Ashton Park by Murray Pura

We live in a fast lane society now with nothing taking more than 30 seconds to heat in a microwave. That truism is never more evident than in this book which supposedly takes place in the 19th century. I can tell the editors have chopped this story up to make it more "palatable" for the "modern reader" who is whizzed past many interesting scenes without being given the opportunity to savor or even soak up any of them. The characters are presented to the reader in sort of a lazy-susan fashion so you have the feeling the goings-on take place in a doll house instead of real life. The reader is not invited in to become a part of the family, but to view a celluloid facsimile in fast forward.

This book is touted as being similar to Downton Abby. It is not. You get all excited; settle down for a really good time reading something similar to what you love to watch, and get disappointed. It is hard to keep reading through that disappointment.

The reader is introduced to far too many characters to be able to keep track of them or to even connect with them (love-hate-care about). The rapid scene changes, and the dashing about the countryside leave the reader breathless and unable to unscramble the storyline. In fact, I'm still not sure what the storyline is about except that one of the daughters of the house falls in love with a groomsman (which is similar to Downton Abby because Sybil falls in love with the chauffeur).

If you have an excellent head for names, and if you like quick scene changes, and you like to stitch word puzzles together, I still would not recommend this book to you until the editor has had the opportunity to read a few reviews and have another go at editing a potentially great series.

I can tell the author has a gift for story telling, but the editors have bridled him. I advise both the author and the editors to take a lesson from Jane Austin in character development.

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Ashton Park
Harvest House Publishers (January 1, 2013)
Murray Pura


Murray Pura was born and raised in Manitoba, just north of Minnesota and the Dakotas. He has published several novels and short story collections in Canada, and has been short-listed for a number of awards. His first books to be published in the United States are the inspirational works Rooted and Streams (both by Zondervan in 2010). His first novel to debut in the USA is A Bride’s Flight from Virginia City, Montana (Barbour), which was released January 2012. The second, The Wings of Morning, will be published by Harvest House on February 1. Both of these novels center around the Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.


For fans of the hugely popular Downton Abbey series, comes this equally enthralling story of the Danforth family of Ashton Park. Among the green hills and trees of Lancashire, only a few miles from the sea, lies the beautiful and ancient estate of Ashton Park. The year is 1916. The First World War has engulfed Europe and Sir William's and Lady Elizabeth's three sons are all in uniform--and their four daughters are involved in various pursuits of the heart and soul.

As the head of a strong Church of England family for generations, Sir William insists the Danforth estate hold morning devotions that include both family and staff. However, he is also an MP and away at Westminster in London whenever Parliament is sitting. During his long absences, Lady Elizabeth discreetly spends time in the company of the head cook of the manor, Mrs. Longstaff, who is her best friend and confidante. This friendship includes visits to a small Baptist church in Liverpool that exposes Lady Elizabeth to a less formal approach to Christian worship and preaching than she is used to and which she comes to enjoy.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Ashton Park, go HERE.


Every Perfect Gift by Dorothy Love


In the 1880s, women were discovering their talents outside the home. The very first woman millionaire emerged in the 1880s and she was a Negro selling beauty care products to Negro women. In this story, Sophie comes home to face some demons fighting an uphill battle against prejudice. She is a journalist (man's world), owns the newspaper in her home town which for some reason isn't running. Also for some reason, she decides that she must go home where the people did not accept her because she was an orphan and her parentage was suspected to include Negro blood. Her reason for facing these demons isn't clear so I suppose those were discussed in the previous books.

Although the story stands alone just fine, there are a lot of questions that arose in my mind that were not answered.

In our more tolerant times, I do not believe authors understand the sheer pervasive and tenacious hold prejudice had on society after the Civil War. This story is a much more lighthearted look at a distinctly dark situation and frankly, if you are a stickler for historical accuracy, then do not read this book... it isn't even close for so much of the situation described.

One other thing that did not strike an authentic tone was the journalism. Most people would not notice, but someone who has been an editor would. I wish authors who write about journalists and about running newspapers would at least step foot into a newsroom, and would at least spend a couple of days with an editor so the reader could hear authenticity.

On the other hand, this story is written in such a way that you care very much for the characters. Even though this is the 3rd in a series, you get an excellent character development and the struggle against their particular demons is well developed. You get a good feel for small town living.


Ethan and Sophie long to share a future together. But the secrets they’re not sharing could tear them apart.

Sophie Caldwell has returned to Hickory Ridge, Tennessee after years away. Despite the heartaches of her childhood, Sophie is determined to make a home, and a name, for herself in the growing town. A gifted writer, she plans to resurrect the local newspaper that so enchanted her as a girl.

Ethan Heyward’s idyllic childhood was shattered by a tragedy he has spent years trying to forget. An accomplished businessman and architect, he has built a majestic resort in the mountains above Hickory Ridge, drawing wealthy tourists from all over the country.

When Sophie interviews Ethan for the paper, he is impressed with her intelligence and astounded by her beauty. She's equally intrigued with him but fears he will reject her if he learns about her shadowed past. Just as she summons the courage to tell him, Ethan’s own past unexpectedly and violently catches up with him, threatening not only his life but their budding romance.


Best reads of 2012

I did not review as many books this year as I have in the past due to reading so many text books that my head spins at times. However, there were several very worthy reads and I highly recommend. I've given links to my reviews for your convenience.

Best reads of 2012…

Non-fiction –

Escaping the Cauldron by Kristine McGuire

Taking your small group off life support by Brad House

Fiction –

The 13th Tribe by Robert Liparulo

Nothing to Hide by Mark Bertrand

Rare Earth by Davis Bunn


Flight of the Earls by Michael Reynolds


I admire the work of an author who would take on this kind of work to show the conditions immigrants had to suffer when they came to America, both on the voyage over as well as on American soil. A light should be shown on those deplorable conditions. However, it does not cover up poor storytelling.

There are some jewels in this story, but these jewels do not overshadow some storytelling flaws. When telling a story from one perspective and then 3/4's of the way through switching to a different perspective makes for poor story flow. The reader is introduced to Liam and the family, then focus is bent upon Claire, then switched to Seamus, and frankly I lost interest long before the switch.

(Spoiler Alert: I am about to discuss why I did not like the book and it involves sharing some plot lines.)

When Claire recovers from ship board fever, and she and the boys move to their uncle's building she finds work as a seamstress, takes up with a fighter, and makes eyes at a young man who sings hymns under her window. While Reynolds does a most excellent job of painting the villainies of Claire's relations, this particularly good writing falls apart when one studies the whole story outline. For no reason that I can fathom, she "falls in love" with that singing young man. She is brought into his home, fed and clothed by his parents, and then he shows her his dream ministry in Five Points.

I have read better plot developments in melodramatic mysteries.

It is a crying shame this  author who turns a bonny phrase such as an old man's "rumpled forehead" and "the boys waddled a boiling pot of water to the tub" should have such a problem with plot development. This plot is more like a line of incidents which the characters suffer rather than an actual story. The problem is there is no real character development, and no one actually grows from the consequences of the incidents.

I give it 2 stars out of 5 because of the bonny turns of phrases.

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Flight of the Earls
B&H Books (January 1, 2013)
Michael Reynolds


Michael K. Reynolds is the writer and producer of Emmy and Telly Award-winning film campaigns and has more than two decades of experience in fiction, journalism, copywriting, and documentary production. He owns Global Studio, a marketing agency, and is also an active leader in church and business, speaking in both ministry and corporate settings. Michael lives with his wife and three children in Reno, Nevada.


It’s 1846 in Ireland. When her family’s small farm is struck by famine, Clare Hanley and her younger brother, Seamus, set out across the ocean to the Promised Land of America. Five years prior, Clare’s older sister Margaret and her Uncle Tomas emigrated in similar fashion and were not to be heard from again. But Clare must face her fears as she lands in the coming-of-age city of New York. There she discovers love, adventure, tragedy, and a terrible secret which threatens to destroy her family and all she believes. Flight of the Earls is the first book in a historical novel trilogy based on Irish immigration in the 1840s.

If you'd like to read the first chapter of Flight of the Earls, go HERE
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