar, who is different to any man she has ever met before.

My Review

Beth Moran is an English Christian author. The Name I Call Myself is her third novel, following Making Marion and I Hope You Dance. If you’ve read either of those and didn’t like them for any reason, then I doubt you’ll enjoy The Name I Call Myself, so you can skip this review. But if you liked them or haven’t read them, read on.

I will admit I found The Name I Call Myself a little difficult to get in to. It had a lot of similarities to her previous novels, in that it centres around a young woman discovering her true self. This isn’t helped by some early scenes which reminded me of Bridget Jones at her least intelligent. Faith isn’t an easy character to get to know (even though the book is written in first person). But once we get past the awkwardness that is Faith’s engagement party, the novel really picked up both pace and interest.

Faith is a complex character.

She was raised by her grandmother (now dead) and her older brother, Sam, after their mother was murdered by her partner … as Sam watched. That experience drove the teenage Sam down a trail of alcohol, drugs and mental illness. And he’s never recovered. It left Faith with … well, ‘issues’ almost begins to describe it. She is a very private person, and it takes a long time before I understood enough of her history to really understand the reason she didn’t share a lot.

The Name I Call Myself is about Faith’s relationships. Her with relationship with Perry, her fiance. Her relationship with her brother and his new girlfriend. And her non-relationship with her future mother-in-law (who takes controlling passive-aggressive to new levels). Then there is her relationship with the Grace choir, including Hester the bully conductor. And her almost-relationship with Dylan, the pastor. It’s in her relationships with these supporting characters that we get to know the real Faith …

The Faith perhaps not even Faith knows.

Yes, there are touches of romance, of comedy and of suspense. But The Name I Call Myself is really about Faith’s search for love, acceptance and identity, a search many of us can relate to.

Recommended for fans of contemporary Christian fiction with an edge.

Thanks to Lion Fiction and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

Book Review: Shattered by Dani Pettrey

Shattered by Dani Pettrey

I recently purchased Dani Pettrey’s first book, Submerged, from Amazon. I really enjoyed it, so I was very pleased to find a review copy of Shattered, the second in the Alaskan Courage series. I really enjoy Christian Romantic Suspense, and think the Alaskan Courage series is as good as anything else available today.

The books deal with the McKenna siblings from the (fictional) small town of Yancey, Alaska. Submerged was the story of Cole, the oldest McKenna brother, and Bailey Craig, an expert in Russian history and antiques who returns to the island after her aunt is murdered. Shattered follows Piper McKenna as she works to prove that Reef, the youngest brother, is innocent of murder.

Things aren’t looking good for Reef.

There are two witnesses who saw him holding the knife over the victim, and the District Attorney has a particular grudge against the McKenna family. Piper is determined Reef is innocent. So she drags Deputy Sheriff and long-time family friend, Landon Grainger, into her investigation. Landon isn’t so sure about Reef’s innocence … and is struggling to come to terms with his changing feelings for Piper.

I really liked the way the Shattered followed on so well from Submerged in terms of taking the Landon/Piper subplot and turning it into the main plot. I can also see how Shattered has set up future books in the series, which I will certainly want to read. The novel was well-written, with a fast-paced and exciting murder plot, a sweet romance subplot, and a cast of interesting characters.

I was particularly impressed (especially in Submerged, but also in Shattered) with the way the Christian elements were integrated into the plot. These characters face the same questions and temptations as we face in real life, and they respond in realistic (if sometimes flawed) ways.

Shattered can be read as a standalone novel, but readers will enjoy it more if they read Submerged first. Recommended for fans of Dee Henderson, Irene Hannon, Diann Mills, Susan Page Davis and Susan May Warren.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Dani Pettrey at her website, and you can read the introduction to Shattered below:

 

Book Recommendation: The Heir by Lynne Stringer

Have you signed up for my Newsletter? If so, you’ll already have received my entirely biased list of 50 novels from my favourite Christian authors. If not, sign up on the right!

Today I’m reviewing The Heir, the debut novel from Australian author Lynne Stringer. The Heir is the first in her Verindon science fiction trilogy for young adults (and older adults). The must-read sequels are The Crown and The Regin.

The Heir by Lynne Stringer

Sarah is a normal American teenager.

Well, mostly normal.

She goes to a fancy private school where all the other kids are rich, her dad is an inventor who never quite seems to get it right, she’s being stalked at school by a creepy boy, and her English teacher is always picking her for class debates even though she hates them. Apart from that, she’s just a normal kid. She loves art, tries to survive high school and has a secret crush on Dan, her best friend’s kind-of boyfriend.

But things are not what they seem. When tragedy strikes and Sarah’s life changes overnight, things start to get even stranger. Melting tables, windows that don’t open, eyes in the bushes …

The story started slowly but there was a growing sense of foreboding and rising suspense. I soon realised this wasn’t the predictable Young Adult coming-of-age kind of story it started out as (but I’m not going to spoil the surprise by saying too much). Strange things started to happen and there were a few left-field comments from Sarah’s friends that made me think I was missing something. I was. So was Sarah. And when we got the big reveal it was both a huge surprise and not, because it answered all those niggles.

The Heir is told entirely in the first person, from Sarah’s point of view (which I know some readers don’t like). But she’s a strong character who can carry the story without being so perfect as to be annoying. She’s a realistic teen, with strong likes and dislikes, hopes and fears, a secret crush, and a secret history even she doesn’t know about…

I really enjoyed The Heir.

The Heir was well-plotted with good foreshadowing (but without making it obvious) and good characters. The ending was satisfying in the way it completed the current story, but left me wanting more.

An excellent debut novel. Recommended for those who like authors such as Kathy Tyers, or those who enjoy YA dystopian or science fiction.

Thanks to Wombat Books for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Lynne Stringer at her website, or in this interview, and you can read the introduction to The Heir below: