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.

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!

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!

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!