Thursday, July 26, 2012

Review of "Edenbrooke: A Proper Romance" by Julianne Donaldson

Rating: 5 Stars
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Summary from Shadow Mountain Publishing: Marianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she’ll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that even the best laid plans can go awry.

From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will Marianne be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke.

Julianne Donaldson's debut novel Edenbrooke is definitely a "Proper Romance."  It is addictive from the very first page with the type of plot that makes you sigh, especially for fans of classic romances like Pride and Prejudice.  Donaldson creates a captivating plot set in England with equally captivating characters. Marianne Daventry is a lovable heroine with charming amounts of quirk and spunk. The story is told in first person from Marianne's perspective which keeps the reader in suspense along with Marianne regarding her suitors' motives. The dashing hero is equally well-crafted and the resulting love story is not rushed or forced; it is one that I will want to read again and again.  There is mystery, comedy, and drama in addition to the romance to add extra layers of intrigue to the plot.  I loved every element and highly recommend Edenbrooke.  I am already looking forward to more books by Julianne Donaldson.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Review of "Beside Two Rivers" by Rita Gerlach

Rating: 3 Stars
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Summary from Abingdon Press: A tale of love won and love lost, and the faith to find it again.
From the banks of the Potomac to the misty moors of England, Darcy follows a path where the secrets of the past slowly rise to the surface in this dramatic saga that began in Before the Scarlet Dawn. She meets Ethan Brennan, an aspiring English horse breeder, who embraces her independent spirit and marvels at the simplicity of her faith. Ethan and Darcy fall in love, but are kept apart by a promise to another and a sworn oath to a dying woman whose long-hidden secret threatens Darcy’s and Ethan’s lives.

Review: Beside Two Rivers is the anticipated sequel to Rita Gerlach's bittersweet novel Before the Scarlet Dawn. I was drawn into the plot of Before the Scarlet Dawn, and was anxious to read the continuing story in Gerlach's latest book.  Beside Two Rivers picks up several years later.  Darcy Morgan has grown up, sadly without the presence of her mother or father.  As she discovers the truth of her childhood, the reader is reminded of the heartbreak faced by Hayward and Eliza Morgan in the first novel. 
Before the Scarlet Dawn ended on a sad note, so I sought closure in Beside Two Rivers. I was happy to learn that Darcy's childhood was pleasant and loving despite the troubling circumstances that defined her early years.  Both Darcy and Ethan are upstanding and warm-hearted characters, but I had difficulty finding a connection. Their responses to situations are relayed more factually than emotionally at times.  The love story between Darcy and Ethan does not find resolution until the end of the novel, but their love is quickly established in the first section of the plot. I always enjoy slower love stories, so I prefer strong feelings to progress more gradually. 
Rita Gerlach's writing is somewhat reminiscent of classic romances, which is a quality I enjoy in her descriptions of the Potomac and Derbyshire, England.  There are also times when the formal style creates stiff dialog and slows the plot.  Beside Two Rivers is divided into three parts to correspond with significant changes in the plot. Part I moves the slowest for me, but once Darcy ventures to England in Part II, the plot picks up speed. 
I am glad that Gerlach incorporates the main characters from Before the Scarlet Dawn to provide readers with a conclusion to their stories. Gerlach does not shy away from heartache and tragedy in her plots. Beside Two Rivers does not provide a happily-ever-after ending, and there are hardships that occur near the end of the novel. Last minute surprises keep the reader questioning how the novel will end; but at the same time, the changes can be unsettling.  The reader does not directly witness some of the significant events, but reads about them after the fact. 
The last chapter of Beside Two Rivers is the happiest and most promising of the novel. After the sad events of both books in the Daughters of the Potomac series, I hoped for happiness to linger longer.  After anticipating a reunion of the Morgan family, I would have found much satisfaction in observing the reestablishment of familial bonds, especially between mother and daughter.  Although I did not enjoy Beside Two Rivers as much as Before the Scarlet Dawn, it does provide a much needed conclusion for readers who were left wondering what would become of the Morgan family. 

I received a complimentary e-copy of this book from NetGalley, courtesy of Abingdon Press.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, July 20, 2012

Review of "My Stubborn Heart" by Becky Wade

Rating: 4 Stars
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Summary from Burned out, Kate Donovan jumps at the chance to restore her grandmother's house in Redbud, Pennsylvania. But when she arrives, she becomes involved in a project she didn't expect. Handsome former hockey star and contractor Matt Jarreau is clearly wounded, hiding from people and God. Can Kate help him face his past---whether he likes it or not?

Review: My Stubborn Heart is a story about waiting for love, with a fresh spin for modern young women.  Becky Wade creates an engaging tale with a strong message of faith, especially as it relates to finding the right future husband.  Wade sets the tone for My Stubborn Heart with the prologue- it is witty, conversational, and modern.  

The cast of My Stubborn Heart carries the plot with ease.  Kate and Matt are both likable characters who display depth and emotion.  They both deal with realistic matters of the heart and faith.  The group of older characters- Kate's grandmother and friends- add light-hearted moments to the story.  Their charming and quirky humor were among my favorite parts of the novel. 

There were several instances that I found to be too "modern" in language or description.  The novel remained clean, of course, but it did not match my personal taste in every aspect.  My Stubborn Heart is a promising debut novel with an inspiring and relevant message of love and faith, filled with encouragement for women to let go and wait for their perfect love.   

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers through their book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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