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Julie Klassen’s The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill

The lifeblood of the Wiltshire village of Ivy Hill is its coaching inn, The Bell. But when the innkeeper dies suddenly, his genteel wife, Jane Bell, becomes the reluctant owner. Jane has no notion of how to run a business. However, with the town’s livelihood at stake and a large loan due, she must find a way to bring new life to the inn.

Despite their strained relationship, Jane turns to her resentful mother-in-law, Thora, for help. Formerly mistress of The Bell, Thora is struggling to find her place in the world. As she and Jane work together, they form a measure of trust, and Thora’s wounded heart begins to heal. When she encounters two men from her past, she sees them–and her future–in a different light.

With pressure mounting from the bank, Jane employs innovative methods to turn the inn around, and puzzles over the intentions of several men who seem to have a vested interest in the place. Will her efforts be enough to save The Bell? And will Thora embrace the possibility of a second chance at love?

Review

I like Julie Klassen because she writes regency novels with drama. That said, my first reaction upon finishing this book was, ‘that was awful.’ And then I saw it was a series and I was like ‘that was good.’ So let me warn you, this is a series, you will absolutely need book two because there are so many loose ends that are not tied up.

What I liked

History. Klassen’s use of history is flawless. She manages to explain and convey the conventions of that time without ever turning it into a history lesson. I learn so much reading her novels about small town life in England.

Relationships. Because this is going to be a continuous series, relationships are really teased out and developed here. Every character is nuanced and fleshed out. No one is all good and no one is all bad (though some people’s bad is bad). At the core of this novel, is how the townspeople interact with each other.

Romance. I’m not going to lie, Jane has one possibility too many. But she has yet to play one guy against another, so it okay for now. I do have a favorite. But I am interested to see how it all plays out. There is a secondary romance that was kind of interesting. Different, but kind of interesting.

Small mysteries. Jane has a lot of small mysteries to solve and the major one in this book, is why did her husband die? It’s very good how it all unravels.

Spiritually, the characters pray and learn to turn to God in their problems.

What I didn’t like

I’ll be honest, it didn’t bother me too much, but this is a book that takes its time. No flashbang here. So it might feel a bit slow at times.

Romantic scale: 7

Overall, a very good start to a fascinating series.

**I received a copy from BethanyHouse. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

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Monday Musings…I Like Rules

Image result for follow the rules gif

I was reading a book yesterday and something about the premise got me excited, and when I discovered what it was, I realized something: I like rules in my books.

What does that mean?

I like books where there are certain social rules that must be followed. If they are not followed than there are dire ramifications.

What books are those?

Regency novels- I love regency novels, particularly if they deal with the Season.

Paranormal/Fantasy/Sci-Fi-these books almost always have social rules, you just have to learn them first as a reader. A really good author makes you more aware of them then the main character.

YA books: Teens have school and parents and the fact that they are teens in their way.

Historical: Let’s face it, social rules in the olden days are different than today.

Time-Travel: I love it when a person from the future must learn to comply with past customs or cultural customs.

If rules are followed, where’s the plot?

These kinds of books succeed based upon how well the main character follows the rules, or uses the rules to work for him/her. They can change things, but they must go about it using the customs of their time. It makes the main character feel genuine.

These books completely fail, if the heroine acts like she’s from the 21st century when she’s not; or the teen somehow has parents who gave them a house of their own, etc. I vastly dislike heroines who are pro women’s rights in a time where such a thing was not a thing (I am pro women’s rights btw). Or when an author presents a rule based society, but the main character breaks those rules and suffers no repercussions.

Thus, I’ve learned that there are certain books that just speak to me, and these are it for me (I do like contemporary. But I find I don’t read them as much).

What about you? Do you like rules? What speaks to you as a reader?

 

 

 

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Melanie Dobson’s Beneath a Golden Veil

As elegant as the Sacramento residence she operates, Isabelle Labrie keeps her past concealed, like the treasure she hides under the Golden Hotel. It’s 1853, the heyday of the California Gold Rush. Isabelle is full of hope, staking her claim on the city’s refined clientele and her future on a sweetheart’s promise to marry her when he returns from the gold fields. Then, unexpected guests—fugitive slaves seeking safe passage to the North—force her to confront her past and reconsider her path.

While Isabelle learns to trust God’s provisions, a law student in Virginia must confront his father’s cruelty and rescue a young slave from his family’s tobacco plantation. As the two escape to freedom, and Isabelle risks everything to harbor runaway slaves, the past and present are set on an inevitable collision course—one that reveals hidden treasures of the heart.

Review

Melanie Dobson can tell a good story. I started this book and planned to just read the first chapter….and then a few hours later I was finished. My thoughts:

What I liked:

The time period. I love historical novels. I particularly love historical novels that deal with the issue of slavery. This novel definitely handles the ugliness of slavery from several points of view. Slavery can often be presented in…a very cheesy way (yes, it can). Especially as it relates to how white people view or treat slaves. However, I am happy to say that I thought Dobson did a really good job, particularly since she made the slaves in her book to be more than mammies and really good-close-to-the-family servants. They had thoughts, opinions and dreams that were separate from their owners (as you can see, this is important to me).

Diversity. I love when there are rich, diverse characters.

The plot. Some of it is predictable. However, it was still so good. Somehow you manage to learn about slavery, the Fugitive slave law, the California gold rush, and the American legal system without feeling like you’re learning about all of these things.

Spiritually, the novel has Christian characters who pray and stand up for what they believe in.

What I didn’t like:

I took off a mental star because of the romance. In some ways, this is not a romance book. It’s a historical novel with romance in it. However, I think if we could have really seen the romance develop, this would have been an even stronger novel. Maybe it’s not fair to judge this book by the romance, but I’m a romance reader *shrugs*.

Romantic scale: 7.5

Overall, a very good, quick read. It’s not exactly light reading, but I still flew through the pages and definitely recommend.

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Roseanna M. White’s Giver of Wonders

Giver of Wonders by [White, Roseanna M.]

A miracle once saved her life ~ will another give her a future?

Cyprus was little more than a child when a fall left her paralyzed…and when the boy known as the wonder-worker healed her. Ever since, she has wondered why the Lord spared her, what he has in store for her. But her pagan father thinks she was spared solely so she could be introduced to the wealthy wonder-worker, Nikolaos.

Nikolaos has never questioned that his call in life is to dedicate himself to the church and to God. Never, that is, until he and his cousin Petros meet the compelling Cyprus Visibullis. For years he struggles with the feelings she inspires…and with the sure knowledge that Petros loves her too.

Petros knows he will never be good enough for Cyprus’s father to consider him as a match for his favorite daughter not as long as Nikolaos is there. But when tragedy strikes the Visibullis family, he will do anything to save his beloved. Unfortunately, his beloved is determined to do anything to save her sisters ~ even at the cost of herself.

As the festival of lights bathes their Greek city in beauty, Cyprus, Petros, and Nikolaos celebrate the miracle of their Savior s birth together one last time. And in remembrance of their Lord’s greatest gift, one of them will make the ultimate sacrifice for the others…and a centuries-long tradition will be born.

Review

I was hesitant to read this book because the premise screams ‘love triangle,’ but I picked it up anyway because White’s books mean trustworthy characters + drama+solid plot + deep faith in God=fun reading. This book was no different. My thoughts:

What I liked:

Spiritually, God is a main character in her books. There’s quite simply no other way to describe it. His presence is literally felt throughout the book. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, her books let you know she’s been with God and furthermore always make me want to spend some time with him myself.

Cyprus. She’s strong, fearless, and yet often vulnerable. She comes across as one of those heroines you can trust to do the right thing even if they make a wrong decision.

The romance. A part of the romance happens offscreen, in the sense that almost from the beginning the hero is in love with Cyprus due to his past interactions with her. We don’t get to see it much as a reader, but you certainly see the effects of it. As I’ve stated before, I was nervous about the love triangle thing, but it’s handled well. That said, Cyprus falls for her hero gradually. At times it did feel as though he was doing everything in the world to get her attention while she wasn’t doing much, but overall a solid romance built on a foundation of friendship.

The angst. It’s not a White book unless there’s drama. I was so nervous reading this book, but in a good way.

The ending. You will read the ending and then be like ‘Oh I get it.’ It’s a wonderful feeling and I learned something new.

What I didn’t like:

There was probably one plot point that had me confused. I don’t want to say too much, but, it all wraps up nicely in the end.

Romantic scale: 8

Overall, a very enjoyable book. Read it!

 

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Nicole Deese’s The Promise of Rayne

Rayne Shelby has spent her entire life trying to earn the approval of her high-powered family, with the hope of one day managing her late grandfather’s prestigious Idaho lodge. But when she makes a mistake that puts her future in jeopardy, she faces an impossible choice: defy her family or deny her dream. The only way to fix the mess she’s created is to enlist the help of her neighbor, Levi, the apprentice of her family’s greatest enemy. And if Rayne gets caught crossing the divided property lines, the consequences will be irreparable.

Levi Harding has never forgotten the August night he shared with Rayne when they were teens—or the way she later rejected him. Despite his warring instincts, he can’t ignore her plea for help or the spark that’s ignited between them. But now, as wildfires bear down on their town and family secrets are revealed, their newfound alliance might just go up in smoke.

Review

Let me admit that in spite of Nicole Deese’s prolific writing, this is the first novel of hers that I have read (I did read a novella that was part of a collection). I was hesitant at first, but I ended up really loving it. My thoughts:

What I liked:

Romeo and Juliet. You’ve got a classic case of two feuding families and somehow two of its younger members manage to meet and instantly like each other. Stress on the word like. There were no fast declaration of love (yeah). Though they are somewhat taken with each other, you really get to see a friendship form first, and then the feelings. It was very nicely done!

Fully fleshed characters. It’s easy in a kind of Romeo/Juliet setting to have minor characters on the wayside who are only their to further the plot. Here, I felt like a lot of the characters were more than caricatures. The ‘evil’ people definitely had their moments, but the author did such a nice job of fleshing out their character that you could understand them. They were very real on the pages.

Secrets and family drama. I totally figured out the secret from the get-go, but it didn’t make my enjoy the story any less to watch it all unfold.

Spiritually, both the main characters are already Christian, but there’s a beautiful theme of love and forgiveness interwoven throughout.

What I didn’t like:

If there was something that I didn’t like, it was that I thought it took Rayne took long to stand up for Levi. Levi was busy doing things for her left and right and she was still hesitant. But once she gets her act together, it was worth it.

Romantic Scale: 8.7

Overall, so good. I have hopes for a second couple being at the center of book two. Now I must go and download more Nicole Deese books!

 

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Catherine Richmond’s Third Strand of the Cord

Third Strand of the Cord: A Novel of Love in Liberty by [Richmond, Catherine]

She prayed for a fairy godmother and got a… karate instructor? Hard-working single mom Caroline Jameson wonders why her son is so unruly. Weren’t children with Down syndrome supposed to be cuddly and compliant? Her ex says the boy belongs in an institution. Caroline will do anything to prove him wrong, even sign her son up for karate classes with a know-it-all instructor.
Lee Marivaux is an expert at reading people. He knows his feisty new student will thrive with firm guidance – and he’s right. He pegs the boy’s mother as a clueless socialite who loafs at the country club – and he’s never been so wrong.
It’s a battle of wills and misperceptions – until Caroline’s abusive ex shows up, demanding custody. Can Lee and Caroline join forces to keep the boy safe? And in a town called Liberty, will love give them the freedom to braid themselves into a strong new family?

Review

I have enjoyed several of Catherine Richmond’s books before so I decided to try this one. So glad I did!

What I liked:

Caroline. It’s hard for me to like heroines. Most likely because they are usually the ones holding back the romance for some lame reason or the other. But Caroline was strong and she had a lot on her plate and if she had reasons to hold back, they were good ones. And yet, she wasn’t one to hold back. I liked her!

Lee Marivaux. Somehow I adored him. In real life, he would have driven me mad, but on the pages I adored everything about him. He’s kind and thoughtful and patient and loving, and yet slightly bossy. Totally worth meeting.

The romance. This story has been told before and yet, it felt so new. Caroline and Lee have a bit of a gender role reversal (as far as the romance genre is concerned): she’s educated, he’s not, she fixes cars, he doesn’t understand them; she’s plans for the future, Lee lives in the moment. And at first, I was like what’s the problem, this is so cool. And then I placed myself in Caroline’s shoes and I was like, yeah…I see the problem. Nevertheless, the situation worked for them (and me as a reader).

The presentation of down syndrome. It’s not like I often read books about down syndrome, but when I do, the character who has it is presented as this naturally good ‘other’ and so, basically I knew nothing about this disease prior to opening this book. Now, I feel like I have a handle on what down syndrome is and how it affects families. Richmond presented it in such a way as to make it real. She didn’t sugarcoat things and she somehow managed to make me want to research the condition on my own. I learned much and I’m grateful to her for it.

Spiritually, both characters are Christians (though only one is really serious about his faith). The book shows the characters living out their faith.

What I didn’t like:

Because one person was more spiritually grounded than the other, it felt a bit like missionary dating and I personally believe that people should be on the same page spiritually or close to before getting seriously romantic. However, this is just a pet peeve and not one that affected my enjoyment of the book.

Romantic scale: 8.5

Overall, such a good read. I didn’t want to put it down!