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: 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 Writing Desk – Rachel Hauck

Rachel Hauck. The Writing Desk. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017.

Following a bit of advice from one of the Christian authors that I regularly review, I upgraded my Kindle to better handle its near constant use.  As I’ve discovered over the last several months, reading paperback books can be fairly tricky with a newborn, but an e-book reader works great one-handed!  The Writing Desk happened to be the first novel that I read with my new e-book reader and I can honestly say that the technology has significantly improved from what it was four or five years ago.

In The Writing Desk, Tenley Roth comes from a long line of accomplished authors.  After losing her father, she writes an unexpected bestselling novel inspired by his life.  With an upcoming deadline for her sophomore novel, she soon finds herself facing a severe case of writer’s block.  Escaping her life in New York, Tenley travels to Florida to assist her mother through her cancer treatments.  While there, she meets Jonas Sullivan and his family, as well as finding some much-needed inspiration in the form of a writing desk in her mother’s library.  The desk’s owner was once an author herself.  Growing up in the Gilded Age, Birdie Shehorn was forced to choose between social success and love.  In the face of family disapproval, Birdie turns to her storytelling abilities, finding that God’s will for her life does not look like the typical romance story of her age.  Birdie and Tenley’s respective journeys as authors come together across time, as deceptions fall away in the face of truth.

Fans of Ms. Hauck’s previous contemporary novels, including The Wedding Dress and The Wedding Chapel, will be delighted with this newest release.  The Writing Desk continues Ms. Hauck’s style of intertwining stories from the past and present, even as they reveal timeless themes and challenges encountered by her characters.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Writing Desk!  While Ms. Hauck’s previous novels, specifically The Wedding Shop, The Wedding Chapel, and The Wedding Dress, have been well received, I honestly enjoyed The Writing Desk even more.  Both the contemporary and historical components of the story were absolutely riveting, with a tight writing style accessible to all readers.  Ms. Hauck is definitely in the top tier of authors that I review and this book was an absolute delight to read.  The Gilded Age storyline was well worth the effort and extra research that Ms. Hauck admits in the author’s note that she had to put into it.  That historical plotline was strong enough that she could have easily turned it into a stand-alone book.  However, it will definitely reach and be greatly appreciated by an even wider audience when combined with the contemporary storyline.

Readers who have previously enjoyed Ms. Hauck’s novels, especially The Wedding Shop, The Wedding Chapel, and The Wedding Dress, will be absolutely thrilled with The Writing Desk.  Likewise, fans of contemporary Christian fiction, especially by authors such as Susan May Warren, will also want to read this book.

Special thanks to BookLook Bloggers for the advanced copy of The Writing Desk!

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Review: High as the Heavens – Kate Breslin

Kate Breslin. High as the Heavens. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

The last couple of months have been a little out of the ordinary, as some of you probably noticed the Blog’s brief hiatus in May.  With the addition of our newest (and littlest) member of the Blog team, time is definitely at a premium.  In the midst of the insanity, reviewing this novel ended up being slightly delayed, so I am very happy to finally post this review!

In High as the Heavens, Evelyn Marche grew up in Britain to a Belgian family.  After losing her husband during the early days of World War I, Evelyn returns to her family’s hometown, landing herself directly in the path of the German army.  She soon finds herself leading the nurses of a German hospital in Brussels, while serving as part of the Belgian resistance.  When British Captain Simon Forrester’s plane crashes in the middle of the city, Evelyn risks everything to preserve his identity and top-secret papers.  With the Germans intent on proving Simon to be a spy, he is forced to trust Evelyn with his survival and finding a way out of Brussels.  Together, they look forward to the day that they might dare to return to the dreams they once had before the war.

Ms. Breslin shares this intriguing story of World War I spycraft, delving into the fascinating perspective of the Belgian resistance and their work with the British Secret Service.  Fans of World War I-era stories will definitely want to check out this fascinating novel!

Overall, I found High as the Heavens to be a very unique novel.  Previous to reading this book, I had not encountered one focused on the Belgian perspective during World War I.  Personally, I would have greatly appreciated some additional context, as I was quite unfamiliar with the locations, people, and events described in the novel.  Even some additional description in an author’s note would have been very helpful to provide this kind of information.  While the characters were interesting and relatively well developed, I thought that the writing style and pacing of the story dragged at points, especially toward the beginning.  However, I’m sure that someone more familiar with this period and geography would have been much more comfortable moving more quickly through the story.

Fans of Kate Breslin’s other novels would definitely enjoy reading High as the Heavens.  Likewise, those with a particular interest in World War I would also find this to be well worth reading.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House for the promotional copy of High as the Heavens!

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