Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Summer of Dreams: A From This Moment Novella

Left without a mother at a young age, Evelyn White spent her childhood bouncing among the households of her extended family while her father pursued his army career.  As a result, Evelyn vows to never marry a man in uniform.  When Clyde Brixton-- a cadet at nearby West Point Academy-- enters her life for one blissful summer, she begins to wonder if this determined and talented young man can make her dearest dreams come true after all.  

In her talented way, Elizabeth Camden does a beautiful job telling a fun love story against a fascinating historical backdrop in  Summer of Dreams.  A quick and entertaining read, the novella does what it is meant to: convince readers to pre-order Camden's next full-length novel From This Moment.  

As the daughter of a Navy pilot who would forcefully swear to never even date anyone in the military... and is now marking my husband's tenth year as an Air Force pilot, much of this love story resonated with me on a personal level!  Camden does an excellent job chronicling Evelyn's inner struggle to trust Clyde's ability to give her the home and family she has always longed for.  

While I thoroughly enjoyed the novella, I desperately wish I had not read the included excerpt of From This Moment.  In it, Camden reveals some disturbing news about Clyde and Evelyn's future that I desperately hope she addresses in the novel, even though Evelyn's cousin Romulus is the 

Summer of Dreams is available for free on Amazon.  

Monday, May 16, 2016

To Love a Stranger

Quiet, unassuming, and responsible Bessie Randall has always lived in the shadow of her vivaciously beautiful younger sister Lenore.  When she discovers that Lenore has been corresponding with a soldier out west under Bessie's name-- and has even married him by proxy-- Bessie chooses to protect her sister from forgery charges by traveling to Wyoming to meet her legal husband.  

Expecting the lovely and adventurous Lenore, Jasper Mendenhall is shocked and visibly disappointed when he discovers he has technically married Bessie instead.  When the army moves up Jasper's orders to move to Fort Bowie, he has no choice to take Bessie along and sort out the legal mess when they arrive in Arizona.  In that time, can Bessie prove her worth and convince Jasper to allow her to stay and build a family instead of sending her back to Boston in disgrace?  

In To Love a Stranger, Colleen Coble tells a story of true love that grows out of respect and sees beyond outward appearances.  While intriguing, Bessie and Jasper's situation requires the reader to suspend reality.  Why would a level-headed young woman go traipsing across the country to live with a complete stranger just because her sister has acted irresponsibly?  Coble hints that perhaps believes this is her last chance for marriage, but this paints her as awfully desperate for the daughter of a wealthy Boston family.  In that vein, why do her parents-- who Coble often describes as elitist-- allow their daughter to marry a poor soldier?  

Similarly, Coble never truly delves into Bessie and Lenore's relationship to sufficiently explain why Bessie would go to such lengths to protect such a terrible sister.  The reader never gets a clear picture of Lenore herself either-- is she a spoiled, selfish, conniving debutante?  Or just a beloved, but naive friend?  She seems to be an unsatisfying blend of both.  

That said, Coble's descriptions of army life and westward travels are vivid and entertaining.  Full of action and adventure, the story is fast-paced and progresses quickly.  While readers recognize that in a romance novel the main characters will not live happily ever after until the very end, Jasper and Bessie's happy ending could have come much earlier had they bothered to communicate with one another.  This does not seem to be asking too much of two reasonable, thoughtful, and Christ-seeking people.  The basic plot outline and interesting backdrop had potential, but unfortunately the execution fell flat.  

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

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Beautiful Pretender

When the King orders the Margrave of Thornbeck to quickly find a noble woman to marry, Lord Reinhart decides to invite 10 suitable young ladies to his castle for two weeks in an attempt to discern their true character.  Simple maidservant Avelina finds herself among the lucky 10 to be tested when her mistress— the daughter of the Earl of Plimmwald— disappears with a lowly knight.  Can Avelina manage to save her home and her family by impersonating Lady Dorthea for two weeks?  Despite her best efforts to keep her distance, will she eventually admit her growing feelings for the Margrave?  Will Lord Thornbeck be able to forgive her deception before an even bigger threat takes his castle from him? 

With her typical creativity in melding classic fairy-tales with medieval history, Melanie Dickerson creates a vivid and compelling story for her readers in The Beautiful Pretender.  Unlike some of her previous novels, Dickerson doesn’t strictly retell a well-known fairy-tale, but instead loosely pays homage to The Princess and the Pea.  The first half of the book reads more like a season of “The Medieval Bachelor"-- complete with conniving mean girls, secret tests, and romantic interludes.  

While the story-telling is excellent, the dialogue often seems stunted and unnatural, and Avelina’s initial “interview" with Reinhart comes across as more cringe-worthy than endearing.  That said, the characters themselves are well-developed, believable, and likable.  With a hint of humor and plenty of interesting historical detail, Dickerson produces a delightful and entertaining piece of historical fiction.  

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

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Anchor in the Storm

Never one to be intimidated, plucky young pharmacist Lilian Avery moves to Boston to fulfill her dreams of independence during the early weeks of World War II.  Frustrated by her gender, physical disability, and questions regarding unusual orders, her new boss constantly threatens to replace her.  Lillian's primary comfort is her budding friendship with her brother's best friend, Ensign Archer Vendenberg.  Shaken after seeing and experiencing so much carnage at sea, Arch struggles with his nerves, and notices some concerning behavior from his crew as well.  As he and Lillian begin to investigate, will the dangers they face encourage or crush their fledgling relationship?  Will Arch ever trust Lillian to truly love him, rather than his wealth?  Can Lillian ever allow herself to be vulnerable enough to accept love?

In Anchor in the Storm, Sarah Sundin tells a fascinating story of Boston at the start of WWII.  This second installment in her Waves of Freedom series picks up where the first left off, chronicling the lives of ordinary citizens and US Naval officers at a critical time in American history.  Having focused on aviation and nursing perspectives overseas in her previous trilogies, the plight of Americans on the home front paints a new and interesting picture.  These first two Waves of Freedom novels have also included fun and suspenseful mysteries for the main characters to solve.

With her characteristic devotion to historical accuracy as well as sweet love stories, Sundin has created yet another action-packed, heart-warming adventure.  Lillian and Arch are both well-developed, relatable, and realistic, and their romance is compelling and lovely.  This reader also enjoyed getting to follow the stories of favorite characters from Through Waters Deep as well!

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