Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Elusive Miss Ellison by Carolyn Miller- Blog Tour

Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace #1
Kregel, 304 Pages, February 27th 2017 
Print and Ebook 

                                                  Pride, prejudice and forgiveness...
Hampton Hall's new owner has the villagers of St. Hampton Heath all aflutter--all except Lavinia Ellison. The reverend's daughter cares for those who are poor and sick, and the seventh Earl of Hawkesbury definitely does not meet that criteria. His refusal to take his responsibilities seriously, or even darken the door of the church, leave her convinced he is as arrogant and reckless as his brother--his brother who stole the most important person in Lavinia's world.

Nicholas Stamford is shadowed by guilt: his own, his brother's, the legacy of war. A perfunctory visit to this dreary part of Gloucestershire wasn't supposed to engage his heart, or his mind. Challenged by Miss Ellison's fascinating blend of Bluestocking opinions, hoydenish behavior, and angelic voice, he finds the impossible becoming possible--he begins to care. But Lavinia's aloof manner, society's opposition and his ancestral obligations prove most frustrating, until scandal forces them to get along.

Can Lavinia and Nicholas look beyond painful pasts and present prejudice to see their future? And what will happen when Lavinia learns a family secret that alters everything she's ever known?
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I’d been wanting to read this book ever since I first saw it advertised. I don’t read every new Regency, but the Australian author and comparisons with Georgette Heyer attracted me, as well as the great reviews of course. I’m happy I got the chance to do so, as The Elusive Miss Ellison is going to be one of my favourite books for this year. 

Christian Regencies can be something of a mixed bag, some are over melodramatic and try to fit in too much political intrigue, others just don’t ring true, but this story had everything a good Regency should. I tend to say that when I pick a Regency, or any British Fiction, I don’t want it to read like it’s too American (unless in involves American characters or a move from one country to another), with lots of American idioms or ideas. Apart from a couple of places, there was no such problem with this novel. 

The characters were lovely, and wonderfully developed. Vicar’s daughter Miss Lavinia Ellison was strong, intelligent and independent, and harboured genuine love for the poor, although her compassion could be taken to extremes making her stubborn, and at times, rash. Earl Nicholas was the handsome hero, burdened with the mistakes of his past, and the actions of his family. Lavinia considered him arrogant, self-centred and shallow, and blamed him for a tragedy in her past, and whilst fascinated by her, Nicholas considered her rude and domineering. 

Polite society and circumstance bought together these two disparate personalities who would rather avoid one another, and wonderful witty exchanges ensued, reminiscent of much loved scenes from nineteenth century literature, and its more recent counterparts.  However, over time, the characters began to challenge and change one another. As secrets are uncovered, the characters must make choices to determine their future and expiate for past mistakes, but the dictates of society and family are determined to keep them apart.
For a hate to love story, this was incredibly well done, not clich├ęd, mushy or silly, but depicted the developing relationship and feelings in a realistic way. Another point that other reviewers have made is that the author is not afraid to incorporate her faith into the story, with a salvation message. I think the setting allowed for that well, and it didn’t come over as too ‘preachy’. 

Overall, The Elusive Miss Ellison was a wonderful story, recommended for lovers of Regency Romance, but also good stories in the style of Austen and the Bronte sisters. I now rank Carolyn Miller amongst my favourite regency authors Julie Klassen, Sarah Ladd, and the British Philippa Jane Keyworth. 

I signed up the Blog Tour of this book, and was sent review copy. I was not required to write a positive one and all opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Dog Who Was There- Ron Marasco

Jan 31st 2017, Thomas Nelson, 272 Pages
Ebook, Print and Audio

No one expected Barley to have an encounter with the Messiah. He was homeless, hungry, and struggling to survive in first century Jerusalem. Most surprisingly, he was a dog. But through Barley’s eyes, the story of a teacher from Galilee comes alive in a way we’ve never experienced before.

Barley’s story begins in the home of a compassionate woodcarver and his wife who find Barley as an abandoned, nearly-drowned pup. Tales of a special teacher from Galilee are reaching their tiny village, but when life suddenly changes again for Barley, he carries the lessons of forgiveness and love out of the woodcarver’s home and through the dangerous roads of Roman occupied Judea.

On the outskirts of Jerusalem, Barley meets a homeless man and petty criminal named Samid. Together, Barley and his unlikely new master experience fresh struggles and new revelations. Soon Barley is swept up into the current of history, culminating in an unforgettable encounter with the truest master of all as he bears witness to the greatest story ever told.
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I was not sure about the idea of a story which covered the crucifixion and ministry of Christ through the eyes of a dog, but the story was well done, with plenty of sweet and endearing details which would appeal to dog lovers the world over. The author clearly understands our canine friends, the little Barley’s view of the world comes over as very plausible (smells and emotions- vitally important to animals with such a keen nose). 

The reader can also really identify with the canine main character, moved with the emotion at the little dog’s sorrows, loss and struggle to find love and safety in the world, and feeling joy with this joy. However, the writing style did not entirely appeal to me. I believe this book was classified as general Historical Fiction, but it read like a story written for young adults, although there was more violence than some people would be comfortable with in that genre. Much of the characterisation (especially with the Roman soldiers) seemed very poor, almost cartoonish. 

The depiction of the work and ministry of Christ in people’s lives, as well as the importance of forgiveness was great, but the who story seemed very simplistic, and the account of the crucifixion seemed to miss out parts (the Roman soldier saying ‘surely this was the Son of God) for instance. This would, as other reviewers suggested, be a nice book to share with young people and older children, and the animal protagonist might really appeal to them. 

I requested an eBook of this title from the publisher from Netgelley for review, and purchased the audiobook of my own volition. I was not required to write a positive one and all opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Spring Reading: Part One

In the interval until I post my next review, I thought I might as well give a little taster of my spring To Read List. I have intentions- very good intentions- of getting through most of the unread fiction titles on my Kindle this year. Lets see how that goes. 

As for Netgalley, well my shelves are full, so those books need some time as well as the actual paperbacks I have on my actual, physical shelves. Yes, I do possess both. So, I'm sharing a few of the titles I hope to read this spring, starting with my lovely review copies.

Books For Review: Historical Fiction

A selection of my general historical Fiction titles for review, everything from 17th century Louisiana to 1930s Yorkshire, a lot in between. 

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Collections and Anthologies

30838277There's also an collection of short stories: The first of which is set in Viking Age Ireland by Heather Day Gilbert, author of the Vikings of the New World Saga...


International Authors 

 

33971791....and a book by a British author, because they need some recognition too. Gotta say this one looks fascinating. You may not have seen it on other lists, because its from a general market publisher, but Fiona Veitch Smith is also the author of the 1920s mystery series Poppy Denby Investigates published by Lion /Kregel. Her latest book is a foray into first century Israel which a cross-cultural love story.



Young Adult, Speculative and Fantasy

 

29735011Finally, the YA and Speculative or Fantasy Genres contain this ine book. For a 'Novel of John Wycliffe'- set in the 14th century- the characters ideas seem a little too proto-Revolutionary American for my liking. Some people have to read everything in European History in light of a certain Revolution (rolls eyes).  Been on my Kindle so long I ought to get it finished.









Next time, my paperback and Kindle collections of books purchased myself. Until then, how about spotting by to comment with what's on your list, or what you thought of any of these?

Thursday, March 09, 2017

New Release- An Uncommon Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter

Hawthorne House #3
Bethany House, 352 Pages, January 3 2017 
Print, ebook and Audio 

Life for Lady Adelaide Bell was easier if she hid in her older sister's shadow--which worked until her sister got married. Even with the pressure of her socially ambitious mother, the last thing she expected was a marriage of convenience to save her previously spotless reputation.

Lord Trent Hawthorne couldn't be happier that he is not the duke in the family. He's free to manage his small estate and take his time discovering the life he wants to lead, which includes grand plans of wooing and falling in love with the woman of his choice. When he finds himself honor bound to marry a woman he doesn't know, his dream of a marriage like his parents' seems lost forever.

Already starting their marriage on shaky ground, can Adelaide and Trent's relationship survive the pressures of London society?

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I could have loved this book, I really could. There was a lot to like in it. I loved Trent Hawthorne, another slightly eccentric and socially awkward character, and Adelaide, who was also something of a misfit with clumsy streak (yeah, I really identify there).
It was all about two characters who married in less than desirable circumstances learning to love one another, with all their foibles. There was plenty of wit and humour, especially involving Adelaide's mother who was- for lack of a better word- a total harpy.

However, there were two elements that ruined it for me. First was the matter of the consummation. The scene itself was not nearly as graphic as I had expected from some reviews, not at all really. Yet the characters went off and discussed it with family members afterwards. This made the whole thing embarrassing and really, awkward for the reader as well as the characters

The other major complaint I had was with the language. Again, as with the previous instalments, this Regency novel was riddled with Americanisms. I can ignore these if they are not too obvious, intrusive or only in the narration instead of the character's speech, but that was not the case here. I would be getting into the book, and then another Americanism would just knock me straight out of the story.

British people don't say 'fix tea' or 'fix breakfast'. They say make or prepare tea- fix means something different in Britain. Also, please, for goodness sake, I once again implore American authors to stop writing about Brits putting cream in tea. We don't. If what is meant by 'cream' is thick, whole milk call it milk. Not cream.
Back to the matter of the language, we don't usually say 'gotten' all the time, and we don't say 'drapes' or 'candies' We say 'curtains' and 'sweets'. Regency ladies did not ‘write their mothers', they wrote to them.

I don't deny that this author worked hard on this series, and generally she did a good job, but she would really benefit from a British beta reader, who could spot that sort of things, because sadly this Brit found the constant use of American terms and phrases not just jarring, but really grating.
Overall, I did enjoy this book, I like the characters, and I will read the next one, but I'm not sure I would want to spend money on the paperback. Maybe the Kindle edition. Without some of the problems above, this series could be comparable to the Greats of the Christian Regency genre, but sadly feel short.

I requested an electronic copy of this book from the Publisher via Netgalley for review. I also purchased the paperback of my own volition. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

A Captive Heart by Michelle Griep

Shiloh Run Press, October 1st 2016, 320 Pages
Print and Ebook 
Proper English governess Eleanor Morgan flees to the colonies to escape the wrath of a an angry duke. When the Charles Town family she’s to work for never arrives to collect her from the dock, she is forced to settle for the only reputable choice remaining to her—marriage to a man she’s never met. 

Trapper and tracker Samuel Heath is a hardened survivor used to getting his own way by brain or by brawn, and he’s determined to find a mother for his young daughter. But finding a wife proves to be impossible. No upstanding woman wants to marry a murderer.

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Good story with plenty of adventure, some Romantic clichs here and there, but not the usual 'fluffy' fare that one sees in this genre. The 'Fish out of water' plotline with Eleanor dropped into the wildlands of Carolina was well handled.

The only thing I will say is, had I known a little more about the political background of his story I probably would not have requested it. It was well done, and added a lot, but as a matter of personal taste, I steer clear of anything set during the American Revolution because of the racism and rabid anti-English bias which often pervades such stories. It will just annoy me, and I would rather not be aggravated in a book I want to read for pleasure. Honestly, if all Brits were supposed to be as straight laced, spoiled and soft as Eleanor one wonders how they ever managed to colonize the Americas in the first place.

Sadly, this book also followed the stereotype mentioned above. Basically, every member of the British armed forces, and the institutions of the army and navy as a whole were vilified as evil, brutal, corrupt bloodthirsty oppressors. No nuance, or admission that there are bad eggs in every basket, but most soldiers and sailors were just ordinary people. Nope, everyone who wears a Red Coat must be the Devil Incarnate, or a minion thereof.

...and of course, whilst Samuel has a natural air of authority, which entitles him to respect, and is a positive aspect of his character, all British aristocrats are characterized as arrogant, stuffy or lecherous.

So, I fear that, whilst this story was enjoyable, its only served to re-enforce my distaste for stories set in this period.

I requested a PDF of this title from Netgalley with the intention of reading and reviewing. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.
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