Friday, February 27, 2015

"The Secret of Pembrooke Park" Review

Abigail Foster always assumed that she would marry her childhood friend, Gilbert Scott. But with her father in financial ruin and Gilbert seeming to be more attracted to her younger sister, Abigail’s life has been thrown into upheaval.

When a distant relation’s long-empty manor house suddenly becomes available, Abigail’s father makes the decision to move the family to Easton. Abigail and her father journey to Pembrooke Park to get the house in order while her mother and sister enjoy the London season. What awaits them at Pembrooke Park is definitely more than Abigail bargained for: an overprotective steward, a house in shambles that looks as if the inhabitants left in a great hurry, a rumor of hidden treasure, and an interesting local curate.

As Abigail spends more and more time at Pembrooke Park, the deeper she gets into its secrets and mysteries. And the more time she spends with the curate, William Chapman, and his family, the more she realizes how much she longs for a family of her own.

Is there truth to the rumor of hidden treasure at Pembrooke Park? And what will some people do in order to find it…or to keep it safe?

I have enjoyed previous novels by Julie Klassen for their engaging and harder-to-figure-out mystery plots and their historical accuracy. With The Secret of Pembrooke Park, I feel as if I at least got half of what I usually bargain for.

The mystery and secrets surrounding Pembrooke Park stayed true to what I expect from Julie Klassen. There are many layers to the mysteries that Abigail is trying to solve, and even though I figured out the big one early on, it was still enjoyable to see how everything unfolded. The danger towards the end is very exciting, and I thought things wrapped up nicely.

What I didn’t think came off as clearly was the historical accuracy part of the novel. The descriptions of the manor house and the dances and such were fine; it just seemed as if something about the relationship between Abigail and William was a bit off. I can’t quite put my finger on what it was except that their romance seemed somewhat too modern for some reason. Maybe it was because they seemed to spend a lot of time alone together without any serious consequences. Maybe it was that the “inner voices” of the characters seemed too modern. I don't know. Whatever it was, the setting just felt misplaced.

I also thought the spiritual aspect of the novel could have been developed more, especially since the main male character is a pastor. The best spiritual aspect of the novel was William’s sermons. They were fantastic! I just wish Abigail’s faith had been clearer.

The main plot of this novel is very similar to one of my favorite books of all time, Jane Eyre. When Abigail arrives at Pembrooke Park with its strange nighttime noise and many secrets, it was very reminiscent of Jane’s arrival at Thornfield Hall. I usually would begrudge a novel for being so similar to one of my favorites, but I actually liked that aspect in this one. It was familiar and comfortable, and it definitely held my interest. At 464 pages, this novel is quite a long read, and if it hadn’t been for the interesting mysteries, I might have given up halfway through.

Even though the setting was a little out of place, readers of Regency-era mysteries should still enjoy this lengthy but engaging novel.

I will give The Secret of Pembrooke Park ... 3.5 BookWorms.








The Secret of Pembrooke Park
by Julie Klassen
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: December 2, 2014
464 pages






Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, February 20, 2015

"Where Trust Lies" Review

After finishing her year of teaching in Coal Valley in the Canadian West, Beth Thatcher returns home to Toronto and to her doting family. But before she has much time to catch her breath, her mother and sisters whisk her off with some family friends on a summer cruise down the eastern coast of Canada and the United States. Beth is not extremely excited about the trip, but she decides to try to use the time to connect more with her mother and sisters and to sort out her feelings about Jarrick – the Canadian Mountie back in Coal Valley.

The more time she spends with her family, the more Beth realizes how difficult it would be to leave them again if she returned to teaching in the West. But she cherishes each phone call and letter from Jarrick, and as her feelings for him grow, the more she feels torn. When the unexpected strikes her family on the cruise trip, Beth’s faith will be tested more than it ever has before, and she will discover from where her trust must truly come.

Where Trust Lies is the second book in the “Return to the Canadian West” series by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan.

After reading and enjoying the first book in this series last year, I was looking forward to this next installment. Even though this is the second novel in the “Return to the Canadian West” series, the story took place entirely on the East Coast of Canada and the United States! I was a bit disappointed that we wouldn’t be returning to the West and to Coal Valley in this book, but once I got involved in the story that was taking place, I was able to move past that and really enjoy the novel.

This book is told from the perspective of Beth, who was the main character in the first novel. I expected this, but what I did not expect was that even though the story is told from Beth’s side of things, most of the action and development in the story revolves around Beth’s younger sister, Julie. I thought this way of telling things was slightly odd, but not necessarily in a bad way – just different.

I absolutely adored the main plot in this novel – Beth, her sisters, her mother, and some family friends going on a summer trip by themselves. It was like a girls’ night out extended to an entire summer. I’m not sure I would be able to (sanely) be away from my husband for that long, but it still sounded like fun and made for an interesting and emotional story. Since this book is written by a mother and daughter, it makes that even more poignant.

The romance continues from the first book in the series as Beth and Jarrick continue getting to know one another and waiting and praying to make sure that their relationship is God-honoring. The catch this time is that their courtship must take place while they are separated by thousands of miles – Jarrick in the West attending to his duties as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Beth while she is on this trip with her family and friends. I liked how their relationship progressed, though, even over the miles, and I could feel their angst as they tried to wait patiently and see how the Lord was directing them.

*****Possible Spoiler*****



I don’t know if this is a true spoiler, but I was so excited when towards the end of the book Jarrick shows up in person to be with Beth during a moment of true crisis for the Thatcher family. When he walked into the room, I wanted to stand up and cheer! It was a very knight-in-shining-armor moment!


*****Possible Spoiler Over*****


Although I could kind of see the direction in which this novel was headed with Julie and her choice of friends, I was still intrigued. That storyline definitely kept the novel moving, especially towards the middle when it got a bit slow. When I finished this novel, I was disappointed that I didn’t have the next one in the series ready to go! I’m really looking forward to that one when it comes out – probably next year.

The “Canadian West” series by Janette Oke is definitely one of my favorites, but the “Return to the Canadian West” series is definitely up towards the top of the list as well.

I will give Where Trust Lies … 4 BookWorms.








Where Trust Lies
by Janette Oke & Laurel Oke Logan
"Return to the Canadian West" #2
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: February 3, 2015





Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, February 15, 2015

"Beyond All Dreams" Blog Tour

Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they've ever dreamed for their futures?Anna O'Brien leads a predictable and quiet life as a map librarian at the illustrious Library of Congress until she stumbles across the baffling mystery of a ship disappeared at sea. Thwarted in her attempts to uncover information, her determination outweighs her shyness and she turns to a dashing congressman for help.

Luke Callahan was one of the nation's most powerful congressmen before his promising career was shadowed in scandal. Eager to share in a new cause and intrigued by the winsome librarian, he joins forces with Anna to solve the mystery of the lost ship. Opposites in every way, Anna and Luke are unexpectedly drawn to each other despite the strict rules forbidding Anna from any romantic entanglements with members of Congress.

From the gilded halls of the Capitol where powerful men shape the future of the nation, to the scholarly archives of the nation's finest library, Anna and Luke are soon embroiled in secrets much bigger and more perilous than they ever imagined. Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they've ever dreamed for their futures?

Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/1BbxWeR



About the author:

Elizabeth Camden is the author of six books and a RITA and Christy Award winner. With a master's in history and a master's in library science, she is a research librarian by day and scribbles away on her next novel by night. Elizabeth lives with her husband in Florida.

Find Elizabeth online: website, Facebook
 
 
 
 
Blog Tour Landing page:   http://litfusegroup.com/author/ecamden
 
 
 
 
My Take:

When I started reading this book, I was hooked instantly. I immediately adored the library-loving Anna (to whom I could totally relate), and I thought her job was so interesting. I was also drawn to the story of her father's ship - the Culpepper - that was lost at sea and the mystery surrounding it.

When the novel introduced the character of Luke, I was not an immediate fan of him. He seemed arrogant, and I was thinking, "How am I going to read about this guy as the 'hero' in this book? I don't like him at all!" But as I kept reading, his character was developed so much more, and I grew to like him more than I thought I would at the beginning. I’m still not totally convinced that I really liked him, but I was able to appreciate him and the reasons behind his actions. I also liked that his character did seem to go through a lot of growth throughout the course of the novel.


I also really liked some of the secondary characters in this book. Anna’s friend Neville was so sweet, and I enjoyed their best friend relationship. His romantic involvement later on in the novel was developed very well. It was also interesting to see how different relationships and alliances developed between the members of Congress and how they worked for and against each other.

Even though the characters in this novel are interesting, what really set it apart are the historical details. I sometimes get bogged down in political stuff, but this aspect was kept interesting because of the involvement of Luke and Anna. The emotions that people must have been feeling during this time period came across so clearly, and it shed light on a time in American history that I didn't know too much about.

The romance in this one had a bit of a different flavor to it. I especially liked the constant witty banter between Luke and Anna. That's always a favorite of mine in a novel. But I wasn't quite convinced of how the romance ends up. It seemed a bit abrupt. The growth of the characters didn't so much happen over time as much as just being back-and-forth. I also thought the spiritual side could have been so much deeper. It was there and was sometimes clear, especially with the aspect of forgiveness, but it could have gotten to the heart of the characters so much more.

This novel is definitely not a light read. There are some heavy issues that are discussed, including drunkenness, abuse, and political cover-ups. It is very realistic at times, but there is definitely a sense of hope and forgiveness in the end.


Overall, Beyond All Dreams is a well-written historical novel that is both complex and compelling, and it sheds light on some possibly unknown aspects of the United States and its political life.

 
I will give Beyond All Dreams ... 4 BookWorms.









 

About the giveaway:

Travel back in time to the U.S. Capitol and the Library of Congress in Elizabeth Camden's newest release, Beyond All Dreams. From the gilded halls of the Capitol where powerful men shape the future of the nation, to the scholarly archives of the nation's finest library, Anna and Luke are soon embroiled in secrets much bigger and more perilous than they ever imagined. Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they've ever dreamed for their futures?

Elizabeth is celebrating the release of Beyond All Dreams with a Kindle giveaway and Facebook party on February 17.

beyondalldreams-400
 
One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • One copy of Beyond All Dreams
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on 2/17. Winner will be announced at Elizabeth's 2/17 Beyond All Dreams Facebook author chat party. RSVP for a chance to connect with Elizabeth and historical fiction fans, as well as for the opportunity to win some great prizes!
beyondalldreams-enterbanner
{NOT ON FACEBOOK? ENTER HERE.}

RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK, TWITTER, or PINTEREST and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 17th!

 
 
 
 
 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers through LitFuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."