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Elizabeth Camden’s The Spice King

The Spice King (Hope and Glory Book #1) by [Camden, Elizabeth]

Gray Delacroix has dedicated his life to building his very successful global spice empire, but it has come at a cost. Resolved to salvage his family before it spirals out of control, he returns to his ancestral home to save his brother and sister before it’s too late.

As a junior botanist for the Smithsonian, Annabelle Larkin has been charged with the impossible task of gaining access to the notoriously private Delacroix plant collection. If she fails, she will be out of a job and the family farm in Kansas will go under. She has no idea that in gaining entrance to the Delacroix world, she will unwittingly step into a web of dangerous political intrigue far beyond her experience.

Unable to deny her attraction to the reclusive business tycoon, Annabelle will be forced to choose between her heart and loyalty to her country. Can Gray and Annabelle find a way through the storm of scandal without destroying the family Gray is fighting to save?

Review

I will admit that this book didn’t sound all that interesting to me, but I trust Elizabeth Camden to tell me a good story. My thoughts:

What I liked

Gray Delacroix. Camden writes some of the best heroes and it’s because none of them are cookie cutter. Gray is brilliant and wealthy, and yet largely vulnerable. In spite of everything that he has, there is a large amount of aloneness that he constantly experiences. I felt for him the entire book. He’s not perfect (none of Camden’s heroes ever are). He’s very opinionated and oftentimes wrong, but he had a code of ethic that I respected.

Then there is Annabelle. She is a typical Camden heroine: smart, has a specific (scientific) niche, and is living right on the edge of cutting new technology of her times. As a reader, I always learn so much from Camden’s heroines. I found Annabelle to be a good foil to Gray. She’s very excited about life, eager to help, and there’s a kindness that just oozes out of her.

Historical facts. Camden has a gift for taking an issue that America has since resolved and shining a light on it at the peak of when it was not solved. I learned so much without feeling like I was being taught a lesson about the spice trade, food labels, the Department of Agriculture, the Smithsonian, and even the Civil War.

Secondary characters. I am hoping, so hoping, that the rest of the series involves Gray’s siblings. What an interesting dynamic duo. At first, they seem very silly and almost superficial, but by the end of the book, there is such depth there. And such mystery.

The political intrigue. At first, I didn’t care too much about the details, but then the book takes quite the turn. I feel like the mystery here is going to continue in the next book (I hope it continues in the next book).

Spiritually, characters pray and read the Bible. Annabelle specifically relies on God during tough times.

What I didn’t like

Okay. This book deploys my least favorite trope in it: deception. It was almost painful to read (why can’t people just work together?). However, the thing that saved it, the thing that made me keep turning the pages (other than the fact that I had agreed to read this book for review) was that the deception did not play out in the usual deception-timeline (i.e. the big reveal is at the 70-75% mark and it’s always revealed by someone who is not the main character). Still, the character doing the deceiving (no matter how good a reason or excuse) always looks bad in my book. I’m not sure they redeemed themselves so much as they were forgiven. It affected the romance a bit…duh…and that’s my favorite part.

Romantic scale: 7

Overall, in spite of my quibbles with this book, I read it in one day and I could not believe it was over when it concluded. I’m very much looking forward to the next one!

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

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Eva Marie Everson’s The One True Love of Alice-Ann

The One True Love of Alice-Ann by [Everson, Eva Marie]

Living in rural Georgia in 1941, sixteen-year-old Alice-Ann has her heart set on her brother’s friend Mack; despite their five-year age gap, Alice-Ann knows she can make Mack see her for the woman she’ll become. But when they receive news of the attack on Pearl Harbor and Mack decides to enlist, Alice-Ann realizes she must declare her love before he leaves.

Though promising to write, Mack leaves without confirmation that her love is returned. But Alice-Ann is determined to wear the wedding dress her maiden aunt never had a chance to wear—having lost her fiancé in the Great War. As their correspondence continues over the next three years, Mack and Alice-Ann are drawn closer together. But then Mack’s letters cease altogether, leaving Alice-Ann to fear history repeating itself.

Dreading the war will leave her with a beautiful dress and no happily ever after, Alice-Ann fills her days with work and caring for her best friend’s war-torn brother, Carlton. As time passes and their friendship develops into something more, Alice-Ann wonders if she’ll ever be prepared to say good-bye to her one true love and embrace the future God has in store with a newfound love. Or will a sudden call from overseas change everything?

Review

I was in the mood for a WWII fiction novel and stumbled across this one. My thoughts:

What I liked

Alice-Ann. Though Alice-Ann isn’t perfect (she has her whiny moments), I very much enjoyed being in her head. This is very much a coming of age novel. Alice-Ann starts off at sixteen years of age filled with all kinds of romantic notions, but the war and time forces her to grow up and to learn truth vs. fiction. But more than that, she comes across as real. A lot of her concerns and the things she deals with feels genuine and manages to translate across time and page.

The romance. It was lovely and my favorite kind: one based on the foundation of friendship.

History. You don’t get a whole lot about the battles (though you learn a bit about the happenings in the Pacific), but you do get to see how the war affected small town America…especially when everyone knew everyone there was to know in that town.

Relationships. The novel isn’t just a romance. You get Alice-Ann’s relationship with her father, her sister-in-law, her friends (old and new). The relationships are complex and fully nuanced so that no one comes across as one dimensional.

Spiritually, the characters often pray and attend service.

What I didn’t like

There is something that happens in regards to the romance that is predictable–especially in war time romance novels. That said, I thought the author did a lovely job of dealing with it.

Romantic scale: 7.5

Overall, I very much enjoyed it. It did exactly what I wanted to do and gave me an entertaining wartime romance.