Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix

Thomas Nelson, Sept 5th, 2017, 336 Pages
Print, ebook, and audio 

"There were seconds, when I woke, when the world felt unshrouded. Then memory returned."
When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she can think of is fleeing the site of the horror she survived. But Patrick, the steadfast friend who hasn’t left her side, urges her to reconsider her decision. Worn down by his insistence, she reluctantly agrees to follow through with the trip they’d planned before the tragedy.
“The pages found you,” Patrick whispered.
“Now you need to figure out what they’re trying to say.”
During a stop at a country flea market, Jessica finds a faded document concealed in an antique. As new friends help her to translate the archaic French, they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard, a young woman who lived centuries before—her faith condemned, her life endangered, her community decimated by the Huguenot persecution.
“I write for our descendants, for those who will not understand the cost of our survival.”
Determined to learn the Baillard family’s fate, Jessica retraces their flight from France to England, spurred on by a need she doesn’t understand.
Could this stranger who lived three hundred years before hold the key to Jessica’s survival?

I know, I always say that I don’t like and don’t tend to read contemporary fiction. But ‘timeslip’ novels aren’t quite the same, right? They’re partly historical. Besides, since reading Catching the Wind by Melanie Dobson I have come to rather like them.

I know some people have complained that the historical aspects of this work are in the background. Only a small part of it relates the actual story of the Huguenot Bayard family in 17th century France. I did not find that to be a problem myself and liked how their story became interwoven with that of Jessica, and her search for truth and healing with all that had happened to her.

People looking for a lot of genealogical information and the history of the French Protestants will, therefore, be disappointed. I enjoyed the human drama the development of the characters, as well as the blossoming romance that accompanied the historical details. As well as the characters ‘tracking down’ the members of the historical family.

Personally, I also think there was meant to be a connection in the way that the 17th-century French peasant girl and the modern American protagonists in their response to violence, evil and intolerance, and the worst actions of human beings. All in all, it was just a well told, tightly plotted story about faith, endurance, and survival during terrible trauma and adversity which I enjoyed.

I requested a copy of this book from Booklook Bloggers and purchased the audiobook of my own volition. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

New Release: A Dangerous Engagement by Melanie Dickerson

Regency Spies of London #3
Septemeber 12th 2017, Waterfall Press, 306 Pages
Print, Ebook and Audio
Just as merchant’s daughter Felicity Mayson is spurned once again because of her meager dowry, she receives an unexpected invitation to Lady Blackstone’s country home. Being introduced to the wealthy Oliver Ratley is an admitted delight, as is his rather heedless yet inviting proposal of marriage. Only when another of Lady Blackstone’s handsome guests catches Felicity’s attention does she realize that nothing is what it seems at Doverton Hall.

Government agent Philip McDowell is infiltrating a group of cutthroat revolutionaries led by none other than Lady Blackstone and Ratley. Their devious plot is to overthrow the monarchy, and their unwitting pawn is Felicity. Now Philip needs Felicity’s help in discovering the rebels’ secrets—by asking her to maintain cover as Ratley’s innocent bride-to-be.

Philip is duty bound. Felicity is game. Together they’re risking their lives—and gambling their hearts—to undo a traitorous conspiracy before their dangerous masquerade is exposed

Despite some weaknesses, A Dangerous Engagement was probably my favourite book in the Regency Spies of London trilogy. The writing style could be very repetitive, and the constant complaints about society’s expectations regarding marriage and rules imposed on women, which have been common to all the heroines of the series, were grating. I don’t like feeling that I’m being hit over the head with moral themes or modern judgments.
However, I liked the plot and the premise of this story, and it kept me interested to the end. I loved the hero Phillip, a younger son trying to find his place in the world who went into espionage to try to prove himself. Aside from the weaknesses outlined above, I did like the heroine Felicity as well, and her spinster Aunt who came into her own towards the end was a wonderful supporting character.

The tension and mystery in the story were very well-written, not dependent on a lot of action, but more on the situation and underlying sense of danger. There was murder, intrigue and a dangerous group of political revolutionaries following an unlikely female mastermind. I must confess to having smiled when the characters referred to their planned violent revolution as a ‘glorious revolution’. The Glorious Revolution is the name given to bloodless coup in 1688 in which the Catholic King James II was ousted by parliament in favour of his Protestant daughter Mary, and her Dutch husband William of Orange.

The ending built up the tension and danger well, my only complaint was the treatment of the romance, which became a little corny, with the characters falling in love based on looks. This bothers me because the female characters in books by this author will frequently complain if men are only interested in them for their looks, money, childbearing ability or political influence. But it’s OK for them to base attraction on such superficialities. I was glad that Philip and Felicity’s relationship developed to be more than just that by the end though to be based on character and mutual beliefs.

Altogether, I found this a satisfactory conclusion to the series and an authentic Regency novel. I requested the e-book from NetGalley for review and obtained the audiobook of my own volition. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Audiobook Review: An Invonvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter

Hawthorne House #4
Bethany House, September 5th 2017, 384 Pages
Print, ebook and audio

Griffith, Duke of Riverton, likes order, logic, and control, and he naturally applies this rational approach to his search for a bride. He's certain Miss Frederica St. Claire is the perfect wife for him, but while Frederica is strangely elusive, he can't seem to stop running into her stunningly beautiful cousin, Miss Isabella Breckenridge.

Isabella should be enjoying her society debut, but with her family in difficult circumstances, her uncle will only help them if she'll use her beauty to assist him in his political aims. Already uncomfortable with this agreement, the more she comes to know Griffith, the more she wishes to be free of her unfortunate obligation.

Will Griffith and Isabella be able to set aside their pride and face their fears in time to find their own happily-ever-after?

The final installment in the Regency Romance Hawthorne House series finally gives Griffith, the oldest of the four Hawthorne siblings (and eldest son and heir to the Dukedom), his chance at love. It started off on a humorous note, with the young Griffith and his friend paying back school bullies.
Years later, the most practical and unromantic of his siblings decides to seek a wife, a young lady whom nobody would expect yet is most suitable. At first, all goes well, until an old love interest comes back onto the scene and Griffith meets the Lady’s beautiful cousin, Isabella Breckenridge.

I must say that the premise of this book was good (a young woman who is being used by a relative to attract the attention of the young men of society for his own purposes, but cannot marry any of them) as was the characterization. Griffith was a likable character in all the previous books, the wise oldest brother, so tall that he was constantly banging into things, and supposedly could not dance.
There seemed to be fewer egregious Americanisms in this novel, which was something that really annoyed me with the previous ones. 

Other reviewers, however, have remarked that it seems repetitive, and they never connected with the characters. I can understand where they were coming from and I wonder if the author was in some sense, running out of steam with this one. I’m not sure that the informal behaviour of Griffith and his brothers in parliament rang true, acting more like they were in the audience of a football match. The details themselves were interesting, and not often used in the genre, but could have been a little better.

It was an enjoyable story and plodded along and a decent pace. I would not say there was really anything to make it stand out from a lot of others, but it’s a good light read to pass the time.
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