Monday, March 20, 2017

Newton & Polly

Newton & Polly
By Jody Hedlund
When John Newton meets Polly Catlett, it's love at first sight. He knows she's the girl for him--but unfortunately, there are things that make him not the right man for her. He's impulsive and undisciplined and doesn't stick with anything he starts. His father has gotten him several different jobs, only to have Newton mess up each one of them. He also gives into his desires to drink and gamble and doubts the existence of God. Polly cares for him in return and wants him to rise up an d become the man she thinks he can be...but instead, he seems intent on descending further and further.

Wow. Fantastic. Jody Hedlund does a great job developing Newton's and Polly's feelings and getting you to really want things to work for them. It was painful to watch Newton fail again and again--and to continually blame it on others instead of realizing it was his own fault, time and again. He got to a point where it was really hard to like him--which makes the novel all that more well-written because it truly shows how God can redeem even the vilest of sinners. I would have liked to see even more of his transformation from the entitled brat who indulged his lusts to the man redeemed through God's grace. Really captivating story.

The Secret of the India Orchid

The Secret of the India Orchid
By Nancy Campbell Allen
On the very day Anthony Blake plans to ask his best friend for permission to court his sister, Sophia Elliott, circumstances arise that make the relationship he has dreamed of impossible. Before coming into his inheritance, Anthony had served as a spy. Now, a valuable document with detailed information about British spies--including Anthony--and their families and associates. Anthony needs to retrieve the document in first his safety but also for the safety of those he loves. In order to resume his role as a spy, though, Anthony has to cut ties with Sophia and act the part of a playboy. 
Heartbroken, Sophia sets about to forget Anthony--and when staying in London doesn't do the trick, she embarks on a trip, only to run into Anthony, whose attempts to retrieve the stolen document have led him there. It's harder than ever to pretend he doesn't care for Sophia, especially as she becomes involved in circumstances that seem connected to the stolen document--including the murder of the man Anthony believes last possessed the document. More than ever, Anthony wants to be able to give his heart to Sophia--and she wants to know what is truly going on with him.

This was a fascinating read. It gave some really interesting insights into the British experience in India and relations between the British and the Indians. The mystery element of the book was also captivating; I was very interested in finding out who had the document and who committed murder to get it. And of course, the romance between Sophia and Anthony was superb. I loved both of them in My Fair Gentleman, and I was so excited to get to read their story in this book--and I love how their story played out. Fantastic read!

I read an ARC through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

A Fine Gentleman

A Fine Gentleman
By Sarah M. Eden 

Jason Jonquil provides himself on his good character--he's dignified and refined, ever the gentleman...even if no one seems to fully appreciate him or think him quite equal to his brothers. When Mariposa Thornton arrives in his office, though, she tries his patience and flusters him in ways few people can. He can't wait to figure out Mariposa's matter of an inheritance and send her on her way.
Mariposa has escaped from Spain, having experience horrors in the war with Napoleon. She has come to England hoping that her mother and little brother have come to England as well and settled with her father's family. However, Mariposa doesn't know who her father's relatives are, so she doesn't know how to find them. She doesn't trust anyone, though, so she won't tell Jason what she really needs help with and hides even her true self from him.
While Jason doesn't care for how Mariposa treats him, he also can't abandon his principles--especially those that require him to help a lady--so he reluctantly aids her, and in so doing, she pushes him to reveal parts of himself that he had buried inside, as well as revealing who she truly is.

Sarah Eden rocks. I love her books, and this was no exception. I loved seeing Jason's interactions with Mariposa but also his interactions with his family and especially seeing why he acted the way he did. Mariposa was a bit frustrating in her initial treatment of Jason, but it was also realistic given her past. I loved seeing how they bantered later on, and I loved getting to see other Jonquils (especially Philip and Sorrel) in this book. Can't wait for more books by Sarah Eden!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Condemn Me Not

Condemn Me Not
By Heather B. Moore

In this compelling piece of historical fiction, we read the story of Susannah North Martin as she awaits her trial--and ultimately her death--after being accused of witchcraft. We see the present day (Salem, 1692), interspersed with chapters that show how Susannah falling in love with George Martin and their beginning their life together. Both story lines were fascinating to me; it was very interesting to see how Susannah and the other women being held in jail were "tried" (the trials were a joke) and how they interacted with one another, as well as how each had come to be accused and all the pettiness and politics behind their accusations and convictions. That aspect of the story provided a discussion-worthy look at history. Even more than those parts of the book, though, I loved seeing Susannah and George's meeting and subsequent interactions--and how he had to persuade her to give him a chance. I just loved seeing their love story. It was sweet and funny and I was just totally drawn in by it.
I haven't read ALL of Heather Moore's books, but I've read quite a few (full length and novellas) and this just might be my favorite of all of them. I was just especially eager to see how things played out for Susannah, both in her developing relationship with George and with her trial; even knowing what was ultimately going to happen, I couldn't help but want to know HOW it happened and what would lead up to it.
Really riveting novel. 5 stars.

I received a free copy from the author. All opinions are my own.

The Vicar's Daughter

The Vicar's Daughter
By Josi S. Kilpack

Cassie, the youngest of the vicar, can't be out in society until her older sister Lenora, makes a match. Frustrated with her sister, who is in her third season and shows no signs of being able to talk to a man, let alone make a match with one, Cassie fears she'll never be able to make a match of her own. So when Lenora expresses interest in Evan Glenside, who has recently risen to the role of heir of a nearby estate, Cassie does something drastic: she begins writing to Evan for Lenora. As they pen letter back and forth, Cassie is drawn to Evan--and when she actually meets him, she realizes it's going to be much harder to help her sister make a match with him when she herself has come to care for him. For his part, Evan enjoys the letters he exchanges with Lenora and he hopes that she will overcome her shyness and display the same personality in person as she has in her letters, but when that doesn't come to pass, he doesn't know what to think.

I was really worried about how this book was going to play out, and if the author went a certain direction, I was sure it was going to ruin the whole book for me. (See spoilers below if you want to know what the plot line that would have ruined it for me was.) Luckily, she didn't, and I liked how things played out. (I might have to go reread it now that I know how it ends so I don't have to be nervous the whole time!) There were times when Cassie was (realistically) frustrating and self-absorbed, but at the same time, I could understand that, since I'd have been totally frustrated in her situation, too. Evan was a terrific male lead; I liked seeing how he'd been raised in a lower class and needed to learn the rules of polite society and how not knowing all the rules compounded the problem he found himself in. I also liked how there's a message of forgiveness and trying to fix things one has done wrong. All in all, a great historical romance.
4.5 stars.

I read an ARC via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

SPOILERS!!! I would have hated this book if the resolution to the problem had come by having Lenora die. That just would have been really frustrating to me, so I'm happy to report that Lenora is alive and well as the end of the book...and I'm hoping we could actually see her as the protagonist of another book.