Novella Collection Review: Austen in Austin, Volume 1

Austen in Austin 1

Austen in Austin, Volume 1 (WhiteFire Publishing, January 2016)

Discover four heroines in historical Austin, TX, as they find love–Jane Austen style. Volume 1 includes:

If I Loved You Less by Gina Welborn, based on Emma
A prideful matchmaker examines her own heart when her protégé falls for the wrong suitor.

Romantic Refinements by Anita Mae Draper, based on Sense and Sensibility
A misguided academy graduate spends the summer falling in love… twice.

One Word from You by Susanne Dietze, based on Pride and Prejudice
A down-on-her-luck journalist finds the story of her dreams, but her prejudice may cost her true love . . . and her career.

Alarmingly Charming by Debra E. Marvin, based on Northanger Abbey
A timid gothic dime-novel enthusiast tries to solve the mystery of a haunted cemetery and, even more shocking, why two equally charming suitors compete for her attentions.

Review:
Novellas based upon Jane Austen novels and set within a completely unique framework of Texas-based stories. A collection with a cover designed by Roseanna White Designs and published by WhiteFire Publishing. What more could a Austen enthusiast ask for when deciding which renditions to read out of the myriad selection available based upon one of British literature’s most beloved authors? While the west is not my favorite setting (either in person or in fiction), between the authors, editor, publisher, and cover designer, I was so excited to see that WhiteFire Publishing was compiling two volumes for the Austen in Austin collection.

It was love at first page, readers. This collection, comprised of four novellas from established authors of Christian fiction, is a delight to behold. Each novella stands alone in writing style and voice, but all four are comprised of the elements of solid fiction: good story, endearing characters, and strong writing. I knew of two of the authors before reading Austen in Austin, Volume 1, but without a doubt I will be watching for the work of all of these authors in the coming years.

If I Loved You Less, by Gina Welborn, is a retelling of Austen’s EmmaEmma is one of my favorite novels, and Welborn’s novella can count itself as a favorite of mine now, as well. The most complex of the novellas in the collection, If I Loved You Less is a superb retelling in which Welborn demonstrates her ability to write strong stories with numerous characters and compelling dialog.

Romantic Refinements, by Anita Mae Draper, is based upon Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. A fun romp into a Texas cattle ranch, Romantic Refinements beholds an endearing cast of characters that bring the novella to life. I missed the second sister that makes Sense and Sensibility a favorite of Austen readers; nevertheless, I admire Draper’s ability to pare down Austen’s first novel into an enjoyable Western novella. This one was enjoyable read that drew me into the world of late 1800s Texas.

Susanne Dietze’s Pride and Prejudice rendition, One Word From You, is my favorite novella in this collection. With a clever twist on the most beloved Austen novel, One Word From You dropped me right into the world of misperceptions, prejudice, pride, and heartwarming romance. This novella stays close to its originator, for which I am wholeheartedly grateful since I love Pride and Prejudice, with all its charming charming characters and humorous takes on society.

Bonus: One Word From You won the Genesis Award in 2013! Yes, it’s that good!

Alarmingly Charming, based upon Austen’s Northanger Abbey, is a creative retelling of a satirical gothic story that does not get as much attention as it deserves. I admit I was unsure of how Debra E. Marvin would retell Northanger Abbey–it’s such a unique story–and readers, I was so surprised in such a good way! I enjoyed Alarmingly Charming much more than I expected–not because I doubted Marvin’s writing skills, but because I literally could not imagine one way to retell Northanger Abbey. (This is why I am an editor, not an author. I just don’t have those creative genes.) With a lovable heroine who learns self confidence, a hero who learns forgiveness, and secondary characters who teach lessons of faith and love, Alarmingly Charming charmed me out my world and into the pages of this novella.

Collection rating: 4 stars

Be sure to visit the authors at their group writing blog, Inkwell Inspirations! You’ll also come across the authors who are part of the second Austen in Austin collection.

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Novella Review: One Enchanted Christmas by Melissa Tagg

One Enchanted ChristmasOne Enchanted Christmas by Melissa Tagg (December 2015)

Last December, mystery author Maren Grant had the most perfect night of her life. On a glimmering winter evening, she got to watch the photo shoot for her very first book and ended up on a magical date with the cover model himself—Colin Renwycke.

Fast forward one year. This December, with a looming deadline, restless spirit and her creative spark long since gone, Maren is desperate to get unstuck. And she can’t get Colin out of her head…or his year-old open invitation to spend a couple weeks writing at his family’s farm.

Drew Renwycke never planned to come home and take over the Renwycke family farm. But he’s spent too many years watching his siblings unravel, including his brother, Colin, after one terrible family mistake. If moving to Maple Valley, Iowa, renovating an old farmhouse and switching careers is what it takes to put the Renwycke family back together, he’ll do it.

But his simple plan upends when a scrappy author lands on his doorstep. And she just might be the key to coaxing his brother home. But what if he wants her all to himself? Drew will have to choose between his Christmas wish and the enchantment of a holiday romance that just might be the happy ending they all long for.

REVIEW:

Close your eyes just for a moment. Picture yourself lying on your couch covered in a warm fleece blanket, a cup of hot chocolate by your side, the fireplace crackling and sparkling a bright orange. It’s evening, and the glow of the full moon softly fills your room as Bing Crosby’s smooth voice serenades you with thoughts of a white Christmas as you watch the first snow of the season cover the ground.

It’s a beautiful picture, isn’t it? The kind of enchanted winter evening we often imagine as the Christmas season fills the last month of the year. Here’s the best thing about this scenario, though: it’s not just an imagined scene. Melissa Tagg, author of Christian contemporary romance, has written a novella that blends our dreams of the perfect Christmas romance into a story that is, to borrow from the title, simply enchanting.

I’ve long been a fan of Melissa’s novels (and the author herself), so my expectations for One Enchanted Christmas were high because I am familiar with her signature writing style: heart-pounding romance set within a contemporary time-frame and sprinkled with old-style humor that lends itself to a believable and endearing story. One Enchanted Christmas, her first novella, utilized all of Melissa’s style–and if it’s even possible, made me fall even more in love with her stories because those signature techniques came in faster, smoother, funnier, and more swoon-worthy in order to fit within a shorter story. To complement her style even further, One Enchanted Christmas is written in the style Melissa frequents on her personal blog, which makes the novella come across as if she directly narrates the story to her readers. I absolutely loved this aspect of One Enchanted Christmas and hope to this technique used in her future stories.

Melissa excels at creating story-lines and characters that are endearing and charming. In One Enchanted Christmas hero Drew Renwycke and heroine Maren Grant are simply wonderful; from the first sentence, I fell for the adorable heroine who reminded me of all my romantic fantasies as a girl, and more significantly I fell for the hero, who is far and above the kind of man all women should strive to meet. Can we also just take a moment to appreciate how great Drew is an uncle, please? Thank you, Melissa, for giving one of your characters a role that mirrors just how special uncles are in real life. Maren and Drew are just the sort of people you could expect to find in the typical American small-town: sweet and loving, witty and hardworking, imperfect but as good-hearted as you can get. You really could not ask for two better characters to cheer for as they find their way in life and love.

In this particular novella, I noticed Melissa took steps as an author that I fully believe strengthen her as a writer and will mark One Enchanted Christmas as the story that pushes CBA boundaries. This novella is slightly more mature in tone, meaning that characters have gone through some tough situations that are not always brought up in Christian fiction. I, for one, am thrilled that Melissa wrote these situations into One Enchanted Christmas because it brings a lifelike quality to the story that depicts the experiences of readers. The fact is that even though Christian fiction models hope, we live in an imperfect world where people do make mistakes. One Enchanted Christmas takes an example of true life family challenges and places it within the framework of Christian love during the most magical time of the year. The themes of Christmas make the perfect background for the Renwycke family to find that hope of love, redemption, forgiveness, and grace.

One Enchanted Christmas is simply a perfect novella for Christmas–although in all honesty, I would recommend it for any time of year. *Disclaimer: yes, I call this novella perfect, and in doing so would like to apologize in advance for any undue pressure on Melissa to further write “perfect” stories. I just love your novella, Melissa, and can’t help sharing my excitement! =)

Rating: 5 stars


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Melissa TaggMelissa Tagg is a former reporter, current nonprofit grant-writer and total Iowa girl. She’s also the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community for writers. When she’s not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever–not that she’s biased–watching old movies, and daydreaming about her next book. She’s passionate about humor, grace, and happy endings. Melissa loves connecting with readers at http://www.melissatagg.com and on Facebook and Instagram.

 

 

Novella Review: Love in the Details by Becky Wade

love in the detailsLove in the Details: A November Wedding Story by Becky Wade (Zondervan, October 2015)

She left him to save his future, but they’ve never gotten over each other.

When Josh returns to his hometown of Martinsburg, Texas, to help his best friend get married, he didn’t intend to run into church wedding coordinator—and ex-girlfriend—Holly. He can’t help but pine after the girl he never got over.

Holly broke up with Josh years ago in an attempt to ensure his future success. But she loved him then and still loves him now. As she helps him plan his best friend’s wedding, she can’t help but feel horrible for the pain she caused him. And even though she longs to be with Josh, she doesn’t feel worthy of his big-time lifestyle when she is more comfortable in her small town world. Will Josh and Holly be able to keep things as they are when their true feelings threaten to surface at every turn?

REVIEW:

Becky Wade is one such writer who is taking Christian contemporary romance from slightly known to recognizable.  I was so excited to see that Wade had a novella coming out this year because I always want to read more of her work. Even though I had not yet read any other novellas in the second Year of Weddings collections, I knew I would enjoy one if Becky Wade wrote the story.

Love in the Details is a short, sweet read destined to make those who love romances fall in love with its main characters, Josh and Holly. Wade’s charming writing style and voice deliver two characters that are relatable to her core audience—women who long for romance that is just slightly out of reach but still hopelessly realistic enough to make the story believable. I enjoyed wandering the small town of Martinsburg, Texas through Holly and Josh’s eyes because these two characters are ones I can see myself interacting with—one as a friend and one as something more…because Wade is so good at creating romantic heroes. As I watched Holly and Josh’s love story re-unfold, I wanted to sit at Holly’s window overlooking Martinsburg’s Main Street; grab a bite to eat with Holly and Sam as they discuss their love lives; and rediscover the joy of weddings. Wade’s ability to give everyday life just a bit of extra spice elevates her novels from novels to true fiction—or life as we all would imagine it to be.

With the title of this novella acting a metaphor for Holly and Josh’s romance, the details our lives take on a special meaning in this story. Holly and Josh both learn that details are much more than the fragments that make up life. As the main characters explore those details and lean more on God than themselves, readers begin to understand the significance of God’s plans for each of our lives, including those details that can seem inconsequential but are actually stepping stones for growth. I wished while reading Love in the Details that this novella was actually a novel because the shorter length did not allow readers to go deeper into Holly and Josh’s motivations and emotions. Their romance, while sweet and enjoyable, felt rushed; I would have preferred more time for the two of them to re-explore their feelings for each other. I also felt short-changed on Josh’s side of the story, both in personal growth and in romance; while I liked witnessing Holly’s maturation, I personally found Josh a more interesting character and wished he had more page time.

Novellas are becoming increasingly popular in the CBA, and I am looking forward to seeing where else this trend grows in the coming years. Love in the Details is one enjoyable read, and if Becky Wade writes more novellas I will certainly read them without hesitation.

Rating: 3 stars


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Becky WadeBecky’s a California native who attended Baylor University, met and married a Texan, and settled in Dallas.  She published historical romances for the general market before putting her career on hold for several years to care for her three children.  When God called her back to writing, Becky knew He meant for her to turn her attention to Christian fiction.  She loves writing funny, modern, and inspirational contemporary romance!  She’s the Carol Award, INSPY Award, and Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award winning author of My Stubborn HeartUndeniably YoursMeant to Be Mine, and A Love Like Ours.

 

 

Connect with Becky online: 

website           Twitter                Pinterest 

Facebook       Goodreads         Instagram

Novella Review: A Groom for Josette by Gabrielle Meyer (The Convenient Bride Collection)

Convenient Bride Collection ABOUT THE NOVELLA:

Josette LeBlanc needs a husband now or she’ll lose her father’s entire estate to her half-brother and stepmother, who will likely turn her out on the street. But who will marry the twenty-six year old daughter of a French fur trader and his Indian wife? In answer to a newspaper advertisement, Josie travels from St. Louis to Little Falls, Minnesota Territory to find out….

REVIEW:

The more novellas I read, the more I am enjoying these short and sweet stories of love, faith, family, and romance. Last year I met Gabrielle Meyer at the ACFW conference and immediately  was taken in by her warm demeanor. I was so pleased to see Gabrielle’s novellas included The Most Eligible Bride Romance Collection and The Convenient Bride Collection, both released from Barbour this year, because Gabrielle’s faith in God’s plans for her writing shine with an authenticity that I believe will draw many to their own faith.

“A Groom for Josette” from The Convenient Bride Collection is one such a story that recognizes God’s goodness  and gifts in our lives. Josie LeBlanc is an almost-spinster determined to save her father’s company’s legacy in the shipping business. This feisty and brave young woman is character that many readers–especially women–will be able to relate to because of her strength, loyalty, and ability to recognize her faults. Hard-working and pragmatic, but also a woman longing for love and romance, I found Josie a character that I could easily envision walking the path God laid out for her in this story, as well as one that I wanted to be friends with. Alexandre Dougas, on the other hand, is not a character I wanted to be friends–I wanted to marry him myself! Strong and dependent, Alexandre spent a year travelling the Mississippi on a pilgrimage to strengthen his faith before taking a pastoral position in northern Minnesota to preach to traders and Indians. I found Alexandre to be loving and caring in a position that could have easily turned him dominant. While he ended up in an unexpected marriage of convenience, Alexandre always treated Josie with respect. Meyer created characters that brought this story to life through their warm hearts and strong faith.

My favorite aspect of “A Groom for Josette” is that Meyer has given readers much more than a mere marriage of convenience novella. Marriage of convenience stories often begin with a force or desperation between parents and a young adult as a way to remove themselves from an unwanted situation. While Josie does take the initial step towards marriage because of the limited options women had at the time to support themselves, her and Alexandre’s marriage is one both parties enter of their own accord. This mutual understanding of the situation allows their relationship to blossom into a beautiful romance that I did not expect in “A Groom for Josette.” Rather than rely on the discord of unhappiness that comes from someone entering the marriage due to force, Meyer brought in original and unique circumstances into her novella that allowed for a refreshing take on the marriage-of-convenience trope.

I whole-heartedly loved “A Groom for Josette” and am eagerly awaiting more stories from Meyer.

RATING: 4.5 stars


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

I’ve been married to my high school sweetheart for thirteen years and we have four adorable (busy) children, including a set of five year old twin boys! In my *spare* time I escape to bygone eras and write historical fiction.

I have two novellas releasing with Barbour Publishers in 2015! Four Brides and a Bachelor releases with The Most Eligible Bachelor Romance Collection in May 2015, and A Groom for Josette releases with The Convenient Bride Romance Collection in July 2015.

Find me on Facebook!

 

 

Novella Review: The Substitute Wife by Amanda Barratt (The Convenient Bride Collection)

Convenient Bride CollectionThe Substitute Wife – A novella in The Convenient Bride Collection.

Grace Whittaker has spent her life in the shadow of her beautiful sister, Audrey. But when Audrey jilts her fiance, Dr. Raymond McNair, hours before the wedding, Grace offers to take her sister’s place. Grace longs to win her new husband’s heart, yet fears it still belongs to Audrey. Will their marriage turn from convenience to love, or will Grace forever remain the substitute wife?

Find “The Substitute Wife” and the other eight novellas in the collection on Amazon, ChristianBook.com, and Barnes & Noble!

 

REVIEW:

Anyone whose read my book review blog or followed any of my social media sites will know that I am a huge fan of Amanda Barratt’s writing. It should be no surprise, then, that her latest novella, “The Substitute Wife,” is now being reviewed on my blog. Aside from being a dear friend and sister-in-Christ, Amanda is an author with the poise of someone whose writing is more than just skill–it’s a blessing and a gift. I knew without a doubt that I wanted to read “The Substitute Wife” because I so enjoyed her first published novella. (Read my review of “A Bride for a Bargain” here if you’re curious to see why this novella is one of my favorites of 2015.) I’ve read quite a few novellas in the past few months, but to no surprise I continue to find that Amanda’s stories are the ones that reach my heart and soul as both a reader and a writer. “The Substitute Wife” brims with themes of love and acceptance as its characters grow in faith and understanding of times gone by.

After reading two of Amanda’s novellas, I can confidently say that one of her strongest points as a writer is her ability to completely envelop her readers in the setting and time period of her stories. “The Substitute Wife” takes place in late 1800s Connecticut, and from the first line of story I was immediately drawn into the two very different worlds in which in novella takes place. From the grand details of the characters homes to the minute details of hair styles, clothing, and dialect, I never once felt I was anywhere but 1883 Bristol, Connecticut in summertime. I almost always am drawn to British stories over American-set ones, but I will say that the more I read of Amanda’s writing the more I want to continue reading stories set in home country.

Just as the setting drew me to the novella, the main characters of “The Substitute Wife”–Grace Whittaker and Dr. Raymond McNair–compelled me to keep turning the pages. I absolutely loved Grace and Raymond: their compassion for each other, their quiet and humble attitudes, their desire to good for everyone around them. These two characters are about as good as anyone can get. The romance between Grace and Raymond is wholesome and real in every way possible, filled with the charm of first-time lovers and the faith-based core that strengthens relationships during good or trying times.  I found myself proud of both Grace and Raymond by the end of “The Substitute Wife” and pleased with the ending of the story–from Grace’s development as an individual to Raymond’s desire to make more of his marriage than one just of convenience.

But more than the characters, the story, or the romance, it is Amanda’s writing that keeps me coming back to her novellas–and what I know for certain will make me pick up anything else she writes. She has a lyricism to her writing that simply is unmatched by most authors. The style, tone, dialog, character development, story, and voice Amanda employs in her writing gives a charm to her stories that brings times gone by to life. I felt while reading “A Substitute Wife” that I found a story that blended just the right amount of an Austenesque-wit with a serious tone that requires readers to truly comprehend what is on the page. Details that bring the setting to life make her novels shine; witty and romantic dialog endear us to her characters; and poetic prose give the air of novels reminiscent of the Classics.

“The Substitute Wife” has all of the traits mentioned above; however, I’m adding it to my list of 2015 favorites because Amanda–as a Christian fiction writer–has done what few authors, even in the CBA, openly take of in their writing: written about faith. The subject is mentioned early on in the novella, but Amanda employs her characters’ faith in an open, challenging, and beautiful way towards the end of the story that, in my opinion, makes “The Substitute Wife” a stellar piece of literature. I read Christian fiction because I want to learn more about my faith, go deeper into God’s Word, and learn from characters’ experiences how I can become a better Christian. Amanda’s story goes deep into a few Biblical themes that leave the reader in wonder at the blessings God gives us.

“The Substitute Wife” is a novella is a romantic love story that will leave readers knowing even if a relationship begins merely as a convenience God never put people in our lives as substitutes.

RATING: 5 stars


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amanda BarrattAmanda Barratt is an award-winning historical romance author with two novellas releasing in 2015 with Barbour Publishing. She fell in love with writing in grade school when she wrote her first story – a spinoff of Jane Eyre. Since then, she’s penned novels set in Regency and Victorian England, and the Gilded Age.

A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, she is represented by Rachel Kent, of Books and Such Literary Agency. She lives in northern Michigan with her family, where she reads way too many old books, watches period dramas to come up with new plot-lines, and dreams of taking a trip to England.

Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon and don’t forget to sign up for her newsletter.

 

Novella Feature: Love’s Reward (The Most Eligible Bachelor Romance Collection) by Susanne Dietze

The Most Eligible Bachelor CollectionLove’s Reward (The Most Eligible Bachelor Romance Collection) by Susanne Dietze

Daniel Blair is by all means a successful businessman—to everyone except his father. Making his living as an architect, he spends his days designing homes and buildings all over southern California. Despite his success, however, he cannot seem to earn the respect of his father, a Congressman who hopes Daniel will follow in his footsteps. As the deadline to win a prestigious architectural competition looms closer, this most eligible bachelor finds himself at the center of a different kind of race: one in which the ladies come after him. With the pressure to win both his father’s approval and prestige for his business impending upon him, Daniel will have to find a way to give all his cares to God and win the heart of the one lady who truly matters.

Upon reading the front cover copy for The Most Eligible Bachelor Romance Collection, I was not sure what to think about Love’s Reward with the exception of one statement: the heroine would be materialistic. I did not expect to like Josie Price, and I assumed the novella would comprise section after section of the interactions between the hero and his various amours. While Love’s Reward does include interactions between Daniel Blair and the women competing for his affections, this novella is so much more than a simple romance—and I love it (and Josie Price) for that exact reason. Love’s Reward is a novella rich with romance, as well as thick with lessons of life, faith, friendship, and family. It does not seem possible to pack all of these elements into forty-three pages, but Susanne Dietze has written a novella that is sure to delight readers who love deep historical stories.

Josie Price and Daniel Blair are two characters who immediately jump off the page as individuals and as a romantic pairing. Josie’s zeal for women’s advocacy and her quirks of both tomboyish and ladylike behaviors keep her interesting and appealing. Daniel is one of the most swoon-worthy heroes that I have come across in CBA literature: handsome, kind, generous, a faithful friend, and a man after God’s heart, Daniel has just about all the characteristics any female could want in a man. The two of them make a sparkling pair because they both genuinely care about doing good and right in the world around them. Josie and Daniel are funny, witty, and bring about the best in each other.

More than anything else in Love’s Reward, I enjoyed Dietze’s incorporation of faith, family, and friendship into her characters lives. Josie and Daniel are fierce friends, and Dietze brings other aspects of friendship into her story through instances in which Daniel and Josie have the opportunity to extend their hands to others. As the novella progresses, Dietze drew her characters into their faiths by beautifully demonstrating various ways of handling past hurts. I had not heard of Susanne Dietze before reading Love’s Reward, but with strong writing and themes she has drawn me into her circle of readers. I will most certainly look for her future books and novellas.

Rating: 4 stars

Find Love’s Reward and eight other novellas in The Most Eligible Bachelor Romance Collection from these sites: Amazon, Christian Book Distributors, and Barnes and Noble 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

7834895Susanne Dietze began writing love stories in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she writes in the hope that her historical romances will encourage and entertain others. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne loves fancy-schmancy tea parties, travel, and curling up on the couch with a costume drama and a plate of nachos.

Find Suzanne at the following social media sites: Facebook, Twitter, PintrestGoodreads, Amazon

Novella Feature: A Bride for a Bargain (The Most Eligible Bachelor Collection) by Amanda Barratt

The past few months I have been blessed to be the recipient of numerous books either from contest wins or authors who graciously allow me to review their books. After a few of these such instances, I noticed a common theme running through the books that came in my mail: many of them were either single novellas or novellas as part of a larger collection. As I have so many books to read and review–but could not fathom the idea of passing up any of these stories–I decided to work a feature into my website; thus, Novella Feature was born! Each novella that I read–either as stand alone or part of a collection–will be reviewed on A Way With Words. Novellas are popular with readers but generally do not garner as much attention as full-length novels. I hope to change that situation by featuring what I find to be enjoyable in the novellas I have given to read and review. From the Love Inspired line (Harlequin) to collections featuring brides and grooms, to stories of Southern charm, surely one of these novellas will fit your reading preferences. Enjoy!


The Most Eligible Bachelor CollectionA Bride for a Bargain by Amanda Barratt

Publisher: Barbour

Collection: The Most Eligible Bachelor

Publishing date: May 2015

Synopsis: Wealthy tycoon, Geoffrey Buchanan is tired of being hunted by women. So when he hires a down on her luck factory girl to pose as his fiancée during a posh house party, he expects nothing more than a business transaction. He doesn’t intend for sweet and stubborn Ada McClane to invade his life and win his heart so completely. But sometimes what we bargain for, and what we truly need, are two completely different things.

REVIEW:

There were many aspects to The Most Eligible Bachelor that first caught my attention upon finding the collection on Goodreads: a beautiful cover, an enticing title, stories from authors that I had not yet read but had heard many good things about. I had every reason already to want to read this novella collection, but in all honesty, the most significant factor that drew me to The Most Eligible Bachelor was the novella written by Ms. Amanda Barratt. While I did not actually meet this young author in person at the ACFW conference last fall, the positive remarks I heard about her writing immediately sparked my interest–enough that eight months later I remembered her and knew enough that I wanted to read her work.

The instinct that told me to hang on for this author’s work was correct: with a writing style that belies her youthful age, a plot that cleverly twists the typical historical romance, and characters with both spunk and charm, A Bride for a Bargain is one novella that I truly wished was longer than its ninety pages. I read this novella in less than three hours–and while I raced through it because I literally did not want to put the book down, the story was over far sooner than I wished. I love A Bride for a Bargain and will definitely re-read this novella in the future.

Barratt’s first published story is one, on the outset, that could come across as typical Christian historical fiction; however, beyond the wealthy bachelor and poor heroine trope, this novella takes on a life of its own. Ada McClane, the heroine, is much more than the common leading lady: while she strives to take care of her ill younger sibling, much like many heroines, Ada has the independence, spunk, wit, and intelligence that could easily carry A Bride for a Bargain all on its own. I found Ada particularly endearing because she was able to hold both her independent streak and her desire for femininity all at once. Barratt blended these characteristics so well that I easily imagined Ada as the type of woman all females would have found inspirational in this time period. Geoffrey Buchanan, Ada’s hero and foil, is the perfect opposite to Barratt’s heroine. Strong and silent where Ada is at times open and opinionated, Geoffrey is the wounded hero that becomes open to love–and subsequently makes all women–fictional or real–fall for him. He is the romantic that all women long for, with his tender and kind-hearted gestures, willingness to let Ada come into her own, and protective nature.

A Bride for a Bargain also shines with its themes of self-reliance and God’s faithfulness. With a wisdom that, again, supersedes her years, Barratt demonstrates that age is not an indicator of how well a person knows God. As her characters find in this first novella, often times it is simply blind faith in God that helps people get their trials and challenges. Ada McClane’s circumstances show the best of sibling relationships, and this heroine’s simple but profound statements of faith will surely resonate with readers as Ada teaches Geoffrey about God’s love. Barratt’s key word in her title–bargain–is brought up in numerous ways: what people bargain for in love, in their faith, in their circumstances, and in their relationships. By the end of A Bride for a Bargain readers will understand that bargains are best left aside because is the one who has our lives in His hands.

I would love to read more about Ada and Geoffrey, but since that will most likely remain a wish, I am content to eagerly await Barratt’s next novella, The Substitute Wife, coming this summer from Barbour’s Most Convenient Bride collection.

RATING: 5/5 stars


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Amanda BarrattAmanda Barratt is a historical romance author with two novellas soon to be published. The first “A Bride for a Bargain,” will release May, 2015 as part of Barbour’s “The Most Eligible Bachelor Romance Collection.” The second, “The Substitute Wife,” will debut in July, 2015 as part of “The Convenient Bride Collection,” also by Barbour. She has won several awards for her work and enjoys writing about eras such as Regency and Victorian England, and the Gilded Age.

A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, she is represented by Rachel Kent, of Books and Such Literary Agency. She lives in northern Michigan with her family, where she reads way too many old books, watches period dramas to come up with new plot-lines, and dreams of taking a trip to England.

Find Amanda at the following places online:

Web: http://www.amandabarratt.net

Facebook: Amanda M. Barratt

Twitter: @amandambarratt