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Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

You know what is inconvenient?  Starting to review a series of books with the last book.  That’s inconvenient.  But, inconvenience grows character right?  And boy, do we have a story about character growth right here.  Come along with me to Regency era London . . .

From the back cover [Brackets mine]:
Griffith, Duke of Riverton, likes order, logic, and control, [He would have hated that I started with his book] so he naturally applies this rational approach to his search for a bride. [What could go wrong?!?] While he’s certain Miss Frederica St. Claire is the perfect wife for him, she is strangely elusive, and he can’t seem to stop running into her stunningly beautiful cousin, Miss Isabella Breckenridge. [Ooooooooohhhh]
Isabella should be enjoying her society debut, [Really, who would actually enjoy that? The pressure, the stares, the women and their petty jealousies, the men constantly in your space, politely of course, but still . . .] but with her family in difficult circumstances, she has no choice but to agree to a bargain that puts her at odds with all her romantic hopes as well as her conscience. And the more she comes to know Griffith, the more she regrets the unpleasant obligation that prevents her from any dream of a future with him.
As all of Griffith’s and Isabella’s long-held expectations are shaken to the core, can they set aside their pride and fear long enough to claim a happily-ever-after?
[Duhn-duhn-duhn!]

First, let’s talk about Griffith. (Caution: Link is to author’s visual inspiration for this character. If you prefer to form you own image, don’t click.) His book is number four in the Hawthorne House series. So I’ve had three books to get to know him, his character, his intense need for order and the deep childhood scars that cause it.  (It really was insightful of author Kristi Ann Hunter to make us wait until the end for his story.) Griffith is amazing, as Regency era men go. (Heck, as a man from any era goes.) But he’s not perfect.  He has a deep, deep faith in God that he hasn’t figured out how to translate yet into real life.  He has overwhelming responsibilities on his shoulders as Duke of Riverton that he makes look easy, but truly, they are what drive him and drive him nearly into an unhappy, ill-suited marriage. But God.  Isn’t that a lovely phrase?  It’s one of my favorites.  But God has other plans and they include a stunning strawberry blond who wants nothing to do with him. Or so it seems.

Enter Isabella Breckenridge.  She’s the niece of Lord Pontebrook, daughter of his disgraced, but largely forgotten, sister, who had the gall to marry a sheep farmer with ties to Scotland.  Isabella is beautiful, perfection in both outward beauty and charm, and a slave to the whims of her despairing uncle.  Both are desperate to get what they think they need and both find themselves at the mercy of society.  Isabella thinks she is in control of the situation, but soon finds that love and intrigue do not mix well.

We’ve got a Duke set on his logical course for marriage, which does not include an astonishingly gorgeous Lady, and the Lady determined to complete her promise to her desperate uncle who has, quite possibly, gone mad because of his desperation.  All set among the ballrooms, parks, and parlors of London’s upper crust. And don’t forget the supporting cast of characters (and with Hunter’s novels, “characters” is not a term used loosely) of Isabella’s cousin Frederica, Griffith’s three siblings and their spouses, a mix of outlandish staff members, and the London Tonne itself.

Three of my favorite things about Hunter’s novels that have kept me reading (and re-reading) the Hawthorne House series:

  1. The humor.  Hunter provides a few suspend-your-disbelief-situations in her novels (such as a Duke on the roof, repairing a crofter’s cottage), but the humor she provides makes the scenes believable and enjoyable.  I love this ability of hers!  Because, really, sometimes we all find ourselves in unbelievable situations and humor is what sees us through.
  2. The love story. Between private dances in private sitting rooms, visits to parks just to share a passion for plants, and denying one’s love to save the other from assumed heartache, the romance of this book is far above par.  Swoon-worthy proposals, shocking appearances, and heart-wrenching decisions all keep me emotionally on my toes, which is exactly where I want a story to keep me.
  3. The character growth.  I mentioned this at the beginning and I believe this is where Hunter excels in her storytelling.  She has yet to write a cliche story.  Her characters don’t fit well together, in any way, shape, or form.  They, simply put, don’t make sense.  And like any good mystery reader, (hahahaha, we all know I’m an awful mystery reader, since I usually read the end of the book long before it’s time) I appreciate seeing how the author weaves together the plot to make sense of the pieces she’s brought forth.  Griffith and Isabella don’t fit.  Both are far too needy – both to be in control of their situations and emotionally, even though they would strongly deny that last piece.  Through the story, though, there is a natural progression of growth that happens, a release of their need to control and an understanding of Who is truly in control.  This release and understanding bring them together as no other thing could and meld them into one. It is truly beautiful and Hunter is a master at making it happen.

I just have to throw in a mention of Cousin Frederica.  Frederica has a nose; she has large, unsightly nose.  And in the beginning of the book, I really felt she was a secondary character, someone to not pay much attention to.  By the end, Freddie was my favorite character.  Strong, beautiful, and full of the knowledge of Whose she is, Frederica truly won the day, in more ways than one.  Yay for Freddie!

An Inconvenient Beauty wins FIVE STARS from me here at Mixed Nutts.  I think I might go back in for a fourth read through . . .

One last thing, the novella ebook that started it all is on Amazon for free.  A Lady of Esteem is what drew me into this Hawthorne House world – maybe you should give it a try?

 

Ah yes.  The fine print.  I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review as part of Kristi Ann Hunter’s volunteer launch team.  My thoughts are my own.

 

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Lucy Benson knew it was time for something drastic when she found herself seriously considering Walter Harris’s proposal.  Raised to be a lady but left a pauper by the bad investments of her late papa, Lucy isn’t sure what that something could be. When her pastor delivers an invitation to be a companion to Andrew Simms’ elderly aunt Martha, Lucy sees it as answer to prayer and soon finds herself on a train to a distant ranch, far, far away from the persistent and pesky Walter.

When Andrew Simms hatched the idea of finding a caretaker for his beloved aunt, he never imagined the refined Lucy stepping off the train.  Aunt Martha has been seeing things and Andrew is concerned that the loss of her husband and advancing age have combined to drive her past sanity.

Unfortunately, Aunt Martha’s visions take on a real and potentially dangerous form and Lucy can verify the facts.  As the truth unfolds, Lucy finds herself wishing for a marriage proposal from the handsome, cleft-chinned Andrew.  But does he return her feelings? And what or who is causing trouble for Aunt Martha?

Carol Cox has woven together a lovely little mystery in No Match for Love, the third book in the A Match Made in Texas novella collection.  I really enjoyed the interplay between feisty Aunt Martha and refined Lucy.  As humor gives way to a deep friendship, Martha and Lucy’s relationship take a large role in this story.

I also enjoyed seeing Lucy grow from a clueless princess to a capable and gutsy young woman capable of taking care of herself, even in the midst of danger.

The romantic relationship between Andrew and Lucy moves rather quickly, although a few months do pass in the course of the story.  I would have liked to have seen a little more about their developing relationship instead of so much about Lucy’s worry about her future.

That was my only disappointment in the story and I give No Match for Love four stars.

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In An Unforeseen Match by Regina Jennings, the second of four stories in the novella, A Match Made in Texas (Bethany House Publishers), we meet former schoolteacher Grace O’Malley and prospective land-runner, Clayton Weber. After suffering a disease that slowly blinds her, Grace is given a small, broken-down homestead by the Dry Gulch school board.  Unfortunately, the intelligent, stubborn woman has no idea how to take care of herself in her newly-blinded state and her friends offer her much help and sympathy, but no training in how to get through each lonely day.

When Clayton’s horse breaks her leg and has to be put down on the way to the Cherokee Strip Land Run, all he wants is a way to make a quick few dollars to buy a new horse to compete for his land. When he enters Dry Gulch, a newspaper with an ad for a handyman mysteriously appears in his saddlebag and he soon finds himself being cross-examined by the beautiful and independent Grace. It would appear someone has taken it upon themselves to help Grace get her homestead spruced up for sale – or to attract a husband.

Clayton and Grace form a fast working friendship that alleviates both of their loneliness. Clayton sees Grace’s need for independence and gives her the one thing no one else thought of – respect and the knowledge of how to navigate in her dark world. As love blooms, will Clayton put enough faith in Grace’s affection to get over the past that not only scarred his face, but also his very soul?

Regina Jennings has managed to fill this novella with all the things I love most in a novel.  Humor, heartache, grace, compassion, and a  solid dose of Texas flavor turn this little story into a great read.  I have to admit: I cried the first time I read the barn scene.  I cried the second time I read the barn scene. Regina just really knows how to set a girl up for heartbreak! Thankfully, she also knows that we need a good “happily ever after” too and provides for that in spades.

An Unforeseen Match is my favorite of the stories in A Match Made in Texas, which is no small accomplishment, considering how much I loved the other novellas.  I give it five stars and my Enraptured Award.  For my review of A Cowboy Unmatched by Karen Witemeyer, the first novella in this collection, please go here.

Enraptured Award Image

An award given to an author whose book was so captivating, I didn’t read the end before its time.

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My first blog series!  Woohoo.  Anyway, on to the matter at hand.  Ahem.

This and the next three reviews will be from the novella collection, A Match Made in Texas, with four different stories written by Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, Carol Cox, and Mary Connealy.  Each of these authors has her own unique style of telling a great story, which makes this collection a very good read.

In A Cowboy Unmatched by Karen Witemeyer, we finally get to see the youngest Archer brother, Neill, apply his Archer-brother charm and gallantly rescue the beautiful, young Clara Danvers. Left widowed by her gambler husband, Clara is struggling to hold her broken-down farm together and keep her scheming father-in-law at bay.

While A Cowboy Unmatched is a novella because of its abbreviated length, Karen has proven that a good story doesn’t need 300 pages. This novella has everything a romantic could ask for – a heroine in crisis, a cowboy looking to prove something to himself, a threat, a few swoon-worthy moments of tender emotion and modest passion, and of course, a declaration of love and proposal that more than makes up for the brevity of the story.  Toss in a few comedic moments and some bromance (brotherly friendship), and Karen has written the perfect ending to the Archer brothers’ series.

Stay tuned for my review of the next novella in A Match Made in Texas, An Unforeseen Match, by Regina Jennings.

A Match Made in Texas, as a whole collection, receives 5 stars for not only its interesting plot of an unwitting matchmaker, but also the collection of the very different styles of writing that really make this book stand out.

A Cowboy Unmatched receives 5 stars and my ever-so-coveted 😉 Enraptured Award.

Enraptured Award Image

An award given to an author whose book was so captivating, I didn’t read the end before its time.

**I received this novel free in exchange for an honest review. **

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The past few months, I’ve been on a bit of a quest – a quest for myself. When Becoming Myself by Stasi Eldredge became available for review, I thought the timing was perfect! Of course, isn’t it always with God?

Becoming Myself is trademark Stasi Eldredge – Biblical, conversational, emotional. Stasi speaks directly to women out of her own experience as a female and as a child of God. While explaining mother wounds and encouraging her readers to take heart and follow through on the journey of a lifetime, Stasi writes of God’s grace and love for us.

My favorite section is chapters 11-13: Becoming a woman of Faith, Becoming a Woman of Worship, and Becoming our True Name. I loved seeing the trio of  Marys with new eyes – Mary, Mother of Jesus; Mary of Bethany, and Mary Magdalene. The thought that struck me hardest – Jesus wants my love. My love. My love. Not that He doesn’t desire my obedience, but it is as a form of love to Him, not just because He commands it. He wants me to love Him with all my heart (what is the greatest commandment – love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, with all your strength). And He loves me , so much so that He knew me before I was formed in the womb. He named me. He sees me as I truly am, as I am becoming , and as I am now. And He loves me.

I give Becoming Myself by Stasi Eldredge, published by David C Cook, 5 stars. Readers may want to read Captivating by Stasi Eldredge first, but that isn’t strictly necessary.

Disclosure: I received Becoming Myself by Stasi Eldredge free from David C Cook Publishing free (via Net Galley) in return for an honest review.  My opinions are my own.

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A Bride for Keeps, Melissa Jagears’ freshman novel and published by Bethany House, is the story of two people whose fears nearly keep them from a most precious love.

On the unforgiving Kansas prairie, we meet Everett Cline, confirmed bachelor and overwhelmed farmer.  Having been rejected by four fiances, three of them mail-order brides, Everett is finished with romance.  Fortunately for him, his best friend’s wife and neighbor, Rachel, has one more trick up her sleeve.

After corresponding with the beautiful, fragile Julia, Rachel determines she would be the perfect helpmate for Everett.  Bringing her to the small Kansas town of Salt Flatts was easy.  Convincing Everett and Julia to make their partnership into a marriage – not so much.  Julia’s past has left her dreadfully afraid of men, particularly tall, handsome, blond men who resemble her abusive ex-fiance.  Can Everett’s gentle, godly personality eclipse his resemblance to Julia’s abuser?  Will Julia’s rejection of Everett cause his already guarded heart to fully harden?

A Bride for Keeps is a gentle exploration of a blossoming love between two injured people facing not only the hardships of farming on a  desolate land, but also falling in love in a desolate world.  Melissa Jagears has cast an innocence over the entire novel, which may be enticing to many readers, particularly in the inspirational fiction category.  I prefer a grittier treatment of these subjects myself.  I also felt  as though the author brought us to the edge of emotion and sort of left us there as she switched scenes.  I never really became fully invested in Everett and Julia, and emotional investment in the characters is of utmost importance to me as a reader.

I give  A Bride for Keeps 3 stars.  Readers who like Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly should find this book thoroughly engaging.

I received A Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears at no cost from Bethany House Publishers in return for an honest review.  My opinions are my own.

Amazon links on many of my posts are affiliate links.  When you purchase from Amazon after clicking there from my page, you are helping me to purchase goods to home educate my children.  Thank you!

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Before I read A Woman’s Guide to Fasting by Lisa E Nelson (Bethany House), I had never partaken in a fast.  Truthfully, the reasons and benefits of fasting were a little lost on me.  I had a hazy understanding of denying my physical needs to strengthen my spirit, communing with God during normal meal times, etc.  but no true understanding of the process, reasons, or benefits were clear until I got a hold of this gem of a book.

Lisa begins with a thorough explanation of exactly what fasting is – “a spiritual tool for spiritual growth.” (p.12)  She then goes deeper and explains five reasons why God commands us to fast: 1) Spiritual growth and overcoming sin.  2) Empower intercession.  3) Preparation for spiritual warfare.  4) Obedience to God’s call.  5) Response to a crisis.  In addition to fleshing out these reasons, in the next chapter, Lisa confronts some reasons why not to fast.  In a nutshell, fasting is not a magic trick to make God love you, but it can be a tool to put you in a place of obedience to Him.  The rest of the book is made up of quality advice on how to begin, follow through, and break a fast.

I really appreciate the depth of analysis, thought, and tangible guidance presented in this conversational book.  I definitely give A Woman’s Guide to Fasting five stars.  It is a must read for any woman who is interested in this spiritual discipline.

Disclaimer: I received A Woman’s Guide to Fasting by Lisa E. Nelson at no cost from Bethany House in return for an honest review.  My opinion is my own.

Throughout my post are Amazon affiliate links.  By clicking to Amazon from these links to make your purchases, you can help me to buy supplies to home educate my family.

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