Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Lovely Romance with a Sinister Threat | Review of The Reluctant Duchess



About the Book

Will Fleeing the Scottish Highlands Only Leave Her in More Danger?

Lady Rowena Kinnaird may be the heiress to a Highland earldom, but she's never felt good enough - not for her father, not for the man she thought she'd marry, not for God. But after a shocking attack, she's willing to be forever an outcast if it means escaping those threatening her life.

Brice Myerston, the Duke of Nottingham, has never been one to shy away from manor-born ladies, yet the last thing he needs is the distraction of the newly introduced Lady Rowena. He has enough on his plate having recently come into possession of a rare treasure for which many would kill, yet those around him seem intent on pairing him with this desperate but beguiling girl.

Rowena is reluctant to marry this notorious flirt. And when she learns that Brice is mixed up in some kind of questionable business with a stolen treasure, she fears she'll end up in more danger than she fled.

Available Now!

My Rating

Spring

My Review

Roseanna White is skilled at penning historical fiction! I enjoyed the Scottish elements of this particular story. The haunting setting...the clash of classes and loyalties...the interesting discussion of curses and whether or not they truly pose a threat. It's a good blend of intriguing descriptions, a compelling and varied cast of characters, and a fairly unique topic and backdrop for the genre.

The poor heroine endures some awful trials and difficult changes in this story. But the Duke of Nottingham makes for a very tender and caring hero, which makes for a happy romance reader! The depictions of patient love as the story goes on are simply lovely.

As for the plot, my first impression was that the climax was a bit of a letdown, perhaps a bit rushed compared to all the build-up. But the build-up makes for an engaging read for the most part, and I feel like the conclusion is still satisfying, even if I got a bit bored toward the end and looked ahead to see what was coming.

The Reluctant Duchess is a well-written historical romance that's both sinister and sentimental in turn. And the finale definitely stirs up some curiosity for the third book in the Ladies of the Manor series, A Lady Unrivaled.

*With thanks to Bethany House for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Snack Size Reviews with a Side of Catch-Up

I have a bad, bad habit of procrastinating...as you might be able to tell by the lack of reviews on my blog lately, which doesn't match up with the amount of books I've been reading and rating on Goodreads! I want to sincerely apologize for delaying on reviews that should have been posted months ago.

This post won't catch me up on all the reviews I owe (there are some books I've had on my TBR pile for an *embarrassing* amount of time), but it's a start. :) I hope you enjoy perusing the virtual cupboard and maybe find something you'd like to try!

P.S. You can click on the titles to visit the Goodreads pages for these books, where you'll find descriptions and other reviews.

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Charity's Cross by MaryLu Tyndall
Series: Charles Towne Belles #4

It's so great to have another seafaring story from MaryLu Tyndall! You can expect some trademark elements that you'll see in many of this author's novels, but the romance and adventure are definitely enjoyable. This one is hard to put down! And this particular story has some thought-provoking scenarios pertaining to the extent of God's grace and how much we can trust Him.

Bonus: MaryLu fans will appreciate the cameos from other characters in this series!

Quote to Savor: She'd spent the past hour among the night owls, insects, and frogs, the distant sound of waves, and a sky so lustrous with stars, she wondered how she could ever have thought there was no God.

For Elise by Hayden Wand

This novelette is sweet, tender, and quirky. It's easy to care for the two main characters - even though the hero can come across as a bit pretentious, perhaps. (Maybe reading about him in the third-person rather than hearing from him in the first-person would have made him even more likable?) Still, this is a fun little story with some good lines!

Quote to Chew On: I was not going to stand for being sassed by the undead in my own home.

Spell Bound by Dorian Tsukioka
Series: A Fairy Retelling #3

Sadly, this retelling is not my favorite by the author. However, I truly was impressed by the creativity of the plot and the fairy-tale connections (with Rumpelstiltskin and Snow White). The imagination behind it all is quite astounding! The twist with the dwarves is clever, and I generally liked the main characters. Unfortunately, I just had a hard time cheering for a certain direction in the plot, and I'm not sure the third-person present tense made for the best reading experience. But this author writes some creative retellings, and I've really enjoyed her other stories (Cursed Beauty, Ai of the Mountain, and Rosara and the Jungle King from the Five Enchanted Roses collection).

*With thanks to the author for providing me with an e-copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

A Daring Sacrifice by Jody Hedlund
Series: An Uncertain Choice #2

I confess I loved this one much more than the first in the series (An Uncertain Choice)! It's got a beautiful and engaging love story, plenty of intrigue and twists, and great characters. The discussion questions and the layout of the story work very well for raising thought-provoking commentary on relationships. The sacrificial theme is an important one, and I love the idea of making sure you see a love interest's world (how they live and where they're coming from) before making a commitment.

The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd

This author truly does have an enchanting way with words, quirky characters, and sweet themes. I enjoyed the unique setting of the cafe in the cemetery and the way such a setting brings out some meaningful thoughts. I don't think I liked this one quite as much as A Snicker of Magic...but that story is a hard one to top! The Key to Extraordinary is still a clever and darling read.

Veiled at Midnight by Christine Lindsay
Series: Twilight of the British Raj #3

I read this book over a long, stretched-out period of time. Two things to note: 1) It was kind of easy to set the story aside, but 2) the heart of the story stuck with me enough to help me jump back in again even after being away for a while. The research involved in composing this story is definitely evident, and the setting/time period are unique choices for Christian fiction. I found the plot a little complex and the politics a little over my head, but the relationship matters are weighty, meaningful, sometimes frustrating, and yet engaging. Not always an easy read, but one that has great depth, presenting events and scenarios worth remembering and pondering.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Series: Don Tillman #1

This book was recommended to me by a girl I met at Shari's. I'm really glad I gave it a try! It's not my usual fare... Note that there's a lot of language and sexual references. (There are no sex scenes, though.) But the main character, Don, and the way his point of view is presented is brilliant, hilarious, and endearing. I enjoyed watching Don come to realize that love was nothing like he expected it to be. :)

Quote to Savor: Then, in this vanishingly small moment in the history of the universe, she took my hand, and held it all the way to the subway.

Thanks to Juju of Tales of Whimsy for the inspiration regarding mini reviews!

Monday, August 22, 2016

For the Love of Nonfiction (The Surprising Confessions of a Fiction Fangirl)

I have a picture frame hanging on the wall near my front door. Beneath the collage of my loved ones and me rests this saying: Life makes the best story of all. 

Over the past few months, I've been reveling in the story of life...the twists and turns and beautiful adventures that end up so much more unique and challenging and grand than you could have anticipated. And don't get me wrong: I've been enjoying plenty of fictitious journeys along the way, because there's something special about meeting new characters and learning more about love and life through their ups and downs.

Yes, I still love a good novel. I've just been pleasantly surprised to discover how precious nonfiction can be, and how it can enhance a life story in subtle, wonderful ways.

This fiction fangirl has discovered that nonfiction isn't always as dry and boring as she thought. Imagine that! :)

Instead of taking me on a fictional adventure, nonfiction has come alongside me on my real-life adventure and helped me ponder the paths I can take and the kind of person I can become. I'd love to share with you some of the titles that have blessed and blindsided me in really good ways...


- Blue Like Jazz, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and Scary Close by Donald Miller

I have become a huge fan of Donald Miller's work! His words comfort and challenge, shining a light that reveals surprising, relatable thoughts and makes the reader squirm and squint a bit. Do I always agree or understand? No. I found that the last part of Blue Like Jazz didn't resonate as well for me as the first two-thirds did. And yet I love, love, love that Don's books make me think and see new faith connections and insights. 

Blue Like Jazz is inspiring and powerful with its deep spiritual themes. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years helped me see more clearly how analyzing stories - the elements of the fiction I love - can show me what it takes to make my own life story one full of meaningful scenes and ultimate purpose. And Scary Close shares some great thoughts on taking the risk of vulnerability in relationships. 

- Simply Tuesday and A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman

Of these two, I think Simply Tuesday stood out to me the most, but A Million Little Ways has some thought-provoking passages of its own! What does it look like to truly live life in the everyday sense? How would our lives be transformed if we embraced what awaits us on our ordinary Tuesdays? And what about art and calling? Does it have to look a certain way...or can Jesus shine through us in unexpected, everyday avenues that might look far different from our typical perception of a "calling"?

It's freeing to realize how beautifully extraordinary our ordinary days can be, because it's in these days that life actually happens. That's a lesson I think I can stand to keep learning and learning. :)

- I Don't Wait Anymore by Grace Thornton

This book is deceptively simple in some ways. But it packs a power punch as it makes you wonder, Am I fully surrendered to God? Am I willing to follow where He leads? Will I open my eyes to see the exciting possibilities awaiting me...and the people I can love right here and now? 

I also love how this book encourages you to really prioritize being in Scripture, seeking God's amazing adventures by first spending time in His Word. And Grace's encouragement to come to the Bible with the goal of knowing God - not the goal of finding answers - may seem obvious when you hear it, but is truly revolutionary.

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I've currently got my bookmarks in some other nonfiction titles, which I'm looking forward to reading more of soon...

- The Happiness Dare by Jennifer Dukes Lee

- You and Me Forever by Francis & Lisa Chan

- Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance by Donald Miller [Yep, another Donald Miller book - published by Harvest House! :)]

- Love Does by Bob Goff [So far, this has been rather entertaining and inspiring!]

- Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst [On my Fire tablet. I really liked The Best Yes, and Lysa has a great grasp of what it takes to write in a compelling, marketable way.]

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As I mentioned earlier in this post, I've still been reading some fiction, and I hope to share some new reviews with you soon. :) But I've been getting such unexpected joy from reading nonfiction this year that I thought it would be worth sharing. While the growth these sorts of books encourage takes time, I'm hoping some of the beautiful truths and motivating questions will stick with me and continue to poke and prod me in good directions. 

Tell me, friends, have you read some really compelling nonfiction (or fiction!) lately? It's been too long since I've checked in, and I'd love to hear about what you've been reading!