Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson

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Rating: ***– 3.5 Stars

GENRE: Regency Romance

BOOK SUMMARY:  Kate Worthington knows her heart and she knows she will never marry. Her plan is to travel to India instead if only to find peace for her restless spirit and to escape the family she abhors. But Kate s meddlesome mother has other plans. She makes a bargain with Kate: India, yes, but only after Kate has secured and rejected three marriage proposals.

Kate journeys to the stately manor of Blackmoore determined to fulfill her end of the bargain sooner rather than later and enlists the help of her dearest childhood friend, Henry Delafield. But when it comes to matters of love, bargains are meaningless and plans are changeable. There on the wild lands of Blackmoore, Kate must face the truth that has kept her heart captive. Will the proposal she is determined to reject actually be the one thing that will set her heart free?

Set in Northern England in 1820, Blackmoore is a regency romance that tells the story of a young woman struggling to learn how to follow her heart.

REVIEWER COMMENTS: I absolutely loved this author’s first novel, Edenbrooke, so I was very excited to read this one, which stands on its own, but has a lot of the same elements such as the time period, the location, and the genre. My expectations ran way too high so I was doomed to be disappointed. Maybe if I hadn’t read Edenbrooke first, Blackmoore would have rated higher. It is still wonderfully written but in comparison to the first one, it falls short. I found the main character, Kate, often selfish and annoying. I liked her love interest, Henry. He is sweet, kind,  considerate and with an intelligent wit. The rest of the characters were uninteresting or simply mean. The story was borderline depressing in several places and yet the romance component, while not as strong, managed to keep me turning the pages. The ending is lovely and it sorts of made the whole book for me. As expected, Donaldson stunned me with her perfectly composed regency writing style and her ability to convey such passion while keeping the story clean and proper. 

SEXUAL CONTENT: A few passionate kisses.

*Conclusion: A beautifully written regency romance that I recommend.

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

Product Details

 

Rating: *****– 5 Stars

GENRE: Regency Romance

BOOK SUMMARY:  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.

REVIEWER COMMENTS: I read this book twice in a week. Set in England in the early 1800’s, this is regency romance at its best. Donaldson’s writing style satisfies even the most traditional of Jane Austen’s fandom. The main characters, Marianne and Philip, engage in a friendship/relationship which is beautifully paced, and full of deep and witty dialogues that hold the reader hostage until the last page is turned. Marianne is the shy less-than perfectly beautiful character who’s been overlooked all her life, and finds someone way above her station who sees her and appreciates her for who she is. While this concept has been popularly used in fiction, it is still new and fresh in this story. I found Marianne’s humility and cluelessness about the power of her charms endearing, and Philip’s love for her pure and sincere. The romantic element is strong and filled with passion and yet it stays within the lines of propriety of that era. I cannot say enough about how wonderful this book is. You just have to read it yourself!

SEXUAL CONTENT: A few passionate kisses.

*Conclusion: The best regency romance I’ve read so far. Highly recommended!

The Unexpected Miss Bennet by Patrice Sarath

The Unexpected Miss Bennet

Rating: *** – 3 Stars

GENRE: Regency Romance

BOOK SUMMARY:  The third of five daughters, Miss Mary Bennet is a rather unremarkable girl. With her countenance being somewhere between plain and pretty and in possession of no great accomplishments, few expect the third Bennet daughter to attract a respectable man. But although she is shy and would much prefer to keep her nose stuck in a book, Mary is uncertain she wants to meekly follow the path to spinsterhood set before her.

Determined that Mary should have a chance at happiness, the elder Bennet sisters concoct a plan. Lizzy invites Mary to visit at Pemberley, hoping to give her sister a place to grow and make new acquaintances. But it is only when Mary strikes out independently that she can attempt to become accomplished in her own right. And in a family renowned for its remarkable Misses, Mary Bennet may turn out to be the most wholly unexpected of them all.

REVIEWER COMMENTS:  A spin-off of Pride and Prejudice, focusing on Elisabeth Bennet’s shy and bookish sister, Mary. We are introduced to Mary in P&P as obsessed with piano playing and sermons, and a little out of touch with the reality of the time. In this novel, she blossoms into an independent young woman who develops likes and dislikes of her own and while still maintaining her love for books and her devotion to her faith, she opens up to new possibilities, friendships, and eventually a love interest. I very much enjoyed the narrative, which is very close to an original Jane Austen, and the author’s ability to develop Mary into a likable character. However, the romance component takes a backside, and much unloved characters are developed further here, which I did not enjoy. Why page after page of Mr. Collins and Catherine de Bourgh’s ridiculous rants, and Lydia and Wickham’s mishaps, instead of more Mary, P&P more beloved characters, and new interesting ones?

SEXUAL CONTENT: None

ADULT LANGUAGE: None

*Conclusion:  Overall, a clean and enjoyable regency fiction with a pinch of romance. I would still recommend this book!

Mr. Darcy’s Noble Connections by Abigail Reynolds

Rating: **** – 4 Stars

GENRE: Regency Romance

BOOK SUMMARY:  There’s only one fact that notorious rake Lord Charles Carlisle and his cousin, Fitzwilliam Darcy, can agree upon: a house party given by the Marquess of Bentham is bound to be intolerably dull. To relieve his boredom, Lord Charles accepts a bet that he can seduce his sister’s pretty friend during their stay at Bentham Park. After all, it’s easy money for an experienced seducer. Why should he care if his staid cousin Darcy disapproves?
But when Darcy discovers that Lord Charles’ new target is none other than Elizabeth Bennet, the woman who refused Darcy’s offer of marriage, he cannot stand by and watch as the woman he still loves is callously ruined. What he doesn’t know is that Lord Charles has a dark secret, and that his attentions to Elizabeth may not be what they seem. After a midnight rescue, clandestine meetings, a long-lost son, conspiracies, blackmail, and an attempted elopement, everyone can agree that this house party is anything but dull.

REVIEWER COMMENTS:  Another “What if?” of Pride and Prejudice, starting when Elisabeth Bennet leaves Kent after Darcy’s proposal. She stays at the grandiose Bentham Park with an old friend, Eleanor, who is part of the “ton” and is thrown into her life’s drama. Elisabeth and Darcy meet by chance, as he is visiting a friend nearby and happens to be connected with the family at Bentham Park himself. The progressing of their relationship, therefore, takes a different turn from the original story. The romance component is strong and Reynolds is very descriptive of the inner feelings and struggles of them both. Darcy is more expressive of his feelings for Elisabeth and so is she. We find our heroes often passionately kissing and exchanging physical affections before there is an understanding between them. While I find this uncharacteristic of the way Austen would portray it, it is often the case in these types of fan fictions and I don’t mind it as long as it doesn’t cross certain boundaries. And this book doesn’t. The romance is sweet and believable, paced masterfully, and I cannot tire of reading Reynolds’ accounts of how my Darcy and Elisabeth came to be together.

SEXUAL CONTENT: A few passionate kisses and some sexual references

ADULT LANGUAGE: None

*Conclusion:  This was a page turner for me until about the last few chapters, when the focus switched from our two protagonists to other minor characters. However, I had no trouble finishing it and enjoying it throughout. A 4 star winner for me!

A Beauty so Rare, by Tamera Alexander

Product Details

Rating: ***– 3 Stars

GENRE: Historical Christian Fiction

BOOK SUMMARY:  Eleanor Braddock–plain, practical, no stunning Southern beauty–knows she will never marry. But with a dying soldier’s last whisper, she believes her life can still have meaning and determines to find his widow. Impoverished and struggling to care for her ailing father, Eleanor arrives at Belmont Mansion, home of her aunt, Adelicia Acklen, the richest woman in America–and possibly the most demanding, as well. Adelicia insists on finding her niece a husband, but a simple act of kindness leads Eleanor down a far different path–building a home for destitute widows and fatherless children from the Civil War. While Eleanor knows her own heart, she also knows her aunt will never approve of this endeavor.
Archduke Marcus Gottfried has come to Nashville from Austria in search of a life he determines, instead of one determined for him. Hiding his royal heritage, Marcus longs to combine his passion for nature with his expertise in architecture, but his plans to incorporate natural beauty into the design of the widows’ and children’s home run contrary to Eleanor’s wishes. As work on the home draws them closer together, Marcus and Eleanor find common ground–and a love neither of them expects.

REVIEWER COMMENTS:  A Beauty so Rare is the sequel to Tamera Alexander’s first novel in the Belmont Mansion series, A Lasting Impression,  but it can stand on its own. While I loved the first installment in the series, I was  a bit disappointed by this novel. The plot was not as interesting as I hoped, and found it hard to relate to Marcus botanical interests and Eleanor’s culinary passion. Their love story also progressed extremely slowly, and I got to a point where I felt  unimportant plot lines and details were filling the pages. And yet, I do love Alexander’s descriptive style and storytelling so I would still recommend this book for those who are looking for a well-written historical fiction story.

SEXUAL CONTENT: A few kisses

ADULT LANGUAGE: None

*Conclusion: A nice, clean, Christian fiction story. I am thankful to Bethany House Publishing for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Darcy’s Voyage, by Kara Louise

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Rating: **** – 4 Stars

GENRE: Regency Romance

BOOK SUMMARY:

In this enchanting and highly original retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet sets out for the new world aboard the grand ship Pemberley’s Promise. She’s prepared for an uneventful voyage until a chance encounter with the handsome, taciturn Mr. Darcy turns her world upside down.

When Elizabeth falls ill, Darcy throws convention overboard in a plan that will bind them to each other more deeply than he ever could have imagined. But the perils of their ocean voyage pale in comparison to the harsh reality of society’s rules that threaten their chance at happiness. When they return to the lavish halls of England, will their love survive?

REVIEWER COMMENTS:  Even though I have mixed feelings about this Pride and Prejudice fan fiction, it is still a 4 star for me. In this retelling, Darcy and Elisabeth meet on their way to America on Darcy’s ship, Pemberley’s Promise.  I did not mind this variation, but what I didn’t like and found most unbelievable (SPOILER ALERT**) was that Elisabeth would actually enter into a marriage with Darcy for the sole purpose of securing a place into a cabin on the ship.  And that Darcy would even make such offer. I am well aware that Fan Fictions take liberties with the original story, but when the new story is so far off that the characters become different people, and act in a way that is uncharacteristic of how the original author intended, then, I have a problem. However, I decided to continue and finish the book, and I am glad I did.  Darcy and Elisabeth’s feeling progress and are paced masterfully, and their love story is sweet and it hooked me up.  I overlooked the way their romance came about, and focused on the romance itself, which is a page turner.  Together with the fact that I love this author and I would read anything she writes, this book was still a win.

SEXUAL CONTENT: A few passionate kisses.

ADULT LANGUAGE: None

*Conclusion: A clean and and enjoyable regency romance. I would highly recommend this book for lovers of this genre!

Stealing the Preacher, by Karen Witemeyer

Rating: ****– 4 Stars

GENRE: Historical Christian Romance

BOOK SUMMARY:  A cowboy who wants to be a preacher. An outlaw’s daughter who wants to change his mind.
On his way to interview for a position at a church in the Piney Woods of Texas, Crockett Archer can’t believe it when he’s forced off the train by an outlaw and presented to the man’s daughter as the preacher she requested for her birthday. He’s determined to escape–which would be much easier if he could stop thinking about Joanna Robbins and her unexpected request.
For months, Joanna had prayed for a minister. A man to breathe life back into the abandoned church at the heart of her community. A man to assist her in fulfilling a promise to her dying mother. But just when it seems her prayers have been answered, it turns out the parson is there against his will and has dreams of his own calling him elsewhere. Is there any way she can convince Crockett he ended up right where he was supposed to be?

REVIEWER COMMENTS:  While this novel stands on its own, it is a sequel to “Short Straw Bride”(which I absolutely loved!!) where the main character, Crockett Archer, is first introduced. It is set in late 1800s Texas, and Crockett is now a parson who gets kidnapped by former train robber Silas Robbins as a birthday present to his only daughter Joanna. After getting past the initial awkwardness of their encounter, Crockett and Joanna are immediately attracted to each other, and God’s hands are clearly at work when circumstances bring Crockett and Joanna’s paths to cross again. As Crockett dives into his new ministry, his feelings for Joanna grow and their friendship turns into something more.  Unlike other romance novels where the main characters often overcome situations throughout the book and come together at the very end, these two find themselves in each other’s arms about half-way through the book, and then the story focuses on the deepening of their love, Silas’ road to redemption, and a few obstacles that they face before they can be together. Witemeyer is able to provide a passionate romantic tale with a solid Christian message that will endear any fan of this genre. Add to that well-developed characters, interesting story with a pinch of action and humor, and a lovely ending, and you have a wonderful read. Do not miss this sweet novel that will make your hear flutter, and will cause your faith to deepen.

SEXUAL/ADULT CONTENT: A few passionate kisses and some fighting scenes 

*Conclusion: A wonderful and uplifting romantic novel with a  solid redemptive Christian message. I absolutely love this author’s writing style and I would read anything written by her. My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

A Bride of Honor, by Ruth Axtell Morren

Rating: ***– 3.5 Stars

GENRE: Regency Christian Romance

BOOK SUMMARY: It is a truth universally acknowledged that a lady of rank and distinction is no match for an impoverished preacher. Yet Damian Hathaway is entranced from the moment he spies Miss Lindsay Phillips entering his church. She doesn’t appear any different from the other pampered society ladies–and she’s betrothed to a gentleman of the ton. But Damian is determined to find the pure heart he’s sure exists underneath all the ruffles and lace. The unlikely friendship formed by Damian and Lindsay is a revelation to them both, but is frowned on by her parents–and Damian’s parishioners. Torn between two worlds, the pair must trust that their love can bridge the divide–and conquer all.

REVIEWER COMMENTS: A Bride of Honor is Ruth Axtell Morren’s  sequel to “The Making of a Gentleman”, but it is a stand on its own novel.  It is the romance which blossoms between a young lady of the ton, Lindsay, who is experiencing her first season in 1800 England, and a simple curate, Damian. The two have an instant attraction, and by circumstances often outside of their control, this unlikely couple finds itself “stuck” in an unplanned relationship, and has to overcome several obstacles until the very end. The romance is sweet, and there is a good amount of dialogues and narratives that have to do with matters of faith which I found enjoyable to read. The often impossible situations do get resolved at the end, and everyone lives happily ever after.

While Morren’s writing style is always a page turner for me, this novel is not without its flaws. SPOILERS ALERT: The main characters, as well as the story, were in many places unrealistic. I found Lindsay often childish, in particular at the beginning of the novel, and her personality was not always representative of a well bred woman of the English nobility of the time. Often she could not even finish a sentence, and appeared overly shy and insecure. The attraction between the two main characters develops right away, and too soon in my opinion. Why was Damien so attracted to Lindsay? Beyond her physical appearance and the fact that she was rich, I did not find much appealing about her at this point in the story. Throughout the novel, I found Damien not behaving as a pastor would: he often lies (when he takes his wedding vows or when he talks to the bishop, for example) with the excuse that “he was protecting her”. Mmmmm. Damian is also too easily persuaded to give up on his marriage to Lindsay, even after it is consummated. Again, there are reasons beyond his thinking, but what happened to “for better and for worse, until death”? And so on.

Overall, I throughout enjoyed reading this novel and toward the middle of the story, the characters really grew on me and I wanted to find out what happened to them, and how everything would be resolved. Even if I found many questionable events that often made me wonder, I would highly recommend this book if you are looking for a sweet historical romance with a Christian theme.

SEXUAL CONTENT and ADULT LANGUAGE: A few passionate kisses and references to some bedroom scenes between a married couple, but nothing described.

Winter is Past, by Ruth Axtell Morren

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Rating: ***– 3.5 Stars

GENRE: Regency Christian Romance

BOOK SUMMARY:  Simon Aguilar, a rising MP of Sephardic Jewish origin, falls in love with Althea Breton, a Methodist nurse who’s the illegitimate daughter of an aristocrat. Althea cares for Simon’s dying daughter and puts his household in order. Against the backdrop of the glittering ballrooms and the quiet parlors of Regency England comes a man’s remarkable journey of love and faith.

REVIEWER COMMENTS: Winter is Past is Ruth Axtell Morren’s first novel in the Regency Series, and yet, it is a sequel to her second, Dawn in my Heart, so I would suggest reading that one before this one, in order to have some background on the main character, Althea, her brother, Tertius, and his wife Gillian. Morren manages to write regency at its best. From the very beginning of this book, the reader is transported to 1800 London through the narrative, the dialogues, and the detailed description that fill the pages. Althea is a devoted Christian nurse who is employed by Jewish widowed Simon to take care of his ill daughter. The story of how their relationship blossoms is paced masterfully, and the romance is well developed, sweet, and will keep the reader turning the pages. Simon and Althea seem the least likely couple to fall in love, but by the power of faith and persistence, and overall, prayer, their romance blossoms into a story that fills their hearts, but most importantly, heals their souls. I found Simon a complex individual, with struggles that seemed impossible to overcome due to his religious upbringing, and his overall disdain for matters of faith. And yet, he eventually comes around, due to Althea’s steady prayer and devotion, which will eventually become his saving grace. In some places, I found Althea a tad preachy, the Christian tone a little overpowering, and the story to drag, but overall, Morren’s masterful writing style kept me interested until the end, and I would highly recommend this book to lovers of this genre.

SEXUAL CONTENT and ADULT LANGUAGE: A few passionate kisses and other thematic elements. Some references to an affair.

*Conclusion: A beautiful romance novel with a solid Christian message.

Dawn in my Heart, by Ruth Axtell Morren

 

Rating: ****– 4 Stars

GENRE: Regency Christian Romance

BOOK SUMMARY:  Called home to Regency London after his brother’s death, Tertius Pembroke, Earl of Skylar, must marry quickly and produce an heir. Lady Gillian Edwards seems the ideal bride: young, beautiful and innocent. But Sky is no ideal husband, having returned from the Indies gaunt, ill and plagued by a darkness that he dare not reveal — even to his betrothed.

Lady Gillian had promised Sky her hand in marriage but cannot give him her heart — not when she gave it to another man three years ago. Afraid of repudiation, Gillian buries her secret so deep inside herself, no one will ever know — or so she hopes.

Through lies and deceit, their marriage slowly unravels. Then Sky becomes deathly ill, and his newfound faith offers two virtual strangers a second chance at becoming husband and wife.

REVIEWER COMMENTS: This is one of those books that I could not put down. First, there is the writing style: as an avid fan of regency literature of the likings of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, the dialogues, characters, and storyline of this book transported me into the atmosphere that is captured by the British literature of that era. Second, the characters were both likable and complex. Tertius (or Sky) and Gillian are the perfect match on one end, both belonging to the ton and to very prestigious families who have conveniently arranged their engagement, but different in age, personality, and lifestyles. And yet, it works. Since the first pages of the book, their relationship is paced so exemplary, sparking the reader’s curiosity on what’s coming next. Lastly, this is very much not your classic Christian fiction novel. There is a remarkable difference in tone and direction of the story between the first and the second half of the book. The first half lacks any spiritual tone, and many traditional readers may find some of the content offensive or over their comfort zone. And then, things start changing after Tertius’ conversion, and there is such an extreme overturn that it is like reading a completely different book, with a definite Christian undertone. While a total believer of the changing power of the Holy Spirit, a more transitional pace would have been more fitting, making the story more connected and  believable. Throughout the book, however, the tension and emotions continue to be strong, and the complicated relationship between our couple ultimately becomes a powerful, passionate, and yet godly romance. This new Tertius is everything a woman would want a godly man to be, and Jillian, well, is ultimately smitten, as we would all be.

SEXUAL CONTENT and ADULT LANGUAGE: A few passionate kisses and other thematic elements. While the second half of the book is definitely Christian based, the book throughout explores themes of unfaithfulness within the marriage of the main characters, as well as other characters. No detailed description is provided, but this is definitely, in my opinion, a book for an adult audience.

*Conclusion: A compelling romance novel that transforms into a story of healing and redemption. Highly recommended!