Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Review of "Princess Ever After"

Rating: 4 Stars
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Review: Rachel Hauck treats readers to modern fairy tales in her Royal Wedding Series. In "Princess Ever After," fantasy becomes real-life for Regina Beswick when she learns that she is a long-lost princess with the responsibility of a nation's independence on her shoulders. Life as a princess is not all fancy dresses and balls for Regina; she must cope with paparazzi and an influential political opponent.  Hauck sketches Regina as an everyday American girl with her own dreams.  It is easy to relate to her hesitancy in accepting a monumental change and the challenges it brings, both large and small.  Details like riding in the front seat with her chauffeur and asking household staff to address her by first name, reinforce Regina's image as an average person. 

"Princess Ever After" is a fairy tale, but with more believable elements.  Regina's transformation into a princess refreshingly veers from a mere physical change.  Her journey focuses more on emotion, faith, and family. Politics also plays an important role in Regina's path to the throne, and the political climate of Hauck's fictitious Hessenberg is a prominent part of the plot.  Although not complex, the details did not hold my interest, except for in a few tense moments.  

Tanner Burkhardt is a current version of a "Prince Charming."  He has led a far from perfect life, resulting in a failed marriage and broken family bonds.  The relationship between Tanner and Regina is easy and understated, but I would have enjoyed more complexity. Like other parts of the plot, their relationship tied up easily despite difficulties.  "Princess Ever After" is an overall light read with a happily ever after to satisfy readers.  

I received a complimentary e-copy of this book from Zondervan through NetGalley. 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.

Summary from Zondervan: Regina Beswick was born to be a princess.

But she’s content to be a small-town girl, running a classic auto restoration shop, unaware a secret destiny awaits her. One that will leap from the pages of her grandmother’s hand-painted book of fairytales.
Tanner Burkhardt is the stoic Minister of Culture for the Grand Duchy of Hessenberg. When he is tasked to retrieve the long-lost princess, he must overcome his fear of failure in order to secure his nation’s future---and his own.

Yet lurking in the political shadows is a fierce opponent with sinister plans to abolish the throne forever.
Overwhelmed with opposition, Regina must decide if she’s destined to restore old cars or an ancient nation. Together---with a little divine intervention---Regina and Tanner discover the truth of her heritage and the healing power of true love.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Review of "The Dancing Master"

Rating: 4.5 Stars
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Review:  Since the debut of her first novel, "Lady of Milkweed Manor," I eagerly await each new work by Julie Klassen.  Like the British settings and period dramas that she loves, each of her novels read like scenes from a Jane Austen movie or BBC film.  Her latest release, "The Dancing Master"  will not fail to disappoint readers.  Like the village of Candleford in the British drama "Lark Rise to Candleford," Beaworthy is a village filled with its own mixture of charms, beauty, sadness, and secrets.  Each member of the community has his or her own insecurities or prejudices that they must overcome. Lady Amelia Midwinter is the matriarch of Beaworthy and appears to be bitter and cold-hearted, while forbidding both dance lessons and public dances. The arrival of young and handsome Alec Valcourt, a dancing master from London, begins to unravel some of the fiercely held "laws" of the past twenty years.   Since dancing is not condoned within the village, Alec encounters his share of resistance and prejudice against his profession and his manhood.  The introduction of Alec Valcourt is a welcome distraction for Lady Amelia's flirtatious and reckless daughter, Julia, who feels dissatisfied and imprisoned by the limitations that her mother places upon her.  As each of their lives entwine,  it becomes evident that secrets and mysteries lurk just beneath the surface and each person cannot be defined by one's initial impressions. 

Julie Klassen has mastered the art of storytelling as she creates scenes that are rich in historical details and intriguing characters.  As a reader, I was captivated by the mysterious history of Beaworthy and the complexities of each of the main characters.  Lady Amelia, Alec, Julia, and other supporting characters each exhibit their own weaknesses and struggles.  Julia has a childlike innocence and vulnerability that mirrors her mother's, but only a buried past will allow each of them to flourish.  Alec is also haunted by his own recent past and a scandal that wishes to taint his potential happiness in Beaworthy.   The village is aptly named because worthiness, forgiveness, love, grace, and redemption are themes of the novel.   Just as one becomes frustrated and struggles to learn the steps of a minuet or English country dance,  the trials are worthwhile after each of the steps and dancers unite in perfect synchronization and harmony. Julie Klassen created a plot as graceful and as intricate as the dances she portrayed. The storyline played out with the nuances of a dance- the struggles, anticipation, mystery, climax, resolution and beauty.  

I received a complimentary copy of this book from LitFuse. 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.

Summary from Bethany House Publishers: Finding himself the man of the family, London dancing master Alec Valcourt moves his mother and sister to remote Devonshire, hoping to start over. But he is stunned to learn the village matriarch has prohibited all dancing, for reasons buried deep in her past.

Alec finds an unlikely ally in the matriarch's daughter. Though he's initially wary of Julia Midwinter's reckless flirtation, he comes to realize her bold exterior disguises a vulnerable soul--and hidden sorrows of her own.

Julia is quickly attracted to the handsome dancing master--a man her mother would never approve of--but she cannot imagine why Mr. Valcourt would leave London, or why he evades questions about his past. With Alec's help, can Julia uncover old secrets and restore life to her somber village...and to her mother's tattered heart?

Filled with mystery and romance, The Dancing Master brings to life the intriguing profession of those who taught essential social graces for ladies and gentlemen hoping to make a "good match" in Regency England.

Purchase a copy:

About the author: Julie Klassen loves all things Jane---Jane Eyreand Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She is a three-time Christy Award winner and a 2010 Midwest Book Award winner for Genre Fiction. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Learn more about Julie at:

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Review of "My Hope is Found"

Rating: 4 Stars
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Review:  I found it impossible not to be drawn into the lives of Lonnie Sawyer and Gideon O'Riley in "Be Still My Soul." Joanne Bischof continued to tug on my heart strings in "Though My Heart is Torn" and the conclusion, "My Hope Is Found."  The titles themselves are lyrical; and when combined, they capture the essence of this emotional series.  After reading the first two stories of love discovered and lost, hope and promise are definitely needed for a satisfying conclusion.  Fortunately, Bischof delivers satisfaction and more in an emotionally engaging novel.  "My Hope Is Found" avoids redundancy and presents new conflicts and character growth.

Lonnie and Gideon face challenging choices of the heart, and there are multiple potential paths the plot can take.  Their journey to a happy ending mirrors the path they travel between Fancy Gap and Rocky Knob: rocky with peaks, valleys, and moments of beauty. A four-sided love story is bound to be complicated for everyone involved, especially when broken hearts are unavoidable. Bischof creates four characters who are each deserving of happiness.  Lonnie and Toby develop a sweet relationship and Toby continuously proves that he is a man of faith, patience, and integrity.  Despite her debut as a petulant young woman, Cassie matures into a likable young woman. Although my ultimate hope was that Lonnie and Gideon would reunite, it was a bittersweet hope, knowing that Toby and Cassie were destined for heartache. There seems to be potential for their two stories to continue and intersect, which would be a fitting spin-off from the "Cadence of Grace."

Throughout the series Gideon undergoes a significant transformation, finally becoming a man of greater faith and character.  Lonnie and Gideon have the chance to fall in love a second time in "My Hope is Found." Because Gideon has changed a great deal from the impetuous young man he was when he and Lonnie first married, their second love story is new and fresh.  Even sweeter too, considering their history and the pain experienced along the way.

Joanne Bischof gives readers a compelling series told with realism and a melody of hope and strength that creates a harmony throughout each novel.  "Be Still My Soul" and "My Hope Is Found" were my favorites of the series, but I highly recommend each novel and the love story that unfolds.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah. 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.

Summary from WaterBrook Multnomah: Gideon O’Riley has been given another chance at a life with Lonnie. But will the fight for her heart risk it all over again?

After finally finding love with his sweet bride Lonnie, Gideon’s heart was torn when a woman from his past claimed to be his true and rightful wife, forcing him away from his family. God’s merciful hand saw Gideon through the heartache, and with Cassie’s blessing, he is able to return home. But his journey back through the Blue Ridge Mountains will hold a trial he never anticipated.

Meanwhile, Lonnie determines to seal off her heart from Gideon, convinced he is lost to her forever. Strengthening her resolve to move on is her growing fondness for the handsome Scotsman, Toby McKee—the young reverend she has come to care for deeply. His proposal of marriage offers a bright future for her and her young son.

Yearning to allow joy back into her life, Lonnie must put aside the broken pieces of her heart that still love Gideon. When he returns to find her betrothed to another, he has to place his hope in God, trusting that the One who redeemed their love once can do it again


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