3.5 Stars. A descendant of the Celtic goddess Brigid, eighteen-year-old Selah Kilbrid has the power of healing, though she must use it carefully and u...more3.5 Stars. A descendant of the Celtic goddess Brigid, eighteen-year-old Selah Kilbrid has the power of healing, though she must use it carefully and under the guise of the limited medical knowledge of the eighteenth century or else risk raising the fears of the superstitious community in which she lives. But with the death of her beloved father, Selah is a young woman alone in a world very much ruled by men. Hounded by Nathan, a Quaker elder obsessed with making her his bride, Selah has one chance to stay true to her heritage and fulfill the sacred duty entrusted to her by the goddess: she must get to Philadelphia to marry a man she has never met, her cousin Samuel, due to arrive from Ireland any day. As a fellow Kilbrid, Samuel knows about Selah's gift and is sworn to protect her. But when Selah arrives in Philadelphia, she discovers that Samuel tragically died on the voyage over, and she is now truly alone. But she is unable to reconcile her fate of marrying a fanatical man and hiding her gift until it eventually withers away, so when she stumbles on an indentured servant auction and locks eyes with a handsome man who seems oddly out of place, she crafts a bold and daring plan. She purchases Henry Alan and convinces him to pose as her new husband.
But Nathan is furious at having his plans thwarted, and soon rumors of witchcraft start to swirl. As if pretending to be married weren't stressful enough--and they do get off to a rocky start--Selah and Henry find themselves the target of threats and eerie happenings, and as the situation grows more intense and Selah's life is endangered, Henry vows to protect her at all costs. Torn between her growing feelings for Henry, her secret obligation to the goddess, and the rising suspicions of her fellow townsfolk, Selah resolves to carry on as best she can, but will she be able to defend herself against the ultimate charge of being a witch? And when the truth is finally revealed to Henry, will he stand by her side or turn against her? And what will Selah do when she discovers Henry is hiding a pretty big secret of his own?
I really wanted to love this book. And there were things about it that I did love, but there were also some things that I didn't. #1: I felt like a few steps were missed between Selah and Henry growing tolerant of each other and then declaring their love for each other. I felt like I missed out on that dance of emotions in between, and so it made the declarations less satisfying. #2: I found the behavior of the villains of the story to be very over-dramatic. Almost too over-dramatic to be believable. #3: I didn't like how Selah had to be rescued so many times. I like a heroine who can get herself out of a jam once in a while. And finally, I was not a fan of the ending. I felt like a whole other chapter of the journey was just beginning, but instead it ended, and without enough closure for me. But now I know that this was intentional as this is apparently first in a trilogy. It would have been nice if there was a "to be continued in book two" notice so I was not left shaking my head! So I won't count that against the book. But I've read through my friends' reviews of this book--who are all loving it--and none of them mentioned my hang-ups, so they may be just that, MY hang-ups. I read a lot of romances, so I tend to be tough on them. So that being said, don't let me dissuade you from reading what is definitely one of the more original romances I've read in some time. Which leads me to what I did like about this book...
I adore novels set in Colonial America, and the small Pennsylvania village of Hopewell comes to life in this story, complete with depictions of day-to-day life, friends and neighbors, Native American visitors, the customs of the time, and the clash of co-existing religious beliefs. I also loved how Celtic mythology from the Old World was woven into the canvas via Selah's heritage. And Selah is a worthy heroine to root for: she's smart, compassionate, and not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. I didn't feel like I really got to know Henry quite as well, but I'm hoping that will be remedied in the other books, and what we do get to see of him in this story is quite swoon-worthy. The novel is well written, the plot is perfectly paced, and I burned through the pages, anxious to solve the mystery of who was really behind the witchcraft paranoia engulfing the village and to see if Selah and Henry would be able to overcome their differences and find a happily ever after. With a unique setting, a touch of magic, tons of historical context, and a couple to fall in love with, Goddess Born is a welcome addition to the historical romance genre, and I look forward to future books from Kari Edgren.(less)
Very sorry to say I'm setting this aside for now at the halfway mark. I loved the first book in this series and had high hopes for this sequel. The pl...moreVery sorry to say I'm setting this aside for now at the halfway mark. I loved the first book in this series and had high hopes for this sequel. The plot here is good, and the mythical/magical Saxon vs. Norman atmosphere is too, but the romance is really unbelievable, insta-love, cheesy sex, and over-the-top, flowery dialogue. It's just not for me. When I have time, I'll go back and skim to the end to see how the story plays out and give it a proper rating.(less)
I have been waiting for Australian author Kate Forsyth's books to become available in the US, and it's finally happening! Bitter Greens has been on my wishlist since I first saw it, and while I was a little wary at the beginning of the multiple viewpoints and how the narrative moves back and forth in time, my fears were soon laid to rest. This is an ambitious and beautifully written tale of epic proportions whose strength lies in the strength of the women who tell it.
We begin with Charlotte-Rose, second cousin to the French King Louis XIV and longtime member of his court, who has just displeased the king once again, and this time he's banished her to a convent as punishment. For our fun-loving, quick-witted, sharp-tongued lass, this is quite a blow.
I had thought I could bend the world to my will. I had thought I could break free of society's narrow grooves, forging a life of my own desire. I had thought I was the navigator of my soul's journey. I was wrong.
Charlotte-Rose lives to write stories, though she is not permitted even paper and pen in her stark prison. So she begins to relish time spent with one of the nuns, Sister Seraphina, who is surprisingly familiar with the world outside the convent and the whims of rich and powerful men. As the two women work together in the convent garden, she begins to tell Charlotte-Rose the story of another woman locked away behind stone walls, that of beautiful young Margherita of Venice, stolen from her parents as a child, raised up in a convent, and then imprisoned in an ancient tower by La Bella Strega, a renowned witch and enchantress. Margherita's story is interwoven with flashbacks of pivotal moments in Charlotte-Rose's life and with the story of the sorceress's rise to power and her interactions with Margherita, and on to Margherita's well-earned happy ending, which gives Charlotte-Rose the inspiration and determination to reach for her own as well.
I love when authors take lesser-known women from history and give them a stage upon which to shine, and Ms. Forsyth manages to include several of them in this novel. Not only do we get to know Charlotte-Rose but also Madame de Montespan and several other illustrious ladies of the sun court, and she also includes La Voisin, the fortune-teller at the center of the Affaires des Poisons that rocked the French court in 1679. Each woman's story illustrates the plight of women of all stations during these times. Ms. Forsyth even manages to humanize the fictional Selena Leonelli, the sorceress who traps Margherita in the tower. As the orphaned daughter of a courtesan, she learns to use her beauty and cunning to become muse and lover of the artist Tiziano Vecellio, also known as Titian, and to rise up as the most sought-after and powerful courtesan in Venice. But that beauty and power comes at great cost...
You must understand that your beauty is as much a curse as it is a blessing. It will give you power, if you use it wisely. But it does mean that you must choose your sphere of influence. There are only three choices for women in this world that we live in. You can be a nun, or a wife, or a whore. Which will you choose?
The author also casts a shadow on Louis XIV and shows us the darker side of the Sun King through his insistence on absolute rule, his womanizing, his ruthlessness in dealing with those who oppose him, and his persecution of the Huguenots. Indeed, I was very impressed with Ms. Forsyth's ability to seamlessly weave the dark elements that dominated the 16th and 17th centuries in France and Italy--witchcraft, religious persecution, hysteria, plague, and the relationships between them--into one multi-layered story.
My only complaint, if you can even call it that, is that I thought the plot was a little uneven. I know it's hard to weave together three different stories in different time periods, and even with the best of planning, something is bound to fall through the cracks. So there were some times when I felt like something that I would have thought was important didn't get page time, and where something I didn't think was as important got a lot of page time. And I did figure out the story's twist early on but was still excited by it and anxious to see how everything would play out in the end for these three brave women, who, on the surface appeared to be as different as night and day, but who actually shared many traits in common, not the least of which was the desire to love and be loved in return.
Overall, this was an absorbing, transporting read. Though it does not shy away from the darkness that dwelt in those days and the injustices often committed against women, it is full of beauty and bright moments, of appreciation for the best life has to offer even when confronted with the worst. Providing a fascinating glimpse into the glory days of Venice and Versailles, it's a delicious treat for historical fiction devotees and a must-read for fairy tale lovers.(less)
This is the first time I've been let down by a Lori Foster book. And I was really looking forward to Cannon's story too. But the plot is non-existent...moreThis is the first time I've been let down by a Lori Foster book. And I was really looking forward to Cannon's story too. But the plot is non-existent for the first three-quarters of the book, and what does show up at the end is really flimsy. There's not much by way of characterization either, and I just didn't see what Cannon saw in the heroine. And too much time is spent on other characters. I know this is first in a new series, so some groundwork has to be laid and future players introduced, but honestly, I'm just not a fan of indiscriminate, hyper-sexualized alpha males who flaunt their conquests and look down on those who don't do the same, so I probably won't be reading the rest of the books about those guys. I'd rather read about the good guys she writes about in her other series.(less)
I'm DNFing it for now at 130 pages, but I will try to pick it up again later because I am a Stiefvater fan. Too slow, too many POVs. It's just not hol...moreI'm DNFing it for now at 130 pages, but I will try to pick it up again later because I am a Stiefvater fan. Too slow, too many POVs. It's just not holding my interest at the moment.(less)
Simply excellent all around. This was one of my most anticipated titles of 2014, and it did not disappoint! Deep and meaningful, fantastic world-build...moreSimply excellent all around. This was one of my most anticipated titles of 2014, and it did not disappoint! Deep and meaningful, fantastic world-building, dimensional, emotional characterization, and I especially love how the author cleverly constructed the first half of the novel, making it difficult for the reader to determine which man was the prince and which the assassin. Very much looking forward to book two, though I wish I didn't have to wait so long!(less)
The beginning was a bit rocky with a lot of world-building information thrown at the reader in rapid succession, and I am not a fan of the stop-in-the...moreThe beginning was a bit rocky with a lot of world-building information thrown at the reader in rapid succession, and I am not a fan of the stop-in-the-middle-of-the-action cliffhanger ending, but everything in between was pretty awesome. Creative, exciting, emotionally charged, and FANTASTIC characterization. Looking forward to book number two.(less)
3.5 Stars. The author includes a very helpful historical note at the beginning of this novel that orients the reader in time and place and sets the scene for a dramatic story unfolding against a backdrop that I don't think I've ever encountered before in historical fiction: that of wealthy English Catholic exiles living in the Spanish-occupied Netherlands. We usually get this time period from the other side of the Channel, in Elizabeth's court as she attempts to keep Protestantism on top and fend off a multitude of foreign threats, but here we get to see what the rest of the world was thinking and doing during her spat with Spain. I really loved the setting of this and the intrigue of a group of nobles in exile, cozying up to the Spanish to bring down Elizabeth. But before we get there, we begin on Sark, a quirky little Channel Island that really illustrates what life must have been like for the people who lived so far from the mainland and so close to the shores of the enemy during this tumultuous time in history. It is there that we meet our hero and heroine, Adam and Fenella.
What follows is an epic tale of patriotism and treason, political upheaval and oppression, familial love and the ties that bind. The book description does a good job of setting up the story, and I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll forego a plot recap. This is a fun, swashbuckling read, but there are two things that keep me from rating it higher: I wasn't a big fan of the tendency throughout the story to lead the reader up to a pivotal moment and then skip over it, bringing the reader up to speed after the fact, presenting scenes in retrospect and flashback rather than letting them unfold as they happened. It sort of muted the impact of some really great plot twists. And I thought things shook out a little too easily at the end; moral dilemmas and pesky legal ties that had been plaguing the characters throughout the story were suddenly and conveniently no longer problems. Like the previous book in this series, The Queen's Exiles can stand alone just fine, though at times I felt that if I had read the earlier books, I would have better appreciated some of the supporting characters, particularly Carlos and Isabel, and their history with each other and the main characters in this book.
Still, The Queen's Exiles was an entertaining read. Never a dull moment, exciting action, dramatic twists and turns, and a little bit of romance. Brash and colorful characters. And it transported me to a few interesting and vividly depicted historical settings that were new to me. A good pick for historical fiction fans in the mood for something bold and adventuresome.(less)