Here are our top 12 reads of the year in no particular order....
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Rating: 4 Stars
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Review: Dina Sleiman whisks readers to old Virginia, when Thomas Jefferson resided at Monticello and Charlottesville was considered a frontier town. Sleiman refers to the novel as "Scarlett O'Hara meets Jane Austen" in her historical notes. There are definitely elements of both throughout the plot. "Love in Three Quarter Time" is easier and lighter reading than an Austen novel, but the dance scenes and early 1800s setting are elements dear to Austen enthusiasts. Constance Cavendish has the spunk and fortitude of the infamous Scarlett O'Hara, and likewise fights for her family's well-being.
Sleiman introduces readers to a younger Constance (a.k.a. Gingersnap) Cavendish in the prologue. She is full of fire and passion for life, and used to having her own way. When tragedy strikes, and the Cavendish's gilded world crumbles, Constance is forced to confront some of life's harsh realities. The first chapter begins five years later, and Constance has shed her nickname and mellowed her personality. As the story progresses, Constance's fire is rekindled, but she begins burning for her faith and the survival of her friends and family rather than solely her own desires. I enjoyed Constance's personal growth, and I am glad that the flirtatious Gingersnap only appeared in the prologue. I'm not sure I could have tolerated her the entire novel, especially with three potential beaus waiting in the wings.
While love and romance are prominent themes, the abolitionist cause also plays a prominent role. I appreciated the depth and heart that Sleiman's incorporation of the abolitionist movement provided. Robbie and Constance's decisions to go against the ingrained beliefs of Southern culture and friend and free slaves is heartwarming. There are many historical references in the plot, including cameo appearances by Thomas Jefferson and his daughter and a visit to Monticello.
"Love in Three-Quarter Time" is told from several different perspectives, with hints that we may meet the characters again in future novels. While Constance's and Robbie's story ties up in this novel, one wonders what will become of Contance's sisters and her two other admirers - Mr. Franklin and Lorimer. Hopefully Sleiman will delve into their lives in her next book.
I received a complimentary e-copy of this novel from NetGalley, courtesy of Zondervan. 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.”
Rating: 3.5 Stars
~ ~ ~Summary: Join three of today’s bestselling inspirational fiction authors in a collection of Christmas stories from Victorian-era America that are full of second-chance romances. Jilted by her fiancé, Karla packs away her wedding quilts and her plans for marriage. Widow Jane travels to marry a prosperous man she barely knows in order to give her daughter a better life—then is stranded in a winter storm. Ada, a wealthy ingénue, inadvertently causes grave injury to a poor man she once considered quite a catch. Each must search her heart, change her plans. . .and patch together a tender, unexpected life filled with love.
~ Barbour Publishing
Review: Christmas is in the air with this collection of holiday-themed novels, accompanied by quilt-making and baking. Judith Miller, Nancy Moser, and Stephanie Grace Whitson bring three unique stories to readers in "A Patchwork Christmas." Despite their differences, all three novellas felt melancholy until concluding with a happy ending. It is often difficult for me to develop connections to the characters in short stories, which proved to be the case in this collection.
"The Bridal Quilt" by Nancy Moser is my favorite among the three. It contains its share of loss and heartbreak, but the plot has dimension and the characters feel more fully developed. The messages of unselfish sacrifice and love for even the lowest on the social ladder are prominent in Moser's story, and especially relevant at Christmas.
Judith Miller takes readers to the Amana Colonies in "Seams of Love." I enjoyed revisiting the colonies in Miller's novella, after reading about them in one of her novels. Karla Stuke, though not an unlikable main character, suffers from insecurity and a broken heart. While such struggles are relatable, she dwells on them throughout the story. As a result, the overall tone of the novel becomes a bit heavy.
"A Patchwork Love" by Stephanie Grace Whitson is a story of hope. Jane and her daughter, Molly, find themselves sick, injured, and stranded when their train hits a wall of snow. A local farmer, Peter, offers them shelter in the home he shares with his mother. Peter is scarred visibly and emotionally from his time in the Civil War. The beginning of the novel centers around Molly overcoming her illness while Jane and Peter deal with their injuries. Peter's mother adds some charm to the novella, and the tone lightens as Molly improves. Love blossoms in the snug little home as once strangers become an inseparable family.
Although "A Patchwork Christmas" was not my ideal holiday collection, the stories convey good year-round messages.
I received a complimentary e-copy of this novel from NetGalley, courtesy of Barbour Publishing. 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.”
Monday, December 10, 2012
Rating: 3 Stars
~ ~ ~Summary: Lady Eliza Sumner is on a mission. After losing her family, her fiancé, and her faith, the disappearance of her fortune is the last straw. Now, masquerading as Miss Eliza Sumner, governess-at-large, she's determined to find the man who ran off with her fortune, reclaim the money, and head straight back to London.