Monday, April 25, 2016

Land of Silence

As a young girl in Jerusalem, Elianna leads a carefree life surrounded by her loving family until her only brother dies while under her care.  Despite her hard work and obvious talent over the following years, Elianna can never seem to earn forgiveness from her father, or herself.  When tragedies continue to strike her family, Elianna's inner struggle to earn righteousness causes her to push away everyone who loves her.  When it seems as if her heart can take no more, a severe bleeding illness strikes her body, and for 12 years Elianna's ritual uncleanliness keeps her physically separated from those she loves.  No physician can cure her, and she finally loses hope.  When she hears of a prophet whose very touch can heal, will Elianna find the courage to allow Him to cure both her body and soul?  

In Land of Silence, Tessa Afshar retells the Biblical tale of the woman with the issue of blood found in the synoptic gospels.  Full of fascinating historical detail, Afshar does a fantastic job taking her readers on a journey to the time of Christ.  Likewise, her characters are complex, believable, and well-developed.  Elianna's personal path to forgiveness is equal parts heart-wrenching and redemptive.  Knowing the story's basic outline-- long-term illness followed by faith and healing-- did not diminish its emotional impact.  

That said, it was virtually impossible to take pleasure in any of Elianna's joys or successes early in the novel knowing the heartache that surely awaited her.  Afshar does a commendable job showing just how isolating this woman's sickness would have been, given her Jewish heritage.   The reader becomes so invested in her story, that experiencing Elianna's inner redemption after hearing Jesus's words was even more satisfying than her physical healing.  

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Magnolia Duchess

Devastated at the news of her brother's capture by the British during the War of 1812, Fiona Lanier goes riding along the beach of Navy Cove and comes upon a half-drowned young man.  While Charlie Kincaid may not remember how or why he has washed up along the Alabama coast, Fiona recognizes him as a lieutenant in the British Navy whom met years before in Scotland.  As the war rages around them, and Charlie's memory gradually returns, how will each balance their patriotism with the love that has grown between them?

In The Magnolia Duchess, Beth White paints a vivid picture of life along the Gulf Coast in 1814.  The complex and culturally diverse history of the region during a time not often explored in fiction makes for a page-turning adventure.  From pirates and patriots to earls and admirals, White's third novel in her Gulf Coast Chronicles doesn't disappoint.

Both Fiona's and Charlie's struggles are believable and thought-provoking, and their love story truly captivating.  Unfortunately,  White also spends an unnecessary amount of time exploring auxiliary love stories among several minor characters.  These plot lines tend to be simultaneously distracting and annoying.  Despite this, and some pacing issues, The Magnolia Duchess takes readers on a fascinating historical journey.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Dawn at Emberwilde

Free-spirited heroine Isabel Creston chafes under the rigid rules of Fellsworth school where she has been a student for years and hopes to become a teacher.  Thinking herself without family other than her young sister Lizzy-- for whom she is responsible-- Isabel resigns herself to a predictable life of hard work at Fellsworth.  When a dashing stranger appears at the school with an offer to reunite her with her estranged mother's family, Isabel and Lizzy find themselves swept away to an unknown world of wealth, excess, and an entirely different set of rules.  Will Isabel find a way to navigate her way through her new role and the expectations her new family places on her?  Will the dark family secrets and mysteries keep her from embracing a life of love and security she never dreamed was possible?

In Dawn at Emberwilde, Sara Ladd takes her readers on an entertaining and thought-provoking adventure.  The mysterious Emberwilde Forest and the secretive Ellison family add a depth to the novel that some of Ladd's latest efforts have lacked.  Particularly realistic is Isabel's personal struggle to balance the austere nature of her upbringing with the striking excesses of her new home.  Any parent will also empathize with Isabel's fears for Lizzy's future and questions as to which type of childhood will prove most beneficial and healthy.  The auxiliary characters were well-developed and entertaining, and the central love-story compelling and sweet.  This new work definitely ranks among Ladd's best thus far.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Reluctant Duchess

While Lady Rowena Kinnaird is first in line to inherit her father's earldom, she has never led the privileged life of her peers.  Tucked away in her overbearing father's Highland home with a scheming step-mother, Rowena has never felt worthy of or equal to her title.  When her physical safety and inheritance are both threatened, how far will she go to escape the only life she has ever known?  Will she ever learn to trust her savior-- the dashing Brice Myerston, Duke of Nottingham-- who is not only a notorious flirt, but also has a few dangerous secrets of his own?

In The Reluctant Duchess, Roseanna M. White tells a compelling story of redemption and love.  Infinitely more relatable than Brooke Eden of White's previous novel in the series-- The Lost Heiress-- Rowena's story captivates and inspires.  The central love story is suspenseful but not frustrating, exciting but believable, and beautifully concluded.

On a deeper level, White expertly delves into the nature of God's work in our individual lives, and prods readers to explore their faith in things unseen.  Set against the fascinating Scottish Highlands and the glittering ballrooms of Edwardian England's social elite, White takes her readers on a non-stop, page-turning adventure.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.