A Tale of Two Hearts, Once Upon a Dickens Christmas by Michelle Griep

/ October 08, 2018
Once Upon A Dickens Christmas #2 
192 Pages, 1st Sept 2018, Shiloh Run Press
Print, ebook and Audio 
 
Genre: Historical Romance 
Setting: Victorian London, Countryside 

London, 1853: Innkeeper’s daughter Mina Scott will do anything to escape the drudgery of her life, for there’s nothing more mundane than serving customers day after day. Every minute she can, she reads and dreams of someday becoming a real lady—and catch the eye of William Barlow, a frequent guest at the inn.

William is a gentleman’s son, a charming but penniless rogue. However, his bachelor uncle will soon name an heir—either him or his scheming cousin. In an effort to secure the inheritance, William gives his uncle the impression he’s married, which works until he’s invited to bring his wife for a visit.

William asks Mina to be his pretend bride, only until his uncle names an heir on Christmas Day. Mina is flattered and frustrated by the offer, for she wants a true relationship with William. Yet, she agrees. . .then wishes she hadn’t. So does William. Deceiving the old man breaks both their hearts. When the truth is finally discovered, more than just money is lost. 


My Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

Its October, but I've just finished this delightful Christmas story. Actually, it could be read any time of the year, and the theme is no obstacle.
There's romance, with a pretended marriage and intrigue, with a nefarious plot hatched by the leading man's relatives. The characters are wonderful and so well-drawn, including the deliciously nasty villains Alice and Percy. Alice is so venomous, grasping, sly and shrewish. You just want to slap her or shake her, but she and her husband just make the more perfect villains to pit the heroes against. The duo are in every way worthy of Dickens.

Mina is that perfect combination of strong yet vulnerable and so in a way is Will. He needs Mina, but is afraid to admit his growing love and admiration for her, because of a previous heartbreak. Both characters make mistakes. I think there some important messages about integrity and honesty, as well as not striving for the unattainable and taking people as they are.
That deceit and pretense, even its done with good intent to help or protect someone else, does cause hurt.

Uncle Barlow is just perfect. No other explanation is needed. He ties the story together, and he's wonderful. Everyone needs an Uncle Barlow in their life, a kindly if eccentric old man who sees good in everyone and tries to give everyone a chance. Even better you can sit down and discuss literature with him: no wonder Mina loved him so much. Not that he suffers fools gladly, or takes well to being duped.
There's a great inner strength behind the facade of an absent minded old man. In fact, I would hazard Uncle Barlow is almost a Christ figure in this book, showing unconditional love, but speaking the truth and not blind to the faults of the characters, He requires but does not compel obedience, and shows the blend of justice and mercy perfectly.

I did however deduct one star for the few Americanisms, and the fact that I could not get on the with American narrator of the audio-book. Sorry, but her accents weren't great.

So overall this a lovely story full of grace and imbued with Spirit of Christmas, snow, and festive cheer. With the perfect setting in Victorian London and a nearby country manor.
The passages from Dickens at the start of each chapter are a perfect accompaniment to this feelgood romance, perfect for the holiday season. I might give it a re-read again when Christmas comes around, hunkered down in my jumper with a cup of tea and a nice mince pie.

I requested this title from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.
Once Upon A Dickens Christmas #2 
192 Pages, 1st Sept 2018, Shiloh Run Press
Print, ebook and Audio 
 
Genre: Historical Romance 
Setting: Victorian London, Countryside 

London, 1853: Innkeeper’s daughter Mina Scott will do anything to escape the drudgery of her life, for there’s nothing more mundane than serving customers day after day. Every minute she can, she reads and dreams of someday becoming a real lady—and catch the eye of William Barlow, a frequent guest at the inn.

William is a gentleman’s son, a charming but penniless rogue. However, his bachelor uncle will soon name an heir—either him or his scheming cousin. In an effort to secure the inheritance, William gives his uncle the impression he’s married, which works until he’s invited to bring his wife for a visit.

William asks Mina to be his pretend bride, only until his uncle names an heir on Christmas Day. Mina is flattered and frustrated by the offer, for she wants a true relationship with William. Yet, she agrees. . .then wishes she hadn’t. So does William. Deceiving the old man breaks both their hearts. When the truth is finally discovered, more than just money is lost. 


My Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

Its October, but I've just finished this delightful Christmas story. Actually, it could be read any time of the year, and the theme is no obstacle.
There's romance, with a pretended marriage and intrigue, with a nefarious plot hatched by the leading man's relatives. The characters are wonderful and so well-drawn, including the deliciously nasty villains Alice and Percy. Alice is so venomous, grasping, sly and shrewish. You just want to slap her or shake her, but she and her husband just make the more perfect villains to pit the heroes against. The duo are in every way worthy of Dickens.

Mina is that perfect combination of strong yet vulnerable and so in a way is Will. He needs Mina, but is afraid to admit his growing love and admiration for her, because of a previous heartbreak. Both characters make mistakes. I think there some important messages about integrity and honesty, as well as not striving for the unattainable and taking people as they are.
That deceit and pretense, even its done with good intent to help or protect someone else, does cause hurt.

Uncle Barlow is just perfect. No other explanation is needed. He ties the story together, and he's wonderful. Everyone needs an Uncle Barlow in their life, a kindly if eccentric old man who sees good in everyone and tries to give everyone a chance. Even better you can sit down and discuss literature with him: no wonder Mina loved him so much. Not that he suffers fools gladly, or takes well to being duped.
There's a great inner strength behind the facade of an absent minded old man. In fact, I would hazard Uncle Barlow is almost a Christ figure in this book, showing unconditional love, but speaking the truth and not blind to the faults of the characters, He requires but does not compel obedience, and shows the blend of justice and mercy perfectly.

I did however deduct one star for the few Americanisms, and the fact that I could not get on the with American narrator of the audio-book. Sorry, but her accents weren't great.

So overall this a lovely story full of grace and imbued with Spirit of Christmas, snow, and festive cheer. With the perfect setting in Victorian London and a nearby country manor.
The passages from Dickens at the start of each chapter are a perfect accompaniment to this feelgood romance, perfect for the holiday season. I might give it a re-read again when Christmas comes around, hunkered down in my jumper with a cup of tea and a nice mince pie.

I requested this title from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.
Continue Reading



Welcome to First Line Fridays, the reading group in which we share First Lines and our love of books. 
This week I am including the First Line from a book that I have recently finished reading (normally I feature books I am reading, or I'm about to read). 

London, 1853: Innkeeper’s daughter Mina Scott will do anything to escape the drudgery of her life, for there’s nothing more mundane than serving customers day after day. Every minute she can, she reads and dreams of someday becoming a real lady—and catch the eye of William Barlow, a frequent guest at the inn.

William is a gentleman’s son, a charming but penniless rogue. However, his bachelor uncle will soon name an heir—either him or his scheming cousin. In an effort to secure the inheritance, William gives his uncle the impression he’s married, which works until he’s invited to bring his wife for a visit.

William asks Mina to be his pretend bride, only until his uncle names an heir on Christmas Day. Mina is flattered and frustrated by the offer, for she wants a true relationship with William. Yet, she agrees. . .then wishes she hadn’t. So does William. Deceiving the old man breaks both their hearts. When the truth is finally discovered, more than just money is lost.

Can two hearts survive such deception?

Although its only October, I'm sharing the first line from the latest novel in Michelle Griep's Once Upon a Dickens Christmas series. I really, really enjoyed this book, and I will be getting my review up soon. Very occasionally, Amazon have cheap paperbacks of Barbour titles, so hopefully one day I can get this one in paperback. 

Each chapter begins with a short passage from some writing by Charles Dickens, so I am skipping that, and starting with the actual first line: 

"In the tiny back courtyard of the Golden Egg Inn, Mina Scott lowered her copy of David Copperfield to her lap and lifted her fact to the October sun."


Don't forget to click the meme to see what everyone else is reading, and comment with your own First Line

 
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 Canadian Crossings #1
Bethany House July 3rd 2018, 352 Pages 
Ebook, Print and Audio 

Genre: Historical Fiction 
Setting: Canada, 1920

In the aftermath of tragedy, Grace hopes to reclaim her nephew from the relatives who rejected her sister because of her class. Under an alias, she becomes her nephew's nanny to observe the formidable family up close.
Unexpectedly, she begins to fall for the boy's guardian, who is promised to another. Can Grace protect her nephew . . . and her heart?


 My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


This was a little story set just after WW1 in Canada. Its a nice clean romance providing an interesting exploration of the impact of trauma, war and loss on families. A perfectly nice, light, uplifting read that's not too taxing. The characters are good and well-drawn, even if the hero and heroine are a little on the side of Saccharine.

There's just one or two things that irked me. First of, why is it that in almost all marriage of convenience stories, or stories which look like there is going to be a marriage of convenience the prospective marriage partner (i.e the one which the hero or heroine is not in love with), is always superlatively bad or horrible? I mean is it because the marriage is not 'for love' and because the parties are not meant to be together?

I'm sorry, but to me, that just doesn't seem very realistic. Just because x does not absolutely love that person why do they have to be absolutely horrible, cruel, callous and selfish with no redeeming features at all. Oh and of course, they almost invariably turn out to be impious or not good Christians. So a character's personality is determined by their relationship to the protagonist: basically. I suppose this can apply to a lot of novels of this genre, not just this one in particular.

The other thing was really a technicality. I was seriously wondering whether a telegram addressed simply to one 'Helen Abernathy' in 'Sussex' would actually reach its destination. Didn't telegrams have to have more specifics details or destinations? I mean Abernathy is a fairly common surname, and so I'm pretty sure there would have been several people with that surname living in Sussex in 1920.

Altogether, The Best of Intentions is a perfectly good story with which to while away an afternoon or a long journey. Or just if you want a feelgood Romance story. I did like it, and its my second book by this author, so I would certainly read more by her. Its just some of the tropes of this genre which I'm perhaps getting a bit tired of.

I requested this title from the Publisher via Netgalley and purchased the audio-book of my own volition. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.




Still working through my Kindle backlog in between reading newer books. I just finished Fawkes by Nadine Brandes. You can read my review of that book here

I've just downloaded this book from my Library. It's a novel about a 5th century Irish Saint named Brigid. The book was first published by monarch books several years back, but has been republished with two sequels about other figures in Irish history. 

In 5th-century pagan-dominated Ireland, Brigid is born a slave to her own father and is separated from her mother. 
Desperately seeking love and acceptance, Brigid becomes a believer in Christ. Knowing how the Irish people cling to superstitions and fears, can Brigid overcome them? 

Will her hatred for her father and a scheming evil sorcerer destroy her faith? Set in the era of St. Patrick, this fantasy-filled novel will captivate readers as Brigid must choose between God’s will and the desire to save her family.

I have picked my First Line today from Chapter One instead of the Prologue. 

"Brigid would never forget that day. Yet the memory of her mother's face and the sound of her voice were fading like the sun-bleached pebbles she plucked from the water's edge" 

Don't forget to click the Meme to see what the other members are reading, and comment with your own First Line

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36576048
 Thomas Nelson, July 10th 2018 
448 Pages, Hardback and Audio

Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fantasy 
Setting: Fantasy Version of 17th century Britain, primarily London. 

Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death. But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.

The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.

No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


'Fawkes' took an extremely interesting idea and concept: weaving a well-known historical event with fantasy elements to create a whole new and intriguing world for readers. I had sort of mixed feelings towards this story at the beginning, but ended up liking it quite a lot.

It was well written, used excellent world-building, and presented the struggle of the two teenage protagonists struggling to find acceptance and their place in the world very well. I felt it also conveyed some of the undercurrents of political unrest and mistrust of the time well. Only instead of Catholics and Protestants, the conflict is between two groups called 'Keepers' and 'Igniters' with opposing views of the system of magic/colour power underlying the fantasy setting. Although its kinda more like an allegorical representation of those two group's approach to God in a way. 

However: this I can accept this story might not be according to everyone's taste and there were a few things which grated on me. First of all was the some of the modern language and Americanisms. Sorry had to mention them. For the most part, thy weren't very noticeable but I occasionally found myself jarred right out of the story with words like 'swell': and not used in the noun or verb form.

Given that this was Historical Fantasy, I think the reader can be forgiving in terms of historical accuracy and realism. However, there were one or two slip ups that kind of stood out. In one scene, when Thomas and his father were standing outside the Houses of Parliament, (also known as the Palace of Westminster), it is referred to as the House of Lords.

I think the author has conflated the House of Lords, which is an institution , with the Houses of Parliament, which is a building. Sort of like referring to the US Capitol building as the 'Senate'.
Also, the characters seemed to be under the impression that Parliament consisted of the Lords and the King: it has actually consisted of two Houses since its foundation in Medieval times.
The Lords and the Commons. Both of whom meet in the Houses of Parliament in two separate Chambers. Maybe I'm just verging on the pedantic though as a Brit who likes to see our governing institution accurately represented. 

Although that said, the geography of 17th century England is more accurately represented here than it is in some other novels, and this is fantasy! That building on the front cover is the Tower of London though, in case readers wondered.

All in all though, I enjoyed Fawkes more than I thought I might. Its a good choice, perhaps for those who don't want straight out fantasy or are relatively new to the fantasy genre. I would certainly check out more books by this author.

I requested this title from the publisher via BookLook Bloggers. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.


Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

by on September 20, 2018
 Thomas Nelson, July 10th 2018  448 Pages, Hardback and Audio Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fantasy  Setting: Fantasy Version of 17...
Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon #11 
 August 24th 2018, 224 Pages, Lion Fiction/Kregel 
Print and Ebook 

Master Hugh won the Black Prince’s favour when he helped ease the prince’s illness. Now, in the autumn of 1372, the prince is suffering a relapse and sends to Bampton for Master Hugh to attend him.
While at dinner in Kennington Palace, Sir Giles, the knight who escorted Hugh to London, is stricken and dies. Poison! Sir Giles is not popular, and there are many who would gladly see the fellow done away with… except for Prince Edward. 

The Black Prince feels a debt to the slain man because of his heroic behaviour at the Battle of Crecy, where the knight stood firm with the prince when the fight seemed of uncertain outcome.
Despite caring little for Sir Giles, Master Hugh must once again place himself in jeopardy and seek to uncover the perpetrator of the crime...

 My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

The Eleventh installment in this ongoing Medieval Mystery series delivers everything that readers have come to love. A detailed account of everyday life and living in late 14th century England, for one. Only this one is set in London instead of rural Oxfordshire, as is usual. Specifically, its set in a place called Kennington palace, once a Medieval royal residence, favoured by the Black Prince, the famous son of Edward III.
Although, as the author says, he was not known as the Black Prince in his lifetime, and is referred to instead as the Duke of Cornwall.

There are also some good details about Medieval surgery and Medicine. The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton would be sadly lacking without Hugh performing at least one operation in each book. I think the audience would complain! Don't let that put you off though, the surgeries are not described a gruesome or disgusting way. More in a sort of clinical manner one might expect from a medical professional. Yes, they had them in the Middle Ages!
Hugh also comes into conflict with a physician, which leads to some interesting discussion about the differences between surgeons and physicians, and a small helping of acerbic wit from Hugh, and one time even the Prince.

The mystery itself, at the heart of the story seems simple at first, but becomes more complicated as time progressed. I found myself a little confused, towards the end in fact. Needing to give a couple of passages a re-read. I tend to find that I don't read this series primarily for the mystery, but mysteries they are, and its kind of central to the story. I did not predict the culprit or the motive, so that's probably good, although something which could have been done earlier and better.

Recommended as always for all fans of this series. For the people who say they want vivid, accurate and well researched Medieval Fiction WHY haven't you read this series? There's more than enough to keep people interested who aren't normally into mysteries. Just reading the glossary can be really informative and fascinating.

Thanks to Lion Fiction for my copy of this book. I was not required to write a review, or a positive one and all opinions expressed are my own.


Today I am sharing the First Line from a title I just started listening to as an audio version. Of course, I am a major Julie Klassen fan. This book is a little different because its her only one that was not Published by Bethany House. 
Lady, Maybe was instead published by Berkley Books, a division of the general market publisher Penguin Random House in 2015. 

However, like all her other novels, it is still a Regency Romance. 

One final cry…“God almighty, help us!” and suddenly her world shifted violently, until a blinding collision scattered her mind and shook her bones. Then, the pain. The freezing water. And as all sensation drifted away, a hand reached for hers, before all faded into darkness…

Now she has awakened as though from some strange, suffocating dream in a warm and welcoming room she has never seen before, and tended to by kind, unfamiliar faces. But not all has been swept away. She recalls fragments of the accident. She remembers a baby. And a ring on her finger reminds her of a lie.

But most of all, there is a secret. And in this house of strangers she can trust no one but herself to keep it.

 The First Line Reads:

Bath, England 1819

 "Lady Marianna Mayfield sat at her dressing table- clothed, curled and powdered." 



That's all from me this week. Don't forget to click the meme to see what others are reading, or comment with your own First Line. 


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