Monday, April 24, 2017

A Stranger at Fellsworth

After the death of her father, Annabelle Thorley's life is virtually controlled by her untrustworthy elder brother.  Her original betrothal broken due to her family's financial problems, Annabelle's brother begins to push her more and more strongly to marry a man she cannot love, or trust.  For her own safety, Annabelle decides to secretly run away from London and accept a teaching position at a school in Fellsworth with her estranged uncle.  

Widower and game keeper Owen Locke is hard-working, single-minded, and extremely protective of his young daughter.  When Owen has the opportunity to help Annabelle escape her conniving and dangerous brother, he is surprised when she requests to flee to Fellsworth-- where his own daughter is a student.  Despite his determination to buy land of his own and protect his heart from further damage, Owen can't seem to put Annabelle out of his mind. 

As Annabelle struggles to find her footing as a teacher, will she learn to discern who she should and should not trust?  Will her new-found friends or family betray her to her brother?  And as she and Owen become better acquainted, will either of them learn to let go of past disappointments and trust each other with their hearts? 

Sarah E. Ladd's A Stranger at Fellsworth is a lovely story full of danger, excitement, adventure, and romance.  While many aspects of the plot strongly resembled The Curiosity Keeper-- another Ladd novel in which a young woman runs away from a dangerous family member and finds herself teaching at a small school-- I found Stranger at Fellsworth much more satisfying.  While I've certainly loved many of Ladd's previous novels, she has a tendency to gloss over the relationship-building portions between the main characters and somehow magically skip to the "happily ever after" a bit prematurely.  In this case, I definitely could have used a bit more interaction between Owen and Annabelle, but their story was still believable and  entertaining.  The plot itself was full of action and kept me guessing until the end.  Overall, Ladd's latest is among her best efforts.  

 I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Noble Servant

Lady Magdalen has been infatuated with Steffan, the Duke of Wolfberg, ever since meeting him at a ball 2 years ago.  She realizes, though, that while they may have enjoyed each other's company, her lack of dowry makes it unlikely that Steffan would ever pursue a romantic relationship with her.  Much to her surprise, after 2 years of silence, Magdalen receives a summons from Steffan asking her to travel to Wolfberg and become his wife.  Her maidservant Agnes, however, has a different plan.  On their way to Wolfberg, Agnes and her father betray Magdalen and convince the people of the castle that Agnes is the the Duke's betrothed.  

Finding herself minding Wolfberg's flock of geese, Magdalen watches and waits for an opportunity to prove her true identity.  Much to her surprise, the supposed Duke of Wolfberg looks nothing like Magdalen remembers, while a new shepherd bears a striking resemblance to the man of her dreams.  Will Magdalen and Steffan have the courage to trust one another with their identities in time to stop Steffan's uncle from stealing everything from them?  Will the betrayals they have both endured blind them from the growing feelings they have for one another?  

Melanie Dickerson tells an entertaining tale of mystery, intrigue, and romance in The Noble Servant.  
I feel like a broken record in reviewing Dickerson's novels: the dialogue between characters often feels awkward and stilted, but her creative storytelling abilities always keep me coming back for more.  This particular effort is true on both counts.  Luckily, Dickerson's character development in The Noble Servant is better than usual.  Both Steffan and Magdalen are real and believable characters, but not so flawed or obnoxious that they were difficult to root for as protagonists.  I was so enthralled with their story, in fact, that I managed to finish the book in a single evening.  I also enjoyed the chance to reunite with a few characters from The Beautiful Pretender.  In my humble opinion, Dickerson's latest is one of her better efforts.

 I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Sandpiper Cove

When incidents of vandalism keep popping up in the quiet town of Hope Harbor, Oregon, police chief Lexie Graham finds herself spending time with ex-con and new resident Adam Stone.  When Lexie realizes quite quickly that Adam isn't behind the recent crimes affecting the town, she enlists his help in mentoring a troubled young teenager.  Determined to build a new life for himself, Adam doesn't understand his fascination with Lexie, and tries his best not to wish for things he can never have.  While Lexi tries to focus on her job and raising her son, she also can't seem to keep her mind off of the enigmatic Adam.  As the pair spend more time together, will they each be able to let go of the past, and learn to truly trust God and each other?  

Irene Hannon tells yet another heart-wrenching story of love and forgiveness in hew latest Hope Harbor novel, Sandpiper Cove.  Both Lexie and Adam were wonderfully complex and extremely well-developed, and  I truly enjoyed every page of their journey.  As with Hannon's previous installment, Sea Rose Lane, the plot itself is a bit predictable, and lacks many twists or turns.  As character studies, however, Hannon's Hope Harbor novels are nothing short of masterful.  While contemporary fiction isn't generally my genre of choice, Sandpiper Cove is equal parts romantic and lovely.  I anxiously await any subsequent additions to the Hope Harbor series.  

 I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Chapel Car Bride

Eternal optimist and dedicated daughter, Hope Irvine, cannot wait to serve alongside her father as a missionary in his traveling chapel car.  When they reach a rural mining town in West Virginia, Hope sees endless ways to bring joy and aid to its families and surrounding areas.  Local miner, Luke Hughes, feels called to become a preacher, but has no way to attend school or earn a living outside the mining community he'd always known.  While he is immediately drawn to Hope, he begins to wonder if she returns his affections when she spends time with the untrustworthy son of Luke's employer, Kirby Finch.  Will Hope's desire to find the good in everyone blind her to Kirby's faults and put her in danger?  Will Luke be able to convince her of Kirby's true intentions without appearing to simply be jealous? 

Judith Miller brings the fascinating world of the coal industry to life in The Chapel Car Bride.  Miller's portrayal of the relationships between the miners and the wealthy mine owners, the colorful depiction of the mining families, the seedy underground of bootleggers and revenuers, and a bustling railroad make for a thoroughly entertaining setting.  Additionally, Luke is a believable and worthy protagonist and romantic lead.  I did, however, find myself regularly frustrated with Hope.  While it's certainly noble to strive to forgive every offense and believe the best in people, Hope's utter naiveté is far more annoying than it is endearing.  I enjoyed Kirby as an antagonist, but unfortunately his storyline ends in an abrupt and very unsatisfying way.  Miller's latest has potential and several high points, but I just never truly found myself engaged in the story.  

 I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.