GENRE: HISTORICAL ROMANCE PUBLISHER: BARBOUR PUBLICATION DATE: JULY 01, 2012 RATING: 4.5 OUT OF 5 – VERY GOOD
PROS: Great presentation of the power of prGENRE: HISTORICAL ROMANCE PUBLISHER: BARBOUR PUBLICATION DATE: JULY 01, 2012 RATING: 4.5 OUT OF 5 – VERY GOOD
PROS: Great presentation of the power of prayer and the Holy Spirit; excellent chemistry between the characters; once the action gets started this book is very hard to put down
CONS: Slow start with very little action; hero is initially very unsympathetic
Adalia Winston knows that her fair skin will make it easy for her to blend into the crowd after escaping from the Barbados sugar plantation where she has been enslaved for the last eight years. But it’s not so easy to forget what she’s running away from, especially when she’s frequently called to attend to the slaves owned by the Rutledge family. Although Adalia is relieved to have found employment with a kind, fatherly doctor, she cannot overlook the way that he treats his own slaves, or the way that the most of Charleston treats those of her race. Adalia isn’t looking for love and acceptance – merely employment and safety from her former master – but her frequent visits to care for the slaves owned by the Rutledges bring her into contact with Morgan Rutledge, who has taken a liking for Adalia. Despite her convictions, Adalia slowly lets herself be taken in by the luxury and excitement of Morgan’s privileged life, even if his friends are more reticent towards her. But when it becomes evident to society that Morgan is keen to formally court Adalia, a spurned lover sets out to uncover something from Adalia’s past that she can use to sabotage their relationship. When news reaches Charleston that Adalia is a Negro, and an enslaved one at that, how will her beau, her employer and all of her new friends react? Will Adalia’s desire for luxury and frivolity cause her to lose her freedom? Or could all of this have been avoided if she’d never lied about her heritage in the first place?
MaryLu Tyndall is another of those authors that I missed out on because I didn’t truly discover Christian fiction until 2010. By the time I read The Red Siren in early 2011, she already had a massive back catalogue of books for me to catch up on, and she never stops pumping out more books that I want to read. I never really thought I’d be a pirate girl (besides drooling over Captain Jack from Pirates of the Caribbean, like every other teenage girl on the planet) but I do love the mixture of romance, action and spirituality that appears in MaryLu’s books. Initially, I thought that Veil of Pearls was going to be a bit of a disappointment in terms of the action and suspense, as the start of this book seemed rather slow. Adalia was settling into life in Charleston and paying visits to slaves with her herbal medicines, and although she ran into Morgan fairly early on in the book, it didn’t feel like much was happening to begin with. Thankfully, the story really got going around one-third of the way into the book and at that point I was gripped, but this is definitely a slower start compared to the other books that I’ve read from this author.
While it was the concept of a slave who could pose for a white woman that drew me to this book in the first place, I actually found myself more interested in Adalia’s descent into desiring after the privileged life of the wealthy, and I kept forgetting about the possibility of someone discovering Adalia’s race. Some reviewers have commented on how unlikely it is that Adalia would want to court a slave-owner and fall for his wealthy life so easily, but the way it was written in this book came across as very believable. Adalia flaws and susceptibility to temptation make her a very relatable character, and I’m sure that plenty of readers will find themselves sympathising with her dilemmas. Adalia did make a lot of mistakes over the course of the book, and the fact that her entire life in Charleston is built on a deception is a bit of a conundrum – is it right to lie in order to escape a sinful life? Should she tell the truth even if it means returning to her lecherous master? These are issues that make Veil of Pearls all the more intriguing to read.
Morgan was a much less sympathetic character, in my eyes at least. I’m just not a fan of the self-assured, confident Alpha Hero, although I know that he is fairly prevalent in MaryLu’s novels. Morgan’s pompous attitude and belief that every woman should want his attention just because of his family name was a major turn-off for me, as it was also for Adalia. While he gradually became more sympathetic over the course of the novel, I wasn’t really particularly fond of him until the end of the book when he finally realised that he could be happy without his family’s wealth and name. I’m sure that this won’t be an issue for all readers, but those of us who prefer our heroes to be Betas rather than Alphas may take a while to warm up to Morgan. Again, he is flawed character, much like Adalia, but his flaws made him more annoying than sympathetic to begin with.
That said, I did love the chemistry between Morgan and Adalia. Even if Morgan didn’t make me swoon, I did enjoy reading about the progression of his relationship with Adalia. After reading several novels where the characters didn’t even kiss until the last page of the book, I appreciated the physical chemistry between Adalia and Morgan. A physical connection does often appear long before an emotional and spiritual one, although plenty of Christian authors try to shy away from this fact, and I’m glad that this is something that MaryLu chose to feature in her novel. It showed how easy it is for a flawed human being to be tempted into a relationship with someone despite their best intentions – and also made for a slightly more sizzling romance!
Veil of Pearls wasn’t all romance and chemistry; it also included an excellent portrayal of the power of prayer and the Holy Spirit. Manifestations of the Holy Spirit are something I’ve rarely seem presented in Christian fiction, particularly in the historical genre, perhaps because some denominations have different views on how it manifests itself and how powerful it is in today’s day and age. This is an issue that is discussed in Veil of Pearls; when Adalia prays for healing for a sick girl and she makes a rapid recovery, some believe she’s used witchcraft, others find it to be a coincidence, and only a few truly believe that God healed the child. I loved how MaryLu was able to bring a discussion of prayer and healing into her novel without making it too preachy or forceful. There are also several times throughout the novel when Adalia is approached by an angelic presence giving her guidance during the times when she’d fallen away from talking to God due to the distractions of high society. While this isn’t something I’ve ever had a personal experience of, I did think it was approached very well considering the context.
Although I had my initial hesitations regarding the slow start to the story and the slightly unsympathetic character of Morgan, Veil of Pearls turned out to be an incredibly engaging novel. While MaryLu is most known for her action and suspense, I’d have to say that it was the flawed nature of the hero and heroine and their romantic chemistry that really made me enjoy this book. The combination of the characterisation, chemistry and action – not to mention the spiritual dimension of the novel – made it very hard for me to put this book down, even for a second. Fans of MaryLu Tyndall are sure to be pleased with this new addition to their collections, and as a standalone novel, Veil of Pearls would make a great introduction to her writing for new readers.
GENRE: HISTORICAL ROMANCE PUBLISHER: BARBOUR PUBLICATION DATE: MARCH 01, 2012 RATING: 3.5 OUT OF 5 – GOOD
PROS: Interesting take on the parable of the proGENRE: HISTORICAL ROMANCE PUBLISHER: BARBOUR PUBLICATION DATE: MARCH 01, 2012 RATING: 3.5 OUT OF 5 – GOOD
PROS: Interesting take on the parable of the prodigal son; really captures the essence of what it was like to be onboard the Titanic
CONS: Hero and heroine fell in love too fast for it to be believable; some characters were underdeveloped; preachy in places
Amelia Gladstone and Quentin Walpole are both looking forward to making a new start in America, and the first step in their journey is taking a trip on the Titanic. But while Amelia’s ticket has been paid for by a potential suitor hoping to meet her and her aunt when they arrive in America, Quentin is thrown off the ship when he attempts to sneak onboard. Amelia can never ignore a need, but she doesn’t imagine how her life will change when she hands Quentin her spare ticket. Not only is this trip the start of a whirlwind romance with Quentin, but Amelia’s discoveries about her new friend help her to reunite him with his long-lost family, who are also onboard the Titanic. Soon Amelia is swept into the life of the first class passengers on the ship, dancing and dining with Quentin’s older brother, Damian, while Quentin struggles in deciding whether or not he should reintroduce himself to his family. And if he doesn’t, is he worthy of Amelia’s time and love? But very soon, Amelia and Quentin will have much harder problems to deal with, ones which could tear them apart for ever.
When looking at this spring’s new releases, it almost seems as if every publisher in existence was trying to put a Titanic novel on the shelves. When it came to deciding which book I wanted to read to commemorate the sinking of the Titanic, By the Light of the Silvery Moon was an obvious choice, as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed some of Tricia’s previous novels. But while I had high hopes for her writing and storytelling abilities, I was a bit cautious when it came to fitting a love story into the short space of time from the Titanic leaving Britain and coming to its sad demise only a few days later.
Ultimately, I was very satisfied with By the Light of the Silvery Moon. I came to care about the characters and could feel my heart thudding during the scene in which the ship sank. I can’t even begin to mention the amount of detail that Tricia put into the descriptions of the cabins, dining rooms, clothing and food onboard the Titanic. Tricia definitely did a lot of research into what it was like travelling on the Titanic and I could easily imagine many of the scenes that she described. But I feel that there were some aspects of the characterisation and romance that felt a little underdeveloped, which is only natural when you’re trying to fit so much into such a short space of time.
Anyone who reads my reviews will know that I’m just not a big fan of love-at-first-sight stories. I kid you not when I tell you that the first time I saw my fiancé, I turned to my friend and said “He looks a bit weird, doesn’t he?” We did not have a fairytale romance, and I’m okay with that – real life is not that perfect. But a romance onboard the Titanic is definitely going to be along this vein, which I anticipated when I started reading this book. I had to try to make myself forget that Amelia and Quentin had only known each other for a few days when they described the strong emotions that they felt for each other. Ultimately, I did enjoy reading about their relationship and was rooting for them in the end, but I didn’t find how quickly they fell for each other to be entirely plausible.
When it came to Amelia on her own, I did really like her character, even if she seemed a bit too perfect at times. I was worried that Amelia didn’t have any flaws, until her aunt challenged some of Amelia’s notions about love and marriage. I had to be similarly challenged about my romantic ideals a few years ago so I could definitely relate to this part of the book. The section in which Amelia mused over her dilemma over whether to settle for someone stable, like her potential suitor in America, or risk her love on someone who has made a lot of mistakes in their life, like Quentin, was one of the most realistic and touching scenes relating to Amelia and Quentin’s relationship.
While I did like the fact that Quentin and Damian’s story was a retelling of the parable of the prodigal son – although I’ll admit, it took me a while to realise the inspiration behind this part of the plot – I wish that Damian’s character had been developed further. I knew that he was the villain of the story but I wish that Tricia could have delved deeper into what made him such a hateful person. There were some hints of jealousy and rivalry between the brothers, and bitterness because Damian associated their mother’s death with Quentin, but these hints weren’t developed enough to let me see Damian as a truly believable character. Although Damian managed to redeem himself in the end I still felt like something was missing from his part of the story.
When it came to the spiritual aspects of By the Light of the Silvery Moon, I liked the idea of Quentin learning that he needed to forgive himself in order to restore his relationship with God, but I wasn’t so keen on the execution of this part of the plot. The scene in which Quentin finally talked to God and asked for forgiveness was just a little bit too cheesy for my liking. Some of the spiritual sections of this book, particularly the conversations between Amelia and Quentin, were realistic, but others verged on too sermon-like. I was actually surprised at the way that Tricia dealt with the spiritual issues in this book as the spiritual aspect of her Big Sky series was what made me love it so much, but her approach in By the Light of the Silvery Moon seemed entirely different. I also have to mention that I’m honestly convinced that every single character that Amelia came into contact with on the Titanic was a Christian. Even in 1912, I didn’t see this as at all realistic. Please correct me if you find a character in By the Light of the Silvery Moon that doesn’t have some sort of relationship with God, but this is the way that it seemed to me when I was reading this book.
Ultimately I found By the Light of the Silvery Moon to be an enjoyable love story set onboard the Titanic. As far as I could tell, the details about the ship and its sinking were accurate and really made the story come to life. Tricia’s strengths definitely lie in her ability to research and recreate a scene.. While I did struggle with how quickly Amelia and Quentin came to fall for each other, this may just be a matter of personal taste, and I’m sure that some romance readers won’t let this deter them. By the Light of the Silvery Moon didn’t quite live up to some of Tricia’s previous novels, namely in the character of Damian and the heavy-handedness with the spiritual sections of the novel, but those looking for a romantic, dramatic retelling of the sinking of the Titanic won’t be disappointed.
GENRE: HISTORICAL ROMANCE PUBLISHER: BARBOUR PUBLISHING PUBLICATION DATE: SEPTEMBER 1, 2011 RATING: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS – VERY GOOD
PROS: Introduces readerGENRE: HISTORICAL ROMANCE PUBLISHER: BARBOUR PUBLISHING PUBLICATION DATE: SEPTEMBER 1, 2011 RATING: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS – VERY GOOD
PROS: Introduces readers to established authors and newcomers to the genre; perfect length of stories to read during the busy holiday season
CONS: Not ideal to read one story immediately after the other as the log cabin setting can get a bit repetitive
This endearing collection from Barbour follows on from the success of the previous year’s A Prairie Christmas Collection. Compiling short stories from popular and established authors in the historical genre as well as several newcomers, A Log Cabin Christmas features nine stories set in log cabins at varying locations and periods of American history. Ranging from typical homes built out of logs to log schools and stores and even a log church, the authors of A Log Cabin Christmas show readers how romance can blossom in every setting. Characters dream of living in log cabins, build homes from scratch and learn to overcome difficulties in this shared setting, across different locations and time periods at Christmastime in historical America.
As it is impossible to share my in-depth thoughts on all the stories in this collection I’ve picked out my ultimate favourites to share. While I didn’t have one outright favourite story in this collection, there were several that really stood out to me.
The Courting Quilt by Jane Kirkpatrick was one of these purely because it featured the most unique protagonists in the entire collection. Mary’s hair is prematurely white and as a result everyone believes her to be an elderly woman, and Richard was just as unusual with his different coloured eyes. This was more than just a straight-forward romance, featuring some humour in the fact that nearly all of the women in the story fell for Richard without him realising it. This was not a story that I forgot in a hurry and I’ll definitely be looking out for more from this author, who already has several novels under her belt.
A Log Cabin Christmas also introduced me to a newer, less-established author who I’m certain will soon become more popular in the inspirational market: Liz Tolsma. I adored Under His Wings, the story of a young woman, Adie, who lives with her father at a logging camp and finds herself having to rely on one of the other loggers for protection when her father is killed in an accident. This was a slow moving romance as Adie took a while to respond to Noah’s offers of help. This touching tale will appeal to fans of marriage of convenience stories.
My love of all things German may have biased me towards A Grand Country Christmas by Debra Ullrick, but even those who aren’t so familiar with the language and the customs will enjoy this sweet tale of orphaned Awnya being taken in by Amadeus and his family just in time for Christmas. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, especially as the protagonists had a lot of chemistry between them which made their quickly blossoming relationship seem all the more realistic. The sizzle in their romance reminded me a bit of Vickie McDonough or Mary Connealy and made a much appreciated addition to this otherwise incredibly chaste collection. Readers who appreciate stories featuring characters from other ethnicities will likely also appreciate the Mexican-infused The Dogrot Christmas by Michelle Ule which, despite having a very different type of romance from that in A Grand Country Christmas, reminded in my mind long after I finished reading it.
I must also mention Margaret Brownley’s short story, which is the first in this collection. I was introduced to her work earlier this year and was pleased to discover that I enjoyed her shorter works just as much as her full-length novels. Snow Angels contained all of my favourite components in a romance, from being snowbound in a cabin to the addition of cute children to spur on the relationship between the hero and heroine.
There were no real duds in this collection, and I’ve refrained from going into detail about some other excellent additions to this collection purely due to the constraints of writing a review that isn’t so long that you’ll feel like you’re reading my university dissertation. So I must briefly mentioned Kelly Eileen Hake’s Christmas Traps and Trimmings, which stood out because of the details about Mina’s English upbringing and the disaster that brought her and Sam together, but isn’t a favourite simply because ended a bit too abruptly to make me truly love it. Christmas Service by Erica Vetsch is also worth reading for the message it gives about ways in which to serve God that many young women are likely in need of hearing, but this same message ended up making the heroine difficult to sympathise with.
I did find Wanda Brunstetter’s The Christmas Secret and Liz Johnson’s A Star in the Night to be the weakest stories in the collection, for very different reasons. I’ve never been a fan of Wanda’s style of writing and this was still the case in The Christmas Secret, but I will admit that the plot was quite original and kept my interest. A Star in the Night was a sweet, gently blossoming romance but lacked any chemistry between the characters, especially as the author continually reminded the reader that the protagonists never spent time alone indoors together, which even in a historical setting felt a bit forced. I still enjoyed reading both of these stories despite their flaws, and it wouldn’t stop me from recommending this collection.
A Log Cabin Christmas is a collection to be savoured over a matter of weeks, not hours, and the length of the stories makes it easy to pick up and put down again during the busy holiday period. Historical romance readers will be pleased to see stories many popular authors in the genre featured, and to discover some new writers who will hopefully come to be just as admired.
Review title provided by Barbour Publishing.
1. Snow Angels by Margaret Brownley I thoroughly enjoyed this story, but then again, the "snowbound with a handsome stranger" theme is a favourite of mine. From the sweetness of A Very Special Delivery by Linda Goodnight to the raciness of 80s romance, Montana Man by Barbara Delinsky, I simply cannot resist this sort of storyline. The children who were also stuck in the cabin made this story even more enjoyable, and it was endearing seeing the two main characters connecting with them. My only complaint would be that the two characters were completely oblivious to their attraction to each other and their internal thoughts on this just took it a bit too far. Why not just admit that you find the other person appealing? After one too many thoughts along the lines of "Wait, why I am thinking of her like that?" I feel compelled to drop the rating to 9/10.
2. The Christmas Secret by Wanda E. Brunstetter The premise of this story - bride-to-be finding a letter that reveals a family secret that means she cannot get married - was definitely appealing, despite my trepidation at reading something written by Wanda E. Brunstetter. Despite how popular her books are, I always leave them disappointed and just do not enjoy her style of writing. Thankfully, the shortness of this story forced me to dwell more on the plot than Wanda's writing techniques and I found myself quite enjoying this. While I did spot her trademark of filler-sections which involve conversations that barely, if at all, actually move the plot along, I was still able to enjoy this story. I'm not a massive fan of plots where everything can be cleared up with a simple conversation, but this was a pleasant way to pass the time. 7/10
3. Christmas Traps and Trimmings by Kelly Eileen Hake I loved the introduction to this story, where Mina and her guardian trick the lawyer into thinking that she's getting married and needs money for her trousseau. It was such an original start to the story and it was interesting having the novella start in England. I'm not sure if this story was shorter than the others but it definitely felt like it was, so when we got to the end of the novella I was expecting another chapter and was surprised that it ended so abruptly. Mina and Sam went from hating each other to falling in love just because of the avalanche and the letter. I just felt like this novella needed a bit more to it, maybe another chapter or so. Still, the combination of Mina's English ancestry and the avalanche made for an interesting read, as always with Kelly Eileen Hake's stories. 8/10
4. A Star in the Night by Liz Johnson I was intrigued by the premise of this story of a Southern woman caring for a wounded Union soldier during the Civil War. I studied the US Civil War for the entirety of my final year of high school, but in all honesty, I think this is the first romance I've read set during that war. I enjoyed reading about the slow-blossoming relationship between Cora and Jed, and it was nice to see how they gently fell for each other rather than being pushed into the situation by a sudden event. But still, it was just a nice story. I didn't really get any sense of how deep their love for each other and there was no feeling of passion or even chemistry between them. The story got a bit holier-than-thou at one point, when after Jed and Cora share their first kiss they make sure they never spend any time alone together inside the cabin, and Jed only enters the cabin when Cora's father is there. Yet it's okay for them to be alone together in the woods? Temptation doesn't only exist behind closed doors! Anyway, the author's need to mention that they didn't spend any time alone together seemed really forced and unnecessary, even for the time period. They'd spent plenty of time alone together before the kiss and I don't thin that one kiss meant that they would suddenly jump on each other and be unable to control their desires if they were alone in the cabin. There were several other similar comments throughout the story and it just left a bad taste in my mouth, so to speak. Even coming from a Christian, some bits of this story were a bit preachy and holier-than-thou. Some things could easily have been left unmentioned regarding the couple's over-the-top propriety. This combined with the fact that the story was cute but nothing really special docks the rating a bit. 7/10
5. The Courting Quilt by Jane Kirkpatrick It took me a while to get into this story and I'm not sure if this is because it was slow moving initially or because I kept getting interrupted when I started reading it. But despite this, I really enjoyed it once I got to know the characters. Mary is such a unique character, and very well developed considering that this was a short novella. The secondary characters were equally colourful and definitely made this story stand out from the others in the collection. And I loved the mix up over the quilt "test"! I didn't feel like I got to know Richard as well as I did Mary, but maybe this was just because was so well developed. 9/10
6. Under His Wings by Liz Tolsma I love marriage of convenience stories and I enjoyed seeing how Adie and Noah drew closer together thanks to being in such close proximity all the time as Noah tried to protect Adie from Drew. This story also didn't shy away from some of the dangers of an unmarried woman being around men who of ill-repute who had been away from any other women for a long time, which while being very unpleasant is entirely representative of some situations that women find themselves in. I really enjoyed reading about Adie working with Cookie making the meals for the men at the camp and Noah trying to figure out what made Adie tick and their growing chemistry, but their romance just seemed a little too short, maybe because there were several chapters before the two characters properly got together. And the ending was entirely too convenient to be really believable, and everything happened so fast - the husband being found and brought back to the cabin, the bad guy being got rid of in a very convenient and vague manner, and the contents of Adie's letter solving all their problems. Maybe if the last few pages had been spread over a whole chapter it would have seemed more realistic, but perhaps the author met her word count. Either way, this dropped from a 10/10 to a 9/10 at the end.
7. The Dogtrot Christmas by Michelle Ule I enjoyed the blend of Mexican and American culture in this story, as I feel that so many Christian novels are written about white Christians. It was nice to see this author embracing the fact that you can be a Christian no matter what your culture or ancestry is. But I did feel that there wasn't much romance to this story. The protagonists didn't spend a lot of time together and didn't even consider each other as love interests until near the end of the story. More focus was placed on Luis coming to know Christ than there was on him getting to know Molly! While I don't have any problem with stories focusing on a character's spiritual journey, this story was marketed as a romance so this was a bit of a disappointment. As interesting as the cultural aspects of this story were, it was severely lacking in romance. 8/10
8. A Grand Country Christmas by Debra Ullrick I really enjoyed this story, mainly because it contained two of my favourite components: a snowbound couple and German characters. I spent two months in Germany in my last year of high school and actually started out studying a joint degree with German, so I love novels peppered with German phrases (one of the reasons I love Amish fiction so much), plus the Germans have the best Christmas food! Stollen and lebkuchen! The romance in this story was lovely, and it was refreshing to see chemistry between the characters that was akin to Mary Connealy or Kelly Long. There was also a little bit of mystery in this story, but I felt that it was pushed to the side a little because of the romance and the word constraints of being a novella, so that makes me drop my rating a bit as it made the ending seem a bit sudden. I also felt that Awnya didn't totally deal with the issues with her new daughter, that situation seemed to be wrapped up a little too fast. 9/10
9. Christmas Service by Erica Vetsch This story provided a lot of food for thought, even today. I often feel that the more obvious ministries are seen as the more important ones, and the people who put out the chairs on a Sunday morning or wind microphone cables after the service don't provide as much to the church as the minister or pastor. Beth believes she's been "called" to be a pastor's wife because her mother and her grandmother were married to pastors and this seems to be the most noble calling. Blacksmith Todd makes her rethink her preconceptions and realise that maybe God has another plan for her life, not the one she had always expected. There's a lot to be said about service and what it really means to serve in this book which I appreciated, even if found Beth to be quite annoying and self-centred. 8/10
Having seen first-hand the devastation that her older sister's arranged marriage brought on her family, Faith Westcott is desperate not to let the samHaving seen first-hand the devastation that her older sister's arranged marriage brought on her family, Faith Westcott is desperate not to let the same thing happen to her or her younger siblings. But her sea-faring father is convinced that the way to keep his daughters safe is to marry them off as soon as possible. Faith strikes a deal with him; if she can raise enough money through her "soap making" business to support her and her two sisters, they don't have to find husbands. Little does her father know that Faith is secretly the infamous lady pirate, The Red Siren, and will soon have enough funds to keep her and her sisters safe for a long time. That is, until her father assigns pirate-hunter Dajon White to be their guardian while he's away at sea. Will Dajon discover her secret before she's able to raise enough money? Or will Faith change her mind about swearing off marriage forever?
Putting aside the awkward smile of the cover model, the absurdity of Faith being able to hide her pirating from her entire family, and the fact that the hero is called Dajon - which I swear, I read every single time as "Dijon", like the mustard - I actually ended up loving this book. When I read the blurb and looked at the cheesy cover, I thought that, at best, it would be a bit of fun escapism. But when I started reading, I was hooked and dreaded having to put it down. I'm a massive fan of romance novels, historicals in particular, and although the plot is a bit outlandish this book does have all the great components for a romance novel. And, to be honest, a lot of romances are a bit unbelievable, so why complain about female pirates?
Faith is your typical head-strong, stubborn heroine who thinks that she knows everything about the world and doesn't need a man to hold her back. She's feisty, and while I could never be as confident and brash as she is with her friends and family, I could admire her desire to protect her family and ended up really connecting with her. She's surrounded by a cast of wonderful secondary characters, from her strict father to her younger sisters - one rebellious, one pious - to the servants that try to keep an eye out for the Westcott girls. I'll admit that, after reading a few reviews of this book, I had to admit that the characters were a bit caricatured in places, but I really didn't notice this while I was reading the book, so it didn't spoil my enjoyment at all. I was particularly enraptured by the relationship that Faith had with her sisters, especially the rebellious Hope, who features in the next book in the series. This is a family you can really relate to and have an instant connection with, making you want to sit down and devour all three books in one sitting.
Despite his bizarre and rather distracting name, Dajon is a hero that all women will fall for. He has a troubled past, and is determined not to get involved with women in case he ends up hurting them. He's smarting from issues with a father he can never impress, and hopes that his career will eventually get him the attention he desires. But he also manages to reign Faith in and help her through the difficulties in her life, particularly her relationship with God. Faith and Dajon have great chemistry, the sizzling kind that isn't often found in Christian novels. Nothing inappropriate happens, obviously, but I do appreciate it when authors show the attraction between a couple.
My only real complaint - aside from the cover and Dajon's name - would be about the spiritual aspect of this book. While I enjoy hearing about a character's struggles in their Christian life alongside the regular plot of a novel, I like it to be more subtle and integrated. Here, sometimes it came across as really preachy, and I felt that in places it completely took away from the main plot. In a way, it almost felt like Grace had to get her relationship with God perfect before she was allowed to have a relationship with Dajon, which really isn't how it works in real life. We're all human, we're never perfect when it comes to spiritual matters, and God would never deny us happiness just because we struggle. I wouldn't say that this completely spoiled the book for me, as I loved the rest of it, but the heavy-handed approach to spiritual matters does make me drop a star from it's rating. However, I will say that I loved the section where some sort of spiritual presence protects Hope - very cool, not something you typically read about in romance novels!
While there were a few things that I disliked about this book, I did love reading it and can't wait to get on to the rest in the series. This novel has a wonderful blend of romance, historical detail, adventure and mystery, and is packed full of characters that you won't want to say goodbye to. M. L. Tyndall is definitely an author to look out for. 9/10...more
YA fiction has never been a genre I've particularly enjoyed, but as I'd read the first book in this series and found it fairly entertaining I thoughtYA fiction has never been a genre I've particularly enjoyed, but as I'd read the first book in this series and found it fairly entertaining I thought I'd give the second one a try. However, I'm really having to force myself to continue reading this book and I'm starting to think it may not be worth it. Obviously, from reviews, other readers have enjoyed this book but it isn't ringing true with me. Kim's black friend seems to have been placed in the book to make it more politically correct and every scene with her in it feels fake and like the author is trying to say "Look at me, I'm not racist! And my rich, white characters aren't racist either! Look how ethnically mixed this book is!" Admittedly, I'm not African-American but I am Anglo-Indian and I cringed at all the sections that seemed to be attempting to break down racial barriers. How to make a book with multiple races in it seem more ground breaking and racially diverse? Don't mention the races. Seriously! The first book had a few bits in it where I could tell the author was trying to be PC but this one just overdid it. I'm not a massive fan of YA fiction anyway so I think I'm going to give this one a miss and leave it to the professional YA reviewers as I'm just not enjoying it and probably won't do it justice for the YA fans. But I can say that as someone from a mixed-race family with various black relatives, I found the comments on racism in this book quite embarrassing and unnecessary. Privileged white Americans will probably appreciate how PC and modern this book makes them feel, reading about a white girl whose best friend is black, but for those of us who are familiar with racism and ethnic diversity, it's a bit of a cringe-fest! 3/10...more
GENRE: ROMANCE PUBLISHER: BARBOUR PUBLISHING PUBLICATION DATE: AUGUST 1, 2011 RATING: 6 OUT OF 10
Nineteen-year-old Katy Yoder is looking forward to cheriGENRE: ROMANCE PUBLISHER: BARBOUR PUBLISHING PUBLICATION DATE: AUGUST 1, 2011 RATING: 6 OUT OF 10
Nineteen-year-old Katy Yoder is looking forward to cherishing friendship and the single life when she moves in to a renovated Dawdi house with her best friends, Lily and Megan. Katy is satisfied with her lot in life, working as a cleaner for various local families, and isn’t quite ready to settle down and get married just yet, unlike many other Mennonite girls her age. Still suffering from the hurt she experienced when her long-term boyfriend, Jake, left to join the English world, Katy would rather not entertain thoughts of dating anyone else until she’s sure that she’s completely over Jake. But her simple little world is soon disrupted when Jake himself returns to the church, not looking any worse for wear from his worldly adventures and keen to help get involved in rebuilding the church hall – a project which Katy is also participating in. No matter what she does, Katy can’t seem to avoid Jake, and his constant presence makes her wonder whether she can ever get over their past relationship. Jake is keen to pick up where they left off before he went to university, but Katy doesn’t want to settle for “damaged goods”, especially after seeing his English ex-girlfriend. Can Katy put aside her judgements of the English world and accept Jake for who he is now, ignoring his past transgressions?
As a fan of Amish fiction, it was fascinating to read about a Mennonite community and learn about how different – or similar – their way of life is. The mentions of electricity and cars came as a surprise initially, but some similarities remained, such as prayer kapps and the distrust of the internet. But as much as I enjoyed learning about a new way of life, I did struggle to view the Mennonite lifestyle through the eyes of Katy. She had a very narrow-minded perspective of the world, to the extent that any form of dancing was a sin and drinking alcohol immediately brought about drunken and lewd behaviour. As someone from a church which engages in dancing as a form of worship and who appreciates a good Shiraz, naturally I was a bit bemused by Katy’s black and white view on life. It’s particularly interesting to note that I’m nineteen myself, and have been living away from home for two years and am engaged to get married next year – a lot of similarities to Katy. But despite these connections, I still found her outlook on life to be very narrow-minded and judgemental, and her attitude towards her relationship with Jake very immature. I’m not saying this as someone with a wealth of life-experience who can view events in hindsight, but as someone who’s actually at a very similar stage in their life to Katy. To be honest, if I came across someone like her in a class at my university, I wouldn’t be rushing to become friends with her, particularly if she was going to call me a sinner when I attended a dance class or went to the pub.
That said, Katy does redeem herself. It just takes a very long time for this to happen. In a sense, this is a coming-of-age story, where Katy slowly comes to realise that her attitudes are wrong and gently matures throughout the course of the story. I’m not sure whether this book is being marketed for the adult or young adult range, but I definitely think it would be better suited for girls in their mid-teens, perhaps 14 – 16 year olds. If I, at nineteen, struggled with Katy’s immature behaviour, I’m not sure how someone my mum’s age would react. Maybe they’d have more patience, or maybe they’d be even more frustrated! But as Katy’s attitudes were very typical of a teenager – I’m sure I probably shared some of her limited world-views as a fifteen-year-old – this is probably a book that would appeal more to the young adult market. There are a lot of life-lessons to be learnt from this book, about everything from friendships to living to arrangements to relationships with parents to boyfriends to job-hunting. The friendship between Katy and her house-mate Lily is very typical of the ones I remember from high school, and would probably be easily recognised by girls of this age.
The romance between Katy and Jake was all over the place, and one of those ones that could have easily been made more manageable if the two of them sat down together and talked and actually listened to each other. One pet peeve of mine in romance novels is when everything blows up in a relationship because of a Big Misunderstanding that could be cleared up if the characters slowed down long enough to talk it over. I’m afraid this book had a few BMs in it. Naturally, these BMs can be attributed to Katy’s immaturity, but this doesn’t negate how irritating it was for me as a reader. As pleased as I was that Katy eventually got the guts to talk to Jake about his time “in the world” and forgive him for his mistakes, I couldn’t help but wonder if the book would have been more interesting if Jake had truly rebelled in his time at university and Katy had had to come to terms with Jake truly being “damaged goods” in her eyes. As it was, Jake had merely gone to a few parties, drank a few beers and shared a couple of kisses with one girl. Katy spent a lot of the book worrying about whether Jake had still remained pure in his time at university, and I know from personal experience that a lot of nice Christian girls end up marrying guys who did far worse than Jake in their rebellious periods, so I think the book might have been more interesting if Katy had bigger and more serious relationship hurdles to overcome. Alas, the issue of remaining pure until marriage and then marrying someone who never considered the importance of purity in their youth has yet to be covered in any book I’ve read. But back to Katy – naturally, as this series is titled Plain City Bridesmaids, the book ends in a wedding. Despite my misgivings about the BMs scattered throughout their relationship, I am happy that our hero and heroine put aside their preconceived ideas about relationships and accepted each other for who they are. I just with that the book hadn’t suddenly jumped to a wedding, as I felt that Katy and Jake’s relationship was still quite young and immature, and they needed more time to make sure that they can actually remain a couple without blowing up again over a tiny issue, before tying the knot.
If it appears that I’m ripping this book to shreds, I do apologise. The problems that I encountered when reading this book aren’t to do with flaws in the plot or characterisation or even the writing itself, but the simple fact that this book seems to have been written for a younger audience. I’m sure a teenage girl would adore this book and understand Katy’s dilemmas, not finding her as immature and narrow-minded as I did. I would caution more mature readers to be aware of the very teenage feel of this novel, although those who love YA fiction probably wouldn’t have the same frustrations as myself. Despite my misgivings with this book, I will admit that I did mostly enjoy reading it, although I did want to take Katy by the shoulders and shake her several times throughout the story.
Review title provided courtesy of Barbour Publishing....more
Beth McClellan's little sister, Sally, has grown up a lot since the debut title in the Sophie's Daughters series and is about to have a romantic advenBeth McClellan's little sister, Sally, has grown up a lot since the debut title in the Sophie's Daughters series and is about to have a romantic adventure of her own. After her party is attacked on their journey to visit Mandy, another McClellan sister, Sally finds herself the sole survivor of the brutal ambush. Sally is fortunate enough to be rescued by Logan McKenzie, an artist who lives in the wild mountains of Montana. She's nursed back to health by Logan and his Indian housekeeper, Wise Sister, and finds herself challenged by the idea of a man who makes his living through art, not hard labour. Wary of unconventional men after Mandy's marriage to gold-miner Sidney brought her nothing but trouble, Sally tries to ignore the feelings she has for kind, considerate Logan. But once they find themselves on the run from the men who killed the rest of Sally's travelling party, Sally can't help but see admirable traits in the man who sets out to protect her. Could she really spend the rest of her life with a sensitive man who prefers painting to hunting? Maybe he's the perfect match for a woman who carries a gun and refuses to ride side-saddle...
Mary Connealy is fast becoming one of my favourite historical novelists. Her romances are full of feisty heroines, excellent one-liners and lots of action. While I didn't warm up to Sally as much as I did Beth, this was still a very enjoyable read.
Sally is probably the most unconventional woman you'll find in a romance set in Montana in 1882: she wears trousers, doesn’t ride side-saddle and is a better shot that most of the men in her hometown in Texas. If you thought a female doctor was an unusual character in Doctor in Petticoats, I'm sure you'd admit that a female wrangler is not the norm either. I found Sally to be a bit more stubborn than Beth, but maybe this is because her story wasn’t quite as comic as Beth’s. With Doctor in Petticoats, I found myself drawn into the story by Beth’s sarcasm and wittiness, whereas Sally was quite arrogant and immature in her demands for Logan and Wise Sister to leave her alone and let her make her way to Mandy’s. Of course, this can probably be attributed to her youth, as she is a lot younger than Beth. She became a more endearing character as the plot progressed, and I came to realise that her dismissal of Logan stemmed from her fear of ending up in an unhappy marriage like Mandy. Despite her lack of conventionality, Sally worries and frets over the biggest decision any romantic heroine will make – who shall I marry?
I’ve always been more fond of Beta heroes than Alpha males, and Logan fit the bill quite well. While I wasn’t pleased by how easily nature and his art could detract his attention from Sally (although I’m sometimes tempted to unplug my fiancé’s computer when he’s not paying attention to me!) he was incredibly sensitive to Sally’s needs and didn’t mind her crying when she was in pain or worried about her sister. As Sally herself witnessed, it’s not often that a man can handle a woman becoming incredibly emotional, so that fact alone made me admire Logan. I also found the details about his art incredibly fascinating, particularly as the author suggested that he was dabbling in expressionism, an art movement that I've studied at university. I’ll admit that those who are less knowledgeable when it comes to the art world might not be interested in Logan’s work, but I’m sure most readers will be able to appreciate the descriptions of the scenery that he paints.
Other than Sally’s stubbornness, my only other complaint would have to be that the romance is slow to develop. I was more than halfway through the book before I really felt that Sally and Logan became interested in each other, and while I appreciated the time that the author gave the characters to develop independently, I felt that the romance suddenly escalated at this point and felt a bit rushed. Of course, I was very happy with the outcome, but the development of their relationship did feel like it was compressed into the latter half of the novel, which wasn’t ideal. For this reason, I’d have to say that I preferred the first novel in the series, although this wouldn’t in any way put me off reading the last book, which focuses on Mandy’s story.
During the second instalment in the Sophie’s Daughters series Sally McClellan comes to learn a lot about herself and her thoughts on love and marriage with the help of the sensitive artist who becomes her rescuer. Fans of Mary Connealy and wild west romances won’t be disappointed by this novel, and it’s sure to make your heart pound and put a smile on your face. 8/10...more
Edit on 14th March 2011: On second thoughts, I'm bumping this from 8/10 to 9/10. Thinking about this book, I did truly enjoy it and can only really reEdit on 14th March 2011: On second thoughts, I'm bumping this from 8/10 to 9/10. Thinking about this book, I did truly enjoy it and can only really recall a couple of tiny, minor faults about it.
Heading home to Texas for her sister's wedding, Beth is less than pleased to be sharing her stagecoach with a drunken vagrant. But when they come across another stagecoach that's been involved in an accident, trainee-nurse Beth knows that she needs all the help that she can get. Yet no one is more surprised than she when Alex reveals that he's actually an ex-army doctor. Finally arriving at her hometown, her relatives and neighbours welcome her with open arms, especially when they learn that she's brought a doctor with her. Despite her aspirations to treat the town's residents herself, Beth knows that a female doctor will never be allowed. But Alex is still mentally scarred from the horrors that he's experienced on the battlefield, and insists that Beth help him treat his patients. Her parents are unhappy with this arrangement, until Alex suggests something that even Beth thinks she can agree to - a marriage of convenience. Beth will work alongside Alex, helping to alleviate his fears, and giving her the chance to use her medical skills. Will their marriage remain purely practical, or can it develop into something more? And will Alex's mysterious past ever catch up with him, revealing why he's still having nightmares about the war?
As you may have noticed, I'm on a historical romance kick right now, especially with novels set in late 1800s USA. Prairie life, homesteading and stagecoaches galore! And Mary Connealy appears to be Queen of these books! I've never read anything by her before but I'll definitely be keeping my eye out for more of her books.
I made the mistake of starting this while studying for my English exam and had to keep tearing myself away. The start of this novel, where Beth is on the stagecoach and comes across the accident, is incredibly fast-paced and sucks you right into the story. Beth's a spunky heroine and takes control of the situation, ordering Alex and the driver around so that she can take care of everyone. Her heart is obviously in the right place, even if she has to beat Alex over the head with his own hat to make him obey her orders!
The chemistry between Alex and Beth is brilliant. While Beth initially finds Alex irritating, they work well together, both as doctor and nurse and as husband and wife. It was lovely to see their relationship developing and I loved Connealy's portrayal of marriage. Not only did this couple have a wonderful equal partnership where they relied on each other, but Connealy made it clear that sex is something to be celebrated between husband and wife. Some books ignore the subject of sex in marriage, or make it seem like a duty, so I'm very grateful to this author for showing that it is something to be both cherished and celebrated! That said, there was nothing graphic or descriptive on the topic of sexuality, just a few sentences here and there hinting that a happily married couple enjoyed spending time together in their bedroom.
While reading the novel I discovered that some of the characters had previously featured in other books - which is excellent as I'd love to read more about Beth's parents! However, I'm more interested in Mandy, the sister whose wedding Beth was heading home for. I really enjoyed the subplot about her in this book, and I'm happy to see that she's the focus of #3 in the Sophie's Daughters series.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but I didn't completely love it. While I was initially drawn in by Beth's spunkiness and the quirky and humorous narrative, this petered out after a while. The final conflict was fun to read, but I felt like the focus shifted from Beth to Alex. Of course, I enjoyed reading about Alex too but I found that I preferred the sections of the novel that were from Beth's perspective. I'll definitely be reading more books in this series as I enjoy reading about the McClellan family, but this isn't my absolute favourite historical romance.
If you like your romances to have a quirky narrative and a spunky heroine, this is definitely one to look out for. All three of the books in the Sophie's Daughters series are already on the shelves, so you won't even have to wait to find out what happens next to the McClellan sisters! 9/10...more
GENRE: AMISH PUBLISHER: BARBOUR PUBLISHING PUBLICATION DATE: APRIL 1, 2011 RATING: 4 OUT OF 10
When the chance to work as a carpenter in an Amish communiGENRE: AMISH PUBLISHER: BARBOUR PUBLISHING PUBLICATION DATE: APRIL 1, 2011 RATING: 4 OUT OF 10
When the chance to work as a carpenter in an Amish community in Kentucky arises, Titus Fisher jumps at the opportunity. Always in the shadow of his perfect twin brother, Timothy, and watched like a little child by his mother, Titus feels it’s time to find where he belongs in the world. And since this offer follows his girlfriend Phoebe’s announcement that she still isn’t ready to join the Amish church, Titus feels that perhaps it would do him some good to be away from the ties he has back home in Pennsylvania. Soon he’s settling into the rhythms of life in Kentucky, despite the dilapidated trailer he lives in and his lack of a buggy, and he strikes up a good friendship with the Yoder family, who are employing him to work in their carpentry shop. But it takes him longer to warm up to Suzanne Yoder, an unconventional young woman who prefers being in the outdoors and woodwork to cooking and sewing. But Suzanne looks just like Phoebe, and Titus can’t help but look of Suzanne and remember how Phoebe broke his heart when she went to explore the English world. Will Titus’s memories of Phoebe put a rift between him and Suzanne, or will he learn to let go of the past and discover what God has planned for him in Kentucky?
I will advise that while I tried to start this book with an open mind, I’ve never been a big fan of Wanda Brunstetter. While she’s incredibly popular in the Amish genre, which contains many of my favourite books, I’ve yet to figure out what is so appealing about her books. While many of them contain standard romance plots, I often find her writing stilted and her characters lacking in personality. Despite this, I determined to give her works another try with The Journey, which many of my friends have praised. The plot of this novel, while being fairly predictable, did sound like it had promise, particularly with Suzanne being such an unusual character for an Amish novel.
Unfortunately I found it very difficult to enjoy this book. As with previous Brunstetter novels (On Her Own, Plain and Fancy and Kelly’s Chance, to name those that I’ve read) I found the dialogue very stilted and fake-sounding, as were the internal thoughts of many of the characters. This was particularly jarring as the majority of The Journey is dialogue. I would say that at least 80% of this book was dialogue, and while normally I love conversation-driven novels, there was barely any description at all. Books in the Amish genre really need descriptions of the scenery and day-to-day life to make them seem authentic. Sadly, The Journey was very lacking in this department and could really have been set anywhere, if for the occasionally Pennsylvanian Dutch word and mention of a buggy. The Penn Dutch speech was pretty irritating in that whenever a character said anything in Dietsch, another character would then repeat the same sentence back almost word for word so that the reader would understand what the word meant. This sounded incredibly fake, and happened too often for me not to notice.
The plot jumped around too much for my liking, leaping back and forth between Titus in Kentucky and his family back home in Pennsylvania, and occasionally over to Phoebe in California. It seemed really unnecessary to include Phoebe’s sections as they really didn’t add much to the plot, other than to show that she wasn’t enjoying herself in the English world. The scenes in Pennsylvania were much the same, and seemed to repeat a lot of what had happened to Titus in Kentucky as word of his new life spread to all of her relatives. More often than not, these sections ended up detracting from the plot rather than adding to it.
There were a lot of dramatic events in this book, far too many than is realistic. On several occasions characters are nearly run off the road in their buggies - by a motorbike, a horse and wild dogs - and if these events had been connected I wouldn't have minded, but they weren't! These three events were never given any sort of plausible explanation that linked to the plot, and seemed mainly to function to bring Titus and Suzanne closer together in the aftermath of their experience. The first two events I shrugged off, but I’ll admit that I nearly laughed out loud at the appearance of the feral dogs. There's also a situation surrounding some stolen money which is cleared up far too quickly and easily to be at all believable, and then is never mentioned again by any of the characters. It felt like the author kept trying to insert some sort of mystery into the book but then resolved the situations too fast to actually make the book mysterious. And don't even get me started on all the deaths and tragedies that occurred with this family – is it really possible for one family to suffer so many traumas? Some of them seemed quite unnecessary, and the way that the characters dealt with them seemed rather offensive to anyone who has lost a relative or a child.
I have a few minor complaints about this book which, coupled with my issues with the dialogue, plot-jumping and unrealistic nature of some of the events in this book, ended up taking away from what could have been a fairly enjoyable reading experience. Firstly, The Journey apparently follows on from another series of books as numerous references are made to Zach having being kidnapped as a child. Yet for new readers, this situation isn’t explained very well and left me feeling very confused. There’s nothing in the synopsis to suggest that this series follows another one, so new readers beware of this. I’d also like to caution that while this book is marketed as Christian fiction, the spiritual aspect is very minor. The characters only ever talked to God when they were in dire need of help, but otherwise never mentioned Him, which is particularly unsettling for a novel about the Amish where God is normally central to their community and way of life. There’s a semi-conversion scene towards the end of the novel, which is one of my pet hates in Christian fiction because it is so rarely done in a tactful and satisfying manner.
While I did not enjoy this novel, I have read several glowing reviews of it and would encourage potential readers to read those before making a final decision on whether to read The Journey. As much as I hate to write a critical review, this is my honest opinion and I think it necessary to share my views on a book from one of my favourite genres. I’ve read many wonderful new books from this genre that have released this year, and The Journey just doesn’t measure up to novels from newcomers like Kelly Long, Barbara Cameron or Ruth Reid. On a more positive note, fans of Brunstetter will probably enjoy this book as it’s much the same as her earlier novels, but this also means that readers who dislike her work will probably have the same reaction as I did.
Review title provided courtesy of Barbour Publishing....more