Monday, April 25, 2016

The Magnolia Duchess by Beth White

The Magnolia Duchess by Beth White

What a cover!

Let’s begin with the summary:

As the War of 1812 rages across the newly formed United States, another war rages in Fiona Lanier’s heart—one that threatens to tear her family apart.

Fiona can scarcely take in the news of her brother's capture and imprisonment by the British Navy. It is almost as unbelievable as the half-drowned British sailor who is washed ashore on the beach of Navy Cove.

Charlie Kincaid claims to have no memory of his life before being discovered by Fiona, but in a world that seems saturated with treachery, she cannot be sure he is telling the truth.

As Charlie’s memory returns in agonizing jags and crashes, he and Fiona discover that falling in love may be as inevitable as the tide. But when political allegiances collide, they'll each have to decide where their true loyalty lies.

And now, my review:

This is the third book in the Gulf Coast Chronicles series. I felt a little lost because I hadn’t read the earlier two books. When I found this book, I was drawn to the colors on the cover and the promise of romance. I didn’t take into account this was a series book. Some books are more stand-alones, though they are in a series.

The number of POVCs (point-of-view characters) was a bit daunting. I had the feeling these characters were known to series readers, but I was lost. There was some information given with each, but not enough for me to fully bond with the characters. At the same time, I would not have preferred flashbacks. We did get some backstory, which is also not my preference. If you haven’t read the first two books in the series, I recommend doing so before you read this one.

As a historical, this one includes lots and lots of facts. In fact, barely a page went by without many historical details. Several nations are vying for the territory where this novel is set, and I found myself wanting to delve more deeply into the two MCs’ (main characters’) layers rather than getting bogged down. I prefer deeply layered characters and plots. This one focused on several characters (perhaps as a means to tie up loose ends in this series?) and didn’t let us deeply experience any of them.

I also found the story confusing. One of our MCs suffers amnesia (see the summary above) and as we’re in his deep POV, (which I prefer), we get a bit lost because he’s confused. I had to reread a couple of places to see if I’d missed something.

Based on the summary, I thought this would be a romantic journey with plenty of plot and character layers as the hero and heroine fell in love and overcame their obstacles. We get a taste of that, but the historical facts bury us as well. The conflict as to why these two very different people can’t be together was strong and realistic. Well done.

I liked the reference to the American dream—that we can pursue our passions and freely go after our dreams. But overall, I felt I didn’t have enough facts to successfully follow the story. If I had time, I might check out the earlier books, but given the amount of history and lack of deep characterization, I wonder if I’d find the same issues. Readers who enjoy detailed history with their fiction will enjoy this novel.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Audio Books

CDs *

I recently borrowed two items from the library, Poldark by Winston Graham and the audio book of the same title, on CDs. I enjoyed following along, though I will admit to sometimes feeling impatient with the narrator’s pace. I skipped ahead through portions of the 12 discs (!) a few times to get through the book sooner. 

Why listen and read? One, I enjoy audio books at times. And since I’d seen this series on PBS and enjoyed the saga, I thought it’d be fun to see its origins. Also, the actor reading the novel had a British accent. You can’t go wrong with a British accent. Am I right? 

I’ve checked out audio books before—some of them being Jim Rubart’s books. He had the privilege of reading them himself for the audio versions. I enjoyed hearing him read them in the voices he imagined for each speaker’s dialogue.  

As a writer, I read my stories aloud often. Doing so will show writers whether their speakers have distinctive dialogue traits. But I also find mistakes as I read aloud—typos or portions I could beef up. If I were to do the voice-over work on my own titles, I imagine, I might be tempted as I’m reading to rework the prose as I think of changes that may have made the story stronger. (If left to ourselves, our manuscripts would never be finished. We writers like to rework and rework and rework…) 

How about you? Do you enjoy audio books? Where do you listen to them? For Jim’s books, I listened to them on car trips. For Poldark, I was tethered to a CD player with the novel in hand. In this way, it became a study of both voice-over technique, but also unusual words. (Read it, you’ll see what I mean.) 

Whether you read your books or listen to them or both, read on, friends!

Photo credit: White Blank CD Or DVD Stock Photo by Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot at

Friday, April 8, 2016

Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg
Let’s begin with the summary:

A dying newspaper. An intriguing mystery. And a love they didn't see coming.

Maple Valley became Amelia Bentley's haven after her heart and her dreams of a family were shattered. But her new life as a newspaper editor is shaken when the small-town paper is in danger of closing. Her one hope: a lead on an intriguing story that just might impress the new publisher...if only she knew who he was.

After his biggest campaign success to date, widowed speechwriter Logan Walker now has the chance of a lifetime—a spot on a presidential campaign. But his plans are interrupted when he finds out he has inherited his hometown newspaper. He travels home intent on selling the paper and spending some much-needed time with his young daughter before making the leap into national politics.

But instead of a quick sale and peaceful break from his hectic career, Logan finds himself helping Amelia chase her story. She's scrappy, but wounded. He's dependable, but lost. They may butt heads more than expected, but a series of leads on Maple Valley's quirky unsolved mystery is just the start of the sparks that fly in the office and in their hearts.

And now, my review:

The setting descriptions were very strong and helped immerse me into the scenes. The conflict between the hero and heroine is built-in, complicating both of their lives. It was fun, since I was reading part of this book while visiting a town called Maple Valley, to find the same name in this novel and series.

Unfortunately, I found I didn’t care as much about the main characters as I wanted to. So, I gave up at about one-third of the way into the story.  Because of this, I have very few notes from which to write a longer review.

Though this book wasn’t for me, I wish this author all the best.