Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden

  • Against the Tide by Elizabeth CamdenTitle: Against the Tide
  • Author: Elizabeth Camden
  • Genre(s): Historical, Inspiration
  • Publisher: Bethany House, October 2012
  • Source: Publisher
  • Length: 362 pages
  • Trope(s): Enigmatic Loner Hero, Tough but Nearly Desperate Heroine, Villain With a Fatal Weakness, Kidnapping, Addiction
  • Quick blurb: Naval translator gets drawn into a former opium smuggler’s quest for redemption.
  • Quick review: Another one for the “Written JUST FOR ME” category.
  • Grade: A-

I’m always on the hunt for new and different in romance, and when it comes in the form of an inspirational historical suspense story centering on the opium trade in late 19th-century Boston – with a gorgeous cover as a bonus – I am helpless to resist.

I’ve read Against the Tide three times now, and I’ve been sitting on this review for months because I’m both enthralled and a bit conflicted. The characters are complex and memorable, and the setting and suspense had me in a full-on book trance even on the second and third reads. Only one element in the narrative bothered me enough to add a minus instead of a plus to the letter grade, but it’s one that’s central to the story.

Read the full review at Dear Author »

One-Quote Review: Unrivaled by Siri Mitchell

  • Unrivaled by Siri MitchellTitle: Unrivaled
  • Author: Siri Mitchell
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Inspirational, Historical (1910 U.S.)
  • Publisher: Bethany House, March 2013
  • Source: NetGalley ($9.99 ebook)
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Trope(s): Family Drama, Reluctant Debutante, Reluctant Heir
  • Quick blurb:  St. Louis debutante tries desperately to save her ailing father’s beloved candy company, but struggles with her feelings for their rival’s son.
  • Quick review: Fun historical premise and setting, memorable characters and complex conflicts — but not my favorite by Mitchell
  • Grade: B

“I’ve always thought a meringue is a thing like hope, buoyed as they they are plenty of hot air. A bit pretentious at the start, don’t you think?” He settled his hands on his chest. “But that let that hope wait, let that resolve harden for a while…. Leave the oven door closed, and something wonderful happens. You just have to be willing to wait for it.”

I’d recommend this book for the historical world-building alone. Mitchell combines the early 1900s time period with the drama of rival family businesses to create a unique atmosphere that’s light-hearted and restless and constantly evolving — just like her main characters.

The one thing this book was lacking was a cohesive faith message. I love the low-key and understated spirituality in all of Mitchell’s books, but concentrating all of it in one secondary character — especially one who talks in circles — made it seem like an afterthought instead of an integral part of the story.

At Every Turn by Anne Mateer

At Every Turn by Anne Mateer

  • Title: At Every Turn
  • Author: Anne Mateer
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Historical, Inspirational
  • Publisher: Bethany House, September 2012
  • Source: ARC provided by publisher ($9.99 ebook)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • Trope(s): Perky Plucky Heroine, Painfully Earnest Cluelessness, Love Triangle, Mid-Level Misunderstandings
  • Quick blurb: Spoiled young woman must find a way to raise money she impulsively pledged for a church mission project.
  • Quick review: Another one for the “disappointed” list….
  • Grade: C-

I fought a ridiculous desire to throw myself into his arms. Instead, I pulled back my shoulders and lifted my chin. “Show me the way.” And he did just that.

This could have been so good — SO GOOD — but the lack of subtlety and tension early in the story, and the lifeless writing, left me dwelling on my annoyances with the heroine.

I knew Alyce would undergo some much-needed Life Lessons, but her initial poor-little-rich-girl cluelessness, reinforced by the first-person POV, came *thatclose* to being TSTL and a DNF. It isn’t until well into the second half that we finally get a brief glimpse of the passion for car racing that turns her into the heroine I was expecting.

And while I knew from other reviews that this title is much preachier (is that a word?) than what I’m usually comfortable with, I was not prepared for the UNBEARABLY cloying and cringe-worthy way the Africa mission plot point was presented. Historically accurate, yes, but most definitely not in a good way, and it’s a huge risk to take in drawing in modern readers.

RITA Reader Challenge: Love on the Line by Deeanne Gist

  • Love on the Line by Deeanne GistTitle: Love on the Line
  • Author: Deeanne Gist
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Historical, Inspirational
  • Publisher: Bethany House, October 2011
  • Source: Amazon, $8.54
  • Trope(s): Virgins, Alpha Males, Cowboys
  • Quick blurb: Undercover lawman gets unexpected help – and more – from a spinster switchboard operator.
  • Quick review: The sexy times may be “clean,” but whoo-whee, Gist knows how to write kissing scenes.
  • Grade: A

Cupping her neck, he ran a thumb from the tip of her chin to the indentation between her collarbones.

She opened her eyes. “Now I know why cats purr.”

If you shy away from inspirational romances – or even if you actively avoid them – get off your high horse and read some Deeanne Gist. Start with Maid to Match, and then read this.

Read the full review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen

  • The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie KlassenTitle: The Maid of Fairbourne Hall
  • Author: Julie Klassen
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Inspirational, Historical
  • Publisher: Bethany House, January 2012
  • Purchase: Amazon, $8.99
  • Tropes: Disguised as a Servant, Reunited, Pirates
  • Quick blurb: Rich girl fleeing icky arranged marriage hides out as a housemaid in former suitor’s home.
  • Quick review: A valiant, yet ultimately unsuccessful, attempt at a predictable plot.
  • Grade: C

I’m not one for the fangirl “OMG YOU HAVE TO READ THIS” stuff, but Julie Klassen’s books have tempted me to engage in some literary peer pressure. “It’s not a preachy inspirational, trust me!”

I was drawn to her books by the intriguing titles, beautiful covers and well-written blurbs, and all four of her previous novels exceeded my expectations. I’ve read them all several times, and I still can’t decide between The Silent Governess and The Apothecary’s Daughter for my DIK list.

I had The Maid of Fairbourne Hall on my “yay coming soon!!!” wishlist for months and bought it the day it came out. But then it lingered in Mount TBR for another few months because, oddly enough, I was afraid I wouldn’t like it. I call it “Book Anxiety,” which I may write an essay or treatise about sometime.

ANYWAY, I’m not sure if it was the title, the blurb or the cover that made me anxious….

Pampered Margaret Macy flees London in disguise to escape pressure to marry a dishonorable man. With no money and nowhere else to go, she takes a position as a housemaid in the home of Nathaniel Upchurch, a suitor she once rejected in hopes of winning his dashing brother. Praying no one will recognize her, Margaret fumbles through the first real work of her life. If she can last until her next birthday, she will gain an inheritance from a spinster aunt—and sweet independence. But can she remain hidden as a servant even when prying eyes visit Fairbourne Hall?

Observing both brothers as an “invisible” servant, Margaret learns she may have misjudged Nathaniel. Is it too late to rekindle his admiration? And when one of the family is nearly killed, Margaret alone discovers who was responsible. Should she come forward, even at the risk of her reputation and perhaps her life? And can she avoid an obvious trap meant to force her from hiding?

On her journey from well-born lady to servant to uncertain future, Margaret must learn to look past appearances and find the true meaning of “serve one another in love.”

I did a mental “huh?” double-take when I saw the “disguised as a servant” trope, and after reading – well, score one for the Book Anxiety.

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