An Inconvenient Beauty, by Kristi Ann Hunter

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Griffith, Duke of Riverton, likes order, logic, and control, so he naturally applies this rational approach to his search for a bride. While he’s certain Miss Frederica St. Claire is the perfect wife for him, she is strangely elusive, and he can’t seem to stop running into her stunningly beautiful cousin, Miss Isabella Breckenridge.

Isabella should be enjoying her society debut, but with her family in difficult circumstances, she has no choice but to agree to a bargain that puts her at odds with all her romantic hopes–as well as her conscience. And the more she comes to know Griffith, the more she regrets the unpleasant obligation that prevents her from any dream of a future with him.

As all Griffith’s and Isabella’s long-held expectations are shaken to the core, can they set aside their pride and fear long enough to claim a happily-ever-after?

First Thoughts:

The final installment of the Hawthorne House series focusses on the eldest sibling and head of the family.

My Take:

When you’re a duke and you’ve witnessed the difficulties your younger siblings have experienced when choosing to marry for love, what do you do? Do you seek the same course, or do you decide to marry someone society deems appropriate to be a duchess? What if the woman you choose happens to be in love with someone else? What if you find yourself falling in love with her cousin? These are questions Griffith must ask himself throughout the course of the final book in Kristi Ann Hunter’s Hawthorne House series.

This is a dark novel at times. Isabella is never in danger, but her uncle is manipulative and you feel there is little he will not do to get his way. Everything he does is fueled by a desire for vengeance against those perceived to have done him a grievous wrong. Society mamas aren’t the only ones jostling to see their daughter married to a duke, but none go to the lengths Lord Pontebrook will to see that their daughter doesn’t marry the wrong man (in this case, an English soldier). Thankfully, the darkness is balanced by moments of lightness. Check out the scene where Griffith is injured and must rely on a certain young lady for assistance.

What I got out of this book is a confirmation that God really does laugh at man’s pathetic plans. Griffith thinks he has everything worked out, even though his family disagrees. Conversations with his brother and brothers-in-law do little to sway him from his course. Scenes of godly men counseling each other have been a welcome feature of the Hawthorne House series. Each man desires to do God’s will, even when they aren’t sure what it is or it seemingly goes against their own wishes.

Such is the power of Hunter’s writing that she made me connect with secondary and minor characters.  I was disappointed to not see Frederica’s happy ever after. How would her father have reacted? And what of the other women, whose mothers were looking to marry them off to a duke? Did they find happiness also? Above all, however, I felt sad at having to say goodbye to the Hawthorne family. I hope Hunter’s next series will have me feeling the same.

Thank you to Bethany House for my complimentary copy of An Inconvenient Beauty, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read An Inconvenient Beauty? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing)

Publication Date: 05 September 2017

Page Count: 384

Read more on:   Bethany House’s Website   Kristi Ann Hunter’s Website   The Battle of Waterloo

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

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Egypt’s Sister, by Angela Hunt

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

You Don’t Know Her Name. The World Remembers Only Her Greatest Friend: Cleopatra.

Raised together in the Alexandrian palace, Chava, the Hebrew daughter of the royal tutor, and Urbi, an Egyptian princess, become as close as sisters–and rivals with their dreams of greatness. When Urbi unexpectedly ascends the throne as Queen Cleopatra, Chava believes their bond is strong enough to survive. But absolute power has a way of changing everything. 

The ultimate betrayal rips Chava from everything she’s ever known and sends her to the lowest rung of Roman society where she must choose between love and honor, between her own desires and God’s will for her life, if she hopes to rise again.

First Thoughts:

This is my first Angela Hunt novel, although I’ve heard good things about her writing. I’m curious about Chava: I doubt she’s real, but how will she fit into history?

My Take:

I love history, but some of it is so confusing that I tend to stay away from it. That includes the Roman era, with its duplicate names and multiple marriages. The era of Egypt’s pharaohs and kings is no better: only now we have incestuous marriage to add to the mix. Kudos, therefore, to Angela Hunt, who brought these people to life in a way that wasn’t only entertaining but easy to understand.

Chava leads a life of privilege in Alexandria. The daughter of an educator to the king’s children, she forms a powerful friendship with the girl who will become queen. Naively, she believes their friendship will last forever and that she will be called to live at the palace as an advisor. But Chava is Jewish, which means she isn’t a citizen of Alexandria, and it’s this fact that will prove to be the tipping point for the relationship. Chava’s life takes a turn I hadn’t expected, even though a clue is given on the book’s back cover copy.

Egypt’s Sister is a fascinating look at a woman’s life in Roman-occupied lands. It’s set approximately 50 years before the birth of Jesus, in what has been termed ‘The Silent Years’ – the time between Malachi and Matthew in the Bible. Chava is an observant Jewess, and holds steadfast to her faith even when it’s to her detriment. I grew tired of Chava’s persistence of putting her friend ahead of everything; it’s a sign of her maturation that this changed to absolute devotion to God. I didn’t like Cleopatra, for her murdering and indulgent ways, but it’s a credit to Hunt that I had tears in my eyes at her end. I loved reading Egypt’s Sister, and was only disappointed that it had to end.

Thank you to Bethany House for my complimentary copy of Egypt’s Sister, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read Egypt’s Sister? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Author Q and A

Publisher: Revell (a division of Baker Publishing)

Publication Date: 04 July 2017

Page Count: 384

Read more on:   Angela Hunt’s Website   Revell’s Website

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

With You Always, by Jody Hedlund

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Could Following the Opportunity of a Lifetime Cost Them the Love of Their Lives?

One of the many immigrants struggling to survive in 1850s New York, Elise Neumann knows she must take action to care for her younger sisters. She finds a glimmer of hope when the New York Children’s Aid Society starts sending skilled workers to burgeoning towns out west. But the promise of the society’s orphan trains is not all that it seems.

Born into elite New York society, Thornton Quincy possesses everything except the ability to step out from his brother’s shadow. When their ailing father puts forth a unique challenge to determine who will inherit his railroad-building empire, Thornton finally sees his chance. The conditions to win? Be the first to build a sustainable community along the Illinois Central Railroad and find a suitable wife.

Thrown together against all odds, Elise and Thornton couldn’t be from more different worlds. The spark that ignites between them is undeniable, but how can they let it grow when that means forfeiting everything they’ve been working toward?

First Thoughts:

Jody Hedlund is a solid go-to author. I rarely hesitate to read one of her books.

My Take:

What was it like to live in New York City’s Five Points neighborhood at the height of its notoriety? What would it be like to move from there to a brand new town ‘out west’ with fresh air as opposed to a permanent smog? Jody Hedlund explores these thoughts in the first novel of her new series. With You Always focuses on German immigrant Elise who exists in a New York tenement with her sisters. In desperation, they turn to a mission housed in an old brewery where there’s food and work to be found. But it can’t keep out a financial panic and Elise must leave her family in order to provide for them. She gets work in a town being developed by none other than the man who rescues her during the Dead Rabbits Riot.

In With You Always, Hedlund has given readers an engaging tale with fascinating descriptions and great characters. We can understand the poverty of life in New York tenements and the desperation of those with limited options. We can see the contrasting progress of the new railroad towns. I found it difficult to put this book down, only doing so when tiredness overtook me. I wasn’t surprised there was a villain in the piece and I did figure out the connection between that person and another major character. The romance is satisfying: I appreciated that, after the initial misunderstandings, Elise and Thorton were honest with each other. Elise, in particular, didn’t hide anything when she told him how to win the contest.

This is the first novel in the Orphan Train series, but there is a prequel novella. An Awakened Heart focuses on the beginnings of the mission featured in With You Always, but it does introduce Elise and her sisters. I began reading this book immediately after reading the prequel and it felt like one continuous story. I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to have read the prequel first, but I would recommend it. It’s available for most electronic readers and is the grand price of free, so why wouldn’t you want to read it?

Thank you to Bethany House for my complimentary copy of With You Always, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read With You Always? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Author Q and A

Publisher: Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing)

Publication Date: 06 June 2017

Page Count: 368

Read more on:   Jody Hedlund’s Website   Bethany House’s Website

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