The Lacemaker, by Laura Frantz

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

It is the eve of a new age of freedom in the colonies.
But can a proper English lady dare hope for her own independence?

Lady Elisabeth “Liberty” Lawson has nearly everything a lady of her position could want. Daughter of the British lieutenant governor of the Virginia Colony and a darling of fine society in a rugged land, she is anticipating an advantageous marriage. That her betrothed is a rake and love is lacking is of little consequence–or so she tells herself.

Though her own life seems in order, colonial Williamsburg is a powder keg on the verge of exploding, and her fiancé’s cousin Noble Rynallt carries the flame of revolution in his heart. Those with connections to the British nobility are suspected as spies, and Liberty soon finds herself left with a terrible choice. Will she stay true to her English roots? Or side with Noble and the radical revolutionaries?

First Thoughts:

I’ve enjoyed the previous historical novels by Laura Frantz that I’ve read. Williamsburg is on my Bucket List of places to visit.

My Take:

It’s 1775 and, despite the unrest in the colonies, Elisabeth Lawson has almost everything she could want. Now she waits for her rebel-leaning mother to return from England in time for her wedding. But overnight, her life changes when the British governor of Virginia evacuates Williamsburg, along with her father and other loyalists and she’s left behind. Now, she’s reliant on the kindness of the patriots who’ve taken over the town, including Noble Rynallt who proves to be a better man than his cousin.

The Lacemaker is a story of rags to riches in reverse. There’s tension and romance, happiness and heartbreak. There are scenes of gaiety at loyalist balls, and scenes of horror aboard the British prison ships. You’ll definitely form an opinion on at least a couple of characters: I know I did with regard to Elisabeth’s father and maid! There are cameos by some of the Founding Fathers, and those who don’t appear at least get a mention with more than a passing familiarity. Above all, this is a tale of two people of faith and prayer coming together in an uncertain period of American history.

This was a novel I really enjoyed reading. In fact, I’d have loved this to be a series so I could watch these two grow as the Revolution progressed. What might have happened to Elisabeth and Noble, and those they knew, once Independence was declared? Instead, I must be content with this snapshot in time.

Thank you to Revell Books for my complimentary copy of The Lacemaker, which I received for my honest review.

Have you read The Lacemaker? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Revell (a division of Baker Publishing)

Publication Date: 02 January 2018

Page Count: 416

Read more on:   Revell’s Website   Laura Frantz’s Website   Colonial Williamsburg

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

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Lady Jayne Disappears, by Joanna Davidson Politano

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Lynhurst Manor is a house built on secrets . . . and the arrival of Aurelie Harcourt might reveal them all.

When Aurelie Harcourt’s father dies suddenly, he leaves her just two things: his famous pen name, Nathaniel Droll, and his wealthy family–who want very little to do with her.

As Aurelie struggles to find a home with her father’s family and learn the rules of society, she relishes in his parting gift–the beginning of his last story. The story she always wanted to hear, about her mother’s mysterious disappearance from the home where she now lives. To complete the novel, she’ll have to extract clues from relatives–and one enigmatic houseguest–who often seem reluctant to give them up.

First Thoughts:

This sounds an intriguing title from a debut novelist. The back cover copy doesn’t mention the particulars of Aurelie’s father’s death, but retail sites state it was in a debtor’s prison. Having grown up in England, this is a familiar concept to me. York Castle Museum, which I visited on a recent trip back home, is partially housed in a former debtor’s prison. Charles Dickens wrote about them, using his remembrances of when his father was sent to Marshalsea debtor’s prison in London.

My Take:

On a dark and rainy night in 1861, Aurelie Harcourt is released from a debtor’s prison and picked up by a carriage sent by a mysterious aunt. This scene is described in Aurelie’s own words, casting her as a romantic and fanciful writer following in her author father’s footsteps. Yet she has no formal education and lacks the social graces required of her for her future. Her actions become a source of disparagement for her cousin who believes the younger woman should have no place in the family. It’s no surprise that Aurelie’s closest friend should be the family seamstress, who has secrets of her own.

An alternate perspective of Aurelie’s story comes from Silas Rotherham, a family friend. Here the narrative switches to third person and, while it reveals useful information, feels slightly out of place. I suspect this is because the prologue sets up the story as though Aurelie is telling it to a publisher. How would she know what Silas was doing and thinking while not in her company? More jarring to me, however, is the naming of the prison and how it is referred to throughout. In the book, it is called Shepton Mallet Prison in an area called Glen Cora and referred to as The Mallet. In actuality, there is a former prison in the town of Shepton Mallet, Somerset, and it was sometimes known to as Cornhill because of its location in town. Each time someone referred to Shepton Mallet, or The Mallet, in the book my mind went to the town whereas they meant the prison. This was a personal problem, however, and readers unfamiliar with the area will most likely not experience it.

Overall, Lady Jayne Disappears is a bit of a gothic melodrama. It contains mysteries in an imposing, brooding, mansion, and over the top characters such as Aurelie’s cousin and that woman’s daughter. There are several twists and turns to keep the reader guessing, and plenty of Victorian scandal. I did find the ending a bit too abrupt for my liking, however, and had a couple of questions for which answers were not to be had.

Thank you to Revell for my complimentary copy of Lady Jayne Disappears.

Have you read Lady Jayne Disappears? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Revell (a division of Baker Publishing)

Publication Date: 03 October 2017

Page Count: 416

Read more on:   Revell’s Website   Joanna Davidson Politano’s Website   Debtor’s Prisons in England

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

These Healing Hills, by Ann H. Gabhart

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Francine Howard has her life all mapped out–until the man she loves announces his plans to bring home an English bride from war-torn Europe in 1945. Devastated, Francine seeks a fresh start in the Appalachian Mountains, training to be a nurse midwife for the Frontier Nursing Service.

Deeply affected by the horrors he witnessed at war, Ben Locke has never thought further ahead than making it home to Kentucky. His future shrouded in as much mist as his beloved mountains, he’s at a loss when it comes to envisioning what’s next for his life.

When Francine’s and Ben’s paths intersect, it’s immediately clear that they are from different worlds and value different things. But love has a way of healing old wounds . . . and revealing tantalizing new possibilities.

First Thoughts:

I’ve always liked an Ann Gabhart novel. I expect to enjoy this new title by her just as well.

My Take:

Ann Gabhart takes us back to her beloved Kentucky for a story of redemption and new life. There’s an unwritten rule that the women in the Frontier Nursing Service should maintain a respectful distance from the people they serve, but Fran develops a rapport with young Woody Locke on her first day. That soon extends to his family, including his mother, younger sister, and older brother Ben. Geographically challenged on the forested trails, she comes to rely on the Locke family for guidance and they also introduce her to the various mountain traditions. Her primary duty is that of midwife, but she treats everything from coughs to gun shots.

These Healing Hills is a lovely book, with descriptions over which I wanted to linger. It details the change of seasons, from the heat of July when Fran arrives to the blizzards of her first winter. There are sharp contrasts between the Ohio city, where Fran grew up, and the remote location of her calling. It’s represented in the people: her mother is pretentious and disdaining of those not in their class, while Grammy Em lives simply and uses natural resources for her medicinal remedies. One thing that struck me was that, while the novel takes place in 1945, the area appeared stuck in the Depression. Poverty was widespread, with homes little more than shacks and shoes being a rarity.

If there was anything in which I was disappointed, it was the ending. I felt it was somewhat abrupt, as though all that mattered was a resolution of the romantic angle. But I wanted to know more, which I can’t detail here because that would spoil the story line for you. Nevertheless, I enjoyed These Healing Hills and can recommend it.

Thank you to Revell for my complimentary copy of These Healing Hills, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read These Healing Hills? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Revell (a division of Baker Publishing)

Publication Date: 05 September 2017

Page Count: 368

Read more on:   Ann H. Gabhart’s Website   Revell’s Website

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