Friday, June 10, 2016

Reviewer's Bookshelf: The Ringmaster's Wife

Book summary (from Goodreads): What is revealed when you draw back the curtain of the Greatest Show on Earth?

Rosamund Easling is no stranger to opulence. As the daughter of an earl, she’s grown up with every comfort money can buy. But when hard times befall the family’s Yorkshire estate in the aftermath of the Great War, Rosamund’s father sells her beloved horse, setting the stage for a series of events that would extend beyond even her wildest dreams.

Though expected to marry for a title instead of love, Rosamund feels called to a different life – one of adventure outside the confines of a ladies’ parlor. She abandons all she’s known and follows in pursuit as her horse is shipped to the new owner – an American entertainer by the name of John Ringling. Once introduced to the Ringling Brothers’ circus and knowing she has much to learn, Rosamund agrees to a bareback riding apprenticeship in the shadow of the Ringlings’ winter home—Ca’D’Zan. It is at that mansion, in what would become the last days of the enigmatic Mable Ringling’s life, that Rosamund finds a deeper sense of purpose in the life she’s been given, and the awakening of faith in her heart.

With a supporting cast of characters as mysterious and dazzling as the Ringlings’ big-top world, Rosamund’s journey takes her from the tradition of the English countryside to the last days of America’s Roaring ‘20s—a journey that forever changes what one life might have been.

My thoughts: Things that initially caught my attention when I requested to read this book were the cover (beautiful!), the author (love her previous books), and the title.  Not knowing much about the history behind the circus, I was intrigued.  
One of the strengths of this novel is Kristy Cambron's ability to intertwine two, what seem to be unrelated, storylines and create a beautiful connection of life, faith, and perseverance.  I enjoyed seeing how the story began to unfold and how the characters impacted each others' lives.  The detailed descriptions of the locations made me feel like I was right there with the characters in the story, from walking through the Ca'D'Zan to exploring behind the circus tents. The faith of the characters and how it helps them grow and overcome adversity is also a central theme in the story.  Here are some of my favorite quotes:

"This building up of what we want doesn't have to be a tearing down of who we are. It's the worst kind of extravagance to think we're above adversity. Isn't that what God calls of us, to acknowledge that we are moving with this undercurrent of something that is always at work around us?  Something bigger than we could ever be as just one person?" -Mabel
"They all had one thing in common: to have faith that when one has no control, there is One who does."

Reading this story to completion helped me to appreciate all the aspects of how the story came together, but when I began reading I had a hard time making the connections between the two storylines.  I honestly wanted more of John and Mabel's story, as she was the actual ringmaster's wife.  I realize that she impacted the lives of all who were in the story, but I wanted more details behind the love that she and John shared.  
This is definitely a well-written novel, and would recommend it.

**I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an unbiased review, which I gave.**

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Reviewer's Bookshelf: From This Moment by Elizabeth Camden

Book Summary (Goodreads):Romulus White has tried for years to hire illustrator Stella West for his renowned scientific magazine. She is the missing piece he needs to propel his magazine to the forefront of the industry.
But Stella abruptly quit the art world and moved to Boston with a single purpose: to solve the mysterious death of her beloved sister. Romulus, a man with connections to high society and every important power circle in the city, could be her most valuable ally. 
Sparks fly the instant Stella and Romulus join forces, and Romulus soon realizes the strong-willed and charismatic Stella could disrupt his hard-won independence. Can they continue to help each other when their efforts draw the wrong kind of attention from the powers-that-be and put all they've worked for at risk? 

My thoughts....First of the names Elizabeth Camden chose for her characters!  They definitely create accurate images of their physical appearance and personalities.  Romulus is strong, masculine, and a man who is very confident in the way he interacts with others.  He has an image that he projects in the way that he takes charge of situations and has an impeccable sense of style. Beneath that shiny exterior, though, is a man who has his vulnerabilities.  At the slightest crack in that exterior, his insecurities begin to take over.  Stella is beautiful, talented, and also has a sense of fashion that is ahead of her time. In the past she has been untouchable to Romulus, who has been trying to convince her to come work for him as an illustrator for his magazine, Science World. The Stella who has moved to Boston, however, is a woman on a mission to solve her sister's mysterious death.
One of my favorite things about Elizabeth Camden's novels is that she addresses some point or event in history that had a huge impact on the culture but may not necessarily stand out to us today.  For example, in From This Moment, the novel explores the construction of the first subway lines and how that impacted American culture.  She also includes the aspects of a scientific magazine, how it's produced, and how it impacted the area of science and discovery.  All of that was woven through the story without it seeming like a history textbook; true events intermingled with fictional characters.  This story was also more of a murder-mystery than a romantic fiction for me.  While there were romantic elements, the mystery involving Stella's sister had the stronger story line, in my opinion.  Here are some of my favorite quotes:
"She'd learned long ago that courage was not the absence of fear, but the willingness to confront it."
"Happiness was not an abundance of riches or amusements, it was evenings such as these, when people were engaged in a worthy pursuit and surrounded by kindred spirits."
"Do you love God only when he is good to you?" (A challenge to Stella)
"Beneath the careless insults, the forgotten anniversaries, and socks thrown on her clean floor, she had found a man. And she loved him desperately. This was love.  This was marriage, in all its shining, imperfect glory." (this isn't a spoiler ; ))

**I was given a free copy of this novel in exchange for an unbiased review, which I gave.**

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Reviewer's bookshelf: No Other Will Do by Karen Witemeyer

Book Summary (from Amazon): Men are optional. That's the credo Emma Chandler's suffragette aunts preached and why she started a successful women's colony in Harper's Station, Texas. But when an unknown assailant tries repeatedly to drive them out, Emma admits they might need a man after all. A man who can fight--and she knows just the one.
Malachi Shaw finally earned the respect he craved by becoming an explosives expert for the railroad. Yet when Emma's plea arrives, he bolts to Harper's Station to repay the girl who once saved his life. Only she's not a girl any longer. She's a woman with a mind of her own and a smile that makes a man imagine a future he doesn't deserve.
As the danger intensifies, old feelings grow and deepen, but Emma and Mal will need more than love to survive.

My thoughts...When this book began with Emma's message to Malachi to come to her...and he immediately starting packing his stuff without question and called her his "angel," I was totally smitten with this story.  Malachi is unquestionably masculine, but his tenderness towards Emma made my heart want to melt.  Karen Witemeyer has the ability to write fantastic heros in her novels that embody not just a strong masculine side, but a vulnerability that draws me in every time.  Emma is also a well-written character, who is kind and tenderhearted but also has a tough side.  She's smart and sassy. The two of them compliment each other so well. I also love Witemeyer's use of descriptive language:

"Ever since she'd made up her mind to ask him to come, anticipation had been swelling inside her like yeasty bread dough rising on a warm windowsill. She was in desperate need of someone to punch her down and knead her back into shape."
Here's one other quote from Emma's friend:
"Emma, you see people the way Jesus did. You bend down to wash their feet even when they have thirty pieces of silver jangling in their pocket." (Love that.)

The chemistry between the characters is not the only strength of this novel. Someone is harassing and threatening the residents of Harper's Station, and it's not clear just who it is or why they're doing it. The elements of mystery and danger were just enough...and didn't involve several complicated subplots.  I love a good mystery and depth to a story, but I don't want to have to take notes while I'm reading just so I can keep up with all the characters and what's going on. No Other Will Do hit the sweet spot.

I loved this book and couldn't put it down!  I would definitely recommend it!
**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, which I gave.**