30 Nov 2018

First Line Fridays 43# The Making of Mrs Hale

I've not posted in 3 weeks. Only just realized that, and its pretty shameful. So finally returned with the final title in Carolyn Miller's Regency Brides: A Promise of Hope Trilogy. I hope I'm not too late for the Kregel Blog Tour, as I have not started the book yet but intend to soon. 

So far I've read, and basically loved all 5 of Australian author Carolyn Miller's previous novels, so I can't see this one being an exception.

Marry in haste, repent in leisure--Mrs. Hale is about to find out how painful that repentance can truly be.

Julia Hale ran off to be married in Gretna Green, following romance instead of common sense. But her tale isn't turning into a happily ever after. Her new husband is gone and she doesn't know where--or if he's ever coming back. Julia has no option but to head home to the family she betrayed by eloping and to hope they'll forgive her. Especially now that she might be carrying a baby from her brief marriage.

Carolyn Miller's clean and wholesome Regency romances continue with The Making of Mrs. Hale, following familiar characters as they learn how restoration can occur by finding hope and healing through a deep relationship with God. Full of rich historical details and witty banter, this series continues to draw in fans of Jane Austen, Sarah Ladd, and Julie Klassen.

 I've made a Meme for today's first line. So here it is. I could not find any Free Regency related backgrounds, so I used one related to the Battle of Waterloo, because Julia Hale's husband is a soldier. Even though the Battle happened a few years before this novel is set.


So that's my contribution for this week. Don't forget to Click the Meme to see what others are reading. 
Or Comment and Share your own first Line. 


24 Nov 2018

Becoming Mrs Lewis by Patti Callahan

432 Pages, October 2nd 2018, Thomas Nelson
Print, Ebook and Audio*

In a most improbable friendship, she found love. In a world where women were silenced, she found her voice.

From New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan comes an exquisite novel of Joy Davidman, the woman C. S. Lewis called “my whole world.” When poet and writer Joy Davidman began writing letters to C. S. Lewis—known as Jack—she was looking for spiritual answers, not love. Love, after all, wasn’t holding together her crumbling marriage. 
Everything about New Yorker Joy seemed ill-matched for an Oxford don and the beloved writer of Narnia, yet their minds bonded over their letters. Embarking on the adventure of her life, Joy traveled from America to England and back again, facing heartbreak and poverty, discovering friendship and faith, and against all odds, finding a love that even the threat of death couldn’t destroy.

In this masterful exploration of one of the greatest love stories of modern times, we meet a brilliant writer, a fiercely independent mother, and a passionate woman who changed the life of this respected author and inspired books that still enchant us and change us. Joy lived at a time when women weren’t meant to have a voice—and yet her love for Jack gave them both voices they didn’t know they had.

At once a fascinating historical novel and a glimpse into a writer’s life, Becoming Mrs. Lewis is above all a love story—a love of literature and ideas and a love between a husband and wife that, in the end, was not impossible at all.
*Ebook and audio versions of this title are currently unavailable in Europe.

 My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

As a pretty much lifelong Lewis fan who's watched the movie Shadowlands , I knew I'd request this one once it became available.

I loved this as a vivid, realistic and emotional account of Lewis life with Joy Davidman, the American poet and writer of Jewish heritage he ended up marrying.
Since its written from her perspective there is a lot about her life before she met him. I never really knew Joy was a well-known and successful author in her own right.

Like many other Joy wrote to Lewis at the time of her own conversion. Lewis' radio talks and popular books made many who had not met him consider him a spiritual mentor, even though he openly said he was not a theologian.
Such was the case with Joy Davidman at the hardest time in her life, when her marriage was crumbling due to her husband's alcoholism and she was searching for truth.

The compassion, understanding and patient insights from a man halfway across the world drew her in. Lewis and Joy were kindred spirits, even if they seemed so different in lifestyle, background and temperament.
I appreciated the way the novel described their unfolding relationship, growing from a friendship which blooming from a mutual love of Literature, Mythology and the written word as well as a shared faith which as is once said 'crept up on them' unexpectedly. 

This is a warts and all perspective of the lives of the central figures. By turn ran and honest, and 'naked'. Everything is laid bare, and I meant everything: including mentions ofpre-marital and extra-marital affairs and liaisons engaged in by Joy and others.
The downside to this is that there were times when her character came over as: for lack of a better word a- a man eater. 
There were times when I felt her yearning for Lewis to express his love in a physical way became a little overbearing. I understand she yearned for love, but had problems understanding that there was more to emotional and romantic fulfillment than sex. Or rather had learn that during her time with Lewis.

The description of him as a man devoted to Classical virtue, including the Medieval concept of platonic love or courtly love was one I found fascinating.
Overall this was novel was intense. Full of raw emotion, love, hope and heartbreak, which ends in a sad but hopeful note. 
To refer to death as the time until 'I cling to the Great Lion, bury my face in his mane, and fall to my knees in surrender' was poignant and beautiful.

I think all fans of the work of Lewis will like this book, notwithstanding some of the content warnings. It will certainly make me appreciate more the woman who had such an influence on Lewis later work. 

I requested a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson via BookLook Bloggers. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.


17 Nov 2018

An Hour Unspent by Roseanna M. White

Shadows Over England #3
413 Pages, Bethany House, Sept 4th 2018
Print, Ebook and Audio 

Setting: London and France, 1915 
Once London’s top thief, Barclay Pearce has turned his back on his life of crime and now uses his skills for a nation at war. But not until he rescues a clockmaker’s daughter from a mugging does he begin to wonder what his future might hold.

Evelina Manning has constantly fought for independence but she certainly never meant for it to inspire her fiancĂ© to end the engagement and enlist in the army. When the intriguing man who saved her returns to the Manning residence to study clockwork repair with her father, she can’t help being interested. But she soon learns that nothing with Barclay Pearce is as simple as it seems.

As 1915 England plunges ever deeper into war, the work of an ingenious clockmaker may give England an unbeatable military edge—and Germany realizes it as well. Evelina’s father soon finds his whole family in danger—and it may just take a reformed thief to steal the time they need to escape it.

 My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Ever wondered about Barclay Peirce? The enigmatic big brother/father figure to the gang of London Thieves who form the bases of this trilogy. An Hour Unspent is his story. Barclay is a former thief and reformed criminal with a big heart, who took in street children and orphan's like himself. His self-sacrificial and giving nature really comes across in this story. Despite his background he wants to do what's right in the best way he can.

Now working with the 'Admiralty' really the Secret Service, Barclay is given an assignment to work with an Austrian born clock-maker, but the first person he meets is his daughter Evelina who he runs into when she's about to be mugged. Barclay finds ‘Lina fascinating for her inner strength and caring nature, although she only finds herself attracted to him on the rebound from a failed engagement.

Both Barclay and Evalina struggle to find their place in the world. Evalina believes she can neither love nor be loved. She puts her efforts into the Suffragette cause to fill the void of what she believes is her loveless life.
Barclay cares for his adoptive ‘family’ but in this we find out that he is in some sense compensating for losing contact with his birth brother
 Barclay and Eve’s relationship develops and simmers slowly, without insta-love or too many mushy scenes.

As with the other books in this series, the historical backdrop is strong, and Mrs White has a great way of working history into the story. This was set in 1916, by which time WWI was underway, and Britain is threatened by Zeppelin raids. The detail is wonderful: not just the historical detail, but also smaller details about London streets and boroughs and which ones were considered richer and more upper class, and there was even a smattering of Cockney Rhyming Slang.
I also liked how Barclays work with the clockmaker was made to tie up perfectly with some other details from the period: like the invention of Rolex wristwatches and early aeroplane technology. The author even managed to work in a reference to little known battle.

Also, the cast of secondary characters added a lot of depth and interest to the story, especially Barclays brothers and sisters. Rosemary and Willa, the protagonists from the last two stories return: but some of the younger children also come into their own including Lucy the half-Indian girl who doubles and a cook and an impromptu spy. Despite being rescued as a baby, Lucy apparently had some sense of her background with her love of spicy dishes.
The faith elements were also worked very well into this story without being preachy, and there were some wonderful messages about love, loyalty and family.

I only noticed one or two errors. One character refers to the ‘sidewalk’, which is an Americanism. Also, I’ve noticed with several stories like this the confusion between ‘pence’ which is supposed to be plural and ‘penny’ the singular form. ‘without a pence to my name’ just does not sound right. Even my computer wants to correct it as a grammar error,

An Hour Unspent was a worthwhile and truly worthy conclusion to the trilogy, although there is a hint that some characters may reappear in a new series that the author is working on. Even for someone who has only started reading novels set in this period recently (a couple of years ago), I would rank this series as one of my favourites.

I requested a paperback of this title from the publisher’s UK distributors and purchased the audiobook of my own volition. I was not required to write a positive review an all opinions expressed are my own.

9 Nov 2018

First Line Fridays 42# Road from the West by Rosanne E Lortz

I'm sharing another book from my Kindle backlist today. The Road from the West was the second novel by US Indy author Rosanne E Lortz. Her first book I Serve: A Novel of the Black Prince remains among my all-time favourites. 

You've heard of the Knights Templar, you've heard of Richard the Lionheart-now learn the story that started it all with the adventures of the First Crusade.
Haunted by guilt from the past and nightmares of the future, a young Norman named Tancred takes the cross and vows to be the first to free Jerusalem from the infidels. As he journeys to the Holy Land, he braves vast deserts, mortal famine, and the ever-present ambushes of the enemy Turks-but the greatest danger of all is deciding which of the Crusader lords to trust.

A mysterious seer prophesies that Tancred will find great love and great sorrow on his journey, but the second seems intent on claiming him before he can find the first. Intrigues and passions grow as every battle brings the Crusaders one step closer to Jerusalem. Not all are destined to survive the perilous road from the West.

The book was supposed to be the first in a series, entitled the Chronicles of Tancred. It follows a young Norman nobleman who would become a leader of the First Crusade, and later gained the title of Prince of Galilee. 
Now, in case you're wondering, he was part of a different group of Normans to the ones who conquered England under the command of Duke William in 1066. This group ended up conquering much of Southern Italy and established a Kingdom for themselves in Sicily in the early 11th century. Some of  them then joined the First Crusade and established themselves in the Holy Land and the Crusader Kingdoms in Syria and Lebanon. 

I'm just about two thirds of the way through Road from the West, and like Mrs Lortz first book, it bears mentioning that this is not a romance. Its serious Historical Fiction about real people, and their actions and motives. So there is intrigue, politics and a fear deal of violence because these were fighting men. 
There are romantic elements with some of the female characters, especially a young Greek woman called Alexandra, but its not central to the story. 

What I do like about the story is it explores the complex motives and different personalities of the men who took part in a historical event that would become infamous. People and history are not 'black and white' as movies and the mass media often make out, and that comes across here. 

I am sad about two things though: first of all this novel is now out of Print. I only have it on my Kindle because I purchased it about 3 years ago before it disappeared from Kindle and other ebook platforms. 
Second: There is no sequel. The title character had a fairly long and eventful life, and this novel was meant to be part of a trilogy. 
Although I know that the author was working on the the second book a few years back, I think it was never finished and I don't know if the series will ever be republished. 

Since then the talented Rosanne E Lortz has established her own Publishing company and has written three books in a Regency Suspense series, as well as being a wife and mom to three boys. 

So without further ado (because I have been rambling an awful lot), here is today's first line. 

"The stars changed their courses the day that Tancred the marquis tossed aside his sword and strode off the field of battle. It was not from fear, for he walked slowly, his back an easy target for enemy spears and arrows" 

Don't Forget to Click the Meme to see what others are reading, or comment with your own First Line. 

6 Nov 2018

Fool Me Twice by Philippa Jane Keyworth

236 Pages, December 1st 2016, Madison Street Publishing 
Ebook, Print and Audio

In the gaming hells of eighteenth century London, orphan Caro Worth is leading a double life. By day she plays a proper gentlewoman on the lookout for a wealthy husband. By night she plays the infamous Angelica, her fictional half-sister with a talent for cards and an ability to finance the life her respectable self has built. An introduction to a rich Marquis brings marriage and security within Caro’s grasp…until the arrival of the unpredictable and totally ineligible Mr. Tobias Felton.

Dismayed by Felton’s persistent appearances, shocking frankness, and enigmatic green eyes, Caro watches helplessly as he comes closer than anyone to guessing her secret, but when complete and utter ruin threatens, she finds that Felton’s suspicions just might become her salvation. As the walls she has built to protect herself crumble down around her, Caro learns that no matter how careful your plans, life and love have a habit of falling quite spectacularly out of control!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This book was a great, fun Regency read! Its about a young noblewoman Caroline/Angelica Worth, who left penniless after her father's death, assumes and altar-ego as a gamester and makes her money through gambling at some of London's most notorious clubs, that were literally called Gaming Hells.

When she wins thousands from the Duke she has set her cap at to marry, things begin to spiral out of control as he demands the money back from her- or worse. Enter Tobias Felton, the younger son of a Viscount who seems like an irresponsible ne-er do well but has a good heart in spite of it all and sees something in the fascinating young woman he meets across the gaming table.

Now lest this review makes Caroline sound like a helpless damsel in distress, be certain she is not. Caroline has had to make her own way and is strong, but her choices ultimately place her in an untenable situation which is exploited by the schemes of the devious Duke. 

Readers may note that there is no explicitly religious content in this novel. I think the characters show their developing faith more in what they do, or how they deal with certain things. Its clean though, although there is one scene involving an attempted assault, its not really graphic.

Overall, the story is told well, with a helping of the wit and humour which has marked other books by this author. I really Caroline's straight talking friend Rebecca 'blunt as a butter knife', and her Aunt.

If you want a relatively short, immersive Regency story that's a bit different from the rest Fool Me Twice is a great choice. What's more, its by a British author and the e-book is only $1.

2 Nov 2018

First Line Fridays #41: Loving Luther by Allison Pittman

Since Reformation day has just gone by, I thought the subject matter of this book seemed Apt. If I had not already read Fawkes by Nadine Brandes I would share that in honor of the upcoming Guy Fawkes night.
I requested this novel on Netgalley shortly after it was released, but like some other titles on there its been waiting over a year and I've not yet got around to reading it. I need to now.

Now, I am going to admit, I don't know an awful lot about Katherine von Bora, the former nun who became wife of Martin Luther.
I am a child of English Reformation, so I'm more familiar with the stories of Anne Boleyn, William Tyndale, Jane Grey and Thomas Cranmer, Henry VIII and Bloody Mary then Luther, Calvin or other European reformers.

 I did read another novel about the relationship between Luther and Katherine/Katherina, but I was not very impressed with it, and you know what I'm like. I try to avoid 'learning'  history from Fiction, so I would have to seek out a non-fiction title for that.

In the dark of night, Katharina von Bora says the bravest good-bye a six-year-old can muster and walks away as the heavy convent gate closes behind her.

Though the cold walls offer no comfort, Katharina soon finds herself calling the convent her home. God, her father. This, her life. She takes her vows--a choice more practical than pious--but in time, a seed of discontent is planted by the smuggled writings of a rebellious excommunicated priest named Martin Luther. Their message? That Katharina is subject to God, and no one else. Could the Lord truly desire more for her than this life of servitude?

In her first true step of faith, Katharina leaves the only life she has ever known. But the freedom she has craved comes with a price, and she finds she has traded one life of isolation for another. Without the security of the convent walls or a family of her own, Katharina must trust in both the God who saved her and the man who paved a way for rescue. Luther's friends are quick to offer shelter, but Katharina longs for all Luther has promised: a home, a husband, perhaps even the chance to fall in love

The First Line Reads: 

 "My father always told me if I never took a sip of wine, I’d never shed a single tear" 

Don't forget to click the Meme to see what other members are reading, and comment with your own first line. 

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