Monday, September 15, 2014

Love's Fortune by Laura Frantz

Love's Fortune
Love's Fortune
I’ve enjoyed this series. I appreciate how Laura provides a behind-the-scenes look at the process for her book's cover art.  (see video link after my review)

Let’s begin with the summary:

Sheltered since birth at her Kentucky home, Rowena Ballantyne has heard only whispered rumors of her grandfather Silas's vast fortune and grand manor in Pennsylvania. When her father receives a rare letter summoning him to New Hope, Rowena makes the journey with him and quickly finds herself in a whole new world--filled with family members she's never met, dances she's never learned, and a new side to the father she thought she knew. As she struggles to fit in during their extended stay, she finds a friend in James Sackett, the most valued steamship pilot of the Ballantynes' shipping line. Even with his help, Rowena feels she may never be comfortable in high society. Will she go her own way . . . to her peril?

With her signature attention to historical detail, Laura Frantz brings 1850s Pennsylvania alive with a tender story of loss, love, and loyalty. Fans will cheer for this final installment of the Ballatyne saga.

And now, my review:

Our heroine feels out of her element and without options. Her foreign-to-her family have many expectations of her. She’ll have to face the social season, transforming from a free country woman to a stuffy, guarded socialite among the city’s elite.

Her escort, James Sackett, has been a family friend/employee for years. But since he’s not New England nobility, he rules himself out where Wren (our heroine) is concerned. I enjoyed watching them grow close through the trials of this story. I felt for Wren having to change her personality in order to oblige her family. She’s a musical person, who feels deeply. When she performs with her first class violin, she lets the music move her. But society feels any show of emotions isn’t acceptable. James can’t display his true feelings because he’s her escort, tasked to show her how to present herself in a stoic way. They both have much to overcome.

One theme in the story was courage. Both the hero and heroine display it throughout. After cooperating with her elders for each preparation of the “season,” Wren insists on wearing her grandmother’s dresses, remade—an unpopular decision, but one that is honored. James, though faced with threats outside of genteel society, doesn’t back down. He will not be intimidated—an admirable quality.

The author keeps readers guessing as to who will end up with whom, while we witness a few romances unfolding.

The historical elements were well researched and enjoyable. The author included some pre-Civil War elements, which were interesting and provided additional tension to the story. At times I felt the story's pacing was a bit slow as the central romance lagged. I wondered why certain characters acted as they did, given their near decision to proceed in a different way. But characters, like real people, will do that. (smile)

Overall, an enjoyable novel. Fans who’ve read this series will have an advantage because they have the context of the earlier stories and especially the characters. I recommend reading the earlier books first in order to keep straight all the extended family and their households.

And now, for more fun!

Check out this video of how the cover image was made: 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Caught in the Middle by Regina Jennings

Caught in the Middle
Let’s begin with the summary:
She Wants the Freedom of the Open Plains.
He Wants the Prestige of a Successful Career.
Neither is Ready for What Comes Instead.

The train to Garber, Texas, is supposed to bring life's next victory to Nicholas Lovelace. Instead, it gets held up by robbers who are thwarted by the last person Nick ever expected—Anne Tillerton from back home in Prairie Lea.

Anne's been hiding away as a buffalo hunter. She's only in town to find their runaway cook, but the woman flees—leaving Anne with her infant son. With Nick the only person Anne knows in town, the two form an unlikely team as they try to figure out what to do with the child.

But being in town means acting and dressing for polite society—and it's not going well for Anne. Meanwhile, Nick's work is bringing new pressures, and being seen with a rough-around-the-edges woman isn't helping his reputation. Caught between their own dreams, a deepening relationship, and others’ expectations, can the pair find their way to love?

And now, my review:

Our heroine, Anne, has been on her own for a while, hiding behind a masculine occupation and clothing. She has good reasons for protecting herself, given her history, though the threat is dead.
I liked Anne’s characterization. I could sympathize with her and root for her to find security in God, rather than in posing. But God had a way of getting past her guarded heart—a son. Caring for the boy, needing help from others, leaning on them, all of these elements helped her open up.

The hero is determined to do what’s morally right. He’s respectable as he makes courageous choices in business and in his personal life.

Great storytelling. I was hooked throughout the story. But, technically, there were several point-of-view issues throughout, plus a few typos. (Finding errors is an occupational hazard of being an editor.) Still, I enjoyed this novel.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Book Review: Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

Dear Mr. Knightley
I loved this novel around Jane Austen’s work.

Here’s the summary:

Samantha Moore has always hidden behind the words of others—namely, her favorite characters in literature. Now, she will learn to write her own story—by giving that story to a complete stranger.

Sam is, to say the least, bookish. An English major of the highest order, her diet has always been Austen, Dickens, and Shakespeare. The problem is, both her prose and conversation tend to be more Elizabeth Bennet than Samantha Moore.

But life for the twenty-three-year-old orphan is about to get stranger than fiction. An anonymous, Dickensian benefactor (calling himself Mr. Knightley) offers to put Sam through Northwestern University’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism. There is only one catch: Sam must write frequent letters to the mysterious donor, detailing her progress.

As Sam’s dark memory mingles with that of eligible novelist Alex Powell, her letters to Mr. Knightley become increasingly confessional. While Alex draws Sam into a world of warmth and literature that feels like it’s straight out of a book, old secrets are drawn to light. And as Sam learns to love and trust Alex and herself, she learns once again how quickly trust can be broken.

Reminding us all that our own true character is not meant to be hidden, Reay’s debut novel follows one young woman’s journey as she sheds her protective persona and embraces the person she was meant to become.

And now, my review:

Our heroine is accountable to her benefactor for how her schooling is going. And because their communication is one-sided, she’s free to share her heart. So she does. Details and heartaches and questions and struggles. The sharing is cathartic and healing, though vulnerable.

I enjoyed the references to Austen’s work, but also this story’s originality. I’m sure readers who know Austen’s work better than I will appreciate more references than I found. Reay had a great knack with storytelling that kept me flipping screens of this e-book. The romantic elements were interesting. And watching our heroine grow and learn through her challenges kept me engaged.

If you’re looking for a modern tale with an Austen-esque twist, I highly recommend this title. Very enjoyable.