The Governess of Highland Hall, by Carrie Turansky

book coverWorlds lie between the marketplaces of India and the halls of a magnificent country estate like Highland Hall. Will Julia be able to find her place when a governess is neither upstairs family nor downstairs help? 

Missionary Julia Foster loves working alongside her parents, ministering and caring for young girls in India. But when the family must return to England due to illness, she readily accepts the burden for her parents’ financial support. Taking on a job at Highland Hall as governess, she quickly finds that teaching her four privileged, ill-mannered charges at a grand estate is more challenging than expected, and she isn’t sure what to make of the estate’s preoccupied master, Sir William Ramsey.

Widowed and left to care for his two young children and his deceased cousin Randolph’s two teenage girls, William is consumed with saving the estate from the financial ruin. The last thing he needs is any distraction coming from the kindhearted-yet-determined governess who seems to be quietly transforming his household with her persuasive personality, vibrant prayer life, and strong faith.

While both are tending past wounds and guarding fragile secrets, Julia and William are determined to do what it takes to save their families—common ground that proves fertile for unexpected feelings. But will William choose Julia’s steadfast heart and faith over the wealth and power he needs to secure Highland Hall’s future?

Landing a position at a home where the day starts with scripture and prayer should be a good thing for a former missionary. Despite Sir William’s best efforts, however, not everyone appreciates her employment. Teenagers Katherine and Penelope would rather sleep in, ride their horses and engage in other social pursuits than study, while other members of staff see her as a threat to their own positions. Thankfully, Julia is able to make a couple of close friends including Sir William’s sister, Sarah, and be a positive influence to young nursery maid, Ann.

While parts of the book are predictable, this novel should delight fans of Downton Abbey. There is romance and intrigue, and issues emerge regarding class and status. For the women of the family it is important to marry well, although Sarah believes she will remain a spinster due to physical deformity. Sir William is determined to hold on to the ancestral home so he isn’t seen as a failure by his peers. Meanwhile, Julia must decide whether her place is Highland Hall or back in India.

The Governess of Highland Hall is the first in the Edwardian Brides series. According to Carrie Turansky’s website the next title is called The Daughter of Highland Hall. There is currently not a release date for it.

Thank you to Waterbrook Multnomah for my free Advance Reading Copy of The Governess of Highland Hall, which I received in exchange for an honest review.

 

Publisher: Multnomah

Publication Date: 15 October 2013

Page Count: 336

Read more on:   Carrie Turansky’s Website   Multnomah’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Christianbook.com

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Gone South, by Meg Moseley

book coverThe charm of the South drew her back to her family’s roots. But when the town’s old resentments turn the sweet tea bitter, can Tish find a welcome anywhere?

Leaving frosty Michigan for the Deep South was never a blip in the simple plans Tish McComb imagined for her life, dreams of marriage and family that were dashed five years earlier in a tragic accident. Now an opportunity to buy her great-great-great-grandparents’ Civil War era home beckons Tish to Noble, Alabama, a Southern town in every sense of the word. She wonders if God has given her a new dream— the old house filled with friends, her vintage percolator bubbling on the sideboard.

When Tish discovers that McCombs aren’t welcome in town, she feels like a Yankee behind enemy lines. Only local antiques dealer George Zorbas seems willing to give her a chance. What’s a lonely outcast to do but take in Noble’s resident prodigal, Melanie Hamilton, and hope that the two can find some much needed acceptance in each other.

Problem is, old habits die hard, and Mel is quite set in her destructive ways. With Melanie blocked from going home, Tish must try to manage her incorrigible houseguest as she attempts to prove her own worth in a town that seems to have forgotten that every sinner needs God-given mercy, love and forgiveness.

When the main character has the same last name as me, minus the final S, it surely must be a sign. Furthermore, when the book is set in the same state as my sister-in-law (a 1 in 50 chance), well, this is a book I decided I had to read! Tish McComb, named for her ancestor, Leticia, doesn’t expect to buy the ancestral property she visits. Learning it’s for sale, she really just plans on taking a look around the old home while it’s possible to do so. Nor does she know that her last name of McComb is extremely unpopular. The old stories regarding Nathan and Leticia McComb haven’t died and don’t look like they will any time in the near future.

Gone South reads like an homage to Gone With the Wind and the parable of the Prodigal Son. There’s no Scarlett or Rhett, but we do have Melanie Hamilton whose mother loves the classic movie. With the character’s track record, however, she reminded me more of ‘Felony Melanie’ from the much recent movie Sweet Home Alabama. Then we have the constant references to the Prodigal Son story and how Mel’s father doesn’t welcome her home the same way the prodigal’s father did. There’s no fatted calf here. But we do have a man of Greek heritage named George, which is interesting considering the first paragraph just happens to be set in a Greek sub shop in Michigan.

My favorite character doesn’t have any lines, but plays a pivotal role in the book. In fact, she’s responsible for Tish and George meeting each other. Daisy is a Maltese who has never quite got over the death of her owner – George’s mother. Every opportunity she gets Daisy makes an escape for her former home, which happens to be the old McComb house.

The one problem I have with Gone South is that it doesn’t feel like it’s set in Alabama. Noble could be a small town anywhere in the southern half of the country. The descriptions of the area are all very generic, whereas I love to know the background elements. What is in the narrative that indicates where the book is set? For example, there’s a passing mention of the Alabama and Auburn college football programs, but no one in the book talks about the huge – and very popular – rivalry between them. Other readers might feel this level of detail isn’t needed but I believe the omission of detail diminished my enjoyment of the book.

On the whole, however, Gone South is a pleasant enough way to pass an afternoon. It has a small cast of characters with their own charms. You’ll like some and dislike others. There’s little to cause offense either.

Thank you to Waterbrook Multnomah for my free copy of Gone South, which I received in exchange for an honest review.

 Read the first chapter of Gone South

Publisher: Multnomah

Publication Date: 07 May 2013

Page Count: 352

Read more on:   Meg Moseley’s Website   Waterbrook Multnomah’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Christianbook.com      

Restless in Carolina, by Tamara Leigh

book coverShe’s all about going green. Could he be her white knight—or will he make her see red?

Tree-huggin’, animal-lovin’ Bridget Pickwick-Buchanan is on a mission. Well, two. First she has to come to terms with being a widow at thirty-three. After all, it’s been four years and even her five-year-old niece and nephew think it’s time she shed her widow’s weeds. Second, she needs to find a buyer for her family’s estate—a Biltmore-inspired mansion surrounded by hundreds of acres of unspoiled forestland. With family obligations forcing the sale, Bridget is determined to find an eco-friendly developer to buy the land, someone who won’t turn it into single-family homes or a cheesy theme park.

Enter J. C. Dirk, a high-energy developer from Atlanta whose green property developments have earned him national acclaim. When he doesn’t return her calls, Bridget decides a personal visit is in order. Unfortunately, J. C. Dirk is neither amused nor interested when she interrupts his meeting—until she mentions her family name. In short order, he finds himself in North Carolina, and Bridget has her white knight—in more ways than one. But there are things Bridget doesn’t know about J. C., and it could mean the end of everything she’s worked for…and break her heart.

This is a book about letting go, in more ways than one. We have characters that need to let go of grief, and of vengeance. Sadly, we also have an elderly relative who is gradually letting go of his mental faculties with the onset of dementia. Bridget needs to move on after the death of her husband, Easton, and J C is a determined businessman with plans of his own regarding the Pickwick estate. Somehow, they form a tentative relationship but misunderstandings and omissions get in the way of their ‘happily ever after.’

Despite the seriousness of the main plot lines, there are moments of brevity. Leigh’s characters have their own idiosyncrasies that shine through. The Pickwick clan is so eclectic they can barely spend time in the same room together. Then there is the amusing little scene that starts when Miles, Bridget’s nephew, announces, “She’s dead,” except he’s not talking about a human or a permanent death either. It would appear that opossums don’t like being forced into doll clothes by five year old girls. Finally, Piper, Bridget’s cousin, notes that J C looks like television star Simon Baker. Cue me imagining J C with blond curly hair and wearing a three piece suit!

This is the third of the Pickwick series. Each book focuses on a different Pickwick cousin. Knowledge of the previous two is useful due to references to past events.

Publisher: Multnomah

Page Count: 342

Publication Date: 19 July 2011

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I received my free copy of Restless in Carolina from Waterbrook Multnomah’s Blogging For Books program in exchange for an honest review.