Review: Lily of the Manor

Lily of the Manor Lily of the Manor by Anita Stansfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There was a movie a long time ago starring Paul Newman and Joann Woodward that could have been truly boring, but instead was fascinating. This is that kind of novel/romance.

If written any other way, it would have been so boring. But this melodrama is actually fascinating because it is character driven rather than event driven. The only thing that could be improved is the character of the children could have been developed more. It would have made it more interesting. But then there are 12 of them, and that would have been a daunting task.

Rather predictable, but how the problems and situations are resolved makes it readable. Also, there is an interesting reveal of just how children were treated in the 1800s. It isn't graphic, but you get the idea and it sort of churns your stomach. We've come a very long way.

Good story premise, and could be a tad unbelievable except Lily suffered some prejudice because of her looks, and Fredrick suffered child abuse that he barely remembers.

What i really liked about it was that Fredrick and Lily found qualities about each other to love and thus it isn't handsome hunk and gorgeous woman thrown together and magically love abounds. It's a lot more real than most romance fiction. The faith factor is a bond that draws them together at first, and this faith factor never dissipates. Just a lovely story.

It gets 4 stars instead of 5 because it is a lot wordy and there's quite a bit of rehashing that could have been trimmed out with good editing. Although this book was a Netgalley and Covenant ARC (thank you!) so it might have been trimmed after I got the ARC.

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Review: To Wager Her Heart

To Wager Her Heart To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've liked the Belle Meade Plantation books, but there is just something a bit off about how Alexander handles the prejudice in this one. It seems like she must have had a problem with prejudice in her younger years because that seems to be the theme in the Belle Meade series (all are stand alone, though).

Alexander paints nearly all the whites in the story as bigots and only Sylas and Alexandra as open-hearted, compassionate people who not only respect the negroes but work for their betterment as well. This was not the case. Too many people accept bigotry as a national pasttime of the South. Just as preachers falling into the wiles of fast women becomes national news because of its rarity, so does the sensationalism of bigoted Southerners. While the Northerners were the most prejudiced.

The author did a good job of depicting the prejudice of the North when the Jubilee Singers did their tour. In fact, she notes in the back matter that the real life Jubilee Singers met much worse prejudice and abuse than depicted in the novel.

Another hole in the plot was the absence of "carpetbaggers" who ran rampant over the South during this time until 1877, nor is mentioned any government help that was offered during this time through the Reconstruction era. However, when depending upon God, one doesn't look to the government does one?

I did love the characters. I read to the end because of the characters and Tamera Alexander did a very good job developing them into believable and lovable people except the antagonists. There is nothing two-dimensional about any of them including the supporting cast--including Alexandra's father and mother.

This is an enjoyable read, worthy of purchase. You'll get to know quite a bit of railroad and Nashville history that is as accurate and I can determine. Good job on that as well.

* This novel was provided through Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

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Review: An Inconvenient Beauty

An Inconvenient Beauty An Inconvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Very well done! I'll let the other reviewers tell you the story... I'll tell you why the story is really good, in fact...

Great story, and even though this is the 4th in the Hawthorne series, the character development is not skipped over nor is there any real need to read the first three to know what's going on. Of course the previous characters play a part in this one, and you get to see the happy marriages :), but this is a great example of a stand alone story in a series.

Each of the main characters has a problem that stems from their own personality. That is another rare jewel to find in a novel. And contrary to Randy Ingermanson's axiom that in order to do a story well each character needs to want something so badly he/she will do anything to get it. Hunter writes so well that you don't notice the motivations so much as you delve into and really love the characters--all of them, even the ones who's head you do not jump into!

Hunter is one of the rare authors that can tell a story very well so that, even though there may be some problems with formatting when reading an ARC in Netgalley, you just brush those errors to the side because the story is so good. This isn't a convoluted story route. It has several complications that are quite interesting, but you aren't jumping into character's heads to be told their motivations every other chapter. Hunter treats her readers with respect, thank you. There's very little rehashing if any. The story move along at a good pace without pages and pages of character angst. The value of that is a very good story with a great plot and believable characters whom you can love... and hate.

Love the way that Hunter takes you into the era without problems in modernisms popping up that jerk you out of the story.

5 of 5 stars. Worthy read, and it's a keeper.

* This book was given to me by Bethany House and Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

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Review: The House on Foster Hill

The House on Foster Hill The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I'm sorry, but this story is not my cuppa tea. I really hate dual stories mixed into one novel. I haven't read an author that has been able to really do something like that well. If you start out in the present than hark back to a hundred years ago, it's really hard to do transitions well. No exception here.

Character development is basically non-existent except for Ivy. I think Wright liked Ivy more than--what's her name. Seems like she spent more time with her. However, without well-balanced character building, I found I didn't really care about either girl, or their love interests.

The dual story line gave no time for building suspense. Using cliff-hanger chapter endings is just plain annoying when you flip to a different time frame in the next chapter. It is a ploy that TV scripts use to keep people glued through commercials... don't need that in books. If the story premise is good and the writing is good, readers will come back to the story.

Maybe I'm too persnickety, but I value and guard my reading time because I have so little of it. This one wasn't worth the time I spent.

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Review: Deadly Proof

Deadly Proof Deadly Proof by Rachel Dylan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was pretty good. I especially liked how Dylan kept on track with minimal head hopping. We get the viewpoint of the three main characters. Kate Sullivan, her old-time friend from law school, and her private detective who is a former Army Ranger. Really good character development in all three of them.

You are drawn into the story from the very first page, and each page is a turner. However, there is a bit of wordiness, and quite a bit of rehashing points. I don't like that at all because it feels like padding to me, and this is why the book gets 4 stars instead of 5 from me. While some of the padding is interesting, the rehashing is just annoying. Why do authors who get up from there writing have to go back and rehash motives and previous stuff already handled just to explain why a character thinks something or does something? It's like the author is reminding himself/herself what had happened to get the story flowing again after a break. Readers don't take long breaks, so we don't forget from one chapter to the next. Argh!! (Those readers who buy the already published work might not see these things. Don't know because I read the first upload from Netgalley, it wasn't even an ARC.)

Besides those problems, the premise is right in line with John Grissom's best, only this one is steamed with faith and some faith problems especially with Landon (Kate's PI), which are very well interwoven in the story. Another thing done very well is great transitions from one POV to another. You aren't jerked out of the story trying to figure out where you are or whose head you are in. Congrats on that Dylan!

*Received this book from publisher and Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. Special note to publisher--if you'd just take a little time to edit before upload to Netgalley, it would make our reading life so much easier!!! I'm willing to forgive a few mistakes here and there for indie published work, but come on Bethany, you are a professional! Give us a break!

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Review: The Beautiful Ones

The Beautiful Ones The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An amazing read, kinda fun and kinda frustrating at a character so blinded by previous infatuation. Very character driven story with beautiful descriptions. Because it's character driven, the story moves a bit slow. In fact, the development of characters happens a lot in description and no so much in deeds until further into the book. So, it isn't a surprise when the wicked cousin does/says something quite selfish and, well, wicked.

The magic interweaves the story with a bit of tension that keeps the pages turning. Again, the pace is slow, but that is to help the reader really care about what happens to the characters and for wicked cousin Valerie's comeuppance. In some places it is a bit melodramatic, and other places the author flips points of view that is distracting in a lot of ways.

I personally dislike it when head jumping has no transitions. When you are in one character's POV and next page you are in a different character's POV can be very unsettling with no smooth transition. It's almost better the head hop within a scene because at least you have a point of reference.

I like the book. Don't have a desire to read it again as I do with Georgette Heyer's romances and Jane Austin's. So, it's just my opinion.

3 of 5 stars.

Thanks to Netgalley to St. Martin's Publishing for the book in exchange for my honest review.

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Review: A Dangerous Legacy

A Dangerous Legacy A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved the story and the characters. Camden does a wonderful job with historical details that really add so many dimensions to her stories. This one won't disappoint!

I particularly enjoyed the inside look at news of the day in 1903, and the peek inside a sanitarium with the horrendous practices. (It isn't graphic, just horrifying).

Character development is really good, but one thing that was a bit reader shocking is the abrupt turn around at the end of the story. I get it, but it's still very abrupt.

Each character has a flaw that is even pertinent to today as well. Woven into the story these flaws take the characters out of the 2-D realm of paper and ink (or eReader) into full, lively color complete with smells and textures that you don't find in most stories these days.

It's a keeper, and a great, satisfying read.

Thank you NetGalley and publisher for giving me this copy to review.

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Review: The Essence of Malice

The Essence of Malice The Essence of Malice by Ashley Weaver
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a story that you definitely need to read the previous stories in order to get any kind of character development for the main characters. But the other characters are developed quite well to the point that there were lots of characters to choose from to pin the murder upon. Keeps you guessing pretty well to the end.

Also, I was lost when I found out that the marriage had been troubled. Also, why in the world would someone love another person that was so secretive???? Not healthy.

Setting that aside, the mystery is very slowly solved. Achingly slow. It irritated me no end that husband was so secretive toward wife. I lost interest long before the end, and the characters did not leave a lasting imprint in my mind.

Disclaimer: I would probably have totally enjoyed this story if I had read the previous novels. I adore period mysteries and the early 1930's is quite a wonderful era for a mystery!

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Review: Crisis Shot

Crisis Shot Crisis Shot by Janice Cantore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story kept me interested until close to the end. The author missed an opportunity for a cataclysmic climax and missed it completely. Way too many points of view so it was very difficult to really care about the protagonist, not even sure which one was the protagonist. So I lost interest. The premise is pretty good, but I think there are lots of other small town, small county sheriff/police chief stories that have been done so much better.

However, the tiny details of police work were very interesting, and the management of the officers different personalities was great!

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