Tag: historical

Book Review:    Potiphar’s Wife, by Mesu Andrews

Image belongs to WaterBrook & Multnomah.

Title:    Potiphar’s Wife
Author:    Mesu Andrews
Genre:    Christian fiction
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

Before she is Potiphar’s wife, Zuleika is a king’s daughter on the isle of Crete, where the sisterhood of women rules in the absence of their seafaring husbands. Now that she’s come of age, Zuleika knows she will soon be betrothed. Her father believes his robust trade with Egypt will ensure Pharaoh’s obligation to marry his daughter.

But Pharaoh refuses and gives her instead to Potiphar, the captain of his bodyguards–a crusty bachelor twice her age, who would rather have a new horse than a Minoan wife.

Abandoned by her father, rejected by Pharaoh, and humiliated by Potiphar’s indifference, Zuleika years for affection. But when her obsession with Joseph, the Hebrew chamberlain with the face and body of the gods, goes terribly wrong, she discovers the truth: Only the God of Joseph can heal her wounded heart.

I’ve been looking forward to reading this for so long, and I finally had the time! I’ve loved all of Mesu Andrews’ books I’ve read, and I really enjoyed this one, too, although not quite as much as some of the others. I found Zully really difficult to like, frankly. She was so selfish and self-absorbed and couldn’t see past her own short-sighted ambitions to anyone else. I enjoyed the secondary characters like Joseph quite a bit, and I would have liked to see more from Potiphar’s point-of-view, but Zully annoyed me quite a bit. Still, a solid read that I enjoyed.

Mesu Andrews is an award-winning author. Potiphar’s Wife is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of WaterBrook & Multnomah in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:   Breaking Time, by Sasha Alsberg

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

TitleBreaking Time  
Author:    Sasha Alsberg
Genre:    Fantasy
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

When a mysterious Scotsman appears out of nowhere in the middle of the road, Klara thinks the biggest problem is whether she hit him with her car. But, as impossible as it sounds, Callum has stepped out of another time, and it’s just the beginning of a deadly adventure.

Klara will soon learn that she is the last Pillar of Time—an anchor point in the timeline of the world and a hiding place for a rogue goddess’s magic. Callum is fated to protect her at all costs. A dark force is hunting for the Pillars, to claim the power of the goddess—and Klara and Callum are the only two standing in the way. Thrown together by fate, the two have to learn to trust one another and work together…but they’ll need to protect their hearts from one another if they’re going to survive.

This was a decent read. Nothing too unique, but nothing completely cookie cutter, either. I enjoyed Klara’s personality and I liked Callum, but sometimes his dialogue sounded like he was from the 1500s—appropriate—and sometimes it sounded like he was the boy next door—not appropriate at all and threw me out of the story. A quick read, but one I never really felt like the stakes were very high in—despite the supposed consequences of the plot.

Sasha Alsberg lives in Massachusetts. Breaking Time is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:   Bloomsbury Girls, by Natalie Jenner

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: Bloomsbury Girls
AuthorNatalie Jenner
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare book store that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager’s unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:

Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiance was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances – most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.

Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she’s been working to support the family following her husband’s breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.

Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she’s working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.

As they interact with various literary figures of the time – Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others – these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.

I think this got off to a little bit of a slow start, but it ended up being very good. I loved The Jane Austen Society, and it was so much fun seeing some of those characters again. I loved all three of the main female characters, and I was fully invested in their stories. It was lovely to see famous literary characters come to life, as well as the secondary characters in the bookstore itself.

Natalie Jenner is a bestselling author. The Bloomsbury Girls is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:   The Kew Gardens Girls at War, by Posy Lovell

Image belongs to Penguin Group Putnam.

Title:    The Kew Gardens Girls at War
Author:    Posy Lovell
Genre:    Historical fiction
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

When Daisy Turner’s new husband joins the RAF to fight the Battle of Britain, she’s terrified she’s going to lose him. So when her mother Ivy suggests she joins the gardeners at Kew to keep busy, Daisy’s intrigued. After all, Ivy worked at Kew during the last war and made lifelong friends along the way.

Ivy’s friend, Louisa Armitage, is feeling old and useless at her Kent home, wishing she could return to Kew and do her bit for the war effort. Tensions are rising between Louisa and her pacifist husband, as they argue over their nephew Christopher, who’s enlisted. But Louisa’s not ready to hang up her gardening gloves yet, and she’s soon on her way to Kew with an idea that could really make a difference.

Meanwhile Beth Sanderson is furious after her father stops her applying to medical school. Angry and frustrated, she applies to a new wartime role at Kew Gardens, alongside her doctor friend Gus Campbell. But the committee is run by men and Beth is asked to take a job a gardener instead, running a demonstration allotment with new friend Daisy. As the bombs fall on a Blitz-stricken London she finds herself torn between Gus, and her boyfriend Paul. Can Gus and Beth overcome the racism of wartime Britain to be together?

When tragedy hits, the women are forced to come together to support each other through their darkest hours. But can the Kew Gardens Girls survive the horrors of war-torn London this time?

This is a wonderful novel! The first I’d read from this author, but hopefully not the last. I think Beth was my favorite character, but I truly liked all of them. Poor Daisy thought Beth was so much better than her because of her looks, but Daisy lent her own strength to the story. This was a lovely read.

Posy Lovell lives in London. The Kew Gardens Girls at War is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Penguin Group Putnam in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  The Valet’s Secret, by Josi S. Kilpack

Image belongs to Shadow Mountain Publishing.

Title The Valet’s Secret
Author:   Josi S. Kilpack
Genre:   Romance
Rating:  4.0 out of 5

York, England, 1819

 As a once happily married woman, Rebecca Parker had a good life, but now widowed, working for a living, and her only child grown, she feels invisible, tired, and lonely. That is until the day a valet speeding by on a horse nearly runs her off the road. Mr. Malcolm Henry is apologetic, gentle, and handsome. She’s instantly drawn to him, which is why, rather than stopping him from kissing her, she kisses him back, reigniting a nearly forgotten passion. But love at first sight only happens in fairy tales—never to an ordinary woman like her.

 She sees Mr. Henry again and feels the possibilities growing until, while working in the kitchens during a dinner party, she sees the valet she kissed sitting at the right hand of the baroness. Mr. Henry is not the earl’s valet; he is the heir to the earldom—Kenneth Winterton.

 Heartbroken, angry, and betrayed, Rebecca does not trust Lord Winterton and refuses to accept his apology. But when Lord Winterton proves he is as kind and gentle as “Mr. Henry” was, she finds herself willing to give him a second chance. But will he take a chance on her? He needs a wife to help him in his place in society, and nothing about Rebeccas life does that . . . except how he feels when she is with him.

 This was a solid read. There are a lot of class dynamics at play here, and somehow I find it difficult to believe that an earl and a maid ending up together would be even an option in this society…but I wasn’t there. Rebecca becomes much surer of herself when dealing with her father—thankfully—in part because of her friendship with Kenneth. He is also conflicted about his new role in society, and he’s not sure he likes it, but Rebecca’s support helps him take a stand for what he wants and believes, instead of just going along with the wishes of everyone around him.

Josi S. Kilpack is an award-winning author. The Valet’s Secret is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Shadow Mountain Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  The Sultan’s Court, by R.A. Denny

Image belongs to the author.

TitleThe Sultan’s Court
Author:   R.A. Denny
Genre:   YA, fantasy, historical
Rating:  4.0  

Left behind as a slave in Morocco while Daniel journeys to the New World with the fearsome corsair Ayoub, Peri gives birth to a daughter. The drive to protect the imperiled lives of those she loves leads Peri to the court of the ruthless sultan, Moulay Ismail. In a city built on the backs of slaves, Peri’s rescue plot hangs by a thread, dependent on a dubious disguise and the man she despises. It will take all of her wit and perseverance to survive.

 This spellbinding 2nd novel in the Pirates and Puritans Series takes the reader on a journey from Algonquin villages to Moroccan palaces, during the time when Morocco’s most feared leader rose to power and the American colonies sank into a bloody war named after Metacom.

 I really like the premise of this series:  time travel to the time of the early Puritan settlements in America. In the first book, I enjoyed getting to know Peri and Daniel. This takes their story further…but not their story together, as they are separated for almost two decades in this novel. I didn’t enjoy that aspect as much as I enjoyed the first book.

There’s a lot going on here:  Peri’s story, Daniel’s story (in several different locations and cultures), things set in the future (where Peri’s from), and even scenes from their enemy’s point-of-view. The author weaves these threads together to make a coherent whole, but don’t let the POV switches make you miss out on the nuances of this well-rounded adventure.

R.A Denny has a law degree from Duke University but chooses to do just what she loves:  write. The Sultan’s Court is her newest novel, the second in the Pirates and Puritans series.

(Galley courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  Beyond the Lavender Fields, by Arlem Hawks

Shadow Mountain Publishing.

Title:   Beyond the Lavender Fields
Author:   Arlem Hawks
Genre:   Historical fiction
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

1792, France 

Rumors of revolution in Paris swirl in Marseille, a bustling port city in southern France. Gilles Étienne, a clerk at the local soap factory, thrives on the news. Committed to the cause of equality, liberty, and brotherhood, he and his friends plan to march to Paris to dethrone the monarchy. His plans are halted when he meets Marie-Caroline Daubin, the beautiful daughter of the owner of the factory.

 A bourgeoise and royalist, Marie-Caroline has been called home to Marseille to escape the unrest in Paris. She rebuffs Gilles’s efforts to charm her and boldly expresses her view that violently imposed freedom is not really freedom for all. As Marie-Caroline takes risks to follow her beliefs, Gilles catches her in a dangerous secret that could cost her and her family their lives. As Gilles and Marie-Caroline spend more time together, she questions her initial assumptions about Gilles and realizes that perhaps they have more in common than she thought.

 As the spirit of revolution descends on Marseille, people are killed and buildings are ransacked and burned to the ground. Gilles must choose between supporting the political change he believes in and protecting those he loves. And Marie-Caroline must battle between standing up for what she feels is right and risking her family’s safety. With their lives and their nation in turmoil, both Gilles and Marie-Caroline wonder if a révolutionnaire and a royaliste can really be together in a world that forces people to choose sides.

The setting of this novel was a new one for me, and I really enjoyed it! I really like how both characters—but especially Gilles—grew during the course of the novel. He started off as a self-absorbed, oblivious jerk who hated his father, but he changed so much through. Their separate journeys to understanding and growth were even more enjoyable to me than their romance. This is a sweet read set against the French revolution.

Arlem Hawks graduated from Brigham Young University. Beyond the Lavender Fields is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Shadow Mountain Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Book Review:  The Lady of Galway Manor, by Jennifer Deibel

Image belongs to Revell.

Title:   The Lady of Galway Manor
Author:   Jennifer Deibel
Genre:   Christian
Rating:  4 out of 5

In 1920, Annabeth De Lacy’s father is appointed landlord of Galway Parish in Ireland. Bored without all the trappings of the British Court, Annabeth convinces her father to arrange an apprenticeship for her with the Jennings family–descendants of the creator of the famed Claddagh Ring.

 Stephen Jennings longs to do anything other than run his family’s jewelry shop. Having had his heart broken, he no longer believes in love and is weary of peddling the ÒliesÓ the Claddagh Ring promises.

 Meanwhile, as the war for Irish independence gains strength, many locals resent the De Lacys and decide to take things into their own hands to display their displeasure. As events take a dangerous turn for Annabeth and her family, she and Stephen begin to see that perhaps the “other side” isn’t quite as barbaric and uncultured as they’d been led to believe–and that the bonds of friendship, love, and loyalty are only made stronger when put through the refiner’s fire.

I don’t remember reading anything set during this period—definitely not recently—so I enjoyed the historical aspect of this. The Jennings men were both strong characters that I really liked. Annabeth’s father was a bit of a pompous, selfish jerk, but I loved her relationship with her sister. This was a sweet read with a lovely romance.

Jennifer Deibel lives in Arizona. The Lady of Galway Manor is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Revell in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:  The Last Grand Duchess, by Bryn Turnbull

Image belongs to Harlequin.

Title:   The Last Grand Duchess
Author:   Bryn Turnbull
Genre:   Historical fiction
Rating:  DNF

Grand Duchess Olga Romanov comes of age amid a shifting tide for the great dynasties of Europe. But even as unrest simmers in the capital, Olga is content to live within the confines of the sheltered life her parents have built for and her three sisters: hiding from the world on account of their mother’s ill health, their brother Alexei’s secret affliction, and rising controversy over Father Grigori Rasputin, the priest on whom the Tsarina has come to rely. Olga’s only escape from the seclusion of Alexander Palace comes from her aunt, who takes pity on her and her sister Tatiana, inviting them to grand tea parties amid the shadow court of Saint Petersburg. Finally, she glimpses a world beyond her mother’s Victorian sensibilities—a world of opulent ballrooms, scandalous flirtation, and whispered conversation.

 But as war approaches, the palaces of Russia are transformed. Olga and her sisters trade their gowns for nursing habits, assisting in surgeries and tending to the wounded bodies and minds of Russia’s military officers. As troubling rumours about her parents trickle in from the Front, Olga dares to hope that a budding romance might survive whatever the future may hold. But when tensions run high and supplies run low, the controversy over Rasputin grows into fiery protest, and calls for revolution threaten to end 300 years of Romanov rule.

I tried. I really did. I loved Turnbull’s previous book, The Woman Before Wallis, but this one felt so much slower. I made it about 50% of the way through before giving up because every page felt like it was in slow motion. Historical novels about the Romanov family usually fascinate me, so I kept on reading longer than I probably should, but in the end, this just wasn’t a good fit for me right now. The glimpses of the cluelessness of Olga’s parents drove me crazy, and her own naivete about reality combined with the slow pace were just too much for me.

Bryn Turnbull is a bestselling author. The Last Grand Duchess is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:  A Lullaby for Witches, by Hester Fox

Image belongs to Harlequin.

Title:   A Lullaby for Witches
Author:   Hester Fox
Genre:   Historical fiction
Rating:  3.8 our of 4

Augusta Podos has just landed her dream job, working in collections at a local museum, Harlowe House, located in the charming seaside town of Tynemouth, Massachussetts. Determined to tell the stories of the local community, she throws herself into her work–and finds an oblique mention of a mysterious woman, Margaret, who may have been part of the Harlowe family, but is reduced to a footnote. Fascinated by this strange omission, Augusta becomes obsessed with discovering who Margaret was, what happened to her, and why her family scrubbed her from historical records. But as she does, strange incidents begin plaguing Harlowe House and Augusta herself. Are they connected with Margaret, and what do they mean?

 Tynemouth, 1872. Margaret Harlowe is the beautiful daughter of a wealthy shipping family, and she should have many prospects–but her fascination with herbs and spellwork has made her a pariah, with whispers of “witch” dogging her steps. Increasingly drawn to the darker, forbidden practices of her craft, Margaret finds herself caught up with a local man, Jack Pryce, and the temptation of these darker ways threatens to pull her under completely.

 As the incidents in the present day escalate, Augusta finds herself drawn more and more deeply into Margaret’s world, and a shocking revelation sheds further light on Margaret and Augusta’s shared past. And as Margaret’s sinister purpose becomes clear, Augusta must uncover the secret of Margaret’s fate–before the woman who calls to her across the centuries claims Augusta’s own life.

This was well-written, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did the author’s other books. Mainly because I thought Margaret was a terrible person; very selfish and self-absorbed. I enjoyed Augusta’s POV very much, as she sort of grew into the person she’d kept hidden for years and learned to stand up for herself. The touch of romance was nicely done and didn’t become the priority. I did like the glimpses of life in the past, I just thought Margaret was terrible.

Hester Fox lives in Virginia. A Lullaby for Witches is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin in exchange for an honest review.)