Sunday, January 23, 2022

Two new AMAZING historical fiction releases!

 I'm trying something different this year with my book reviews: instead of just one review, I thought I'd do a little book comparison. Two books that may be the same genre, or like in my last post, they may be completely different. My only consistency is my love for a happily ever after. Yes, I'm that person.

 Last year produced some really great books, but this year looks even more promising! Yet I still have so many books in my TBR pile that I've yet to even get to, so I haven't even tapped all of last year's potential! :D Anyway, to get back on track, one of my favorite authors released her newest book, "A Heart Adrift," this month and it is not only gorgeous in cover, but the story is as luscious as the chocolate it often refers to. 

Book Summary (Amazon): It is 1755, and the threat of war with France looms over colonial York, Virginia. Chocolatier Esmée Shaw is fighting her own battle of the heart. Having reached her twenty-eighth birthday, she is reconciled to life alone after a decade-old failed love affair from which she's never quite recovered. But she longs to find something worthwhile to do with her life.
Captain Henri Lennox has returned to port after a lengthy absence, intent on completing the lighthouse in the dangerous Chesapeake Bay, a dream he once shared with Esmée. But when the colonial government asks him to lead a secret naval expedition against the French, his future is plunged into uncertainty.

Will a war and a cache of regrets keep them apart, or can their shared vision and dedication to the colonial cause heal the wounds of the past? 

My thoughts...This story reminded me a lot of one of my favorite Jane Austen novels, "Persuasion." Like Anne in Persuasion, Esmee had a chance at love but it slipped by. As time went on, her sea captain returned, to explore the renewal of love that was thought to be lost. While, of course, there are many details that are different, the story lines felt very similar. Different from Anne, though, was Esmee's boldness in exploring her feelings. I loved that aspect of her character. Henri, like Captain Wentworth, fell in the love with the sea in his youth. As he spent years following its siren call, and making his fortune, he eventually made his way back to Esmee, fully expecting her to have moved on with her life. It created a lovely amount of tension as they found each other again, and got to know each other as mature adults, as opposed to the naïve youth they once were. Their reacquaintance is set in the American colonies, on the cusp of becoming a new nation. Frantz' attention to detail is what makes her stand out as a writer. I always feel like I'm being transported to another time and place when I read her books...engaged with all senses. I would highly recommend this novel as must read for clean historical fiction lovers who also enjoy a Christian faith element to the story.

**I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher as well as a digital copy from Netgalley in order to share my unbiased opinion, which I did.**

Book Summary (Amazon): 
Evelyn Maltravers understands exactly how little she's worth on the marriage mart. As an incurable bluestocking from a family tumbling swiftly toward ruin, she knows she'll never make a match in a ballroom. Her only hope is to distinguish herself by making the biggest splash in the one sphere she excels: on horseback. In haute couture. But to truly capture London's attention she'll need a habit-maker who's not afraid to take risks with his designs—and with his heart.

Half-Indian tailor Ahmad Malik has always had a talent for making women beautiful, inching his way toward recognition by designing riding habits for Rotten Row's infamous Pretty Horsebreakers—but no one compares to Evelyn. Her unbridled spirit enchants him, awakening a depth of feeling he never thought possible.

But pushing boundaries comes at a cost and not everyone is pleased to welcome Evelyn and Ahmad into fashionable society. With obstacles spanning between them, the indomitable pair must decide which hurdles they can jump and what matters most: making their mark or following their hearts?

My thoughts....Set in Regency London, red haired Evelyn has tasked herself with saving her family with a good marriage. Armed with a little more than determination and amazing skills as a horsewoman, she wants to help turn the balance in her favor by employing the top habit-maker to fit her with something to make her stand above the other ladies in the London season. Ahmad is a talented, but he works in the background as his heritage is not one of respectable London society. While they both are very different, they find some common ground as two who have experienced the pain of rejection from others. 
I absolutely loved this book! It is definitely a love story with some moments of heightened romantic tension, but what I would still consider a "clean read." I loved Evelyn's pure heart towards Ahmad, seeing his worth in so many ways. Yet often she struggled with her own worth, at first only seeing herself as only a means to support her family. Ahmad helped bring out her beauty, physically and internally. I loved the chemistry between the characters, even if the word "sensual" was used several I wanted a little more descriptors, but by the time I was thinking that I was already sold on the story. There is a slight faith/historical element to the story in the form of Prince Albert's death and spiritualists that hoped to contact him in the afterlife. The book explores this and treats in a somewhat comical way, but it is still a significant part of the plot. This is a general market fiction novel, but like I said, very clean with few uses of profanity and no open door bedroom scenes. If you're already a fan of Mimi Matthews, you won't be disappointed! There is also a connection between the characters in this series and the previous one, but you can still read this as a stand alone novel. Can't wait for the next book!

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Reviewer's Bookshelf: 2021 Wrap Up!

What a year! I can honestly say I'm not sad to see 2021 go. It was a tough year on all levels: physically, emotionally, spiritually....all the things. Reading was my escape, but I had a hard time sitting down to read the books I normally enjoy. Mainly because I just needed books I knew would be fun, romantic, and have a happy ending. I didn't want to focus or think about what I was reading. Now that 2022 is here, I wanted to do a little catching up on a few books I've wanted to review, and I'm trying to commit to making my large TBR pile a little smaller : ). Another confession: I'm a little hesitant to list a few of the books I started last year because some of them weren't the mental break I thought they would be. There were a few I had to stop and delete altogether. I like to venture out of my normal genre of Christian fiction sometimes, but it's good to have in mind what your personal limitations are. Even so, authors are some of my favorite people, and I'm so thankful that despite the craziness of the world around us, they keep typing away and creating stories that help us all take a mental break. I'm so excited about the upcoming releases for this year!

I'm going to kick off my first review of the year with "Love on the Range" by Mary Connealy. 

Book summary (Amazon): While his brothers and their new wives search for who shot him, Wyatt Hunt is temporarily bedridden and completely miserable. Somehow Molly Garner's limited skills have made her the most qualified in their circle to care for Wyatt. But by the time he's healed, she's fed up with him and the whole ungrateful family. For even worse than his grumpiness were the few unguarded moments when he pulled at her heartstrings, and she has been long determined to never repeat her mother's mistakes.

When alternate plans of finding her own independent life fall through, Molly volunteers to work for the Pinkertons and help investigate nearby ranch owner Oliver Hawkins. She signs on to be his housekeeper, hoping to find clues to prove his nefarious, and possibly murderous, past. Wyatt refuses to let her risk it alone and offers to act as Hawkins's new foreman.

But when another Pinkerton agent gets shot, they realize Hawkins isn't the only danger. The Hunt brothers will have to band together to face all the troubles of life and love that suddenly surround them.

My thoughts...Mary Connealy is one of my tried and true favorite western fiction writers. The way she writes her characters make you respect them, root for them, but also chuckle a little at their feistiness. I love the humor and sarcasm that is woven in that helps balance the intensity that often occurs while the hero, heroine, and their comrades are battling some big time baddies. There is also a thread of faith woven in the story, that I appreciate as one who loves Christian fiction. 
    In this third book in the Brothers in Arms series, the Hunt brothers, despite a rocky start in book one of the series, are learning to work together and depend on each other to figure out who is behind the acts of violence in their area. This series is a little different in that each book backtracks in time a little so that it focuses mostly on the perspective of each brother. Along with each brother, each lady in the "family" gets a turn sharing their perspective. It gave this series something special that I haven't read in Connealy's previous work. 
    I really enjoyed this series for the new aspects and the characterization that I know and love. I also appreciate that I don't have to wait forever for the pace to pick up...there's usually action right from the start. If you're a fan of a slow burn, there's a little of that, but I love that the author isn't shy about showing the fun and excitement of a fresh romance. If you're a fan of this genre, definitely go out and start from book one of this series!

**I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in order to share my honest opinions, which I did.**

One more review on quite a different story....

Book summary (Amazon): 
Even if there be monsters, there is none so fierce as that which resides in man’s own heart.
Enchanting Regency-Era Gothic Romance Intertwined with Inspiration from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein  
Travel writer Amelia Balfour’s dream of touring Egypt is halted when she receives news of a revolutionary new surgery for her grotesquely disfigured brother. This could change everything, and it does. . .in the worst possible way.
Surgeon Graham Lambert has suspicions about the doctor he’s gone into practice with, but he can’t stop him from operating on Amelia’s brother. Will he be too late to prevent the man’s death? Or to reveal his true feelings for Amelia before she sails to Cairo?

My thoughts...This book was a different experience for me than other books I've read by Michelle Griep. It reminded me a lot of Charles Dickens, in the sense that it was in England and highlighted the darker aspects of the times: poverty, mistreatment of those who are vulnerable, and had an overall gothic feel. Griep did a good job creating the tone and atmosphere of the era and setting up the plot to include a connection to Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein."
    I took a chance on this story because I love the author, and I was intrigued by how she might craft the plot. It was well done. However, the timing just wasn't right for me to fully appreciate it. It's not really a happily ever after story, but one that left me feeling grieved. Grief for the injustice of evildoers wreaking havoc on the vulnerable, of a family torn apart by said evildoer, of loss of loved ones, and even the loss of a way of life. There's more, which made the book feel heavy for me. The romantic aspect of the plot was nice but brief, and when I finished the last page I wasn't left feeling that this was about the love for a man and woman, but the familial love between a brother and sister. A faith element was also included in this novel, which I appreciated, and it fit in very well with what was going on in the story.
    If you're a fan of gothic regency era novels, you will appreciate this book. Michelle Griep is a wonderful author and I'll probably read more of her work, just not this particular genre. 

**I received this book from the publisher via Netgalley in order to give my honest opinion, which I did.**

Coming soon: Laura Frantz's newest, "A Heart Adrift"!