Monday, March 22, 2021

The Words Between Us by Erin Bartels


The Words Between Us

Here’s a bookish novel I borrowed electronically from the library. What a great cover!

Let’s begin with the summary:

Robin Windsor has spent most of her life under an assumed name, running from her family's ignominious past. She thought she'd finally found sanctuary in her rather unremarkable used bookstore just up the street from the marina in River City, Michigan. But the store is struggling and the past is hot on her heels.

When she receives an eerily familiar book in the mail on the morning of her father's scheduled execution, Robin is thrown back to the long-lost summer she met Peter Flynt, the perfect boy who ruined everything. That book—a first edition Catcher in the Rye—is soon followed by the other books she shared with Peter nearly twenty years ago, with one arriving in the mail each day. But why would Peter be making contact after all these years? And why does she have a sinking feeling that she's about to be exposed all over again?

With evocative prose that recalls the classic novels we love, Erin Bartels pens a story that shows that words—the ones we say, the ones we read, and the ones we write—have more power than we imagine.

And now, my review:

I loved the setting of this book: both Michigan and a bookstore. I was sympathetic to the heroine right away. Her need for sanctuary made me care for her. I wanted her privacy protected, and I was glad she had supportive friends surrounding her as secondary characters.

First person is one of my favorite narrative styles, and this author’s descriptions, prose, and personifications kept the writing interesting. I loved the talking parrot, so much like my Pearl. I loved the connection to Peter and watching their relationship develop through flashbacks. It was enjoyable watching him reach out in a bookish way in the present.

The heroine’s preoccupation with death and the lack of hope early in the story weren’t a good match for me in this season. The novel didn't serve as an escape as the story was a bit heavy, so I only finished to 17 percent. I think I might enjoy it when life is calmer. I may pick it up again later. I wish the author and publisher all the best.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

The Prince of Spies by Elizabeth Camden

The Prince of Spies by Elizabeth Camden

Ah, the final book in a great series! 

Let’s begin with the summary:

Luke Delacroix has the reputation of a charming man-about-town in Gilded Age Washington, DC. In reality, he is secretly carrying out an ambitious agenda in Congress. His current mission is to thwart the reelection of Congressman Clyde Magruder, his only real enemy in the world.

But trouble begins when Luke meets Marianne Magruder, the congressman's only daughter, whose job as a government photographer gives her unprecedented access to sites throughout the city. Luke is captivated by Marianne's quick wit and alluring charm, leading them both into a dangerous gamble to reconcile their feelings for each other with Luke's driving passion for vital reforms in Congress.

Can their newfound love survive a political firestorm, or will three generations of family rivalry drive them apart forever?

And now, my review:

We finally get to experience Luke’s story! He’s been a secondary cast member of the earlier two books in this series where readers came to care for him. He’s a risk-taker and has a noble heart and mission. He’s willing to sacrifice his own comforts for the sake of the people he’s serving. We root for him while he inspires us.

The family feud aspect of this novel provided a perfect backdrop for conflict and romantic why-nots. How in the world will these two bridge an age-old distrust between their families? That question will keep readers hooked.

Our heroine is a successful, somewhat independent photographer working in DC in the early 1900s. I loved that she was a trusted government employee and how her job gave her access. Her world of brownie cameras and darkroom film development interested me.

Each of the MCs has a challenging weakness or difficulty to overcome. Luke can be a bit reckless in his pursuit of justice. But now he’ll have to humble himself and consider others in a new way. If he dies, how will Marianne feel? He also faces down the trauma of being locked up in a Cuban prison for fifteen months prior to this book’s start.

Our heroine is exceedingly na├»ve—a great contrast to her independence and career woman status. At times this flaw grated, but it made her growth interesting to read/watch. She is also brave and we watch her take stands in her own life, as Luke does, and we cheer for her.

I had recently seen a PBS special about the Poison Squad and the scientific study of toxic food additives in the early 1900s. This novel’s exploration of that early study interested me.

Honest journalism was a theme and because the story was set in the early 1900s and news reporters were held accountable to the truth, nationally, we were rewarded with this satisfying element.

I recommend you read the Hope of Glory series in order to fully appreciate the stories’ through lines. Personally, I enjoyed the earlier books in the series more. But this was a satisfying conclusion to a strong series.