ICYMI: May 2017 Reviews

The year is flying by, isn’t it. Here we are in June, and here are links to the reviews I posted last month.

book coverTo the Farthest Shores – Elizabeth Camden

A nurse in San Francisco must trust the man who previously abandoned her.

book coverToo Deep for Words – Andrea Boeshaar

In the second book of the Shenandoah Valley Saga, newly-wed Carrie Ann Collier receives news that her Union army husband is missing and presumed dead.

book coverThe Illusionist’s Apprentice – Kristy Cambron

An illusionist’s act goes horribly wrong, and Houdini’s assistant finds herself working with the FBI to determine whether or not it was a murder.

Grace and the Preacher – Kim Vogel Sawyer

After forming a relationship through letters with a young preacher, Grace must reconcile the man’s actions with his words.

book cover Behind the ScenesBehind the Scenes – Jen Turano

Visit the lives of wealthy New Yorkers during the Gilded Age when a society wallflower overhears a murder plot.

Behind the Scenes, by Jen Turano

book cover Behind the ScenesPublisher’s Overview:

After spending the last six years banished to the wallflower section of the ballroom, Miss Permilia Griswold has finally figured out a way to pass the time at all the New York high-society events she attends. Under the pseudonym “Miss Quill,” she is the author of society gossip columns filled with tidbits only an insider in society–albeit one on the fringes–would know. 

When she overhears a threat against Mr. Asher Rutherford, the owner of one of the most up-and-coming department stores in the city, she’s determined to warn him. But the irritatingly handsome man doesn’t believe her, leaving her no choice but to take matters into her own hands. What she doesn’t anticipate is that she’ll end up putting herself at risk in the process–or that she and Mr. Rutherford, a man with secrets of his own, just might end up joining forces after all.

First Thoughts:

I’ve enjoyed every book I’ve read by Jen Turano. It was a no-brainer, therefore, to request to review this title when Bethany House made it available. Plus, I’d already read the free prequel novella.

My Take:

You always know what you’re going to get with a Jen Turano novel. It’s usually set in New York City during the Gilded Age (or, on occasion, Newport, Rhode Island) and includes a bunch of quirky characters of various ages and social status, sometimes interacting with real life figures of that era. There’s mystery and intrigue wrapped up in a comedy of errors and, of course, there’s romance. The writing is light but also contains semi-formal language. Turano’s characters are almost always introduced for the first time as either Miss or Mister. Polite society should always perform proper introductions, after all. Despite this apparent formula, however, Turano always delivers a fresh and delightful story.

Behind the Scenes starts at the notorious Vanderbilt costume ball of 1883, and over 100 pages of plot development are set there. Run a search for this event online and you’ll find plenty of photographs of society’s elite in various forms of fancy dress, some of which Turano describes. This was a time of excess and main character Permilia is often scolded in the book by her stepmother for her seemingly frugal ways. Despite the humor, incredulous costumes and hair-raising escapades through Central Park, however, there’s a serious note about the changing nature of celebrity gossip and how charming society columns became the front page exposes of today. Miss Quill’s writings harken back to a more innocent time.

Behind the Scenes kicks off Turano’s newest series, titled Apart From the Crowd. Early on in this novel, there’s a reference to events and characters in a series e-prequel novella. It’s worth reading if you can because it does introduce Permilia and Asher. It’s called At Your Request and I believe it’s permanently free. Meanwhile, I’m eagerly looking forward to the next release, which apparently features a wealthy society matron who appears to take a liking to other people’s property…

Thank you to Bethany House for my complimentary copy of Behind the Scenes, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read Behind the Scenes? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Author Q & A

Publisher: Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing)

Publication Date: 18 April 2017

Page Count: 352

Read more on:   Jen Turano’s Website   Bethany House’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com

Grace and the Preacher, by Kim Vogel Sawyer

book cover GracePublisher’s Overview:

At the age of twenty-three, postmistress Grace Cristler has all but given up hope of finding a husband among the narrowing group of eligible men in her town of Fairland, Kansas. But when her uncle decides to retire from the pulpit, Grace is responsible for corresponding with the new preacher set to take his place. She can’t deny the affection growing in her heart for Reverend Rufus Dille—a man she deeply admires but has only met through his letters.

Theophil Garrison is on the run from his past. Ten years ago his outlaw cousins convinced him to take part in a train robbery, but Theo fled the scene, leaving his cousins to face imprisonment. Now they’ve finished their sentences, but the plan for vengeance has just begun. Branded a coward and running for his life, Theo has a chance encounter that could provide him with the escape he needs.

But the young man’s desperate con might come at an enormous price for the tenderhearted Grace—and the entire town. Will Grace’s undeserved affection and God’s mercy make something beautiful from the ashes of Theo’s past?

First Thoughts:

An outlaw masquerading as a preacher could be the ultimate con. I already feel bad for Grace, but I’ve a feeling grace will play a large part in the story.

My Take:

I’ve got mixed feelings about Grace and the Preacher. I liked the premise, but somehow I didn’t enjoy it. I felt the plot was unrealistic in some parts and too simplistic in others. I couldn’t connect to the main characters either.

Theo Garrison’s original plan to avoid his past was to return to his roots in Iowa, even though I felt anyone who knew him would surely guess where he’d gone. He never intended to take the preacher’s identity but it seemed like a solution to his problem when people made an assumption and I think he could’ve tried harder to correct them.  Grace Cristler, meanwhile, became obsessed with marrying a man she’d never met. At least, that was my opinion. Her fixation was too much for me and I disliked her early on in the book, even though I knew she was going to be the victim of deception. In contrast, I liked Grace’s friend, Bess Kirby, who owned the boarding house in Fairland. And I enjoyed both the physical and spiritual journey that Theo’s cousin, Earl, undertook. But it wasn’t until the end that I felt even slightly sympathetic toward Grace and Theo.

The best part of this novel is probably the spiritual theme. We learn that God has plans for us, no matter what we might think we want. This came across particularly in Bess’s story as she tried to work out her future. Then there’s the concept of grace that both Earl and Theo managed to grasp due to their interactions with strangers, but it took longer for the woman named Grace who finally had to be shown it by someone not raised in a church or God-fearing home. How sad to not even ‘get’ the meaning of your name.

Thank you to Waterbrook for my complimentary uncorrected proof of Grace and the Preacher, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read Grace and the Preacher? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Waterbrook  (an imprint of Penguin Random House)

Publication Date: 21 March 2017

Page Count: 352

Read more on:   Kim Vogel Sawyer’s Website   Waterbrook’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com