Book Review: Dreams of Lilacs by Lynn Kurland

dreams of lilacsLynn Kurland’s Dreams of Lilacs brings readers to Eleventh-century France and England for a love story set amongst mystery and suspense within castle walls and the French court. This novel is a moderate read good for more than just a summer romance but not so heavy that the plot or language dizzy a reader into confusion. With all the elements essential to a delicious romance novel, Dreams of Lilacs delves a bit further into literary techniques to satisfy even the most voracious readers.

Kurland, in all of her historical and paranormal novels, exemplifies her knowledge of content applicable to time periods, settings, and language. Dreams of Lilacs is no exception to this fact and will bring readers exactly where they hope to be when choosing a historical romance. Readers who enjoy Kurland’s de Piaget family will be happy to note that the author returns to the family’s ancestral home and brings back a host of characters from her previous novels. Dreams of Lilacs is the sixteenth novel within the de Piaget series but works well as either a stand-alone novel or within the order of the other books. The only aspect readers will miss if reading Dreams of Lilacs as a stand-alone novel is the enjoyment of knowing other characters’ stories. What a way to Kurland to ensure the success of the series!

Dreams of Lilacs is a story about Isabelle de Piaget and Gervase de Seger’s relationship: how their relationship came to be, the struggles the two characters overcame, and the adventures they undertook to protect their families. Kurland’s side story of a potentially murderous and nefarious unnamed character out to rid the de Piaget and de Seger families of their loved ones completes Dreams of Lilacs with suspenseful and humorous scenes. The novel begins explaining Isabelle’s and Gervase’s present circumstances—he with a broken-down body after a manor fire, she with a threatening letter. Isabelle and Gervase are impulsive, obstinate characters who vow to protect those in their care, so naturally both of them take risks that put themselves in peril. Isabelle eventually finds herself alone in France under Gervase’s care; the Lord de Seger finds himself surrounded by numerous family members, guests, and servants who could be the unnamed character attempting to murder him. The rest of the novel, as in all historical romances, covers Isabelle and Gervase’s growing attraction—and eventually love—for each other, along with dialog and descriptions of smaller interactions and adventures that provide backstories for the characters. Swordplay is a particular favorite activity of Kurland’s characters—male and female—in Dreams of Lilacs.

A cast of characters who range from unpleasant to comical, protective to dangerous, silent to chatty, and needy to independent leaves readers with many names to remember but nothing short of entertainment in wondering who the manly nun in the corner could possibly be and if the youngest de Seger brother will ever have a loving mother (amongst many other storylines). Kurland excels in creating characters that readers care about; her characterization is strongest in her creation of strong-willed females and obstinate gentlemen who need to be humbled. Regardless of the character’s flaws, all of them are wholesome in heart and mind and fully human, to the point that no matter those flaws readers will love them for exactly who they are. In fact, through those flaws Kurland often writes her most humorous and compassionate scenes through witty dialog and descriptive actions.

Dreams of Lilacs is strongly recommended for readers who love romance set amongst a historical background. Note that this novel, and possibly many other of Kurland’s novels based upon other reviews, is “clean.” Kurland’s characters behave in a chaste manner and advocate for the same. Some readers may find this behavior unrealistic; however, in Dreams of Lilacs it makes the characters all the more endearing for their propriety and, quite frankly, a welcome change from novels that are filled with many bedroom scenes.

The language is flowery and long-winded; sometimes it can be challenging to remember the content of the beginning of a sentence because its length. Often the same phrase is utilized multiple times with the same paragraph—these phrases become tiring to read and take away from otherwise well-written prose. However, neither of these issues are reason enough to find serious fault with novel. Overall, Kurland’s Dreams of Lilacs is a worthy read for any historical-romance fan.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Jove. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

3.5/5 stars

Behind the Scenes: Writing with Dawn Crandall

Good morning reader friends:

Dawn CrandallTwo days ago I posted my review of Dawn Crandall’s debut novel, The Hesitant Heiress. To celebrate the release of her novel, Dawn is making two appearances on my blog to share her thoughts on her writing process, as well as and the story behind The Hesitant Heiress! Yesterday she talked about the inspiration behind The Hesitant Heiress; in our second session, she is going to share with us the process behind her novel writing. I am beyond excited to welcome Dawn to A Way With Words and know you all will enjoy meeting one of Christian fiction’s newest beloved authors.

Read the interview and scroll to the bottom of the post to see how you can win an e-book copy of The Hesitant Heiress, one of Christian fiction’s hottest new releases!


  •  Have you always liked to write?

Writing was always my favorite subject in school! ALWAYS! But then again, I was never good at anything else in school…. besides drawing. But does that even count?

  •  Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

It came on super strong after I found books I actually loved to read while I was in high school. They were all classics—and they are still my favorites!

  •  What inspired you to write your first book?

My husband had a HUGE role in my actually starting to write. I didn’t write after high school. Life got busy, and I had to focus on working. It wasn’t until he encouraged me to stay home and write that I sat down to figure this book-writing thing out.

  •  Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?

Many of the classics I love so much… Jane Eyre, Jane Austen’s books, Les Miserables, Great Expectations… but also, when I had to think about what kind of readers I would have, I needed to delve into what was being written by Christian Historical Romance authors… and that was when I found Julie Lessman, Julie Klassen, Jody Hedlund, Elizabeth Camden and my newest favorite author, Lori Benton. I love the way they write their characters and their plots!

  • Do you have a specific writing style?

Definitely! I’d call it character-driven, emotionally transparent first person… if I had to call it something. 🙂

  •  What does your writing process look like?

My writing process is scary. I’ve mentioned in other interviews that I have ADD… It totally gets in my way a lot, even as it helps with other aspects of dreaming up/thinking up what’s going to happen in my manuscript. So far, with the two books I’ve finished (as well as the third one, which ‘m working on), I get at least half of the book written before I even know what’s really going on. I write a bunch of scenes, and I have a plan… but then I go and rearrange all of my scenes and change things up, or find out what a character is really up to. It’s like a jig saw puzzle in my head. I joke with my husband that he cannot talk to me when I’m at my laptop rearranging things because I’m “performing brain surgery” on my novel and need all of my concentration. Otherwise, I get mixed up and lose my place.

  •  Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Yes. Everything. Like I said, it’s very difficult to write a book while struggling through the scatterbrain-ness of having ADD. But there’s also very little I love more than writing these complexly emotional first-person stories that point to God and His healing power in all situations.

  •  Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action?

Actions scenes are the most difficult for me. Love scenes—well, I guess actually, most scenes—come to me in pieces. But because they’re emotionally-based, it’s easier to get them to make sense. Actions scenes are so technical!

  •  What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?

Marketing. I know it’s what needs to be done no matter your publisher. Any author these days really needs to be “out there” promoting in some way. I wasn’t required to do the blog tour for The Hesitant Heiress’s release, but I knew it would be good to do. I would have so much rather sat back and taken my own advice—which is: IF YOU’RE GOING TO WRITE A BOOK, MAKE IT THE BEST BOOK YOU POSSIBLY CAN. IT WILL SPEAK FOR ITSELF.

  •  What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?

I guess that was it. 🙂

  •  Do you have a favorite writing conference to attend? What is it?

I attend the ACFW conference every year. Even when pregnant or when there’s a six month old at home. I’m not looking forward to leaving him. I’m hardly able to leave him in the nursery at church!

  •  Do you have any particular advice for new writers attending conferences?

Pay for the offered critiques. Go to your agent meetings. I really hate big crowds of people, and I never would have gone to my first conference except that my husband sent me. [He believed in me a lot!] I’ve been back ever since because I know how important it is to make friends with other writers, whether they are published or aspiring.


As part of her book launch, Dawn is taking part in a blog tour featuring interviews, book reviews and giveaways. She’s giving away a prize pack every weekend for the six weeks of the blog tour and one larger prize pack at the end. Each of YOU who comments on any post will be entered into the drawing for that specific week, and then also for the end of the tour Grand Prize.

THE FIVE WEEKLY PRIZE PACKS: a $10 Amazon Gift Card, an eBook of The Hesitant Heiress, a mug with all three book covers and a moleskin journal.

THE GRAND PRIZE (at the end of week six): a Kindle Fire, a $10 Amazon Gift Card, an eBook of The Hesitant Heiress, a mug with all three book covers and a moleskin journal.

FREE CHAPTER ONE

Read Chapter One of The Hesitant Heiress for free! http://whpub.whitakerhouse.com/dawncrandall/heiress.html

About The Hesitant Heiress

After being unjustly expelled from the Boston Conservatory of Music, Amaryllis Brigham sees her dreams of founding a music academy disappearing before her very eyes. Now the only way to achieve her goal comes with high stakes for someone set on avoiding men as much as possible: marry within the year to inherit her grandmother’s fortune. Amaryllis reluctantly takes part in her aunt’s society, intent on getting to the west coast on her own… and without a husband.

Despite her own misgivings, she soon finds herself falling in love with the most unlikely of men, Nathan Everstone, whose father not only had a part in her expulsion, but whose ominous presence has haunted her dreams for a decade since her mother’s tragic death. Nathan turns out to be much more than he seems and everything she never knew she wanted. But just as everything Amaryllis has recently hoped for comes to fruition, it all falls apart when she finds that the real culprit who has been managing her life isn’t who she thought at all.

Upcoming novels by Dawn Crandall

The Bound Heart by Dawn Crandall Published by Whitaker House

November 2014

February 2015


About Dawn Crandall

A graduate of Taylor University with a degree in Christian Education, and a former bookseller at Barnes & Noble, Dawn Crandall didn’t begin writing until 2010 when her husband found out about her long-buried dream of writing a book. Without a doubt about someday becoming traditionally published, he encouraged her to quit working in order to focus on writing The Hesitant Heiress. It didn’t take her long to realize that writing books was what she was made to do. Dawn is represented by Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary.

Apart from writing books, Dawn is also a first-time mom to a precious little boy (born March 2014) and also serves with her husband in a pre-marriage mentor program at their local church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Dawn is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, secretary for the Indiana ACFW Chapter (Hoosier Ink), and associate member of the Great Lakes ACFW Chapter.

The Everstone Chronicles is Dawn’s first series with Whitaker House. All three books composing the series were semifinalists in ACFW’s prestigious Genesis Writing Contest, the third book going on to become a finalist in 2013.

Connect with Dawn

Blog: www.dawncrandall.blogspot.com

Facebook: facebook.com/DawnCrandallWritesFirst

Book Review Blog: APassionforPages.blogspot.com

GoodReads: www.goodreads.com/dawn_crandall

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/dawnwritesfirst

Email: dawncrandallwritesfirst@gmail.com

Twitter: @dawnwritesfirst

Amazon: www.amazon.com/Dawn-Crandall

 

 

Behind the Scenes: The Hesitant Heiress by Dawn Crandall

Good evening, everyone:

As part of her book launch, Dawn is taking part in a blog tour featuring interviews, book reviews and giveaways. She’s giving away a prize pack every weekend for the six weeks of the blog tour and one larger prize pack at the end. Each of YOU who comments on any post will be entered into the drawing for that specific week, and then also for the end of the tour Grand Prize.

THE FIVE WEEKLY PRIZE PACKS: a $10 Amazon Gift Card, an eBook of The Hesitant Heiress, a mug with all three book covers and a moleskin journal.

THE GRAND PRIZE (at the end of week six): a Kindle Fire, a $10 Amazon Gift Card, an eBook of The Hesitant Heiress, a mug with all three book covers and a moleskin journal.

Yesterday I posted my review of Dawn Crandall’s debut novel, The Hesitant Heiress. To celebrate the release of her novel, Dawn is making two appearances on my blog to share her thoughts on her writing process, as well as and the story behind The Hesitant Heiress! I am beyond excited to welcome Dawn to A Way With Words and know you all will enjoy meeting one of Christian fiction’s newest beloved authors.

The Hesitant Heiress by Dawn Crandall Published by Whitaker House

In our first session, Dawn will discuss her debut novel: her inspiration behind the story, the making of her characters, and the creative process behind The Hesitant Heiress. Welcome, Dawn!


  • How did you decide upon the title of The Hesitant Heiress? Did you ever consider another title for your novel?

I have actually always called this book Amaryllis Brigham… kind of the same way Jane Eyre is titled, since they are both written from first person point of view. Whitaker House wanted titles, so I gave them a list and they picked out their favorites.

  • Some characters in The Hesitant Heiress have unusual names. How important are names to you in your books? Did you choose the names of characters in The Hesitant Heiress based on meaning, sound, or both? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?

Names mean a lot to me. I would know the character first, and then I would search for their name. I collect first and last names, and I put them in a notebook. However, with Amaryllis, I found her first and last names while I was in college… even though I didn’t start writing her book for over a decade.

  • Are any experiences in The Hesitant Heiress based on personal experiences? Did you draw upon any stories or movies for inspiration for the novel?

I take the feelings I’ve either felt in situation from my life, or from situations presented to me from a movie or book, and I find a way to channel them into and through my own creative processes. I examine the emotions extensively, and I then figure out ways I could make my own characters feel something similar.

  • If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in The Hesitant Heiress?

No. There have been enough changes done during the two years I wrote it before giving it to my agent. Really, neither my agent nor editor had many changes to make except for typos… and grammatical errors involving commas. I hate commas!

  • What was the hardest part of writing your book?

The ending! I knew the ending of The Hesitant Heiress for a long time before I figured out how to get my characters there! With the second book, the ending totally took me by surprise. The third one is being good so far though—I’m in the middle of the rearranging faze for that one.

  • Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I learned that I really could accomplish something wonderful if I put my mind to it! (It also helps when you love doing it!)

FREE CHAPTER ONE

Read Chapter One of The Hesitant Heiress for free! http://whpub.whitakerhouse.com/dawncrandall/heiress.html

  • What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

I don’t feel like research is a chore. I really love it. I think I do it backwards though. Instead of deciding what I’m going to research, I just go about reading about history and let it inspire me. I really love getting into the psychological aspects of my characters. Although I write from only Amaryllis’s POV, I know why every character does and says everything that they do.

  • If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?

Before Zooey Deschanel was so popularly famous, I saw her photo in a magazine and totally knew she was Amaryllis. I’ve always had a very hard time finding Nathan Everstone. The closest I’ve found is Chris Evans as Captain America (minus the hero garb). Meredyth Summercourt is Jessica Chastain (only Mere is taller), and Lawry Hampton is Armie Hammer. I have a Pinterst Board dedicated to the Hesitant Heiress here: http://www.pinterest.com/dawnwritesfirst/novel-1-the-hesitant-heiress-by-dawn-crandall-book/

 

  • Why did you decide to set The Hesitant Heiress in New England?

I love the history of New England. When I married my husband, and we started taking yearly trips through those states, I simply fell in love.

Mount Desert Island, Maine, where Amaryllis and Nathan spend their summers.

  •  Did you have to travel much for research for The Hesitant Heiress? What sort of research went into the publication of The Hesitant Heiress?

I didn’t have to travel, but since my husband and I travel to Maine every summer to see his family, we have taken a few side trips to Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island, the ruins of the Goddard Mansion in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, and also Moosehead Lake, which is where the setting for book three is based on.

  • You have two more books coming for The Everstone Chronicles. How do you plan the plots of novels that contain characters throughout multiple books? Why did you decide to write about Amaryllis and Nathan for the first book in the series?

I didn’t really plan on anything. Amaryllis has always been the heroine I would someday write about for fun. When I signed with my agent in 2011, I already had Meredyth’s story half written, also just for the fun of it. But for Estella’s book, she totally took me by surprise… I know what she’s been thinking and feeling behind the scenes for two books now, but as soon as I got into her head, I learned a whole lot more about her heart!

  • Who was your favorite character in The Hesitant Heiress and why?

I usually just say Amaryllis, but really it’s hard for me to pick one over all the rest of my main characters. Once I start writing from another character’s POV in another book, I fall in love with her, as well as her hero. I get to know them all so well!

  • How did you decide upon the quotes you placed at the beginning of each chapter of The Hesitant Heiress? Do you have a particular favorite?

I love quotes so much. I always have. I’ve always collected them because they would make me think, kind of like a writing prompt. I think it’s so much fun to pair up what happens in a certain chapter with a quote from my favorite classics! I guess it’s just part of my creative madness that came out without my ever thinking about it. I think my favorite one is: “It would be so nice if something made sense for a change, from Alice in Wonderland. I’ve never read that book, but I found it on a mug once, and it was what first gave me the idea to put relatable quotes at the beginning of my chapters.


Thanks so much for stopping by A Way With Words, Dawn! We look forward to seeing back here tomorrow to learn about your writing process.

About The Hesitant Heiress

After being unjustly expelled from the Boston Conservatory of Music, Amaryllis Brigham sees her dreams of founding a music academy disappearing before her very eyes. Now the only way to achieve her goal comes with high stakes for someone set on avoiding men as much as possible: marry within the year to inherit her grandmother’s fortune. Amaryllis reluctantly takes part in her aunt’s society, intent on getting to the west coast on her own… and without a husband.

Despite her own misgivings, she soon finds herself falling in love with the most unlikely of men, Nathan Everstone, whose father not only had a part in her expulsion, but whose ominous presence has haunted her dreams for a decade since her mother’s tragic death. Nathan turns out to be much more than he seems and everything she never knew she wanted. But just as everything Amaryllis has recently hoped for comes to fruition, it all falls apart when she finds that the real culprit who has been managing her life isn’t who she thought at all.

About Dawn Crandall

A graduate of Taylor University with a degree in Christian Education, and a former bookseller at Barnes & Noble, Dawn Crandall didn’t begin writing until 2010 when her husband found out about her long-buried dream of writing a book. Without a doubt about someday becoming traditionally published, he encouraged her to quit working in order to focus on writing The Hesitant Heiress. It didn’t take her long to realize that writing books was what she was made to do. Dawn is represented by Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary.

Apart from writing books, Dawn is also a first-time mom to a precious little boy (born March 2014) and also serves with her husband in a pre-marriage mentor program at their local church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Dawn is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, secretary for the Indiana ACFW Chapter (Hoosier Ink), and associate member of the Great Lakes ACFW Chapter.

The Everstone Chronicles is Dawn’s first series with Whitaker House. All three books composing the series were semifinalists in ACFW’s prestigious Genesis Writing Contest, the third book going on to become a finalist in 2013.

 

To learn more about Dawn, find her at the following sites: Dawn Crandall

Blog: www.dawncrandall.blogspot.com

Facebook: facebook.com/DawnCrandallWritesFirst

Book Review Blog: APassionforPages.blogspot.com

GoodReads: www.goodreads.com/dawn_crandall

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/dawnwritesfirst

Email: dawncrandallwritesfirst@gmail.com

Twitter: @dawnwritesfirst

Amazon: www.amazon.com/Dawn-Crandall

 

 

Book Review: The Hesitant Heiress by Dawn Crandall

HesitantHeiress

The Hesitant Heiress by Dawn Crandall Published by Whitaker House

Amaryllis Brigham wants nothing more than to return to her home on Whidbey Island, in Washington Territory. A bright and talented young twenty-five-year-old, Amaryllis has spent the last eleven years after her mother’s death transferring from school to school. When she unexpectedly is removed from the The Boston Conservatory’s music program after a slanderous letter from her mother’s former fiancé, Amaryllis joins her cousin, Lawry, and her great-aunt, Claudine, for a summer of high-society parties and travel along the New England coast. Her summer is anything but quiet, however, when Nathan Everstone, the son of the slanderous letter writer, joins her and Lawry at Hilldreth, her family’s ancestral home. Amaryllis discovers over the following months that wealth means little, even for those who stand to inherit family fortunes, when a heart is not open to love.

The Hesitant Heiress, set in various places in the late 1800’s New England, follows Amaryllis Brigham and her family and friends as she strives and struggles to find her place in high society. From the beginning of the novel, when readers first meet Amaryllis as she leaves the Boston Conservatory, to the end of the novel, far away from ritzy Boston, author Dawn Crandall’s main character is captivating and amusing. Readers will enjoy Amaryllis for many reasons—she is witty and quick on her feet when responding to her friends and enemies; she is relatable in her struggles against guilt and shame over circumstances that she had little control over; her determination to be a strong, self-sufficient woman is admirable, especially given the setting of the novel; and her complete love and devotion for her other half is heart-warming.

Amaryllis, aside from her numerous positive points, is not without fault, which makes her an even more appealing character because every reader will find some sort of connection to her. Crandall’s female protagonist searches for her place in the world after a childhood of numerous homes where she does not feel she belongs. She also faces demons of many sizes and shapes as she struggles to understand her parents’ deaths, the villains who instrumented her disrupted childhood, and her own grief and guilt at the way her life has played out. Consequently, Amaryllis’ journey throughout The Hesitant Heiress is filled with self-doubt, frustration, and confusion from many characters as she interacts with her family, friends, and acquaintances not always looking out for her best interests. The depth of emotion that Crandall utilizes throughout all of her characters is superb but shines brightest in Amaryllis because of the challenges she must overcome.

The Hesitant Heiress stands out as an exceptional novel because Crandall develops all of her characters in equal measure, whether main or secondary, male or female, villain or hero/heroine. There is no doubt between the various settings and plot lines that every single character will grab readers’ attention and hearts. Even characters who appear for brief moments are significant to the story and have their moments to make an impression upon readers. The male protagonist, Nathan Everstone, charms his way into the page from the very first moment his character enters the story. Handsome, intelligent, charismatic, and persuasive, Nathan is a man who is used to getting what he wants when he wants it. Readers know, therefore, from the beginning of the story that he is out to win Amaryllis’ heart in The Hesitant Heiress. Crandall breaks away from the usual boy-wins-girl through heroic acts of valor that are so prominent in historical fiction novels with her style of linking characters in unique ways through numerous plot lines. Reading Amaryllis and Nathan’s story gives a push-pull of emotions because the author is skilled at developing situations that leave endless possibilities of good and bad opportunities that affect the protagonists, antagonists, main, and secondary characters all at one time. Crandall’s skills at developing her characters is exceptional in that she leaves just enough of the story lines open to ensure her readers will want to return to the next two books in the series to follow through with the remaining protagonists and antagonists sure to evolve in the coming months of The Everstone Chronicles.

The Hesitant Heiress is a beautiful story of forgiveness, redemption, and love. While reading Amaryllis’ and Nathan’s stories, readers understand Crandall’s message of God’s forgiveness and mercy for his people. Through lyrical writing, symbolism, description, and dialog the author shows the power of love, both on Earth—our relationships with others—and from our Heavenly Father. The novel is recommended for adult readers who enjoy Christian fiction, historical fiction, and any combination of the two.

4.5/5 stars

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Whitaker House. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

Do you need a line/substantive editor?

A post on substantive editing from my NEC editing professor, from her editorial blog Editor Queries.

Editor Queries

line_edit_graphicDoes your writing need more than a basic copyediting pass? Last week, I discussed how important it is to know exactly what you want from an editor, particularly in terms of copyediting and proofreading. This week, I discuss the kind of editor you should seek out when your completed document needs more extensive revision.

According to the Editorial Freelancers Association, “the terms substantive editors, content editors, and line editors are often used interchangeably for editors who make significant changes to a manuscript, such as rewriting and reorganizing the text.” Line editors not only perform the tasks of a copyeditor, then, making the text correct and consistent, but also suggest additional revisions. Below, I use the terms line, substantive, and content to refer to the same kind of editor. No matter what you call them, such editors work extensively with the text:

Writing style. A line editor routinely revises…

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Why I Write

A beautiful poem from one of my best friends about the connection she feels between herself, others, and God through writing.

Briana Batty's Blog

Hello everyone,

I wrote this poem by request for a theme at church one week about the creative gifts of the congregation. I was asked to think about why I write poetry, and here is one answer.

God bless,
Morgan






Creative Commons License
Why I Write by Morgan Prettyman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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Book Review: With Empty Hands by Becky Riker

Life in Regency England is not as simple as it seems—for all its demure behavior and propriety, harsh consequences and unforgiving attitudes also abounded. Rowan Haydn, a once wealthy man of the Gentry, and Lydia Tyrone, a proper and polite shopkeeper’s daughter, find themselves in precarious situations out of their control during a time when having no control meant your fate was in another’s hands.

Opposites in every manner of the word, Lydia and Rowan form a strong bond during the months that Rowan works for her father in their family’s clock-repair shop. A handsome young man with a secret to hide, Rowan uses his time with the Tyrones to turn his life around–from unfortunate choices that Lydia yearns to know about but that Rowan is desperate to keep his own. Rowan feels that his past mistakes ensure he will always be looked upon in disdain by God and his peers, despite a privileged pedigree that normally protects the Gentry from being pushed aside. In never expecting a wealthy gentleman to find himself in the situation that brought Rowan to his present state, Lydia unintentionally places herself below Rowan because the class structure of Regency England dictates that the Gentry cannot form relationships with working-class individuals. Both Lydia and Rowan comprehend that God places no value on social standing or past mistakes, and yet both of them fall prey to the belief that they are only as good as society deems them because that status states their offerings to others.

When an unexpected and devastating event brings about feelings that Lydia and Rowan did not want to acknowledge, both have to decide if they are willing to put aside society’s conventions for a relationship that defies the odds and proves that God’s love is the one that matters most.

Author Becky Riker brings societal analysis, family drama, and personal hardship and growth in the inspirational romantic story With Empty Hands. A novel of redemption, love, and acceptance, Riker’s novel shows that every person is worthy of God’s mercy—no matter their past mistakes—because what matters to Him is one’s willingness to surrender their life out of love for His son. The third novel in Riker’s Regarding the Gentry series, With Empty Hands has every aspect a reader wants from a Regency novel: class differences, flowery language, a community of characters that love family drama, romances that seem destined for challenges, fiery females, and heroic males.

Riker’s strongest point in this novel is her ability to create characters that are flawed but loveable, wholly human and relatable, and strong in their faith without being preachy. Lydia and Rowan, as the protagonists of With Empty Hands, draw readers into their situations with simple but deep emotions that create heart-wrenching scenes. Rowan is heroic with his genteel background and love for Lydia. Readers will cheer for him as he valiantly comes to understand God’s love for him and make amends for his past mistakes. His courtly behavior and respect for Lydia’s father make Rowan one of Christian fiction’s most admirable heroes. Lydia, like her counterpart, is an equally intriguing character because she defies Regency standards for female characteristics. An upstanding lady who challenges those around her with sarcastic wit but humble dialog, Lydia epitomizes Christian female behavior as she takes care of her father and follows God’s law for how women should act. She stands her ground with Rowan about the propriety of men and women’s interactions, but Lydia is not afraid to form a friendship with him. She is a good example for female readers of the proper way for modern ladies to become strong and independent, but still humble, around men.

If With Empty Hands has a fault, it is that the novel is too short for true character development to occur. Riker’s novel has much possibility for in-depth characterization that its short length does not do the story or its characters justice. With Empty Hands is a good novel—I wanted more! Rowan’s relationship with God, for example, is hardly touched upon after he makes his decision about where he wants the relationship to go. Riker’s novel is an inspirational one, so Rowan and Lydia’s relationships with God—and subsequently how their relationships with God affected their romantic relationship—should have factored into the storyline much more than was actually placed into the text. The negation of this subject after the first third-or-so of the novel left a void in the story because it suddenly felt that the faith aspect of Lydia and Rowan’s lives were no longer important, even though the Tyrone and Haydn families claimed to be saved by Jesus. A little extra length to With Empty Hands would have gone a long ways to making the story into a fully compelling novel.

Riker’s novel is good regardless of whoever picks up the novel because her love for the time period and genuine desire to reach people through God’s salvation translates through characters and settings with ease. The three-hundred-year difference between Regency and present day makes little difference to empathizing and sympathizing with her characters. However, historical fiction readers will love With Empty Hands for its classic flowery language that instantly brings to mind characters in pale muslin dresses or breeches and cravats. Riker’s novel also stands out amongst other Regency stories because the context within which she sets her story is a bit darker than most—Dickensian, if you wish, for those who have read the Victorian author’s Little Dorritt. With Empty Hands is the third novel in Riker’s Regarding the Gentry series but can be read as a stand-alone novel; however, the story will be more fulfilling if the first two novels are read beforehand.

Stars: 4/5