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!

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!

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.