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

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A Name Unknown, by Roseanna M. White

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

She’s Out to Steal His Name. Will He Steal Her Heart Instead?

Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins who helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they are no longer pickpockets–instead they focus on high value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. Rosemary is beginning to question whether she can continue in this life when she’s offered the challenge of a lifetime–determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany. After all how does one steal a family’s history, their very name?

As Europe moves ever closer to World War I, rumors swirl around Peter Holstein. Awkward and solitary, but with access to the king, many fear his influence. But Peter can’t help his German last name and wants to prove his loyalty to the Crown–so he can go back to anonymously writing a series of popular adventure novels. When Rosemary arrives on his doorstep pretending to be a well-credentialed historian, Peter believes she’s the right person to help him dig through his family’s past.

When danger and suspicion continue to mount, both realize they’re in a race against time to discover the truth–about Peter’s past and about the undeniable attraction kindling between them.

First Thoughts:

This is the first in a new series by Roseanna M. White. I presume, from the series title, that it will all be set in the lead up to World War One.

My Take:

It’s May 1914, and Rosemary is waiting to meet a contact regarding a job. In the next couple of pages, the reader is given plenty of information leading to questions such as: Who is Mr. V? How did Rosemary manage to steal a document from the British Museum of all places? What is her history anyway? During the course of the book, some answers will be revealed while others remain mysteries.

It’s difficult to have sympathy for a criminal. White does her best to make Rosemary and her ‘family’ likeable people. They justify what they do and claim to only steal from those who can “afford to lose a bit.” A gang of child thieves is reminiscent of the group from Oliver Twist, although their leader is a sharp contrast to the notorious Fagin. I didn’t think much of Rosemary’s skills either as it seemed she made a number of rookie mistakes, such as revealing contradictions in her backstory. I definitely couldn’t see how the required happy ending would arrive: She’d either be successful and ruin Peter, or she’d fail and probably sent to jail. The resolution is somewhat mind-boggling, and changes what I thought was the premise of the series.

So, what works in A Name Unknown to make it a worthwhile read? Take away the thievery aspect, and there’s a very good tale of suspense. I was fascinated by Peter’s story. Who were his father and grandfather? How did the family have a royal connection? Why is Peter now being targeted with a series of suspicious events? Is it due to anti-German sentiment or something else? Who’s behind the maliciousness? The story builds slowly but the tension, when I experienced it towards the end, was unexpected. Once I felt that, I knew there was no putting down this book until I’d read the very last page.

Thank you to Bethany House and Litfuse for my complimentary copy of A Name Unknown, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

This review is part of a Litfuse Publicity Book Tour

Have you read A Name Unknown? 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: 04 July 2017

Page Count: 432

Read more on:   Roseanna M. White’s Website   Bethany House’s Website

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

A Secret Courage, by Tricia Goyer

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

American Emma Hanson came to England to study at Oxford, but joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force at the height of World War II. She is stationed at beautiful and historic Danesfield House west of London as part of the highly secretive Photographic Reconnaissance Unit.

Englishman Will Fleming is a handsome young artist who has been commissioned by the British government to record the changing landscape in paintings. His path intersects with Emma’s when his real mission—tracking Nazi spies—leads him to Danesfield House, the target of a sinister plot.

Emma and Will become friends, but neither can reveal the true nature of their assignment. Can their relationship grow amid such secrecy? And can Will save Danesfield House—and Emma and her coworkers—before it’s too late?

First Thoughts:

I’ve enjoyed Tricia Goyer’s previous World War 2 novels, and this is about a war location in the UK that I’d not heard of previously.

My Take:

I’m often drawn to historical novels set in my home country, and World War 2 novels often give me a glimpse of what my grandparents might’ve experienced during that dark time. I occasionally learn something new from them as well; I’d not heard of Danesfield House before reading A Secret Courage, although I knew that aerial reconnaissance was a vital part of the war effort.

The opening scene was set in 1940 and showed Will being chased by the London police through the city. Although it was a tense passage, I admit that I didn’t quite understand how it was important to the plot. Readers were next introduced to Emma at her job in 1943, and then Berndt Eldwin who was obviously the bad guy. I couldn’t see where the plot was going, however, until some way into the book. As the tension slowly built, I felt at times like Emma. I didn’t know who to trust. I knew that Berndt couldn’t have been acting alone, but I didn’t guess the identity of his co-conspirator until that person was introduced at the climax.

Although Emma is American, there are several mentions of her mother being British. One description of Mrs. Hanson really stood out to me: that she was someone who “buttered her bread one bite at a time.” I wanted to shout out, “Yes!” It might not seem as anything other than a passing comment but it rang true for me, because this is something I do.

I’m not sure how I feel about the ending. It isn’t what I would call a perfectly happy ending, but it is one of hope. I thought there were some floating loose ends concerning supporting characters and, since, this is the first book of a new series set during the war, I’d hoped the story of these characters might’ve been continued. It appears, however, that the second book in the series will be about new characters.

Thank you to Harvest House for my complimentary electronic copy of A Secret Courage, which I downloaded via NetGalley.

Have you read A Secret Courage? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Harvest House

Publication Date: 01 April 2017

Page Count: 304

Read more on:   Tricia Goyer’s Website   Harvest House’s Website

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