Monday, April 25, 2016

The Magnolia Duchess by Beth White

The Magnolia Duchess by Beth White

What a cover!

Let’s begin with the summary:

As the War of 1812 rages across the newly formed United States, another war rages in Fiona Lanier’s heart—one that threatens to tear her family apart.

Fiona can scarcely take in the news of her brother's capture and imprisonment by the British Navy. It is almost as unbelievable as the half-drowned British sailor who is washed ashore on the beach of Navy Cove.

Charlie Kincaid claims to have no memory of his life before being discovered by Fiona, but in a world that seems saturated with treachery, she cannot be sure he is telling the truth.

As Charlie’s memory returns in agonizing jags and crashes, he and Fiona discover that falling in love may be as inevitable as the tide. But when political allegiances collide, they'll each have to decide where their true loyalty lies.

And now, my review:

This is the third book in the Gulf Coast Chronicles series. I felt a little lost because I hadn’t read the earlier two books. When I found this book, I was drawn to the colors on the cover and the promise of romance. I didn’t take into account this was a series book. Some books are more stand-alones, though they are in a series.

The number of POVCs (point-of-view characters) was a bit daunting. I had the feeling these characters were known to series readers, but I was lost. There was some information given with each, but not enough for me to fully bond with the characters. At the same time, I would not have preferred flashbacks. We did get some backstory, which is also not my preference. If you haven’t read the first two books in the series, I recommend doing so before you read this one.

As a historical, this one includes lots and lots of facts. In fact, barely a page went by without many historical details. Several nations are vying for the territory where this novel is set, and I found myself wanting to delve more deeply into the two MCs’ (main characters’) layers rather than getting bogged down. I prefer deeply layered characters and plots. This one focused on several characters (perhaps as a means to tie up loose ends in this series?) and didn’t let us deeply experience any of them.

I also found the story confusing. One of our MCs suffers amnesia (see the summary above) and as we’re in his deep POV, (which I prefer), we get a bit lost because he’s confused. I had to reread a couple of places to see if I’d missed something.

Based on the summary, I thought this would be a romantic journey with plenty of plot and character layers as the hero and heroine fell in love and overcame their obstacles. We get a taste of that, but the historical facts bury us as well. The conflict as to why these two very different people can’t be together was strong and realistic. Well done.

I liked the reference to the American dream—that we can pursue our passions and freely go after our dreams. But overall, I felt I didn’t have enough facts to successfully follow the story. If I had time, I might check out the earlier books, but given the amount of history and lack of deep characterization, I wonder if I’d find the same issues. Readers who enjoy detailed history with their fiction will enjoy this novel.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Audio Books

CDs *

I recently borrowed two items from the library, Poldark by Winston Graham and the audio book of the same title, on CDs. I enjoyed following along, though I will admit to sometimes feeling impatient with the narrator’s pace. I skipped ahead through portions of the 12 discs (!) a few times to get through the book sooner. 

Why listen and read? One, I enjoy audio books at times. And since I’d seen this series on PBS and enjoyed the saga, I thought it’d be fun to see its origins. Also, the actor reading the novel had a British accent. You can’t go wrong with a British accent. Am I right? 

I’ve checked out audio books before—some of them being Jim Rubart’s books. He had the privilege of reading them himself for the audio versions. I enjoyed hearing him read them in the voices he imagined for each speaker’s dialogue.  

As a writer, I read my stories aloud often. Doing so will show writers whether their speakers have distinctive dialogue traits. But I also find mistakes as I read aloud—typos or portions I could beef up. If I were to do the voice-over work on my own titles, I imagine, I might be tempted as I’m reading to rework the prose as I think of changes that may have made the story stronger. (If left to ourselves, our manuscripts would never be finished. We writers like to rework and rework and rework…) 

How about you? Do you enjoy audio books? Where do you listen to them? For Jim’s books, I listened to them on car trips. For Poldark, I was tethered to a CD player with the novel in hand. In this way, it became a study of both voice-over technique, but also unusual words. (Read it, you’ll see what I mean.) 

Whether you read your books or listen to them or both, read on, friends!

Photo credit: White Blank CD Or DVD Stock Photo by Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot at

Saturday, March 19, 2016

A Season to Love by Nicole Deese

A Season to Love by Nicole Deese

I hadn’t read Nicole’s work before, but I’d heard great things about this book from some fellow writers whom I respect, so I wanted to check this one out. Glad I did!

Let’s begin with the summary:

At this point in her life, bravery is not a trait Willa Hart would readily claim. She believes her seven-year-old daughter, Savannah, who never knew her father and successfully tackled chemotherapy, is truly the courageous one. Yet after Willa has a fateful encounter with handsome young doctor Patrick McCade, her outlook—and her view of herself—begins to change.

Patrick, a thrill-seeking world traveler and temporary resident of Lenox, Oregon, sets out to show Willa the value of adventure, even within her tiny town. But just when their friendship shows signs of turning into something more, Patrick’s life as a traveling doctor calls him back. Will his last days in town signal the end of their journey, or will Patrick and Willa find the courage to transform a single season into a lifetime?

And now, my review:

I love first-person narrative—so immediate and engaging. This writer has a fresh voice, full of insightful prose and strong description. I highlighted several phrases as I read on my Kindle. There was a delicious psychological depth in this story. Yet overall it wasn’t heavy or burdensome. I will say, though, that I was ready to move on to Act II just as we made the transition.

Our poor heroine has been through it. No wonder she’s anxious and easily triggered.  She’s found her own sensory rescue (my term for the item that brings her back to functionality) that works for her—peppermint candy. But her addiction, and her crippling fears, aren’t freedom. She’s coping, but even her young daughter can see she isn’t really living.

Our hero has some fears too, but we don’t see that until late in the story, (due to first person). In the meantime, he’ll challenge the heroine to stretch beyond her comfort zone and because she promised her daughter, she’ll try to experience more of life. He offers both understanding and support as he draws courage from her.

The uncle’s journal provides an external mentor readers can respect and appreciate, especially as both main characters are humbled by its wisdom. In this way, readers get the occasional nugget without feeling preached to.

I liked watching the heroine grow and even help someone else while she struggled. Because, as limited as she saw herself, she still had a lot to give.

The title references seasons and there were other mentions as well, even implicit ones. The heroine has come through some tortuous seasons, and now she's finding strength and falling in love. Hope stood out in her story as she realized just how competent she was to more than cope with life, but to tackle it.

One of my favorite reads in a long time! I’ve already been on Amazon looking up this author’s other books, including the first book (novella) in this series, and I’ll be watching for her next novel. I also enjoyed reading something from the new Waterfall Press.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Review: The Good-bye Bride by Denise Hunter

The Good-bye Bride by Denise Hunter

I love revisiting Summer Harbor! 

Let’s begin with the summary:

She only remembers loving him. But he can't forget the way she left.

Following a concussion, Lucy Lovett can't remember the last seven months of her life. She doesn't remember leaving her fiancé Zac Callahan weeks before their wedding or moving to Portland, Maine. And she sure doesn't remember getting engaged to another man. All she remembers is loving Zac more than life itself.

It's taken Zac months to move on after Lucy left him with no explanation. He's thrown himself into his family's farm and his restaurant business in Summer Harbor. Now Lucy's back, vulnerable, homeless, and still in love with him. She needs his help putting the pieces together, but letting her back into his life is a risk—and the stakes are high. If he follows his heart he'll win back the love of his life. But if her memory returns he'll lose her all over again.

And now, my review:

The heroine in the story has lost only her recent memory. The first person she calls in a time of trouble is her estranged fiancĂ©. Ah! What a premise! So much built-in tension. I was hooked from the opening lines, and then the chapters flew by for great pacing. 

Another element I love about Denise’s writing is her male POV. This series centers on three brothers, and I’ve enjoyed eavesdropping on their internal thoughts and banter because they seem so real. And fun. 

We revisit the past a few times in this story, and those flashbacks help us understand the beginnings of the hero and heroine’s relationship. This helped increase the sense of romance since their current relationship was so complicated. 

Our heroine fears abandonment, and no wonder. Because of this, she’s afraid to form attachments. Poor Zac, though. He doesn’t want to play the fool again. If she ran off once before, why wouldn’t she do it again?
Besides the theme of overcoming the past, we find the themes of learning to trust, and earning trust. The central scripture was that of perfect love casting out fear. I felt the author explained the concept of this verse very well. 

A fun read!

Monday, February 29, 2016

You’re the One that I Want by Susan May Warren

You're the One that I Want by Susan May Warren

This series is one of my favorites! 

Let’s begin with the summary:

Owen Christiansen has been in a downward spiral since an injury ended his NHL career. But a job on an Alaskan crabbing boat offers a fresh start . . . maybe even a shot at romance with Elise “Scotty” McFlynn, the captain’s daughter.

Used to being one of the guys, to never relying on anyone, Scotty doesn’t believe in happily ever after—especially with someone like Owen. Her instinct is confirmed when Casper Christiansen arrives to drag his prodigal brother home, bringing with him a truckload of family drama—and even worse, the news that Casper is wanted for questioning in connection to a crime back in Minnesota.

But Owen is more than the sum of his mistakes, a truth both he and Scotty discover when she escorts both brothers to Deep Haven as part of her new job on the Anchorage police force. Thrust into an unfamiliar world of family, faith, and fresh starts, Scotty begins to see potential for a happy ending . . . if she’s brave enough to embrace it.

And now, my review:

I loved this book! Susan’s research was obvious, and she hooked me immediately. I was up reading late into the night repeatedly with this one so I’d have uninterrupted time.

Our hero is so stuck. He’s the bad boy from earlier books in this series, yet here we get to experience his thoughts, fears, feelings. I loved going into his POV, in a believable way. He’s spontaneous, but not always wise. Ironically, he’s eager to please. We get a completely different picture of him than from the earlier books. But he mostly believes the worst about himself, and his family tends to agree with his assessment. So, it will take an outsider to show him his better qualities. 

The heroine doesn’t see herself as wife material, or even girlfriend material. She’s only had her stoic, captain father, and he taught her how to be a man. She has a male-sounding name, and all of her shipmates call her “sir.” I got confused a few times with her name. She’s all about rules because those are her safety idol. She avoids dreaming in life because dreams are outside the realm of rules. As brave as she is, she’s afraid to risk. The hero will have to show her a different side of herself. 

The prodigal son and brother are symbols and themes throughout. I liked the setting—Alaska’s Bering Sea, Seattle, and of course, Minnesota. 

One of my favorite quotes and takeaways from this book came from the author’s letter. I’ll let you read the novel to find it.

I’ve been reading this author's books from the first full-length novel. Love her work. But this was one of my all-time favorites!

Highly recommended.