Novel Review: The Lost Heiress by Roseanna M. White

The Lost HeiressThe Lost Heiress by Roseanna M. White (Bethany House, September 2015)

Brook Eden has never known where she truly belongs. Though raised in the palace of Monaco, she’s British by birth and was brought to the Grimaldis under suspicious circumstances as a babe. When Brook’s friend Justin uncovers the fact that Brook is likely a missing heiress from Yorkshire, Brook leaves the sun of the Mediterranean to travel to the moors of the North Sea to the estate of her supposed family.

The mystery of her mother’s death haunts her, and though her father is quick to accept her, the rest of the family and the servants of Whitby Park are not. Only when Brook’s life is threatened do they draw close—but their loyalty may come too late to save Brook from the same threat that led to tragedy for her mother.

As heir to a dukedom, Justin is no stranger to balancing responsibilities. When the matters of his estate force him far from Brook, the distance between them reveals that what began as friendship has grown into something much more. But how can their very different loyalties and responsibilities ever come together?

And then, for a second time, the heiress of Whitby Park is stolen away because of the very rare treasure in her possession—and this time only the servants of Whitby can save her.


REVIEW:

There is a reason Bethany House Publishers has such a positive reputation within the CBA: every year popular authors continue to write superior novels for Bethany House, and every year this house finds new authors whose writing style and voice, and storylines and characters, find their ways into readers’ hearts. It seems almost impossible that Bethany House could continue getting better and better. After all, how does one progress when having already won the highest accolades in the business? But 2015 seems to be Bethany House’s year, with new authors penning stories that readers are clambering to read.

Roseanna M. White is one such author that Bethany House scored big with in 2015. In the two weeks since her newest novel, The Lost Heiress, released from this historical fiction publishing power house, the book has garnered numerous five-star ratings from reviewers and readers alike. As of my completion of this novel, The Lost Heiress can add another high rating to its plethora of stars. I knew this novel would be good—one only has to type in the author’s name to find plenty of praises for Roseanna’s writing—but I did not now how powerful, how beautiful, and how masterful Roseanna’s writing would be. I found her style, voice, and storytelling so magnificent that I would not be surprised to find The Lost Heiress a contender for next year’s ACFW Carol Awards.

The Lost Heiress is a perfect fit for Bethany House for numerous reasons: it’s historical fiction; romance is a primary element in the storyline; and the writing style is distinctly recognizable for readers. From the first page to the last of this novel, the elements of The Lost Heiress belong to Roseanna, lending an air that she not only knows the story, but also the craft of writing. This story is complex—not one to finish quickly, but one to savor as Roseanna blends history, romance, mystery, faith, character development, suspense, and intrigue into every page. Just a few of these elements together would have been enough to make a compelling story; all of them blended seemly make for a book that is both literally and physically hard to stop reading. Not one scene goes by that does not grip the reader deeper and deeper into this story.

Roseanna created two of the most compelling characters I have read in Christian fiction with Brook Eden and Justin Wildon in The Lost Heiress. Completely divergent in their personalities yet unquestionably perfect for each other, Brook and Justin are just as gripping as a couple as they are as individual characters. Their personal stories captivated me as I sped through each scene to learn more about their motivations, desires, and pain. And yet, I eagerly awaited the scenes where Justin and Brook were together because rarely have I found a fictional couple that so belonged together. The romance in The Lost Heiress is one of the best I have come across—tender, passionate, pure, filled with tension and disagreements and love built over time.

Filling in the gaps that help bring those personal stories and romance to life in The Lost Heiress are secondary characters so endearing that I longed to read their stories many pages before this first book in the Ladies of the Manor series ended. Roseanna has also created a world so vivid with historical details that The Lost Heiress easily could compete with popular television show Downton Abbey for entertainment that captivates audiences. The Lost Heiress storyline holds so many elements that it is impossible to classify this book within one genre; a complex storyline that forces readers to fully engage and absorb every aspect of the book. It is a novel that is superior in its author’s writing and one every writer should aspire to emulate.

Rating: 5+ stars


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Roseanna WhiteRoseanna is the author of two biblical novels, A Stray Drop of Blood and Jewel of Persia, the historical romance, Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland, and the historical, romantic suspense Culper Ring Series (Ring of Secrets, Whispers from the Shadows, and Circle of Spies). She is also the senior reviewer at the Christian Review of Books, which she and her husband founded, the senior editor at WhiteFire Publishing, and a member of ACFW, HisWriters, and Colonial Christian Fiction Writers.

Her latest novel, The Lost Heiress, was published in September 2015 by Bethany House Publishers. Two other books in the Ladies of the Manor series will be published in 2016: The Reluctant Duchess (April) and The Waiting Lady (working title, fall).

Connect with Roseanna on Twitter, Facebook, and her blog.

 

Novel Review: A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter

a noble masquerade

A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter (Bethany House, September 2015)

Lady Miranda Hawthorne acts every inch the lady, but inside she longs to be bold and carefree. Entering her fourth Season and approaching spinsterhood in the eyes of society, she pours her innermost feelings out not in a diary but in letters to her brother’s old school friend, a duke–with no intention of ever sending these private thoughts to a man she’s heard stories about but never met. Meanwhile, she also finds herself intrigued by Marcus, her brother’s new valet, and although she may wish to break free of the strictures that bind her, falling in love with a servant is more of a rebellion than she planned.

When Marcus accidentally discovers and mails one of the letters to her unwitting confidant, Miranda is beyond mortified. And even more shocked when the duke returns her note with one of his own that initiates a courtship-by-mail. Insecurity about her lack of suitors shifts into confusion at her growing feelings for two men–one she’s never met but whose words deeply resonate with her heart, and one she has come to depend on but whose behavior is more and more suspicious. When it becomes apparent state secrets are at risk and Marcus is right in the thick of the conflict, one thing is certain: Miranda’s heart is far from all that’s at risk for the Hawthornes and those they love.

REVIEW:

Books filled with humor and romance alone are fun; well-written books by authors that you know are even better. Add these two elements in with author that you not only know but has a sparkling personality, heart for Jesus and family, and wit beyond measure just makes life all the better. And so this is where you’ll find me right now—reveling in all the goodness of A Noble Masquerade and the blessing that I have in counting Kristi Ann Hunter as an author friend.

10575333_10152501872752054_3506686009805902616_oDisclaimer: I know Kristi, have written for her website, Regency Reflections, and fully embrace that I am biased in my review of A Noble Masquerade. But rather than take that bias and assume my review will be positive simply because I know her, understand that I only went into reading her debut novel with the hope that it would be good. Instead, I finished A Noble Masquerade thrilled to see that this author is not just a good writer—but a great one. This novel fulfilled my expectations more than I could imagine, and I have every belief that Kristi will become a highly successful author in the CBA industry.

A Noble Masquerade stands out from its historical-romance contemporaries because Kristi makes more of her novel that simply romance infused with historical elements in a setting other than present day. There is romance a-plenty in this novel, but I enjoyed A Noble Masquerade most for its inventive and unique storyline filled with humor, wit, sarcasm, and adventure. Kristi has a writing voice different from other authors in her genre—she writes with a complexity that requires her readers to think, but her characters’ down-to-earth approaches to life make it easy for readers to fall directly into the story. I so enjoyed learning about an era in England’s history that I neither knew much about nor come across much in fiction (the Napoleonic wars). In her future books, I hope to see Kristi continue utilizing these less-often explored topics.

As its title demonstrates, masquerade is a theme of Kristi’s debut novel. I approached A Noble Masquerade with a base expectation of an actual masquerade taking place in the story; however, the deeper I went into the book, the more complexity I found in Kristi’s exploration of the theme. The base approach I went in with belies the depth of the story, and Kristi’s storyline and writing style demonstrate her knowledge of and ability to implement the craft. I will pick up any of her future novels simply because I am confident after reading A Noble Masquerade that this author can write well.

Kristi infuses so much laughter and wit into A Noble Masquerade through her characters. I loved main characters Miranda and Marlowe, along with a few of the secondary characters, such as Miranda’s siblings and Marlowe’s friends. Miranda was a fabulous character because Kristi explored the dynamics of ladylike behavior and independence for women of the 1800s. Much to the chagrin of my family at times, I thrive upon prim and proper behavior and enjoy reading about these qualities in times gone by; however, after finishing A Noble Masquerade, I have a deeper understanding of how chafing the expectations of these traits could be when they were all women had to go off of. As for Marlowe, much of my enjoyment of A Noble Masquerade came from watching the dynamics of his relationships unfold within his friendships. In fact, my favorite line of the story could well be Marlowe’s explanation of what constitutes a family.

For a superb story told of finding one’s place in society, within family, and within yourself; told with humor, wit, and lyricism; and beholding an inventive story with a sweet romance, pick up Kristi Ann Hunter’s A Noble Masquerade.

Rating: 5 stars

Extra: Kelly Clarkson’s “Catch My Breath” inspired Kristi’s creation of main character Miranda Hawthorne. Read more about the inspiration here.

Extra: Find the novella prequel to A Noble Masquerade, A Lady of Esteem, here.


 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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Kristi Ann Hunter graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Computer Science but always knew she wanted to write. Kristi is an RWA Golden Heart contest winner, an ACFW Genesis contest winner, and a Georgia Romance Writers Maggie Award for Excellence winner. She is a founding member and the coordinator of the Regency Reflections blog and lives with her husband and three children in Georgia. Find her online at www.kristiannhunter.com.

Novel Review: Buttermilk Sky by Jan Watson

buttermilk sky

Buttermilk Sky by Jan Watson (Tyndale House, September 2014)

Weary of the expectations imposed on her by her strict upbringing, eighteen-year-old Mazy Pelfrey prepares to leave her home in the Kentucky mountains for the genteel city of Lexington, where she’ll attend secretarial school. She knows her life is about to change–and only for the better. Everything will be blue skies from now on.But business school is harder than she thought it would be and the big city not as friendly, until she meets a charming young man from a wealthy family, Loyal Chambers. When Loyal sets his sights on her, Mazy begins to see that everything she’d ever wished to have is right before her eyes. The only hindrance to her budding romance is a former beau, Chanis Clay, the young sheriff she thought she’d left firmly behind.Danger rumbles like thunder on a high mountain ridge when Mazy’s cosseted past collides with her clouded future and forces her to come to terms with what she really wants.


Review: 

Reading opens a vast world to those who hold books in their hands; sometimes those worlds and characters resonate, but other times they do not. With as many books as I tend to read in a year, I suppose I am bound to come across a few that will not make my favorites list. Buttermilk Sky, while sweet and endearing, is unfortunately for me a book that I will not be recommending to other readers or re-reading.

Jan Thompson included many elements that I enjoy in historical fiction, such as a heroine who dreams of something more, along with a timeframe that excites with danger and bravery. Nevertheless, Buttermilk Sky is a character-driven novel that moves at such a slow pace I found it difficult to remain engaged in the story. I never connected with the characters because so little conflict and tension occurred that their development was never allowed to flourish.

The structure of Buttermilk Sky leaves little to be desired. Along with the slow pacing–in itself is not a negative aspect of story-telling, but there must be conflict if an author is going to write a successful character driven novel–Watson only tells–never shows–what happens in her story. This choice leaves readers one step outside of Buttermilk Sky, with only the last few pages detailing any sort of conflict and resolution.

Rating: 2 stars

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher with the purpose of sharing my review. I was not compensated for this review, and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

Identifying with Characters: Author Dina Sleiman Talks Her Valiant Hearts Series Heroines

Good Thursday morning, reader friends,

Today author Dina Sleiman is visiting  A Way With Words to discuss the heroines of her Valiant Hearts series. A series of three books that feature strong and courageous heroines, the Valiant Hearts novels–set in Arthurian England–are YA novels fun for teenagers and adults alike. In this article, Dina discusses her three heroines from Dauntless, Chivalrous, and Courageous. Enjoy!


 

Dina Sleiman and Her Heroines by Dina Sleiman

Often readers confuse an author with the characters they create. I imagine the truth is that each character we write has a hint of us inside of them. But it is also true that professional novelists go to great lengths to create unique and separate characters with distinctive personalities. So today I’m going to share with you how I am both similar to and different from some of my female heroines.

Let’s start with the general idea of these tough Valiant Hearts heroines. I’ve always been strong, healthy, and athletic, but not quite a tough sporty girl. During my school years I did play some sports, mostly because I went to small Christian schools and everyone needed to be involved. I was pretty good at basketball, but always preferred dance, gymnastics, and cheerleading. As an adult, I like quiet physical activities like walking, biking, hiking, and canoeing. I still dance from time to time as part of my church’s worship dance team. But…I believe in female empowerment and that women should follow whatever path God lays on their hearts. I don’t like to see arbitrary limits put on what girls can and can’t do, and that was very important to me as I wrote this Valiant Hearts Series. My Meyer’s Briggs personality type is INFJ, which in addition to being creative, is also very individualistic and idealistic.

DauntlessMy Robin Hood-esque Merry Ellison from Dauntless and I actually have very little in common. On the Meyers Briggs scale, Merry was my opposite on three out of four indicators. She is more extroverted, sensory, and thinking. This made Merry the most challenging character I’ve ever written, yet I loved and admired her. Her ENTJ personality was the same as my middle child, my outdoor enthusiast and adrenaline junky. It’s a great leadership personality. I often thought of tough sporty girls I’ve been friends with over the years while writing Merry. Merry and I have a few things in common like a love of children and a love of acrobatics, but even her motivations and inner thoughts were often different than mine. I do have a tomboy side, but it does not go as far as weaponry and hunting. In addition to all of that, tiny, dark haired, exotic Merry is pretty much my physical opposite in every way too.

ChivalrousChivalrous with my female knight released on Tuesday, and I certainly have more in common with Gwendolyn Barnes than with Merry. I was picturing Gwendolyn as a INFP/ISFP hybrid. Gwendolyn hates mingling at a big party, much like me, and she loves music, dance, and sunshine, again like me. Her biggest flaw is that she tends to fade into a fantasy world rather than deal with reality, which is something I have been guilty of from time to time, but not to the same degree as Gwendolyn. She has more of a temper than I do, although I share her abhorrence of injustice and can get pretty riled up when faced with it. And again, she is tougher than me, although I think if I had been raised with her hang ups, I might have turned out even more like her. Finally, Gwendolyn’s tall, blonde, and curvy physical description is pretty darn close to mine at that age. At 5’10” I’m used to looking men in the eye and feeling like I can do anything they can.

Next on the horizon is Courageous with my crusader heroine. It won’t release until July 2016, but you will be introduced to its main character heroine in Chivalrous. Rosalind of Ipsworth is Gwendolyn’s lady’s maid, best friend, and partner in crime. Of the three Valiant Hearts heroines so far, I definitely have the most in common with Rosalind. With her ENFJ personality, she is more of a typical emotional, romantic girl, although she is tough enough to rise to whatever occasion is thrown at her. She’s more outgoing than me, and she makes some unfortunate choices that my upbringing protected me from. But her thoughts, speech, and motivations are pretty similar to what I imagine mine being in those circumstances. And Rosalind is a passionate woman, which is also a trait I share.

Passion is a characteristic that is often avoided in Christian heroines, and yet a characteristic I think God highly values when channeled in the right direction. In fact, I’ve used the ENFJ personality for two other heroines in the past. Both Dandelion in Dance of the Dandelion and Constance in Love in Three-Quarter Time are feisty, passionate heroines as well. Each makes mistakes, like Rosalind, but each learns to channel that passion toward an intimate relationship with God. My daughter has an ENFJ personality, and I have loved watching her grow in her passion toward God.

Maybe you’re wondering if I’ve ever written myself into a book. I would say the closest I’ve come is with Allie, my Christian ballerina in Dance from Deep Within. She shares my INFJ personality, my love of dance and reading, my blonde coloring, and many of my experiences. Her thoughts, tastes, opinions, fashion sensibilities, and beliefs certainly mirror mine, especially when I was her age. But of course her life is different than mine in some ways too, and her experiences are more extreme, including a trauma I didn’t share. Still, I would say if you want to know what I’m all about, Allie would provide the best clues.

DINA SLEIMANSo that’s me and my heroines. I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick foray into our personalities.

Which of my heroines do you think you would relate with the most? What is your personality like?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dauntless, Valiant Hearts Book 1 – Where legend and history collide, one young woman will fight for the innocent.

Chivalrous, Valiant Hearts Book 2 – With her future in jeopardy, this unforgettable heroine won’t go down without a fight.

Novel Review: Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason

irish meadows

Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason (Bethany House, August 2015)

Irish immigrant James O’Leary has spent his life building Irish Meadows into a thriving horse farm and is not about to let hard economic times threaten its success. He intends for his daughters to marry prosperous men–ones who will secure the family’s rightful place in society, and at the same time, guarantee the future of Irish Meadows. Both girls, however, have different visions for their futures.

Brianna and Colleen O’Leary know their father expects them to marry well. Yet despite his wishes, Brianna, the quieter sister, dreams of attending college. Vivacious Colleen, meanwhile, is happy to marry–as long as her father’s choice meets her exacting standards. When stable hand Gilbert Whelan returns from college and distant family member Rylan Montgomery stops in on his way to the seminary in Boston, the two men quickly complicate everyone’s plans. It will take every ounce of courage for both sisters to follow their hearts. And even if they do, will they inevitably find their dreams too distant to reach?


REVIEW:

I imagined many romanticized elements of Ireland as I read the back cover and devoured the front of Susan Anne Mason’s first novel in her Courage to Dream series. Green pastures. Beautiful horses running wild in bare Long Island meadows. An Irish brogue reminiscent of Once Upon a Time‘s Captain Hook. While the novel took a turn other than I expected, Irish Meadows captivated me with its storyline focused on two sisters with opposite goals and motivations for their lives.

Despite the title of Mason’s first book in this series, Irish Meadows is a character-driven novel that centers on Brianna and Colleen O’Leary. From the outset, I did feel somewhat misled over this novel. The back cover blurb for the novel directs readers to a story that will center heavily on the farm. Make no mistake that even though both sisters’ livelihoods depend upon the success of the family farm, the actual setting of this novel plays a smaller part in the storyline. Both sisters’ stories carry equal weight, but Brianna’s makes up more of Irish Meadows, and with just one female on the cover it is easily believable that just one of them will be the focus of the novel. I have no issue whatsoever with a novel changing perspectives between characters in different chapters; however, by the time I knew which characters I preferred over others I wanted more of a focus on one sister and less on another.

With such divergence between Brianna and Colleen it is natural that readers would have a favorite out of the two. From most of the reviews I have read, Brianna comes up the favorite more often than not. I have no trouble believing this since I also found the younger charming than her older counterpart. However, by the middle of the book I found myself distinctly disliking Brianna O’Leary—enough so that I almost did not want her chapters to begin. On the other hand, I came to Colleen’s chapters hungry to find out what would happen to this pugnacious young lady. As Irish Meadows moved forward, Colleen’s character arc grew exponentially; I loved seeing her growth, maturity, and development. Her story felt believable, realistic, and emotionally satisfying. Brianna, though, did not mature much either in her own motivations or romance. I had a harder time relating to her as Irish Meadows went on, and I did not care whether or not her character showed up in any future novels in the series.

The highlight of Irish Meadows for me was Mason’s discussion and inclusion of Catholicism in her novel. From hardly ever coming across Catholicism in Christian fiction to finding two novels in 2015 including this faith, I am thrilled to find my religion a topic amongst my preferred genre. Mason beautifully portrayed the challenges, questions, and unique aspects that Catholics come across when living out their faith as a lay person or one with a vocation. She handled her characters’ changes in circumstances with respect and maintained the dignity of the faith, all while subtly teaching readers about Catholicism.

It’s been a few days since I finished reading this delightful novel and still the story comes back to me as I ponder and read more of Bethany House fiction. Mason is a gifted storyteller and one I am looking forward to following in her Courage to Dream series.

Rating: 3.5 stars


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

susan anne masonSusan Anne Mason’s debut historical novel, Irish Meadows, won the Fiction from the Heartland contest from the Mid-American Romance Authors Chapter of RWA. A member of ACFW, as well, she lives outside of Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and two children. She can be found online at her website.

 

 

Novel Review: The Sound of Diamonds by Rachelle Rea

sound of diamonds

The Sound of Diamonds by Rachelle Rea

In Reformation-era England, a converted rogue wants to restore his honor at whatever cost. Running from a tortured past, Dirk Godfrey knows he has only one chance at redemption.

An independent Catholic maiden seeking refuge in the Low Countries finds herself at the center of the Iconoclastic Fury. Jaded by tragedy, Gwyneth’s only hope of getting home is to trust the man she hates, and she soon discovers her poor vision is not the only thing that has been blinding her.

But the home Gwyneth knew is not what she once thought. When a dark secret and a twisted plot for power collide in a castle masquerading as a haven, will the saint and the sinner hold to hope…or be overcome?

REVIEW: 

About a year ago I stumbled across a website called “Inspiring Daring.” A picture of a young woman graced the main page. Curious about what this site would hold, I began to search the pages and immediately became captivated by the posts and prose. This young woman to whom the website belongs—Rachelle Rea—pulled me into her site with her sweet and spunky writing style, and kept me there with her inspiring and motivational stories and posts.

Twelve months later, I continue to follow “Inspiring Daring,” along with everything else Rea has accomplished in such a short time. A newly published author with one book to her name and another shortly to follow, this curly-hair, bright-eyed, sweet-smiling young woman is sure to draw others to faith and fiction through her stories and her writing. As soon as I learned that Rea would have a novel published by WhiteFire Publishing I added her book to my Goodreads page and the title to my to-review list.

Set during Reformation-era England, The Sound of Diamonds first caught my attention with its unique storyline and cast of characters. Blended with her beautiful writing style, the storyline of The Sound of Diamonds brings readers directly into the fascinating and frightening time period of Catholic persecution. I am Catholic, and while Christian fiction is my primary and favorite genre to read, at times I am frustrated by the lack of Catholicism in this genre. Rea’s choice to include Catholicism—and especially a Catholic heroine—immediately pushed The Sound of Diamonds to the top of my to-read list.

The author’s research and impeccable manner of historical detail in this novel is noticeable in a most compelling way. I learned so much about Reformation-era England, the Iconoclastic Fury, and Catholic and Protestant beliefs during this time that I feel a stronger connection with my faith and roots. Rea beautifully blended both Catholic and Protestant values in The Sound of Diamonds, and she handled the theological differences between the two denominations beautifully.

Rea’s debut novel shines with themes of compassion and forgiveness. Through her beautiful writing style, endearing and believable characters, and rich historical detail, The Sound of Diamonds is a novel sure to resonate with readers who love historical fiction. I enjoyed this book and am very much looking forward to the sequel. The Sound of Silver will be published in October 2015.

Rating: 4 stars


Add Rachelle’s books to your lists:

The Sound of Diamonds–Amazon

The Sound of Diamonds–Goodreads 

The Sound of Silver–Amazon

The Sound of Silver–Goodreads 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

RACHELLETimes gone by snatch Rachelle close, so she reads and writes about years long ago–her passions include the Reformation, Revolutions, and romance. In the space of a summer between sophomore and junior year, Rachelle wrote a novel set in 1566. Two years later she had finished two more novels and signed a three-book deal with her dream publisher. Her debut novel, The Sound of Diamonds, released in June 2015. The next two books in the Steadfast Love Series will swiftly follow. Find out more about Rachelle, like that she’s a homeschool grad and Oreo addict, at http://rachellerea.com.

Rachel’s Facebook page

Rachelle’s Amazon page

Rachelle’s Goodreads page