Review: Lady Jayne Disappears – Joanna Davidson Politano

Joanna Davidson Politano. Lady Jayne Disappears. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2017.

Oftentimes, I find myself reading and reviewing books in a very different order from the finalized order that I post them.  Some books are unexpectedly disappointing, while others are surprisingly remarkable.  This debut novel is definitely one of the most impressive releases of the last several months and I am very excited to share it with all of you.

In Victorian England, most relatives of wealthy families and famous fathers live in large, luxurious homes.  Instead, Aurelie Harcourt grew up in debtor’s prison alongside her father, who the rest of England knows as the mysterious and highly-successful serial author, Nathaniel Droll.  After her father dies, Aurelie goes to live with her father’s remaining family members at the large estate that Nathaniel Droll made famous in his novels.  She decides to finish writing her father’s last serial novel about her mother’s disappearance by discovering what actually happened at the estate around the time of her own birth.  With the help of a secretive houseguest, Silas Rotherham, Aurelie soon finds that Lady Jayne’s disappearance may just be the beginning of the family’s many secrets, including those surrounding the unexpected truth of Nathaniel Droll’s demise.

Ms. Politano marks her debut with a delightful story set in Victorian England.  With complex characters, fascinating twists and turns, and a mysterious plot, readers of Christian historical fiction will definitely enjoy reading Lady Jayne Disappears.

Overall, I could not say enough good things about Lady Jayne Disappears.  From the publisher’s summary, I expected this novel to be quite dark and mysterious, leaning away from what I normally read.  Instead, the mystery at the heart of the novel was quite accessible and absolutely riveting, without falling into the suspense category.  Additionally, Ms. Politano presents rich historical details and complex characters that feel perfectly natural in their Victorian England setting.  Readers familiar with Charles Dickens’ literary works may also find some unexpected connections in this story, as Ms. Politano presents a unique look at the life of those living in debtor’s prison.  The contrast of Aurelie’s previous life and wealthy family offers a fascinating perspective on the period, while illustrating the power of serial novels and their authors to bridge this gap.  After reading this novel and the sneak preview of Ms. Politano’s next book, I cannot wait to see what she releases next!

Fans of great historical fiction, Christian or otherwise, should definitely add Lady Jayne Disappears to their must-read pile!  Those with a particular interest in Victorian England and great writers of that time will also find this story to be well worth reading.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Revell for the advanced copy of Lady Jayne Disappears!

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Review: Christmas at Carnton – Tamera Alexander

Tamera Alexander. Christmas at Carnton: A Novella. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2017.

Christmas stories start being released by publishers during the fall months, to the delight of readers eager for a new story from their favorite authors.  With an advanced copy of Tamera Alexander’s newest Christmas story, I actually ended up reading this book in July!  In spite of the holiday emphasis of the story, I found it to be enjoyable and appropriate for any time of the year.

In Christmas at Carnton: A Novella, Ms. Alexander launches her newest series set at the Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee.  The story occurs during the Civil War years, when the family is preparing for a Women’s Relief Society auction intended to benefit the Confederate soldiers.  Aletta Prescott recently lost her husband, as well as her job.  Desperate for a place to live for herself and her young son, she accepts a job cooking for the Women’s Relief Society’s auction and other Christmas season events at Carnton.  While there, she befriends Captain Jake Winton, who has been assigned to help with the auction during his recovery.  Aletta and Jake soon discover that their losses may have changed their lives, but God provides hope and restoration for them both during a season of war.

Fans of Ms. Alexander’s previous works will be thrilled with Christmas at Carnton as the start of her newest series, featuring yet another Southern plantation.  With connections to the families featured in her previous series, Ms. Alexander makes a seamless transition to the family and location of the Carnton Plantation.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Christmas at Carnton!  Ms. Alexander’s stories have been improving steadily throughout her career, so I find it fascinating to see her development of a new series.  As a novella, Christmas at Carnton is quite a bit shorter than a standard novel, but the length fits the structure of this particular story.  Set during the Civil War, the novella seems slightly similar to other historical fiction works based around the same period.  However, readers interested in the forthcoming books of Ms. Alexander’s series will find the story worthwhile, as it introduces characters and settings relevant to future works that will be released.  Personally, I also found Ms. Alexander’s focus on the Women’s Relief Society’s efforts to be particularly interesting and enjoyable.

Fans of Ms. Alexander’s previous works will definitely want to read Christmas at Carnton.  Additionally, those with an interest in historical Christian fiction works set during the Civil War will also enjoy this Christmas-themed story.

Ms. Alexander’s first full-length novel of this series will be released in the fall of 2018!

Special thanks to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for the advanced copy of Christmas at Carnton!

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Review: An Inconvenient Beauty – Kristi Ann Hunter

Kristi Ann Hunter. An Inconvenient Beauty. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

I hope that all of you had a fun and relaxing Labor Day weekend!  September kicks off a great batch of fall releases from Christian publishers and I am very excited to share them with you.

An Inconvenient Beauty serves as the much-anticipated conclusion of Ms. Hunter’s Hawthorne House series.  Griffith, the Duke of Riverton, is the last of the Hawthorne family to be left unmarried.  He has spent his life cultivating a serious and logical persona, along with an equally logical plan to choose a bride.  However, he soon discovers that love and logic do not mix.  Isabella Breckenridge delayed her debut in order to help save her family’s farm.  As a last effort, she promises to help her conniving uncle to fulfill his political ambitions during London’s social season, in exchange for helping to relieve her family’s debts.  However, she never expected to attract the attentions of a duke.  In spite of their plans, Griffith and Isabella soon find themselves as unintentional partners in several unplanned adventures, defying anything one would expect of an overly-logical duke’s pursuit.

Fans of Ms. Hunter’s Hawthorne House series will be delighted with the conclusion of An Inconvenient Beauty.  She creates a fitting novel to encapsulate one of the series’ most anticipated love stories.

Overall, I was absolutely thrilled with An Inconvenient Beauty.  While reading the Hawthorne House series, I always wondered how Ms. Hunter would manage to write a fitting love story for Griffith, in part due to his logical and fatherly personality.  Somehow, Ms. Hunter manages to far exceed this reader’s expectations for the story, while contributing her unique brand of humor and light writing style to the novels.  Altogether, the series has been a wonderful set of books to read, with a highly accessible style that makes it appealing to a wide audience.  With such a successful series under Ms. Hunter’s belt, I very much look forward to seeing what she manages to write next, even as she promises that the next series will build off of at least one of this series’ favorite characters.

Readers who enjoy An Inconvenient Beauty will definitely want to read Ms. Hunter’s other stories in the Hawthorne House series.  Fans of Julie Klassen, Lori Wick, and Carolyn Miller, as well as other Christian Regency-era fiction, will also find Ms. Hunter’s novels to be a worthwhile read.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of An Inconvenient Beauty!

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Review: The Captivating Lady Charlotte – Carolyn Miller

Carolyn Miller. The Captivating Lady Charlotte. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2017.

With a busy summer of reading and reviewing, I’m still catching up on posting some of the books from earlier this summer.  Fortunately, they are well worth the wait. :)

Following the events and characters first introduced in The Elusive Miss Ellison, The Captivating Lady Charlotte focuses on Lady Charlotte Featherington, Lavinia Ellison’s cousin in London.  As the daughter of British nobility, Charlotte has significant social obligations, namely to marry an eligible young man.  While Charlotte hopes to marry for love and romance, her parents plan for her to marry a man with the proper social connections and rank.  As a widowed duke, William Hartwell’s past has left him leery of young women and their plotting parents, who only see him for his title.  However, he finds himself intrigued by Lady Charlotte, even as she seems disinterested in him personally.  When dangers arise, Charlotte must ultimately choose between romance or responsibility, even as she discovers that they may not be mutually exclusive.

The second novel of Ms. Miller’s Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace series, The Captivating Lady Charlotte focuses on the Regency-era social scene of London.  Ms. Miller brings the period to life, while seamlessly interweaving strong Christian themes throughout the novel.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Captivating Lady Charlotte.  Ms. Miller writes an intriguing story, with characters that comfortably fit within their Regency-era setting.  Similar to novels by Lori Wick and Julie Klassen, Ms. Miller’s Regency Brides series interweave Christian themes within Regency settings and romantic plotlines.  Although I preferred the first novel of the series slightly over this one, The Captivating Lady Charlotte serves as a strong continuation of the series, building upon characters from the first novel and setting up for a fascinating final volume to be released later this year.  While this novel may serve as a stand-alone story, readers will appreciate the connections that Ms. Miller makes between this book and The Elusive Miss Ellison.  Personally, I really enjoyed seeing those characters continue to grow and change within the extended storyline of the series.

Fans of Ms. Miller’s previous novel, The Elusive Miss Ellison, will definitely want to read The Captivating Lady Charlotte.  Additionally, those who enjoy Christian historical fiction set in Regency-era England will also find this book to be well worth reading.

Ms. Miller will continue the Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace series with The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey in October 2017!

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Review: The Promise of Breeze Hill – Pam Hillman

Pam Hillman. The Promise of Breeze Hill. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2017.

I always enjoy trying new author, new series, and stories that explore new places and historical periods.  Fortunately, Pam Hillman’s latest release fits all of these criteria.

The Promise of Breeze Hill begins Ms. Hillman’s Natchez Trace series, set in Natchez, Mississippi, in the late eighteenth century.  Connor O’Shea intends to indenture himself and his skills as a carpenter to bring his brothers to America from Ireland.  Without the necessary skilled labor to rebuild her father’s plantation, Isabella Bartholomew purchases Connor’s indenture, counting on a successful harvest to provide the necessary funds to carry out her side of the agreement.  Together, Isabella and Connor work toward rebuilding Breeze Hill Plantation in the face of an unknown threat that has led to the loss of Isabella’s brother, the destruction of part of the plantation house, and left her father severely injured.  As the threats continue, Isabella must choose between marrying a wealthy neighbor or following her heart, as she hopes that one path may lead to the peace and reassurance that she has been looking for all of along.

Set in the late eighteenth century, The Promise of Breeze Hill offers a fascinating plot unique to its location and period.  Ms. Hillman presents a compelling beginning to her Natchez Trace series.

Overall, I quite enjoyed reading The Promise of Breeze Hill.  Although I am otherwise unfamiliar with Ms. Hillman’s work, this story set itself apart from many other concepts frequently found in the historical Christian fiction genre.  I would have liked to see a little more context, possibly in the form of an author’s note at the beginning of the book, to explain more about the place and period of the book, as I could see quite a few readers being completely unfamiliar with this setting.  However, readers will find that it is well worth reading the book, especially to learn about the mixture of cultures and influences in the Netchez area during the late eighteenth century.  Additionally, I really enjoyed seeing a significant Christian component in this novel.  In general, I thought the book (at least in its ARC form) would have benefited from some additional editing, but I’m sure that a significant amount of those errors would have been fixed by the time of the novel’s official release.  Based on the unique storyline and characters of this novel, I am looking forward to seeing where Ms. Hillman takes this series next.

Fans of Ms. Hillman’s previous works will likely enjoy reading The Promise of Breeze Hill.  Additionally, readers who appreciate unique examples of historical Christian fiction will find this story to be well worth reading.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Tyndale House Publishers for an advanced copy of The Promise of Breeze Hill!

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