Once Upon a Dickens Christmas by Michelle Griep
Each novella in this collection has been released yearly, with the newest one being released in a collection containing all three. Since I have already reviewed 12 Days at Bleakly Manor and A Tale of Two Hearts, I will focus this review on the third story, The Old Lace Shop.
While the first two stories are written in typical Michelle Griep style, The Old Lace Shop is written in first person present. Since this is the least favorite of my reading styles preferences, I’ll admit it took a little longer than normal to lose myself in the story as I adjusted. Even so, I enjoyed the story itself immensely.
I loved how it felt like an echo of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell–available as a BBC miniseries that has usurped Pride and Prejudice as my favorite. (Sorry Mr. Darcy lovers. Mr. Thornton has won my heart, even if his changes are more subtle.)
The Old Lace Shop Blurb
Recently widowed Bella White is finally freed from the domination of the overbearing men in her life, but when she enters into a business partnership with the handsome Edmund Archer, she begins to wonder if marriage is worth a second chance.
– Blurb from Amazon.com
What I loved: My favorite part of it was all the little nods to North and South. (At least, I connected them with the book/TV miniseries.) I love seeing a picture of life in the lace mills of Northern Victorian England, and all the social aspects that play into that.
Favorite Character: This is a toughie. Edmund reminds me so much of Mr. Thornton, the imperfect hero. I also dearly love Flora. I beautiful little girl, full of character.
Who would like this: Anyone who enjoys first person perspectives, second chance romances, fans of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, and those who love a historical peek at industrial Victorian England.
Rating and Why: I gave this a four star rating. The collection has a great set of stories. The first person perspective in the last story was such a deviation from my expectation and comfort level that it actually detracted from the story for me, even though I still enjoyed it. The collection is still one I would recommend to anyone who is a fan of Michelle Griep and Victorian England.
You can purchase your copy at the following retailers:
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A Rumored Fortune by Joanna Davidson Politano
If you’ve not read Joanna Davidson Politano, YOU HAVE TO READ HER. LIKE NOW. GO!
There are very few authors (okay only two) whose books I will preorder without even knowing what the story is about, but Joanna is one of them. She has such depth of insight, such richness of story, character, and mystery that you are left pondering her book for years afterwards. Yes. Years.
When I went to write the review for her newest book Finding Lady Enderly, I realized I failed to let you know about A Rumored Fortune, which by the way is up for the 2019 Christy award. (Totally deserving of it.) So I decided to back track and do this one first.
*If you are an on-the-go person, I definitely recommend the audiobook. The narrator was perfect for the story. *
Because it has been over a year since I’ve read her book, I’m not going to follow my normal format, but I will tell you WHY you HAVE to read this book now.
The simple answer? A Rumored Fortune will leave you personally changed. Without even knowing how she did it, you are drawn closer to God and have a greater understanding of who you are in Him. You can’t read her books and NOT walk away changed.
On the plot level, it is an amazingly rich story in love, finding your worth, and enduring the hard seasons of pruning to become a fruitful branch of the vine. Woven with amazing details of vineyard care, you are drawn into a story of gentle romance where two people learn to grow toward God and toward each other. I simply adore the relationship between Tressa and Vance. He is a swoon-worthy hero who helps others and teaches Tressa a great deal about herself. He’s not perfect, but he is a hero worth loving.
Tressa Harlowe’s father did not trust banks, but neither did he trust his greedy extended family. He kept his vast fortune hidden somewhere on his estate in the south of England and died suddenly, without telling anyone where he had concealed it. Tressa and her ailing mother are left with a mansion and an immense vineyard and no money to run it. It doesn’t take long for a bevy of opportunists to flock to the estate under the guise of offering condolences. Tressa knows what they’re really up to. She’ll have to work with the rough and rusticated vineyard manager to keep the laborers content without pay and discover the key to finding her father’s fortune–before someone else finds it first.
Award-winning author Joanna Davidson Politano welcomes readers to Trevelyan Castle, home of the poorest heiress in Victorian England, for a treasure hunt they’ll not soon forget.
– Blurb from Amazon.com
Purchase this irresistible treat at:
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Under Moonlit Skies by Cynthia Roemer
The Prairie Skies series has been a pleasure to read and one I will read again, which for me is rare. There are few straight romances which I will read, let alone reread. Yet, Cynthia Roemer always seems to bring more to a story than just romance. Her characters and storylines have depth and and life truths. Under Moonlit Skies had the touch of danger for the last third of the book that I crave. Soooo good. Of course it doesn’t hurt that part of the story takes place in my region. 😉 You can read the reviews of the first two books in the series Under This Same Sky and Under Prairie Skies.
Genre: Historical Romance, 1850s
Her life was planned out ~ until he rode in ~
Illinois prairie ~ 1859
After four long years away, Esther Stanton returns to the prairie to care for her sister Charlotte’s family following the birth of her second child. The month-long stay seems much too short as Esther becomes acquainted with her brother-in-law’s new ranch hand, Stewart Brant. When obligations compel her to return to Cincinnati and to the man her overbearing mother intends her to wed, she loses hope of ever knowing true happiness.
Still reeling from a hurtful relationship, Stew is reluctant to open his heart to Esther. But when he faces a life-threatening injury with Esther tending him, their bond deepens. Heartbroken when she leaves, he sets out after her and inadvertently stumbles across an illegal slave-trade operation, the knowledge of which puts him, as well as Esther and her family, in jeopardy.
What I loved: My favorite part is the danger and how Stew’s character really stands out in the midst of it. I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say it has to do with the fact Cincinnati was a hotbed of activity during the years leading up to the Civil War.
Favorite Character: I really loved Stew. He was an imperfect man with a strength of character which one cannot help but love. He is sweet and committed. Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, but he does it anyway.
Who would like this: Anyone who loves stories with characters who struggle with becoming their own person, gentle romance, and a touch of danger. Also, those who enjoy a glimpse into pre-Civil War life in an area where blacks were free but always in danger.
Rating and Why: I gave this a four and half star rating. It was a great conclusion to the series which was different from each of the preceding plots and there was a continued demonstration of great character development. I love getting to see characters struggle and change in ways I can relate to.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author/publisher. The review above was influenced in no way by this and the above opinions are my own.
Join the discussion: If you had a decision to make that would greatly disappoint and hurt a parent’s feelings, would you choose what they wanted for you or what you wanted most for yourself?
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Atoning for Ashes by Kaitlin Covel
Atoning for Ashes is Kaitlin Covel’s debut novel and a new-to-me author. Her story is robust with lots of layers to a complex plot. Eloquent descriptions help you travel to Paris, Italy, and England, and you can really tell how much she researched to get the details just right. It is a book worth reading. Although there are a few spots you may feel like putting it down, I encourage you to read to the end. There are several surprising twists that are quite intriguing.
Genre: Historical Romance, late 1700s or 1800s England (Not 100% sure)
Josie Chadwick dreams of marrying for love in Cornwall, England, but with her father’s debt threatening to destroy all she holds dear, her romantic options are dwindling. When her elder sister Delia is disowned, Josie finds herself heiress of Chadwick Park, torn between dreams and duty. After sacrificing her heart to atone for Delia’s sin, Josie clings to the hope she will learn to love a distant husband, whom she fears is incapable of requiting her affection.
Charles Radcliffe’s heart has been scarred and hardened by rejection. He fears hurting his new bride, but his fears of betrayal and rejection are stronger, making it impossible for him to trust her love―let alone the love of her God.
As Josie and Charles face their new life together, ominous events warn of dark family secrets that could shatter them both. More than a loveless marriage is at stake if they cannot stand as one. Will they learn to trust God and each other before it’s too late?
What I loved: The rich historical details were a real pleasure. I really learned a lot and could sink right into the story world. The second half of the book was my favorite. Go figure, it’s where the majority of the mystery and danger are located. 😉
Favorite Character: Esther is my absolute favorite. Although a secondary character, she was well-rounded with her own secrets. She was wise yet fallible.
Who would like this: Those who enjoy epic stories with lots of layers, stories where broken souls are restored, stories of married couples learning to love one another and break free from the hurts of the past, and those who enjoy a bit of mystery and danger.
Rating and Why: I gave this story a 3.5 because this was a story that had sections I skimmed and felt a little preachy in areas. It wasn’t enough to keep me from enjoying the story, but I did have to push myself to read to the end. The first half of the book felt like a pure romance, but in the second half my interest was really snagged by the danger and mystery.
*I received a copy of this book from the author/publisher. The above opinions are my own and are in no way influenced.*
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The Beautiful Pretender
by Melanie Dickerson
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction, Fairytale Retellings, 1363
Overview of Plot:
Avelina is a lady’s maid… only her lady has decided to run off with a knight. When the Earl’s daughter is summoned to Thornbeck to be evaluated as a possible bride to the new Margrave, she is commanded to go in Lady Dorthea’s place. Her job: convince everyone she is Lady Dorthea, secure an alliance with the Margrave of Thornbeck to protect against an imminent attack, but don’t be chosen as his bride. The latter should be easier than the former.
Former knight Reinhart of Thornbeck became Margrave after his brother’s death… a death which some speculate was his doing. Ordered by the king to find a wife from a list of suggestions to strengthen empire stability, his chancellor comes up with the plan to test the women over the course of two weeks. Lady Dorthea intrigues him like no other woman, but she is hiding something.
When the truth is revealed in a humiliating way, more than their hearts are at stake. Someone is bound and determined to take Thornbeck over and he will use the deception to his advantage. The stakes become life and death as Margrave and Lady’s Maid work together to save a kingdom.
Favorite Character and Why:
As much as I loved Avelina, I loved Reinhart. He is a man who wants more than his parents had but is stuck with new responsibilities that thrust the idea of marrying for love out the window. He has such a good heart and, yes, he is swoony. Who couldn’t love a knight like him? Even when he is conflicted about Avelina’s deception he isn’t a complete monster. He does make mistakes, but he is still the swoon-worthy hero we love to read about.
What I liked:
The cast of characters was great, and I loved how none were stupid. They all had sharp minds and were good adversaries for each other. The inner struggles of the characters were particular interesting to me, and I really love the way Melanie handled them.
Who would like this:
Anyone who loves a good fairy tale. This retelling of the Princess and the Pea was a masterful retelling.
“After inheriting his title from his brother, the margrave has two weeks to find a noble bride. What will happen when he learns he has fallen for a lovely servant girl in disguise?
The Margrave of Thornbeck has to find a bride, fast. He invites ten noble born ladies who meet the king’s approval to be his guests at Thornbeck Castle for two weeks, a time to test these ladies and reveal their true character.
Avelina has only two instructions: keep her true identity a secret and make sure the margrave doesn’t select her as his bride. Since the latter seems unlikely, she concentrates on not getting caught. No one must know she is merely a maidservant, sent by the Earl of Plimmwald to stand in for his daughter, Dorothea.
Despite Avelina’s best attempts at diverting attention from herself, the margrave has taken notice. And try as she might, she can’t deny her own growing feelings. But something else is afoot in the castle. Something sinister that could have far worse—far deadlier—consequences.”
Links for Purchase:
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