The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen – Book Review

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SecretofPembrookePark_mck.inddPractical Abigail Foster blames herself for her family’s financial ruin. If she hadn’t advised her father to invest in her uncle’s bank their family would still be financially secure and she would still have hope of making an eligible marriage. When her family is mysteriously offered the use of an abandoned manor house, she is drawn to stories of a hidden room full of treasure. Will Abigail uncover the mysteries of the house and find the love she longs for? Or will her search lead those she loves into danger?

The Secret of Pembrooke Park is the fourth of Julie Klassen’s books that I have had the pleasure of reading, and it is by far my favorite. All of her books rely on detailed research of the Regency period. What I appreciated about this story was that it did not require extensive explanations of customs or laws of the period. I also liked that, while it did include a strong romance, it also included a fair bit of mystery. The characters felt authentic, and I applaud Ms. Klassen for being willing to give her characters authentic flaws.

My one complaint about this novel was that it was so long (over 450 pages) that it was hard to find the time to read the entire book without feeling that I was losing the flow of the story. I did feel that cutting or diminishing some of the characters could have created a more concise novel. However, a satisfactory ending made me more than willing to forgive the length of the book.

If you enjoy light mysteries or clean Regency romance, I would suggest giving this novel a try!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This did not impact my review in any way, and all opinions are my own. This post may contain affiliate links.

Destined for Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon – Book Review

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In this sequel to the young adult fantasy novel Doon, Mackenna Reed is pursuing her dream of life on Broadway. But even though a year has passed, she can’t forget the prince she abandoned in the magical country of Doon. When he suddenly appears in her dressing room and informs her that she is needed to stop the spread of a terrible evil, she realizes that he is only here because the kingdom needs her.

Meanwhile in Doon, Mackenna’s best friend Veronica is struggling to hold on to her place as queen. With evil crossing the border and her people inclined to treat her with suspicion, she will need the support of both her handsome prince and her best friend to save the day.

Much of the plot revolves around Mackenna realizing that she pushed her one true love away a year ago and that it is most likely impossible for them to ever be together. And in the other POV, Veronica is struggling with her relationship with Prince Jamie. Because of this, the book is heavy on the romance and includes a lot of kissing – more so than I would have expected in a book that is marketed as Christian.

Because the country of Doon is basically a fantasy version of old Scotland, there are some cultural differences and fantasy elements that parents might find disturbing. For example, an eighteen-year-old gets drunk, and the book’s villains practice witchcraft. While there are some “spiritual” themes (a divine protector, spiritual gifts, etc.) they make up only a small portion of the book and are overshadowed by the romantic tensions between the characters.
While I did feel that Destined for Doon fell somewhat short of being described as a Christian novel, there were several elements that I liked. Mackenna is into theater, and I found her frequent references to Broadway shows entertaining. The characters who have come to Doon from the modern world were also diverse and interesting – especially the street-wise London thief.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, but its likely not one that I will read again. If you enjoy young adult romances or fantasy and are a fan of Broadway you might want to give this a try.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This post contains affiliate links.

 

Prelude for a Lord by Camille Elliot – Book Review

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Prelude for a Lord is a Christian historical romance set in Bath, England. At twenty-eight, Lady Alethea Sutherton has no plans to marry. The unconventional, awkward young woman instead spends her time playing the violin – a scandalous instrument for a woman to play – and dreaming of turning thirty, receiving her inheritance, and escaping to Italy where her love of music will be understood. Lord Dommick is a music-loving Baron who cannot escape the terrors of his years spent fighting the French or the gossip that hounds his family. When an unknown thief goes to extreme lengths to obtain her violin, Alethea turns to Lord Dommick to find out what secrets it holds.

As an enormous fan of Jane Austen, I am always looking for good reads from the Regency period. Even though I have read a number of books from this time in British history, I had never encountered a plot that revolves around the distinctions between suitable and unsuitable musical pursuits for women of this time. This novel also takes place in Bath, rather than London, and I enjoyed the fresh setting and subject matter.

Overall, I highly enjoyed this book. The romance unfurls slowly enough that it feels natural, and Alethea and Dommick are two characters that I felt would naturally be drawn to each other. The problems that separate them are also realistic without being boring, the characters are flawed enough to feel honest, and the plot contains just enough action to keep it interesting without taking away from the romance of the two characters. Ms. Elliot is obviously a talented author, and I look forward to reading more of her books in the future.

This was a delightful read that I will be enjoying again. If you love clean Regency reads or historical romance with a hint of danger, give this one a try!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers http://booklookbloggers.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from all purchases made through these links, which allows me to buy more books and keep blogging!

I’m No Angel – Book Review

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In December 2011, 21-year-old Victoria’s Secret Runway Angel Kylie Bisutti stunned the fashion industry when she chose faith over fame and fortune and made the switch from supermodel to role model.

In I’m No Angel, Kylie shares her story—from her early years as she struggled to make it big in the cutthroat world of modeling, to her “big break” winning the Victoria’s Secret Runway Angel competition, to the disillusionment and spiritual warfare that followed. After finally realizing that she could no longer reconcile her career with her Christian beliefs, she surrendered her life to God and dedicated her life to preaching a message of modesty and inner beauty.

Along the way, Kylie talks about her personal struggles with inadequacy, low self-esteem, and her near-constant quest for approval in a world where you can never be thin enough, pretty enough, or sexy enough. She helps readers understand that true beauty lies within and that real fulfillment comes from knowing, loving, and serving Christ.

I have always found the fashion industry interesting and wondered what it would be like to be a model, so when I saw this autobiography by Kylie Bisutti it instantly went to the top of my reading list. When I started reading it, I was grateful to see that I’m No Angel delivered on the promise of the synopsis.

What I liked most about this book is the level of honesty and sensitivity that Kylie demonstrates. She is not shy about describing some of the darker areas of her past and the fashion industry in general, but the content is tastefully presented. If I had a teenage daughter I would have no problem letting her read this book.

The story itself is both challenging and inspiring. While reading this book I had to ask myself if I would have had strength to walk away from a successful, seemingly glamorous career. At the same time, I was inspired by walking with Kylie on the journey that led her to realize that she had to change the direction of her life. She is open in talking about temptation and the ways that we as humans are deceived by the enemy and his promises of grandeur.  For that reason, I think that this would be a great book for new Christians or those who are struggling to live a Christian life in a world that judges by outward appearances.

If you are interested in the fashion industry, find biographies inspiring, or have ever felt that you could never be beautiful enough, this is the book for you! You can also check out my review of her devotional for girls 30 Days to a More Beautiful You here.

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from all purchases made through these links, which allows me to buy more books and keep blogging!

What I’m Reading – September 2014

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September. Wow. Even watching the kids go back to school, I’m having a hard time acknowledging that summer is over. This month there are several books on my list that I didn’t have time for over the business of the summer. Hopefully cooler weather will also mean more time to read. So, without further ado, here are five of the books that I am looking forward to reading this month!

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All Right Here: A Darling Family Novel

Ivy Darling can’t have children of her own, and her husband Nick’s resentment is forcing them apart. And while Ivy has the support and love of her large, close-knit family, Nick’s family has never welcomed her into the fold.

When the three children next door are abandoned by their mother, Ivy and Nick take them in for the night. One night becomes several, and suddenly Ivy and Nick find themselves foster parents to the only African-American kids in the town of Copper Cove, Maine. As Ivy grows more attached to the children, Nick refuses to accept their eclectic household as a permanent family. Just as Ivy begins to question whether or not she wants to save her emotionally barren marriage, Nick begins to discover how much Ivy and the children mean to him. But is his change of heart too little, too late?

Infertility and foster care are two topics that are close to my heart. That, combined with an absolutely gorgeous cover, instantly drew me to this story. Stay tuned for a review!

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Mark of Distinction (Price of Privilege Book 2)

London is said to be the glittering jewel of society, a world unto itself—but to Julia Elliston it is a city of shadows. Her life is swiftly dissolving into scandal. And in Victorian society, even a whisper of scandal—substantiated or not—can be the death of a young woman’s reputation.

Now under the watchful eye of Lord Roy Pierson, one of most influential men in England, Julia begrudgingly accepts his protection. But Chance Macy’s power is far-reaching as well, and he is eager to assert his claim over her.

Thrust into society as the Emerald Heiress, Julia is the toast of London, a celebrated curiosity. But in reality she’s trapped between the clutches of two powerful men. Aided only by a gentleman whose intentions she prays she can trust, Julia must finally take control of her own fate—but outwitting one’s foe rarely goes according to plan.

After reading and enjoying the first book in this series, I am looking forward to seeing what new troubles Julia can find herself in. What I’m not looking forward to is waiting until January to find out how the story ends in Price of Privilege!

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When I Fall in Love

Hawaii was the last place Grace Christiansen ever imagined she’d vacation, much less fall in love. But when her family surprises her with a cooking retreat in paradise, she is pulled—or maybe yanked—away from her predictable, safe life and thrown headfirst into the adventure of a lifetime.

Max Sharpe may make his living on the ice as a pro hockey player, but he feels most at home in the kitchen. Which is why he lives for the three-week culinary vacation he takes each year in Hawaii. Upon being paired with Grace for a cooking competition, Max finds himself drawn to her passion, confidence, and perseverance. But just when Grace dares to dream of a future beyond her hometown, Max pulls away.

Wrestling with personal demons, Max fights against opening his heart to a love he knows he should never hope for. And as his secrets unfold, Grace is torn between the safe path in front of her and what her heart truly desires. If love means sacrificing her ideal happily ever after, Grace’s faith will face its toughest test yet

I greatly enjoyed the first two books in this series. When I saw that this third installment was set in Hawaii – one of my favorite places on earth – I knew that I had to read it.

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I’m No Angel: From Victoria’s Secret Model to Role Model

In December 2011, 21-year-old Victoria’s Secret Runway Angel Kylie Bisutti stunned the fashion industry when she chose faith over fame and fortune and made the switch from supermodel to role model.

In I’m No Angel, Kylie shares her story—from her early years as she struggled to make it big in the cutthroat world of modeling, to her “big break” winning the Victoria’s Secret Runway Angel competition, to the disillusionment and spiritual warfare that followed. After finally realizing that she could no longer reconcile her career with her Christian beliefs, she surrendered her life to God and dedicated her life to preaching a message of modesty and inner beauty.

Along the way, Kylie talks about her personal struggles with inadequacy, low self-esteem, and her near-constant quest for approval in a world where you can never be thin enough, pretty enough, or sexy enough. She helps readers understand that true beauty lies within and that real fulfillment comes from knowing, loving, and serving Christ.

I have been trying to add more non-fiction to my literary diet, and this book really stood out to me. What would it be like to rise to fame in the modeling world? And then to walk away from everything that you had worked for?

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A Bride in Store

Impatient to meet her intended groom and help him grow his general store, mail-order bride Eliza Cantrell sets out on her travels a week early. But her plan goes sadly awry when her train is held up by robbers who steal her dowry and Axel, her groom-to-be, isn’t even in town when she finally arrives.

Axel’s business partner, William Stanton, has no head for business and would much rather be a doctor. When his friend’s mail-order bride arrives in town with no money and no groom in sight, he feels responsible and lets her help around the store–where she quickly proves she’s much more adept at business than he ever will be.

The sparks that fly between Will and Eliza as they work together in close quarters are hard to ignore, but Eliza is meant for Axel and a future with the store, while Will is biding his time until he can afford medical school. However, their troubles are far from over when Axel finally returns, and soon both Will and Eliza must decide what they’re willing to sacrifice to chase their dreams–or if God has a new dream in store for them both.

The first book in this series, A Bride for Keeps was one of the best western romances that I have ever read. With the bar set very high, I am looking forward to reading this next installment.

What about you? What books are on your list to read this month?

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from all purchases made through these links, which allows me to buy more books and keep blogging!

Duty: a novel of Rhynan – Book Review

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Tomas Dyrease, the newly made Earl of Irvaine and the village of Wisenvale, owes his good fortune to his king and the recent civil war. When his benefactor demands Tomas marry the cousin of a noble, he obeys. However, no one warned him that she wasn’t a typical noblewoman.

Brielle Solarius struggles to keep her village from starvation under the new Lord Wisten, her cousin. The men rode off to war and never returned. The remaining women and children face a dire winter if they do not find a solution soon. When she learns her cousin sold her into marriage to save his life, she isn’t surprised. However, she is taken aback by Lord Irvaine’s unpolished ways. Was this man a noble or a foot soldier?

Bound by the words of their vows, they face a rough future. They must forge a marriage while battling betrayal, accusations of treason, and villains from the past. Survival depends on their precarious trust in each other. Failure could mean death.

Rachel Rossano is one of the authors that I have randomly discovered through social media. To this day I have no idea who first recommended her, but after reading and enjoying one of her novellas and a short story, I am glad that I found her work.

Duty is an adventurous fantasy story with danger, adventure, and romance. From the very first page I found myself drawn into this world, cheering for Brielle in the difficult circumstances in which she finds herself. What I liked most about this book was the level of description. All the senses are engages as you hear the sounds, see the sights, and smell the smells of Rhynan. And while this is a fantasy book set in a well-developed world, it does not include any of the magic elements that can be controversial for some readers.

The plot, the characters, and the setting were great. There were only a few minor things that I did not like about this novel. The main issue is that, with so many characters, it is hard to keep track of them – especially as the characters travel a lot and separate into different groups. Also, at the very beginning I wondered what direction the story was headed. (The book begins with the main character discovering that her hand has been given in marriage to a man she has never met, so you can imagine where that could go…) Thankfully, the author is careful in her descriptions and “fades to black” at the appropriate moments.

If you are looking for a new fantasy read with adventure and romance, Duty is a great beginning. I can’t wait to read the next book in this series!

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from all purchases made through these links, which allows me to buy more books and keep blogging!

Wild Thing – Book Review

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Twelve-year-old Winnie Willis has a way with horses. She can gentle the wildest mare, but other parts of her life don’t always come as easily. Along with her dad and sister, Lizzy, Winnie is learning how to live without her mom, who was also a natural horse gentler. As Winnie teaches her horses about unconditional love and blind trust, God shows Winnie that he can be trusted too. Readers will be hooked on the series’ vivid characters, whose quirky personalities fill Winnie’s life with friendship and adventure.

In #1 Wild Thing, Winnie’s fearful heart finally begins to trust God again as she tries to gentle the horse of her dreams, Wild Thing.

I think that, at some point in their lives, all girls go through a horse-crazy stage. I know that I did. When I was about eight, I devoured every book I could find on horses. Now that I am an adult, I am still looking for good horse books to share with the special girls in my life, and that search led me to the Winnie the Horse Gentler series. Wild Thing is a great start to this series of horse books for girls. Winnie and her family have just moved to a new town – again. When she discovers a beautiful Arabian horse in need of gentling, she is willing to do whatever it takes to keep her.

I enjoyed this book, and know that as an eight-year-old I would have loved it. The story is entertaining and includes topics such as fear and guilt, which are addressed in a method appropriate for the intended audience. A descriptive writing style and a cast of quirky characters make this an enjoyable read. As an added bonus, the back of the book includes a guide on horse behaviors and breeds.

If there is a horse-crazy girl in your life, this would be a perfect book to share with her!

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from all purchases made through these links, which allows me to buy more books and keep blogging!