A Stranger at Fellsworth, by Sarah E. Ladd

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Could losing everything be the best thing to happen to Annabelle Thorley?

In the fallout of her deceased father’s financial ruin, Annabelle’s prospects are looking bleak. Her fiancé has called off their betrothal, and now she remains at the mercy of her controlling and often cruel brother. Annabelle soon faces the fact that her only hope for a better life is to do the unthinkable and run away to Fellsworth, where her estranged uncle serves as the school’s superintendent. Upon arrival, Annabelle learns that she must shed her life of high society and work for her wages for the first time in her life.

Owen Locke is unswerving in his commitments. As a widower and father, he is fiercely protective of his only daughter. As an industrious gamekeeper, he is intent on keeping poachers at bay even though his ambition has always been to purchase land he can call his own. When a chance encounter introduces him to Annabelle Thorley, his steady life is shaken. For the first time since his wife’s death, Owen begins to consider a second chance at love.

As Owen and Annabelle grow closer, ominous forces threaten the peace they thought they’d found. Poachers, mysterious strangers, and murderers converge at Fellsworth, forcing Annabelle and Owen to a test of fortitude and bravery to stop the shadow of the past from ruining their hopes for the future.

First Thoughts:

This is the third in the Treasures of Surrey series. But why does the character’s background sound familiar?

My Take:

I feel that, lately, I’ve come across a couple of books where the female lead character has been abandoned after by her fiancé after her family has lost its fortune. Before starting A Stranger at Fellsworth I was certain I’d read about Annabelle before in one of Sarah Ladd’s novels. A quick search revealed that it was similar to what happened to minor character Penelope Gilchrist in The Curiosity Keeper, book one of Ladd’s current series. In this third novel, we also get a glimpse of a more desperate existence when Annabelle discovers a former family friend in similar financial difficulties.

Determined to avoid an unenviable fate, Annabelle schemes with a stranger to get away from London to start a new life at her uncle’s school. Her maid accompanies her, but she soon learns she will need to do without the girl who is given a new position. Annabelle must now fend for herself, which she seems to do very easily. But throughout the pages, it’s apparent that she feels inadequate to her assignment. How can she teach the practical skills her students need when she doesn’t herself possess them?

Much of the novel portrays Annabelle’s adjustment to her new role and her budding relationship with Owen. But you know something is building, especially when all the main characters come together in one place. The great thing was not knowing or expecting how Annabelle’s situation would ultimately be resolved. While there is a happy ending for our lovebirds, however, I did wonder what would happen to the book’s ‘bad guys.’

A Stranger at Fellsworth concludes Sarah Ladd’s second trilogy. While the series is called Treasures of Surrey, the only connection between the three books is Fellsworth School. As a result, the Superintendent of the school, Annabelle’s uncle, is the only common character. Each book in this enjoyable series, therefore, can be enjoyed without having to read the other two.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson and BookLook Bloggers for my complimentary copy of A Stranger at Fellsworth, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read A Stranger at Fellsworth? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Thomas Nelson (a division of HarperCollins Christian)

Publication Date: 16 May 2017

Page Count: 336

Read more on:   Sarah Ladd’s Website   Thomas Nelson’s Website

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

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The Illusionist’s Apprentice, by Kristy Cambron

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Wren Lockhart, apprentice to master illusionist Harry Houdini, uses life on a vaudeville stage to escape the pain of her past. She continues her career of illusion after her mentor’s death, intent on burying her true identity.

But when a rival performer’s act goes tragically wrong, the newly formed FBI calls on Wren to speak the truth—and reveal her real name to the world. She transfers her skills for misdirection from the stage to the back halls of vaudeville, as she finds herself the unlikely partner in the FBI’s investigation. All the while Houdini’s words echo in her mind: Whatever occurs, the crowd must believe it’s what you meant to happen. She knows that if anyone digs too deep, secrets long kept hidden may find their way to the surface—and shatter her carefully controlled world.

 

First Thoughts:

As a member of Fiction Guild, I received a copy of The Illusionist’s Apprentice for review. Not that I minded, because I have enjoyed Kristy Cambron’s previous books.

My Take:

The Illusionist’s Apprentice starts with a bizarre scene at a cemetery outside Boston. What happens there sets in motion an FBI investigation in which Wren Lockhart becomes a person of interest. Further mysteries develop when the reader is introduced to Wren’s family through flashback chapters. While the murder investigation is what brings Wren into the life of Agent Elliot Matthews, he is equally determined to break down her walls and discover the truth of her past. This is a romance novel as well as one of tragedy and suspense.

I adored this book. I had trouble putting it down and probably wouldn’t have done so if not for life getting in the way! I became involved with even the characters and my heart sunk when an unexpected twist involved one of them. I thought it was interesting that Wren made a distinction between illusion and magic, and there’s a strong theme of light overcoming darkness. Everything in the narrative built to a breathtaking climax followed by a beautiful denouement. Although Wren and Elliot are fictional characters, I love how Cambron wove in the real and the imagined. Harry Houdini would often debunk spiritualism and attempts to contact the dead, and that part of his career is the focus of this novel.

The Illusionist’s Apprentice was published in March but, if you’re looking for a good summer read I heartily recommend picking it up. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson, BookLook Bloggers, and Fiction Guild for my complimentary copy of The Illusionist’s Apprentice, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read The Illusionist’s Apprentice? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Thomas Nelson (a division of HarperCollins Christian)

Publication Date: 07 March 2017

Page Count: 368

Read more on:   Kristy Cambron’s Website   Thomas Nelson’s Website

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

Child of the River, by Irma Joubert

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Persomi’s dreams are much bigger than the world of poverty and deprivation that surround her in the Bushveld of the 1940s and 1950s in South Africa.

Persomi is young, white and poor, born the middle child of illiterate sharecroppers on the prosperous Fourie farm. Persomi’s world is extraordinarily small. She has never been to the local village and spends her days absorbed in the rhythms of the natural world around her. Her older brother, Gerbrand, is her lifeline and her connection to the outside world. When he leaves the farm to seek work in Johannesburg, Persomi’s isolated world is blown wide open. But as her very small world falls apart, bigger dreams become open to her—dreams of an education, a profession, and of love. As Persomi navigates the changing world around her—the tragedies of WWII and the devastating racial strife of her homeland—she finally discovers who she truly is and where she belongs.

 First Thoughts:

I was sent this book by the TNZ Fiction Guild, and reading and reviewing it was optional. I’d previously reviewed Joubert’s The Girl From the Train, and had mixed feelings on it, but decided I’d give this title a go.

My Take:

Child of the River was first released in the Afrikaans language in South Africa in 2010. It’s now the second of Irma Joubert’s novels to be released in English in the USA by Thomas Nelson. It focuses on Persomi, the fourth child of seven, raised by an abusive father in absolute poverty. It’s expected that she’ll receive a minimal education before going to the city to find work. Determined to better herself, however, Persomi studies hard despite being looked down on for her old clothes and lack of shoes. When her family’s circumstances change, she’s able to break the cycle of poverty but it comes at a cost.

This novel spans 30 years, covering the impact of World War II on South Africa and the transformation of the country into an apartheid state. The focus in the second half is on a legal struggle based on something called the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act, 1946. Persomi, now an adult, assists the local Indian community fighting against forced removal. While some of her close friends support her stand, others have opinions that seem horrific today but were considered normal at the time.

Child of the River was an eye opening read. I’d never really thought about white South Africans experiencing poverty. Nor did I know much about the differences between Afrikaner and English white South Africans. It also showed how big a factor education is in escaping poverty and hopelessness. I found some sympathetic characters and some really unlikeable ones and, perhaps surprisingly, their thoughts on race didn’t affect my opinions of them. One negative was the constant and stilted form of some of the idioms used, but this could’ve been a translation issue. The ending takes place in 1968 and is sudden. The final scene is lovely, however, and left me full of unexpected emotion. Having read Joubert’s The Girl From the Train and not been overly impressed, I have to say I far preferred Child of the River and I’d definitely recommend it.

Thank you to TNZFiction’s Fiction Guild for my complimentary copy of Child of the River. No review was required.

Have you read Child of the River? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Thomas Nelson (a division of HarperCollins Christian)

Publication Date: 18 October 2016

Page Count: 416

Read more on:   Thomas Nelson’s Website

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