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.

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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!

Claiming Mariah – Book Review

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After her father’s death, Mariah Malone sends a letter that will forever alter the lives of her family. When Slade Donovan, strong willed and eager for vengeance, shows up on her front porch, Mariah is not ready to hear his truths: her father’s farm, the only home she’s ever known, was bought with stolen gold. With Slade ready to collect his father’s rightful claim and force Mariah and her family out on the streets, Mariah must turn to God for guidance. Though Mr. Frederick Cooper, a local landowner, promises to answer her financial woes if she agrees to be his bride, Mariah finds herself drawn instead to the angry young man demanding her home.

With the ranch now under Slade’s careful eye, he unearths more than he ever imagined as a devious plot of thievery, betrayal, and murder threatens the well-being of the ranch, endangering those who hold it dear. As the days dwindle until the rest of the Donovan clan arrives at the Lazy M ranch, Mariah and Slade must rise above the resentment of their fathers and see their true feelings before greed changes their futures forever.

Honestly, I expected a bit more from this story. The books that I have read lately from Tyndale House have been so unique that I was looking forward to experiencing more of that creativity in Claiming Mariah.  However, rather than breaking new ground, this book fit comfortably into the western romance structure. Reading the synopsis basically allows you to figure out the entire plot of the book, and the subplots arrive exactly on time.

Despite the predictability of the story, I thought that this novel was very well written, and there were several things about it that I liked. The attraction between Mariah and Slade is vivid and immediate. Although I’m not really a fan of love at first sight stories, this instant attraction probably helped to keep the plot interesting – especially as neither of them trust the other. Their constant inner monologue also keeps you aware of this attraction. All of these are useful tools in progressing the story and relationship of the characters, but one of my favorite elements of this story was the use of the POV of one of the villains. Seeing the story from his perspective helped to add a hint of danger to a story that tended strongly toward the syrupy sweet.

While this was not my favorite read of the year, it was a fun western romance. If you’re looking for something light to pass the time, this might be your ticket!

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!

All For a Sister – Book Review

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In Hollywood during the Roaring Twenties, Celeste DuFrane has it all. Her father’s work with color movie film opens doors that lead to the stardom she’s always aspired to. But after losing her mother, she discovers that half the estate has been left to a woman accused of killing Celeste’s baby sister before Celeste was even born.

Dana Lundgren arrives on the steps of the DuFrane mansion having spent most of her life imprisoned for a crime that never happened. After accusing her of murder so many years ago, why did Marguerite DuFrane leave her a sizeable inheritance?

As Celeste and Dana learn each other’s stories, they come up with more questions than answers. Then a surprising discovery begins to fill in the missing pieces: Marguerite DuFrane’s written confession, penned shortly before her death. Uncovering the treachery and deceit that changed the course of countless lives—most of all, their own—the two women find more than they ever dreamed of.

All for a Sister is the second book by Allison Pittman that I have read. Both books have confirmed that she is an author with a unique voice and storytelling techniques that are far different from most other Christian authors.

Other than the unique premise, which grabbed me instantly, the thing that really stood out to me about this novel was the way that it was told. The books spans twenty years but is not told in chronological order. Rather, the story is told in fragments from three different perspectives: Celeste’s perspective, Dana’s perspective, and Marguerite’s written confession. This allows the author to feed the reader pieces of information and tease clues that will not be revealed until another character’s perspective reveals it. Sometimes I find this fragmented style to be distracting, but for this book it helped to hold my attention and added to the mystery.

Ms. Pittman is not afraid to deal with dark subjects or to give her characters genuine hardships – even to the point of sending a character to prison and leaving her accuser to deal with her guilt. And because she is such a talented writer, she is able to breathe life into the characters, making you care about them even as you watch them suffer. Her descriptions of their physical appearances also subtly re-enforces the character traits and struggles that define them.

Hollywood in the 1920’s is a fascinating setting, and I enjoyed reading a book that was set in this period. It definitely added interest to have a book with a setting not often portrayed in Christian fiction. Having studied American film, I also found it interesting to see how she included several celebrities of the time.

I enjoyed this book, mostly because of the way that the plot was told. If you love unique Christian fiction, this might be the book for you!

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!

Annie’s Stories – Book Review

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The year is 1901, the literary sensation The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is taking New York City by storm, and everyone wonders where the next great book will come from. But to Annie Gallagher, stories are more than entertainment—they’re a sweet reminder of her storyteller father. After his death, Annie fled Ireland for the land of dreams, finding work at Hawkins House.

But when a fellow boarder with something to hide is accused of misconduct and authorities threaten to shut down the boardinghouse, Annie fears she may lose her new friends, her housekeeping job . . . and her means of funding her dream: a memorial library to honor her father. Furthermore, the friendly postman shows a little too much interest in Annie—and in her father’s unpublished stories. In fact, he suspects these tales may hold a grand secret.

Though the postman’s intentions seem pure, Annie wants to share her father’s stories on her own terms. Determined to prove herself, Annie must forge her own path to aid her friend and create the future she’s always envisioned . . . where dreams really do come true.

Okay, the first thing that I have to say about this book is…. look at that cover! Now, most of the time I buy the Kindle version of books to save money, but sometimes I just have to have the paperback copy sitting on my shelf. I took one look at this gorgeous cover and fell in love with the colors, the setting of the photo, the model’s hairstyle… basically everything about it! Yep, this one is now sitting on my shelf.

So, now that I have elaborated on the cover, let’s get into what’s inside it! Basically this is the story of two very different people from different backgrounds who are trying to prove themselves in their own strength – one through establishing a library and the other through financial security. Both Annie and Stephen, the friendly postman, are orphans looking for love, acceptance, and a home. While Annie is an immigrant from Ireland who wants to start her life over and forget the horrible things that she endured in her native country, Stephen is an American who worries that he will turn out just like his father.

This was a sweet story that I found easy to get lost in. There were several things that I felt set it apart from other books of the period. First of all, I loved that so much of it was tied into The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. One of the very first conversations that the couple has is about the book, and as they are both avid readers I found it easy to connect with them. (How could you not like a guy who spends his spare cash on books?) And while this story does include a romance, it is not of the highly emotional variety. The two characters have only brief meetings, and it takes a while for them to forget the mistakes and hurts of their past enough to face the future. Personally, I found it refreshing to read a love story that, while sweet, was also more realistic that most. I also liked how much Irish culture was included. The author obviously put a lot of work into researching this story, and it definitely payed off.

If you love Christian historical fiction, Ireland, or learning about the conditions faced by immigrants definitely give this one a read. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Bridge to Haven – Book Review

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To those who matter in 1950s Hollywood, Lena Scott is the hottest rising star to hit the silver screen since Marilyn Monroe. Few know her real name is Abra. Even fewer know the price she’s paid to finally feel like she’s somebody.

To Pastor Ezekiel Freeman, Abra will always be the little girl who stole his heart the night he found her, a wailing newborn abandoned under a bridge on the outskirts of Haven. Zeke and his son, Joshua—Abra’s closest friend—watch her grow into an exotic beauty. But Zeke knows the circumstances surrounding her birth etched scars deep in her heart, scars that leave her vulnerable to a fast-talking bad boy who proclaims his love and lures her to Tinseltown. Hollywood feels like a million miles from Haven, and naive Abra quickly learns what’s expected of an ambitious girl with stars in her eyes. But fame comes at an awful price. She has burned every bridge to get exactly what she thought she wanted. Now, all she wants is a way back home.

Over a year ago a friend who knew that I love Christian fiction suggested that I read some of Francine Rivers’ novels, particularly Redeeming Love. I added the book to my list, but it quickly got lost. (I have a LOT of books on that list!) Then when Bridge to Haven came out, I saw a lot of positive buzz about it. As I have mentioned previously, I tend to be a little cautious when approaching books that have received widespread praise, but I decided to give this one a try.

When I started reading Bridge to Haven, my only knowledge of the plot was the official synopsis posted above. With no expectations of the story, I was surprised at how many of the books pages were devoted to detailing Abra’s journey to Hollywood. Rather than chronicling her journey home or beginning at the height of her fame, the novel literally opens with her birth and includes the events that ultimately led her to seek life in the spotlight.

It was no surprise to me that Francine Rivers is a talented writer; the scenes in this novel are well-structured and descriptive. However, I did feel that at times they were too descriptive. Abra makes some less than wise decisions that lead to her burning important bridges. While I realize that it is important for the reader to understand these events in order to connect with the characters, I sometimes felt that too many details (particularly related to physical intimacy) were included for the Christian fiction market.

Overall, I felt that this was a well-written story. I would recommend it to anyone who likes Christian fiction, with the disclaimer that it does include some themes that might make conservative readers uncomfortable.

Favorite E-books on Sale – August 9, 2014

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I love filling up my Kindle with e-books when they are on sale. Lately I have seen some of my favorites for unusually low prices, so I wanted to share them with you! Please note that these are the current prices as of today, but they could change at any time. Check the price before you buy!

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As You Are by Sarah M. Eden

Price: $1.99

A horse breeder by trade, Corbin Jonquil is more at home in the stables than in the ballroom of his sprawling estate. Corbin is the quietest of the Jonquil brothers and has always faded into the background, contentedly unnoticed. When a mysterious young widow, Mrs. Clara Bentford, moves into the neighborhood, however, Corbin quickly comes to realize that being noticed has its advantages. But how to catch the eye of the lady? According to his brothers, Corbin need only make a few simple changes to transform himself into the object of any woman’s desire—dubious advice, indeed. Following a series of misadventures, Corbin and Clara slowly lower the facades behind which they’ve been hiding, leaving Corbin shocked by the horrors that haunt the woman he’s coming to care for so ardently. When the menace of Clara’s past threatens to tear them apart and tensions mount, will the couple have the courage to fight for the promise of forever?

I discovered Sarah M. Eden on the recommendation of another blogger and quickly became a fan of her witty writing style. Her Regency romances are written in the style of Jane Austen and include some of the most hilarious characters I have encountered in fiction. This book is the third in her series about the Jonquil brothers. If you would like to read the first two books in the series check out Friends and Foes and Drops of Gold.

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The Kiss of a Stranger by Sarah M. Eden

Price: $2.99

When Crispin, Lord Cavratt, thoroughly and scandalously kisses a serving woman in the garden of a country inn, he assumes the encounter will be of no consequence. But he couldn’t be more mistaken— the maid is not only a lady of birth, she’s the niece of a very large, exceptionally angry gentleman, who claims Crispin has compromised his niece beyond redemption. The dismayed young lord has no choice but to marry Miss Catherine Thorndale, who lacks both money and refinement and assumes all men are as vicious as her guardian uncle. Trapped between an unwanted marriage and a hasty annulment, which would leave his reputation tainted and Catherine’s utterly ruined, Crispin begins guiding his wife’s transformation from a socially petrified country girl to a lady of society. Their unfolding relationship reveals encouraging surprises for both of them, and privately, each of them wonders if theirs may become a true marriage of the heart. But their hopes are dashed when forces conspire to split asunder what fate has granted, and as a battle of wits escalates into a life-threatening confrontation, will it be possible for Crispin and Catherine to live happily ever after?

This book, also by Sarah M. Eden has quickly become a favorite. Despite it’s title, it is a clean, enjoyable Regency romance. As an added bonus, the main characters make a guest appearance in As You Are!

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A Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears

Price: 2.99

Although Everett Cline can hardly keep up with the demands of his homestead, he won’t humiliate himself by looking for a helpmate ever again–not after being jilted by three mail-order brides. When a well-meaning neighbor goes behind his back to bring yet another mail-order bride to town, he has good reason to doubt it will work, especially after getting a glimpse at the woman in question. She’s the prettiest woman he’s ever seen, and it’s just not possible she’s there to marry a simple homesteader like him.

Julia Lockwood has never been anything more than a pretty pawn for her father or a business acquisition for her former fiance. Having finally worked up the courage to leave her life in Massachusetts, she’s determined to find a place where people will value her for more than her looks. Having run out of all other options, Julia resorts to a mail-order marriage in far-away Kansas.

Everett is skeptical a cultured woman like Julia could be happy in a life on the plains, while Julia, deeply wounded by a past relationship, is skittish at the idea of marriage at all. When, despite their hesitations, they agree to a marriage in name only, neither one is prepared for the feelings that soon arise to complicate their arrangement. Can two people accustomed to keeping their distance let the barricades around their hearts down long enough to fall in love?

I became a fan of Ms. Jagears after reading her free prequel novella Love by the Letter. (I would definitely recommend downloading it!) I’m usually not drawn to westerns or mail order bride stories, but this one held my attention!

Disclaimer: Links in this post are affiliate links. Whenever you make a purchase through these links I receive a small commission which helps me buy more books to read and discuss on this blog!