“The Merchant’s Daughter” – A Nice Story Though Lacking in Passion

“The Merchant’s Daughter” by Melanie Dickerson

I just finished The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson.  It is the story of Annabel, sent in the 1300s.  Her father was a merchant who died in the Plague after essentially bankrupting his family (losing all of his ships, etc.).  So this family that was used to the “easy” life no longer had it so easy.  The mom wasn’t too interested in doing any work, the older brother was making life easy for him (not doing any work), and the younger brother was used to being coddled.

Everyone in their village had to work for the lord of the manor at a set time.  Annabel’s family had gotten out of it by paying a fine.  However, they hadn’t paid the fine for 3 years and hadn’t worked either, so people in the village were grumbling, and the family was eventually brought before the new lord of the manor, Lord Ranulf.  They had a choice – pay the fine or send one of them to the manor to work as an indentured servant for 3 years.

Annabel makes the choice for the family, hoping that by working in the manor, she can figure out a way to get to Lord Ranulf and ask him to help her get into an abbey.  One of her goals is to read the Holy Bible and to live a life for God, pondering his Word.  However, some of her problems from the village follow her to the manor.

Here is what I liked about the story.  I thought that Annabel was a nice girl who just wanted to do what was right.  I thought that Lord Ranulf was misunderstood by the village, and that he just really wanted to be left alone.  Due to his past, he had issues relating to people and trusting others – especially women. I thought that it was a nice story, some of the characters seemed more realistic than others – there was more depth to some characters.

What I didn’t like…I had a hard time believing the relationship between Ranulf and Annabel.  I had a hard time believing that Annabel would be as educated as she was for the time period, or that the interaction between lord and servant would be so easy.  Maybe I just don’t know enough about the time period, but it still seemed unlikely.  The relationship between the two just seemed to lack passion or commonalities.  Yes, I realize that I am trying to make them into real people, but to me, the characters of the books I read are real people while I am reading the book.

Amazon Product Page – to be published November 29, 2011

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through the NetGalley program.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

“The House at Tyneford” – A Story About Life Continuing On, No Matter What

I am very interested in World War II-era stories, especially stores of those affected by the Holocaust.  This book starts at the beginning of WW2 in Vienna.  Elise and her family have a good life in Austria .  Her father is a novelist, her mother is a musician.  The problem is that they are Jewish.  The family is trying to get everyone out of the country, but they are having problems getting visas.  Elise is able to leave the country because she is being sponsored by an English family to come and work as a house servant.  Being the youngest in the family, it’s hard for her to leave, but she does so with the understanding that her family will send for her when they get to America.

Elise has never truly worked.  Everything has always been done for her, so when she arrives in England at Tyneford, she is in for a rude awakening.  Housemaids work from before dawn to after dark.  There is never a moment’s peace.  And it’s even harder when you don’t speak very good English.  Luckily, the squire (Mr. Rivers) is a kind man and has read Elise’s father’s books.  Kit Rivers, the squire’s son, is not around much, but when he is, it brings life to the house.

Elise has to work through a number of things – learning English, being away from her family, seeking information on her family, as well as just adjusting to a different way of life.  She is a source of suspicion from those who visit the house, a source of frustration to the head butler and housekeeper, and a curiosity of sorts for the villagers, Mr. Rivers, and Kit Rivers.

The novel follows Elise’s life throughout her time in England.  I found it interesting to read about what her life was like as a Jew in England and how much faith it took to continue to exist while her family was in such dire straits.  Her relationships with the Rivers men are interesting, if unsurprising.  My heart ached for her – wanting to know what was going on with her family, trying to find her way in England, and yet dreading the information that could come at any time.  But each day, she got up and continued on with her duties and responsibilities, knowing that she is trying to make her parents proud.

One thing I found a little distracting was the fact that Elise doesn’t refer to her parents as Mom and Dad, it’s Anna and Julian.  Maybe that’s because they were such public persons and she didn’t relate to them as Mom and Dad.  But it was something to get used to.

I really liked this book and would definitely recommend it.

I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

“Belonging” by Robin Lee Hatcher

I enjoyed this book.  I have read other books by Robin Lee Hatcher, so I kind of knew what to expect, but this was a great relaxing book.  Felicia’s story is heart breaking.  Orphaned as a child, she is sent via train out West, where she is taken in by the Kristofferson family.  She lives with them for a number of years, and although emotions are not expressed often in the household, she feels she is a member of that family.  This helps to assuage the loss of her brother and sister when they were adopted after their mother died.  However, that feeling of “family” comes crashing to a halt after the Kristoffersons died.

To escape an untenable situation, she accepts a teaching position at Frenchman’s Bluff.  They have gone through a number of “schoolmarms” recently and several of the school board members are leery of hiring another – especially one who is older and has no real experience.  Luckily for Felicia, she is unaware of this opinion until after she starts the job.

One of her students is Charity Murphy, who has had reading problems.  Her father is a widower and is allowing Felicia to stay in a cottage behind his store.  He was told that Charity will never be able to read by a previous teacher and he is afraid that Felicia will be of the same opinion.

Even with that pressure, Felicia finds ways to connect with the town.  She attends church, finds people with similar interests, and gets to know her students and their families.  In the back of her mind is her search for a family of her own.  She seeks a family of her own to settle into. She even is searching for her brother and sister who were adopted before her.

Her relationship with God is important to her, and she seeks His guidance for her actions.  For new readers of Robin Lee Hatcher, the religious aspect may be a little overwhelming, but it is her style, and one that I have enjoyed in almost every book of hers I read.

I hope this is the beginning of a series.  I want to find out what happens with Felicia’s search for her brother and sister.  I want to see how Charity grows and changes.  I think it’s a great start.

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I received a copy of this book from the publisher via the NetGalley program.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

“The Guardian Duke”….Leaves You Hanging

"The Guardian Duke"

The Guardian Duke by Jamie Carie was a wonderful book.  It’s not a romance novel in its typical definition, and it’s not Christian fiction in its typical definition.  I wasn’t sure if I would like it, but it grabbed me from the beginning.

Alexandria Featherstone’s parents have gone missing.  They are treasure hunters who never really wanted to have a child, but had one, and then proceeded to leave her behind while they went out on their adventures.  Their last adventure was a mysterious one that Alex doesn’t know much about.

Gabriel, Duke of St. Easton is one of the richest men in England.  He receives notice from King George III that he has been named Alex’s guardian since the Crown has determined her parents must have died.  What’s interesting is that after receiving the notice, Gabriel is visited by a peer who tells him the real reason he was appointed Alex’s guardian.  The treasure that her parents were in search of was stolen from the British Museum, and Spain, France, and England all want the item.

Gabriel is struck deaf early on by a mysterious circumstance.  With the help of his secretary/valet, he makes his way through society and England trying to find and help Alex.  They only communicate through letter, and she manages to stay one step ahead of him throughout the book.

Alex “collects” people as she journeys in search of her parents.  People are captured by her charm and sincerity in her search.  They want to help her in anyway possible.  She is often of two minds – wanting Gabriel’s help, but also wanting to do it on her own to prove herself to her parents.

I liked the communication by letter – especially when Gabriel realizes that Alex writes two different types of letters.  Also, I got the feeling that Alex’s attitude in her posted letters to Gabriel was an act to a certain point.

I also liked the way that Gabriel is written.  Usually, dukes are pompous, staid, and used to getting their way.  In this book, Gabriel kind of turns that on its head – he is dependent on a servant to help him; he is very smart and has studied a lot of different topics; while he tries to maintain appearances, he’s not afraid to show that he needs help.

This is book one of a series, and I can’t wait to get the next one.

Jamie Carie’s Live Action Book Trailer for The Guardian Duke

Amazon Product Page – (published February 1, 2012)

I received this book through the NetGalley system.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

“The Wedding Quilt” – Drawing to a Close?

"The Wedding Quilt" by Jennifer Chiaverini

In Jennifer Chiaverini’s The Wedding Quilt, the story of the Elm Creek Quilters seems to be coming to a close.  This is a wonderful series, of which I have read almost every book.  The story begins with the invitation to Sarah and Matt’s daughter Caroline’s wedding – about 20 years after the last book was set.  As Sarah waits for her daughter to arrive at Elm Creek Manor, she remembers the day Caroline and her twin brother James were born.

This pattern continues throughout the book.  The current wedding story line is interwoven with stories from the past.  It is a good way for readers of the series to catch up with their favorite quilters with glimpses into their lives for the last 20 years. Readers are also able to learn some items that we didn’t know – for example, how active Agnes was in the community and why she had attached herself so deeply to Waterford.

There’s a little bit of drama throughout the book, in various story lines, that keeps the book moving.  There’s also sadness.  I came to the conclusion about 1/3 of the way through that this was probably the end of a series I really liked.  According to Jennifer’s website, this is not the last book in the series – that there is probably 1 more book to go.   Even with the feeling that it was drawing to a close, I enjoyed this book.  It brought closure to several story lines from other books, and it’s a nice book-end to the first book, when Sarah arrives at Elm Creek Manor to work for Sylvia.  I wonder where she will take the quilters next and who the next generation of Elm Creek Quilters will be?

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I received this book from the publisher through the NetGalley program.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

“Casting Samson” by Melinda Hammond

Casting Samson is almost three stories in one.  The primary story is Deborah’s.  She arrives at her boyfriend’s apartment in London after a cancelled “spa day” to find him coming out of the shower with another woman.  Deborah then goes to her parent’s home to gather herself back together.  She quickly becomes enmeshed in the village events, even helping with a village production of biblical and local stories. One of her jobs is to find someone for the role of Samson. Her story weaves through the book, and you get a sense of a young woman trying to find out what she really wants out of life – is it big city living or small village comfort?  Deborah can’t answer this for herself until the very end of the book.

The second story is Hugo/Hugh Moreton’s. He is a Templar Knight in the 1100s.  We are introduced to him as he is leaving his ancestral home to journey to the Holy Land.  He feels forced to leave because of his love for his brother’s wife.  The village legend in Deborah’s time is that Hugo Moreton built the church in Deborah’s village.  We see bits and pieces of his story throughout the book, sometimes from his viewpoint, sometimes his brother’s or his brother’s wife’s.

The third story is Anne’s.  She is a young widow living in the same village as Deborah.  Like Deborah, she has been pulled into helping with the village production. She inadvertently makes an opponent (they really aren’t enemies, but aren’t really friends) out of Professor Toby Duggan, who doesn’t believe the village claims of a Templar church.  Anne becomes obsessed with proving him wrong, even though he tries to work with her to prove or disprove his theory.

In all, I liked this book.  It was a quick read with mostly interesting characters.  Two of my favorite secondary characters were the elderly people in the village.  Neither had married, but they were involved in everything and very spunky.  One of the problems I had with it is that I felt like it tried to be too much.  In the beginning, a mysterious voice/person calms and comforts Deborah when she arrives at the village church.  That is never explained – it just happens and then the story moves on – was it Hugo?  was it the village priest? It just didn’t seem to have a purpose.  Another example is that occasionally Deborah gets visions of Hugo and family.  Again, it just didn’t seem to have a purpose.  While it was interesting learning about Hugo and hearing his story,  it didn’t really feel like it meshed with the rest of the book, until the last few pages.

I liked Deborah’s story.  Although she seemed a bit too “much”, I thought that it worked for her age and her story.  I liked Anne a lot as well.  I would have liked to know more about her.

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I received an free copy of this book from the publisher using the NetGalley system. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.

“Before the Scarlet Dawn” by Rita Gerlach

I initially selected this book because I have been reading some other Georgian fiction (set in the 1700s) and wanted to see how this author handled the period.  This story is split between England and the Colonies at the time of the American Revolution, and tells the story of a young lady named Eliza.

Eliza has grown up as the vicar’s daughter.  Her mother died when she was young, and she has a brother fighting in the King’s Army in the Colonies.  When the book opens, her father is very ill and is not expected to live long.  She realizes she has to make some decisions about her future, but those are complicated by the fact that has not had a regular suitor, and that she is uncommonly pretty.  Her goal is to marry for love, but the person she marries has to be able to see her internal beauty.

One of her suitors is Mr. Langbourne, who is a rather boorish oaf and wants to “mold” her into the proper wife.  Another suitor is Heyward Morgan, who cannot see beyond her station, and treats her rather horribly when meeting her again after a number of years.  Between the two men, she has to make a decision, as her time is limited before she is evicted from her home.

What follows is a rather dramatic story of life, love, loss, and the hope for forgiveness.  There are some characters that are very heartwarming, some you will wish you knew more about (or who lived longer), and some you really can’t stand.  However, the book will pull you in and keep you interested.  There are parts of the story that my heart broke for Eliza and what she was going through.  I started reading it before going to bed, and ended up staying up late finishing it.

 This is due to be published February 1, 2012 by Abingdon Press.

 Amazon.com Product Page: http://www.amazon.com/Before-Scarlet-Dawn-Daughters-Potomac/dp/1426714149/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1316199659&sr=8-1

I received an Advance Reading Copy of this book from the publisher using the NetGalley system.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own.