Thursday, July 16, 2020

A Gilded Lady by Elizabeth Camden

A Gilded Lady

This is book two in the Hope of Glory series, following The Spice King.

Let’s begin with the summary:

Caroline Delacroix is at the pinnacle of Washington high society in her role as secretary to the first lady of the United States. But beneath the faรงade of her beauty, glamorous wardrobe, and dazzling personality, she's hiding a terrible secret. If she cannot untangle a web of foreign espionage, her brother will face execution for treason.

Nathaniel Trask is the newly appointed head of the president's Secret Service team. He is immediately suspicious of Caroline despite his overwhelming attraction to her quick wit and undeniable charm. Desperate to keep the president protected, Nathaniel must battle to keep his focus fully on his job as the threat to the president rises.

Amid the glamorous pageantry of Gilded Age Washington, DC, Caroline and Nathaniel will face adventure, danger, and heartbreak in a race against time that will span the continent and the depth of human emotion.

And now, my review:

I’ll begin with a list of what I enjoyed: cleverly written, well researched, fun, at times humorous, insightful, engaging plot throughout the novel. Loved the historic aspect. Original occupation for a heroine—the first lady’s secretary. Enjoyed the romance and the time setting—the Gilded Age.

The novel included a delightful, built-in conflict, pitting the hero and heroine against each other as they aimed for goals at cross purposes. We wonder if they'll be able to work together.

A favorite quote: “I read Ecclesiastes, it brought comfort. We can’t control the seasons in our lives, only how we respond to them. God planted eternity in our hearts, a longing to find meaning in the world.” (page 204). So true and relatable.

Loved how strong the heroine was and how she encouraged those around her. I agree with the novel’s summary: she has a dazzling personality, fitting of her designation as a gilded lady in the Gilded Age. At one point, she encouraged her boss, the first lady, with words readers could take to heart: “You are a woman of strength and valor, like Deborah from the Bible, defending her people. Today you will be just as strong…” (page 240)

Our heroine is pulled in several directions. She longs to help her brother Luke, but though she has influence with the president of the United States, she struggles to accomplish her goals. She came alive on the page—a very well-developed character. Her work was fascinating as she lived in the White House during McKinley’s presidency.

Our hero is stuffy and stuck, but he doesn’t see it. He hides behind his sober demeanor. He’ll need help overcoming his weaknesses and fears. He’s exceptionally competent in his work—a well-drawn character, right down to the details. He’s also a great judge of character, which was one of his best strengths. He’s loyal and fully commits to his work.

Their romance was enjoyable to witness. They made a great team professionally as well.

I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read Luke’s story in The Prince of Spies, due out in February of 2021. I highly recommend this series.

Suggestion: read the books in order. You won’t be too lost if you read them as stand-alones, but I suggest they be read in order.

Monday, June 15, 2020

A Mosaic of Wings by Kimberly Duffy

woman with earrings, India
A Mosaic of Wings

A respected, fellow writer and friend recommended I check out this book, and I’m so glad I did!

Let’s begin with the summary:

It's 1885, and all Nora Shipley wants, now that she's graduating from Cornell University as valedictorian of the entomology program, is to follow in her late father's footsteps by getting her master's degree and taking over the scientific journal he started. The only way to uphold her father's legacy is to win a scholarship, so she joins a research expedition in Kodaikanal, India, to prove herself in the field.

India isn't what she expects, though, and neither is the rival classmate who accompanies her, Owen Epps. As her preconceptions of India
and of Owenfall away, she finds both far more captivating than she expected. Forced by the expedition leader to stay at camp and illustrate exotic butterflies the men of the team find without her, Nora befriends Sita, a young Indian girl who has been dedicated to a goddess against her will.

In this spellbinding new land, Nora is soon faced with impossible choices
between saving Sita and saving her career, and between what she's always thought she wanted and the man she's come to love.

And now, my review:

I appreciated Kimberly’s approach to this historical. She addressed timely themes, like the value of women—our intellect, our dreams/aspirations, our purpose, our careers, our lives and life choices.

Entomology is an interesting choice for the heroine’s/main character’s field of study. We never stray from her POV, and sometimes it’s rather buggy. But very interesting. From the author’s letter we learn her daughter inspired her choice of writing about the study of bugs, and that the author had to overcome some creepy-crawlies in order to make her heroine’s passion come to life. That aspect is very well done, without being graphic. She draws readers into the fascination.

The author includes humor, and I chuckled a few times. Her prose sang in several places, though I did find the dreaded “couldn’t help but” a few times. The romance is well done, but that thread doesn't overpower this heroine's growth, career path, and calling pursuit.

Oh, this heroine! So strong and outspoken—one of my favorite MCs in a long time. She understands, thanks to the love of her father, how valuable she is as God’s creation, as a person with her own calling and interests. She’s a thinker first, so she’s not stereotypical. I loved her snappy comebacks and her well-thought-through arguments. My favorite lines:

"She held herself erect, secure in the knowledge that she was Nora Beatrice Shipley and deserved (this man's) respect. He might not be willing to give it. But she wouldn't settle for anything less than what her father had demanded for her." (page 105)

I liked that she risked her career and her life to help someone in desperate need. Her courage, intelligence, and sacrifice, coupled with her flaws and growth, made her a well-drawn character whom readers will long remember.

Great research! We visited India in the story—exotic and intriguing. Well done!

And so many bugs, mostly butterflies, so I wasn’t too creeped out. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Overall, an insightful, delicious read. A standout this year!

Highly recommended.