Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Place in His Heart- Rebecca DeMarino

Southold Chronicles #1 
332 Pages, Print and Ebook
24th June 2014, Revell

Anglican Mary Langton longs to marry for love. Puritan Barnabas Horton is still in love with his deceased wife and needs only a mother for his two young sons.

And yet these two very different people with very different expectations will take a leap of faith, wed, and then embark on a life-changing journey across the ocean to the Colonies. Along the way, each must learn to live in harmony, to wait on God, and to recognize true love where they least expect to find it.

This heartfelt tale of love and devotion is based on debut author Rebecca DeMarino’s own ancestors, who came to Long Island in the mid-1600s to establish a life–and a legacy–in the New World.

I've got to confess, Colonial America is not my favourite setting. I just find it hard to get on with and identify with, its not really my favourite period either. To be honest, I've yet to find a book set in this time that has been really immersive.
It was interesting that this book was based on the author's family history, who included some of the earliest settlers on Long Island. I do appreciate stories about real people and their real lives. In that regard, it was not a bad book, and it was in interesting story. It just lagged a bit towards the end.

Some of the historical details were also interesting, such as the interactions with Native Americans, and the the practices and customs that crossed between the cultures.

Personally, I did not find Barnabas convincing as a 17th century puritan. I don't hold to the incorrect view that they were all dour, miserable and solemn, but I think Barnabas seemed to be lacking in real convictions.
All he does is complain about the oppression of the wicked government in the manner one might hear about in a schoolroom- but he does not hold to many of the ideas common to puritanism. Indeed, his ideas are very modern and accomodating.

The langauge is also that strange, eclectic mixture of Archaic and modern American English with 'Prithee' used alongside terms like the modern American 'Bakeshop'- British people would not usually call it that. We would say Bakery, or Baker's shop.

Overall this was a good read, and since I have the third book as a review copy I will read it. For the reader interested in the period of the American founding fathers, and speculative fiction on what the lives of the women of the time would have been like, its a good choice

Monday, August 15, 2016

Around the World in Books- Scotland, Ireland and Wales

The second in my series, showing books set in the rest of Britain (not England) and the Ireland. Again, suggestions welcome- buy they have to be set primarily in these countries.

Medieval: St Patrick to the Tudors c.440-1485

Tudor to Regency: c. 1485- 1800, The Tudors, Mary Stuart 'Queen of Scots' through the Georgians, to the Regency period.

Regency to Modern: 1800- Today

Multi Period, Crossover and Time-Travel  

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Around the World in Books- England

I'm taking my cue for this post from Carrie of Reading Is My Superpower a rather spiffing books blog (I hope she does not mind me 'borrowing' her idea). The purpose being to take readers on a geographical and historical tour across the world with some lovely books. 
Naturally, I'm starting with my homeland. If you're worried, the rest of the British Isles and other nations will come.
The only condition is that the books have to be set primarily in the country, and not a work of fantasy set in a fictional land, or with characters of one nationality who spend the duration in another country. (So if it has English characters, but more than half of the book is set in France, or America, it will not be on this the board for England, but for France or whatever country.)

Most of these titles I have read, but not all, so cannot necessarily recommend or endorse them all. I don't pretend to have included every book, so recommendations are welcome.

Roman to Arthurian Britannia (AD60- AD500)- Boudicca, the Romans and after....

Medieval (AD500-1509)- Age of the Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Normans and Plantagenets to the death of Henry Tudor 

Tudor and Stuart (AD1509-1713) - From the ascension of Henry VIII to the first King George of the House of Hanover

Georgian to Victorian (AD1713- 1837) - The period of the Kings George- of course it includes the ever popular Regency Era

Victorian (AD 1837-1901) - No other explanation required. The Victorian age, obviously.

Edwardian, the Wars and After (AD1901- 1960) - The twentieth century up to 1960. If its after 1960 I don't really count as 'Historical' but contemporary fiction.

Time-Travel and Multi-Period- For the books that don't fit neatly into any particular time period, including Time Travel and Novella collections set in different periods.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

A Refuge at Highland Hall- Carrie Turansky

Edwardian Brides #3
October 2015, Waterbrook Multnomah 338 Pages,
Print, ebook and Audio  

In this third and final book in the Edwardian Brides Series, you’ll be swept away to England and France in 1915 as the Ramsey family and their staff and friends face the dramatic challenges and losses of World War One, yet they also experience the hope and triumph that comes as they put their trust in God to carry them through. Penny Ramsey helps the family welcome a group of orphaned children to Highland Hall, but she soon discovers caring for them is more difficult than she’d expected. 
She writes to Alex Goodwin, a daring British pilot, who chases German zeppelins across the sky over the Front Line in France, and longs for the day she will see him again. You’ll be delighted by two pure and heartwarming romances: Penny and Alex, and Lydia Chambers and Marius Ritter, a lady’s maid and a prisoner of war. But most of all I hope you’ll be inspired by the characters’ examples of trusting God through the trials they face.

Fans of “Downton Abbey” will find many of the same elements in this series: A wealthy, aristocratic family living on a large English country estate with romance, conflicts, and family drama; and loyal servants with troubles and heartaches of their own.

I enjoyed this final instalment in the Edwardian Brides trilogy rather more than the last book, which I found too ‘preachy’ and clich├ęd. It was the story of Penelope, the youngest of the two Ramsey sisters, and set in the midst of the First World War- in the summer of 1916, to be precise. Some other beloved characters also return, including Lydia, the faithful servant of the family and close friend of the Ramsey girls, as well as their young cousins John and Milly, now in their teens.

There is conflict and humour, with Katherine and her husband’s brood of adopted children, whom they bring to Highland Hall to escape Zeppelin raids on London. There is also a chance of love for Lydia, in the form of a man working in the grounds, incarcerated in a local prison camp because of his family’s German roots.
Character’s feelings and relationships are developed slowly and with sensitivity, and not too much ‘instalove’ mushy romance. Personally, I prefer stories that follow and develop characters and their stories over time even after they are married, then traditional romance tropes. Of course, there is some of that, but it’s not overwhelming.

The historical details seemed to be accurate, and those about the early pilots who fought in the First World War were fascinating. Aside from a few Americanisms as I observed in some of the last books, I had no real complaints with this one. Another reviewer did mention a loose end or two that were not tied up with a couple of the characters, and that might bother some readers, but I don't want to give away too much.
The Christian messages and theme seemed to be woven well into the story, and come to the characters quite naturally considering their backgrounds rather than seeming forced or unrealistic. Generally, this was a satisfying conclusion to the series, and a solid work of historical fiction reminiscent of Downton Abbey.

I received an e-book edition of this title from the publisher via Edelweiss for review. I also purchased the audio version of my own volition. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, July 25, 2016

New Release- An Elegant Facade, Kristi Ann Hunter

Hawthorne House #2, 368 Pages 
Bethany House, 5th July 2016
Print, Ebook and Audio 

Lady Georgina Hawthorne has worked tirelessly to seal her place as the Incomparable for her debut season. At her first London ball, she hopes to snag the attention of an earl.
With money and business connections, but without impeccable bloodlines, Colin McCrae is invited everywhere but accepted nowhere.

When he first encounters the fashionable Lady Georgina, he's irritated by his attraction to a woman who concerns herself only with status and appearance.
What Colin doesn't know is that Georgina's desperate social aspirations are driven by the shameful secret she harbors. Association with Colin McCrae is not part of Georgina's plan, but as their paths continue to cross, they both must decide if the realization of their dreams is worth the sacrifices they must make.
I had some reservations about the last book in this trilogy, which was the story of Miranda, the eldest sister of the four aristocratic Hawthorne siblings, story although I enjoyed it overall. This was less about the espionage, and more about the young debutante trying to hide a secret which would make her out as a social failure. She had dyslexia, which prevented her from reading more than a few sentences, or being able to write legibly.

Honestly, I loved this book quite a lot more than the first. Georgina, the female protagonist is like marmite- you either love her or hate her, and I absolutely loved her! Yes, she was mercenary, manipulative and shallow, but there was something endearing about her. Perhaps it was her vulnerability or determination. Perhaps because I have some experience of dyslexia I sort of identified with Georgina's eccentricities and frustration.

The story follows Georgina's attempts to find a husband, and how her path crosses with Colin McRae, the Scottish businessman who has dealings with her family, and just does seem to keep appearing. As motives and social engagements clash, Colin and Georgina motives, personalities and secrets must be confronted so they can face their families, and discover the true meaning of love. The banter and rivalry between the two of them provided plenty of humour and character exploration, and when voice of Georgina's conscience manifesting as a 'Tiny Colin in her head' was a stroke of genius.

There was romance, inevitably, but it was not too mushy. The characters don't really even confront their feelings for each other until the end. Perhaps it was a bit forced, as some have suggested. The religious content was not overdone (again a little bit forced at the end), and Georgina's struggles to work out how she felt about God seemed credible enough.

My only real complaint is that as with the last book, there were a lot of Americanisms in the character's speech and the narration. Not as many as last time admittedly, and 'biggies' seem to have been avoided, but some did annoy me. A character at one point said 'Should I write him back’? when a native Brit would have said 'Should I write back to him'.
It might seem like nit-picking, but phrases like that just don't fit into the settings, and make the writing seem clunky and unnatural.
Also, the characters seemed to be continually eating their breakfast with just a fork, like Americans, rather than a knife and fork as would have been normal in polite British society, and is still the norm over here.

This complaint aside, An Elegant Facade was a pleasant and cleverly written Regency, exploring some interesting and unusual subjects, and important themes with sensitivity. At the same time, it was not too deep and the tone remained witty and light-hearted for the most part. Recommended for Regency fans.

I received a free e-book from Netgalley, and a print copy of this book from the publisher and their UK distributor for the purposes of writing a review. I was not required to write a positive one and all opinions expressed are my own.

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