Demelza (The Poldark Saga #2) by Winston Graham

Demelza

In the enchanting second novel in Winston Graham’s beloved Poldark series, Demelza Carne, an impoverished miner’s daughter Ross Poldark rescued from a fairground brawl, now happily finds herself his wife. But the events of these turbulent years test their marriage and their love. As Ross launches into a bitter struggle for the right of the mining communities, Demelza’s efforts to adapt to the ways of the gentry (and her husband) place her in increasingly odd and embarrassing situations. When tragedy strikes and sows the seeds of an enduring rivalry between Ross and the powerful George Warleggan, will Demelza manage to bridge their differences before they destroy her and her husband’s chance at happiness?

Against the stunning backdrop of eighteenth century Cornwall, Demelza sweeps readers into one of the greatest love stories of all time.

Demelza (The Poldark Saga #2) by Winston Graham
Published 1946
Format: paperback; 432 pages
Classics/Historical Fiction/Romance
Also By This Author: Ross Poldark (The Poldark Saga #1)Jeremy Poldark (The Poldark Saga #3), Marnie, Cordelia
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts:

It’s rare to enjoy a sequel more than the first book in a series, but as much as I loved Ross Poldark by Winston Graham, I was even more captivated by Demelza, the second part of the saga.

If you are familiar with the Poldark books or tv series, you probably love Demelza Carne/Poldark. How can anyone not love her? She has the classic rags-to-riches story and throughout the first two books in the series she quickly becomes the glue that binds the Poldark family together. Even the stauncher characters in the books lose their prejudice against Demelza’s lower class status when they meet her.

In Ross Poldark, Demelza first learns to become a servant, then Ross’s wife, then a lady of Nampara, and then a members of the extended Poldark family. In this second book we see even more of Demelza as she becomes a mother and an active member of the Cornwall community.

Demelza is a much darker novel than its predecessor. We see several feuds and tragedies unfold through Demelza’s eyes, the majority of which have detrimental consequences that remain unresolved at the end of the novel. Because Demelza has such a deep heart, reading this book through her point of view makes the story deeper and more emotional riveting.

“They are all sentimentalists at heart, the Poldarks.”

Read This Book If…

…you enjoy historical fiction.
…you’re interested in classics that revolve around technology (i.e. mining).
…you love paring books with film or tv adaptations (this is not the first–or last–time that I have raved about the current Poldark series).
…you’re looking for a book that will make you feel everything deeply.

“Everything at the moment, my dear, no doubt seem disgusting. I know the mood too well. But being in that mood, Ross, is like bing out in the frost. If we do not keep on the move we shall perish.”

Final Musings:

BBC recently wrapped up filming for the second season of Poldark, and since I don’t plan on reading the third book, Jeremy Poldark, until after the season ends, I have no ideaa what’s in store! Normally I would read the book first, but so far I’ve enjoyed seeing the perspectives of the show creators before I can compare their adaptation to the book.

Here’s a clip from season 2 of Poldark, which follows the plot events of Demelza. Currently the entire collection of aired episodes is available to watch on Amazon Prime. I kind of feel like rematching it after finishing this book :)

Ross Poldark (The Poldark Saga #1) by Winston Graham

Ross Poldark

Ross Poldark returns to Cornwall from war, looking forward to a joyful homecoming with his family and his beloved Elizabeth. But instead he discovers that his father has died, his home is overrun by livestock and drunken servants, and Elizabeth, having believed Ross dead, is now engaged to his cousin. Ross must start over, building a completely new path for his life, one that takes him in exciting and unexpected directions.

Thus begins an intricately plotted story spanning loves, lives, and generations. The Poldark series is the masterwork of Winston Graham, who evoked the period and people like only he could, and created a world of rich and poor, loss and love, that readers will not soon forget.

Ross Poldark (The Poldark Saga #1) by Winston Graham
Published 1945
Format: paperback; 314 pages
Classics/Historical Fiction/Romance
Also By This Author: Demelza (The Poldark Saga #2)Jeremy Poldark (The Poldark Saga #3), MarnieThe Walking Stick
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: ♥♥♥

Thoughts:

Very rarely do I invest myself into epic family sagas. I usually lose interest or grow tired of the drama along the way. There have been exceptions, however (e.g. The Anne of Green Gables series), and Poldark has the potential to be one of them.

Needing a new period drama to watch now that Downton Abbey has finished, I stumbled upon BBC’s adaptation of Poldark and FELL IN LOVE! I hadn’t even watched half of the first episode before I was recommending the show to friends. In two days I binge watched all 8 episodes of season 1 (thanks, Amazon Prime!) and immediately picked up the first book from my local library and devoured it in a few days.

Ross Poldark begins with a war veteran returning home to discover that everyone believed him to be dead, his father has died and his inheritance is in near ruins, and the woman he loves is engaged to his cousin. Ross essentially has to start his life over from scratch, but with his determination, his wit, and through the help of two extraordinary women, his cousin, Verity, and his kitchen maid, Demelza, he beings to find hope and happiness again.

I love that this series begins with a protagonist who has already lost everything. It’s a welcomed change from the typical novel that starts off with everything going well for the main character for a chapter or two. I appreciated Winston Graham’s ability to skip over that unnecessary suspense and immerse the reader immediately into Ross Poldark’s despair. It makes the novel so much more intriguing.

It only took me a few chapters to fall in love with the characters. Ross is kind and compassionate, but like Heathcliff he has his demons that earn him sympathy from the reader. Verity is the selfless and loyal friend whom you can always depend upon, but she has her own heartbreaking past that she’s suffering from. Jud and Prudie offer some hilarious comic relief. And Demelza shows subtle courage in the face of adversity. She is the harbinger of hope and redemption for several of the other characters.

Read This Book If…

…you love investing yourself in long family sagas.
…you enjoy reading historical fiction that portrays the differences between different socioeconomic classes.
…you savor epic love stories.
…you’re a fan of Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Game of Thrones, or Outlander. Poldark has similar themes, characters, and motifs.

Final Musings

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 I discovered Poldark by watching the current BBC television adaptation. Season 1 premiered last year and it covers the first two books in the series: Ross Poldark and Demelza. Here’s a trailer!!

They just finished filming Season 2, and it’s supposed to premiere in the fall in the UK…which means us Americans will have to wait nearly a year to see it! I’m going to break a rule I generally always follow. I’m going to watch Season 2 before I read ahead in the books. Normally I’m a huge advocator for “Read the book first,” but I want to keep the suspense of the show and I also know that, as a book purist, if an adaptation doesn’t stay true to the original story, I’m less likely to enjoy it UNLESS I watch it before I read the book.

But this means I can read the next book because Season 1 of the show already covered those events :)

Who else is excited for Season 2 of Poldark?!

In Another Life by Julie Christine Johnson (Review & Giveaway!)

In Another Life

Historian Lia Carrer has finally returned to southern France, determined to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. But instead of finding solace in the region’s quiet hills and medieval ruins, she falls in love with Raoul, a man whose very existence challenges everything she knows about life–and about her husband’s death. As Raoul reveals the story of his past to Lia, she becomes entangled in the echoes of an ancient murder, resulting in a haunting and suspenseful journey that reminds Lia that the dead may not be as far from us as we think.

Steeped in the rich history and romantic landscape of rural France, In Another Life is a story of love that conquers time and the lost loves that haunt us all.

In Another Life by Julie Christine Johnson
Published February 2, 2016 by Sourcebooks Landmark
Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
Format: e-book from Netgalley for review; 368 pages
Also By This Author: The Crows of Beara
Goodreads Amazon Author’s Website
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts

Ahh this book made me miss living in France! I loved the description of French culture, architecture, and history. If you enjoy historical fiction, this is a great book to curl up with (France itself is just so full of history). I was also surprised at how suspenseful In Another Life is. There were several times I told myself, “One more chapter…” and ended up staying awake an extra hour because I had to know what happened next.

In Another Life is several different genres all tied together: historical fiction, romance, suspense, and fantasy (time travel!). For that reason I think Johnson has penned a book that can be enjoyed by a variety of different readers. There is also a heartbreaking tone to the novel that I really appreciated. I always feel more connected to books that have sad or bittersweet themes to them. I love feeling those deep emotions that don’t go away after I’ve finished a novel.

Read This Book If…

…you enjoy historical fiction.
…you love France, or you love reading books where the setting’s culture is very prominent.
…you’re in the mood for a heartbreaking read.
…you’re looking for a book that has a bit of everything.

Final Musings

I read In Another Life as part of a book tour for France Book Tours. I miss living in France and being immersed in French culture, so I was happy to pick up this book and imagine myself adventuring in Southeastern France (In Another Life takes place not far from Carcassonne. I haven’t been there myself but my husband has and absolutely loved it. I can’t wait to go one day).

Below you will find an excerpt and a giveaway for this debut book by Julie Christine Johnson! Enjoy :)

Excerpt

A three-quarter moon lit the long room and pulled her toward the far end, where a long table sat before a wall of windows. Feeling weightless with fatigue, Lia thought she might float through the windows to the terrace and the Cesse River canyon beyond. But her bleached reflection halted at the glass.

Angles defined her body where there once had been curves. Shadows pressed against her ribs, the hollows of her cheeks, and her sunken eyes. She touched her belly and the sharp point of a hip. She was bone and muscle, hard and flat. Grief had eaten away the lush curves of her breasts and the sweet rise of her belly that Gabriel had loved to caress.

Her body shimmering white against the cold glass, Lia saw how tightly she held herself, as if hardening her muscles would somehow steel her heart from pain. Eighteen months since she’d had an appetite. Eighteen months of going through the motions. She’d drifted through a life that had no rails to grasp for balance.

She backed away from the glass with a curse of surprise but stopped as something white flashed just beyond the window. In the space between heartbeats, she saw the face of a man. Moonlight revealed fierce dark eyes and the etched planes of cheekbones. A seeping black streak marred the left side of his face, running from his temple down his cheek to the corner of his mouth. The palm of a hand came into view, reaching toward her. Her own hands flew up and smacked the glass as adrenaline, warm and electric, seared the weariness from her bones.

A screech ripped through the air, and the vision reassembled itself into something other than human. On the bough of an umbrella pine that clung to the side of the cliff perched a raptor. The breeze lifted the feathers of the bird’s underbelly, and the moon bleached them white. His brown head tilted, and his amber eyes lit on Lia’s naked form. Keeping her movements small, she looked around for something to cover herself. A chenille throw sat folded on a low, upholstered chair in the near corner. She edged toward the chair, her eyes on the bird outside, and clutched the blanket.

With the throw draped over her shoulders like a cloak, Lia turned the lock, pressed down the handle of the French door, and slipped onto the terrace attached to the stone face of the house.

“What brought you here?” she whispered to the eagle as it watched her from his perch on the swaying bough.

In reply, he shifted his weight and showed Lia the profile of his fierce head and hooked beak. Then he spread his wings, and she gasped at the span of feathers, bone, and sinew that measured six feet from tip to tip. He launched from the tree, the whoosh of his wings more a sensation than a sound, and was swallowed by the night.

Leaning over the iron railing, she peered into the black depths below. The river whispered and the wind answered as it swept through the scrub, but the moonlight revealed only vague shapes. She slipped inside the door and locked it behind her.

“Lia, you need to sleep,” she said to the empty room.

~

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

In Another Life- Julie Christine Johnson

Photo by Al Bergstein

Julie Christine Johnson is the author of the novels In Another Life
(February 2016, Sourcebooks Landmark) and The Crows of Beara (September 2017, Ashland Creek Press).
Her short stories and essays have appeared in several journals, including Emerge Literary Journal, Mud Season Review; Cirque: A Literary Journal of the North Pacific Rim; Cobalt, the anthologies Stories for Sendai; Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers; and Three Minus One: Stories of Love and Loss and featured on the flash fiction podcast, No Extra Words.
She holds undergraduate degrees in French and Psychology and a Master’s in International Affairs.
A runner, hiker, and wine geek, Julie makes her home on the Olympic Peninsula of northwest Washington state with her husband.
In Another Life is her first novel.

***

Visit Julie’s website and blog
Follow Julie Christine Johnson on Twitter | on Facebook
Sign up to receive her Newsletter.

***

Global giveaway open to US residents only:
5 participants will each win a print copy of this book.

Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook,
for more chances to win

Enter here

Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday
of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

***

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TO READ REVIEWS, EXCERPT, INTERVIEW, GUEST-POST

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To Win Her Favor (Belle Meade Plantation #2) by Tamera Alexander

To Win Her Favor

A gifted rider in a world where ladies never race, Maggie Linden is determined that her horse will become a champion. But the one man who can help her has vowed to stay away from thoroughbred racing for good.

An Irish-born son far from home, Cullen McGrath left a once prosperous life in England because of a horse racing scandal that nearly ruined him. He’s come to Nashville for a fresh start, hoping to buy land and start a farm, all while determined to stay as far away from thoroughbred racing as possible. But starting over proves harder than he’d wagered, especially when Maggie Linden’s father makes him an offer he shouldn’t accept yet cannot possibly refuse.

Maggie is certain that her mare, Bourbon Belle, can take the top purse in the annual Peyton Stakes at Nashville’s racetrack––the richest race run in America. Maggie only needs the chance to prove it. To give her that chance, and to save Linden Downs from being sold to the highest bidder, Maggie’s father––aging, yet wily as ever––makes a barter. His agreement includes one tiny, troublesome detail––Maggie must marry a man she’s never met. A man she never would have chosen for herself.

Cullen and Maggie need each other in order to achieve their dreams. But their stubborn, wounded hearts––and the escalating violence from a “secret society” responsible for lynchings and midnight raids––may prove too much for even two determined souls.

To Win Her Favor (Belle Meade Plantation #2) by Tamera Alexander
Published May 12, 2015 by Zondervan
Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction
Format: e-book from Netgalley for review; 352 pages
Also By This Author: To Whisper Her Name (Belle Meade Plantation #1)To Wager Her Heart (Belle Meade Plantation #3)The Inheritance
Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Website

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts:

[Disclaimer: To Win Her Favor is technically the sequel to To Whisper Her Name, but you can read it as a stand-alone. There are a few returning characters, but Tamera Alexander reintroduces them nicely.]

This book is intense. I was actually a little shocked at how intense it was. To Win Her Favor takes place in post-Civil War Tennessee, where racial tensions and prejudices towards outsiders are high. Within the first couple of chapters a hate crime (a murder, actually) is committed and it was really heart-wrenching and scary. It’s not the only attack in the book, so if you’re the type of reader who is easily upset by this type of violence, you may not enjoy this book. In my opinion, however, these depictions mirror real life events, even things that happen today, and it is pretty eye-opening to the hatred minorities are attacked with every day. I appreciated the darkness Tamera Alexander weaves into To Win Her Favor because it gave me a greater sympathy to the xenophobia and racism that’s sickeningly prevalent in our world today.

Another shocking aspect about this book is the romance. For a Christian historical fiction novel, I found it unusually racy. I read Alexander’s prequel to To Win Her Favor and I don’t remember it being this intimate, but Cullen and Maggie, the characters in this novel, are married, which is probably why the author elaborated as much as she did. I wasn’t particularly bothered by it, but if you read a lot of Christian fiction you might find Tamera Alexander’s descriptions too much.

Aside from the violence and the intimacy in this novel, the characters were really fun! Maggie is a spitfire–it must come with the name ;)–and Cullen is a stubborn Irishman, so there were plenty of smiles and laughs coming from me while reading their bantering. Also, Tamera Alexander’s descriptions are so vivid and it was easy for me to imagine the Linden Downs farm in my own imagination. I would love to visit Tennessee again someday and scout out the real life mansions and plantations Tamera Alexander based her books off of.

Read This Book If…

…you enjoy books about the post-Civil War South.
…you like horses and enjoy reading about horse training and racing (not gambling).
…you appreciate books that aren’t afraid to touch on sensitive subject matter, specifically violent hate crimes. (Side note: I don’t believe the author uses hate crimes for entertainment, but instead to discourage prejudice and racism)
…you’re looking for a book that will make you swoon.

“The time is coming, Mr. McGrath, and in fact is already upon us, when a man will have to boldly stand for what he believes, or everything he holds dear will be taken from him. And from those he loves.”

Final Musings:

To Win Her Favor is an excellently written novel about post-Civil War Tennessee and what it means to overcome hatred, violence, and fear in the face of adversity. I really enjoyed reading about Maggie, Cullen, Kizzy and her parents and all of the other characters living at Linden Downs but I was especially impressed by how much this novel made me think and feel about those around me who are suffering in real life. This is definitely a book that will be sticking with me, mentally and emotionally, for a while.

Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund

loveunexpected

All she’s ever wanted was a home. But stranded at Presque Isle port after their steamboat sank, Emma Chambers and her brother, Ryan, couldn’t be farther away from security. While Ryan at least can find work, Emma can’t even find a place to stay. An unlikely solution arises when the lighthouse keeper, who recently lost his wife and is struggling to raise his young son, arrives in town. A traveling preacher believes they might be the answer to each others’ problems, and after a hasty marriage, Emma is headed back to the lighthouse with this handsome but quiet stranger.

But nothing in her wandering life has prepared her for suddenly being asked to raise a child and keep a house. Struggling at every turn, Emma also suspects Patrick may be keeping something hidden from her. In town she hears whispers about strange circumstances surrounding his previous wife’s death, and it seems as though Emma’s answered prayer for a home and family may actually be something much more dangerous.

Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund
Published November 25, 2014 by Bethany House Publishers
Historical Fiction/Christian Fiction/Romance
Format: e-book from Netgalley for review; 353 pages
Also By This Author: The Preacher’s Bride, The Doctor’s Lady
Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Website
My Rating: ♥♥♥

Thoughts:

I actually read this book back in February and I hate that it’s taken me so long to publish this review! Love Unexpected is the second Jody Hedlund book I’ve read (the first being The Doctor’s Lady), and I genuinely enjoyed it. The characters were easy to sympathize with; Emma is desperate to find a home while Patrick is a widower needing someone to care for his son. Their relationship stems from convenience and practicality, but it develops into much more than that as they help each other emotionally and spiritually.

There is tons of drama in this novel, and it’s a little racy as well, especially for Christian fiction. But the characters have real qualities and are each longing for purpose, love, and redemption.

Read This Book If:

…you love stories about redemption.
…you enjoy books that take place by the sea (Patrick is a lighthouse keeper and it consumes most of his time), especially historical fiction.
…you appreciate characters with real struggles and flaws.
…you like reading books about second chances and fresh starts.

“God’s already let go of your past. He doesn’t remember it. He doesn’t count it against you. Now it’s time for you to let go, too.”

Final Musings:

As far as Christian Fiction goes, this book was a little racier than most. But if you enjoy romances that are grounded in faith and you don’t blush too easily, Love Unexpected is an enjoyable novel that will warm your heart.

Mademoiselle Chanel by C. W. Gortner – Blog Tour & Giveaway!

Mademoiselle Chanel

“My hands reflect who I am. I see in them the struggle that has always existed between the humble girl I once was and the legend I deliberately created to hide my heart. Who is Coco Chanel?”

Mademoiselle Chanel by C. W. Gortner
Published March 17, 2015 by William-Morrow/HarperCollins
Historical Fiction
Format: paperback; 400 pages
Also From This Author: The Spymaster Chronicles, The Last Queen
Goodreads | Amazon | Website
My Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

For readers of The Paris Wife and Z comes this vivid novel full of drama, passion, tragedy, and beauty that stunningly imagines the life of iconic fashion designer Coco Chanel-the ambitious, gifted laundrywoman’s daughter who revolutionized fashion, built an international empire, and became one of the most influential and controversial figures of the twentieth century.

Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her siblings are sent to an orphanage after their mother’s death. The sisters nurture Gabrielle’s exceptional sewing skills, a talent that will propel the willful young woman into a life far removed from the drudgery of her childhood.

Transforming herself into Coco–a seamstress and sometime torch singer–the petite brunette burns with ambition, an incandescence that draws a wealthy gentleman who will become the love of her life. She immerses herself in his world of money and luxury, discovering a freedom that sparks her creativity. But it is only when her lover takes her to Paris that Coco discovers her destiny.

Rejecting the frilly, corseted silhouette of the past, her sleek, minimalist styles reflect the youthful ease and confidence of the 1920s modern woman. As Coco’s reputation spreads, her couturier business explodes, taking her into rarefied society circles and bohemian salons. But her fame and fortune cannot save her from heartbreak as the years pass. And when Paris falls to the Nazis, Coco is forced to make choices that will haunt her.

An enthralling novel of an extraordinary designer who created the life she desired, Mademoiselle Chanel explores the inner world of a woman of staggering ambition whose strength, passion and artistic vision would become her trademark.

Thoughts

I dove into this novel having no previous knowledge about Coco Chanel, other than recognizing her status as the most influential fashion designer of the 20th century. I was quickly captivated by her story, which was so heartbreaking yet inspirational at the same time. Although Mademoiselle Chanel is a work of fiction, it follows the major events in Coco Chanel’s life, from growing up as an orphan in a convent to losing loved one after loved one, to risking her life in secret operations during World War II. It instills feelings of hope, love, fear, suspense, and guilt, and I was surprised at how easily it captivated me.

My favorite part about this novel was the character of Coco Chanel. The voice that Gortner created for her felt impressively real. It was effortless for me to imagine Coco spewing off her declarations to people who doubted her and also speaking words of love and encouragement to her closest friends and family members. When she felt betrayed, so did I. When she suffered loss and pain, I wanted to be the friend who comforted her. Even if you are like me and have no interest in fashion, that will not keep you from enjoying and connecting to this fictional retelling of Coco Chanel’s life.

Read This Book If…:

…you love historical fiction, especially involving romance and/or a WWII atmosphere.
…you’re inspired by strong female pioneers.
…you enjoy reading novels set in France.
…you’re looking for a main character who has a real voice and is unabashed in speaking her mind.

Final Musings

Mademoiselle Chanel banner

I’m reviewing Mademoiselle Chanel as part of a blog tour hosted by France Book Tours. Please click on the banner to see a list of other bloggers participating in the tour!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

CW GortnerC.W. Gortner is the international bestselling author of six historical novels, translated in over twenty-five languages to date. His new novel, Mademoiselle Chanel, traces the tumultuous rise to fame of iconic fashion designer, Coco Chanel. In 2016, Random House will publish his eighth novel, Vatican Princess, about Lucrezia Borgia. Raised in Spain and a long-time resident of the Bay Area, C.W. is also dedicated to companion animal rescue from overcrowded shelters.

Visit his website. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter

Subscribe to his newsletter

Buy the book: HarperCollins | IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

GIVEAWAY

You can enter the giveaway here or on the book blogs participating in this tour.
Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook, they are listed in the entry form below.

Entry-Form

Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday
of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

6 winners
Open to US only:
5 printed copies
+ 1 beautiful, handcrafted beaded bracelet
inspired by Coco’s black-and-white signature colors
and camellia design

Mademoiselle Chanel bracelet

CLICK ON THE BANNER
TO READ OTHER REVIEWS, EXCERPTS, GUEST-POST AND INTERVIEW

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A Most Inconvenient Marriage by Regina Jennings

amostinconvenientmarriage

“Sometimes the best gifts aren’t convenient at the time.”

A Most Inconvenient Marriage by Regina Jennings
Published December 2, 2014 by Bethany House Publishers
Historical Fiction/Christian Fiction/Romance
Format: e-book; 337 pages
Also By This Author: A Match Made in Texas, Ladies of Caldwell County series
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: 4/5

Synopsis

Having fled a difficult home life, Civil War nurse Abigail Stuart feels like her only friend in the world is sweet but gravely wounded patient Jeremiah Calhoun. Fearing he won’t survive, the Confederate soldier’s last wish is that Abigail look after his sickly sister at home. Marry him, return to his horse farm, and it’ll be hers.

Left with few choices, Abigail takes him up on his offer and moves to Missouri after his death, but just as the family learns to accept her, the real Jeremiah Calhoun appears–puzzled to find a confounding woman posing as his wife. Jeremiah is determined to have his life back to how it was before the war, but his own wounds limit what he can do on his own. Still not fully convinced Abigail isn’t duping him, he’s left with no choice but to let the woman stay and help–not admitting to himself she may provide the healing his entire family needs.

Thoughts

I’ve mentioned this before, but I love reading Christian historical fiction novels during the wintertime. Maybe because they’re perfect for reading during Christmas break: quick reads with happy endings and heartfelt morals. A Most Inconvenient Marriage was a great choice for me to read last weekend. I was happily surprised at how much I enjoyed this novel because sometimes this genre can be a bit cheesy and unrealistic. However, Regina Jennings does a fantastic job at making her characters very real. They are not perfect; they have tempers and make poor choices and have a hard time seeing what’s right in front of them. But they are also entertaining, and there were several scenes in this book that had me laughing out loud or covering my face out of embarrassment for the characters (like I said, they sometimes make poor, but funny choices).

This novel takes place at the end of the Civil War. Abigail was a nurse serving the Union Army, and her patient Jeremiah Calhoun, was a wounded Confederate Soldier, who was forced to join the war not to defend slavery but to protect his family and property. The central conflict in this novel occurs when Jeremiah suddenly shows up alive and slightly crippled, leaving a mystery surrounding the identity of Abigail’s deceased patient.

This novel deals with themes of prejudice and forgiveness, themes that can be applied to current events happening in our society today. One of my favorite values I took away from this novel is that, as a community, everybody relies on everybody else. Sometimes they don’t have a choice about being dependent on others, but everyone has a choice on how they treat their neighbors. The characters in A Most Inconvenient Marriage have to overcome their bitterness, their prejudices, and their pride in order to solve the conflicts that are assaulting their community. I love seeing characters overcome their faults as a collective community rather than autonomous individuals.

Read This Book If…:

…you enjoy historical fiction with religious references.
…you’re intrigued by issues of prejudices and civil unrest.
…you’re drawn to books about characters with real faults who make realistic mistakes.
…you’re a romantic at heart (let’s face it, this book is mainly a romance)!

Final Musings

I’ve previously only read a novella by Regina Jennings (An Unforeseen Match, one of four stories in A Match Made in Texas), but I really enjoyed this full length novel a lot more, perhaps because she was able to develop her characters more deeply. This novel takes place over a span of several months, so no one falls in love within a few days or weeks even, and the characters take a realistically long time to overcome their faults. As I’ve often felt with other historical romances, I expected this book to be filled with cheesy clichés, but it wasn’t.

If you’re in the mood for a heartwarming historical romance set in Post-Civil War America, I highly recommend A Most Inconvenient Marriage by Regina Jennings! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed :)

 

From the Fifteenth District by Mavis Gallant – Blog Tour & Giveaway!

from-the-15th-district

“A woman can always get some practical use from a torn-up life, Gabriel decided. She likes mending and patching it, making sure the edges are straight. She spreads the last shred out and takes its measure: ‘What can I do with this remnant? How long does it need to last?’ A man puts on his life ready-made. If it doesn’t fit, he will try to exchange it for another. Only a fool of a man will try to adjust the sleeves or move the buttons; he doesn’t know how.”

From the Fifteenth District by Mavis Gallant
Published December 16, 2014 by Open Road Integrated Media
Historical Fiction/Short Stories
Format: e-book; 228 pages
Also By This Author: Varieties of Exile, The Cost of Living
Goodreads | Amazon Barnes & Noble | Apple iBookstore

Synopsis:

Even as we grow and change, the consequences of what we have left behind often linger.

Mavis Gallant has a unique talent for distilling the sense of otherness one feels abroad into something tangible and utterly understandable. In this collection, she relates the stories of those stranded in relationships, places, and even times in which they don’t belong.

In “The Moslem Wife” a woman is entrusted to look after a hotel in France when her husband is trapped in America after the breakout of World War II. As the situation progresses, the two grow in surprising and profound ways. In another tale, a German prisoner of war is released from France and returns home to a mother whose personality has been as irrevocably changed by the war as his has. In one of the most poignant entries, Gallant follows the life of a Holocaust survivor, illustrating how his experiences tint his outlook on life forty years later.

With its wide breadth of subject matter and the author’s characteristic way with nuance, From the Fifteenth District is classic Mavis Gallant.

Thoughts:

This was my first time reading anything by Mavis Gallant, and because of that, I was not expecting her writing style. These aren’t stories that you can breeze through; you really have to take the time to digest everything because Gallant writes with some truly beautiful figurative language. The quote I cited at the beginning of this post is an example of the type of metaphors she uses throughout the nine stories included in this collection. Each story focuses on a different character living in Europe during the WWII era. Although these characters do not connect with each other, their stories all share the same themes and tones, the most poignant being a sense of otherness the characters can all relate to.

One of the stories that particularly stood out to me was “The Four Seasons,” which follows Carmela, a young Italian girl living with an American family. She does not speak English very well and thus feels separated from her housemates. Even when she does gain a better understanding of the language, she pretends not to because by that point she has become too withdrawn from the family to develop an authentic relationship with them. I could relate to Carmela’s situation. When I was living in France, it was sometimes easier for me to pretend I was ignorant of the French conversations going on around me because that was easier to cope with than the awkwardness of cultural differences. Each of the other characters in Gallant’s stories face this same type of displacement; some feel a distance from the people around them, others feel dislocated from their physical surroundings.

Read This Book If…:

…you enjoy short stories collections.
…you like stories that can be read in one sitting but continue to stay with you long after you’ve finished reading them.
…you feel drawn to historical fiction, especially fiction that takes place during WWII.
…you’re touched more by books that are theme-driven instead of plot-driven.

Final Musings

From the 15th district banner

I’m reviewing From the Fifteenth District as part of a blog tour hosted by France Book Tours. Please click on the banner to read other reviews as well as an excerpt of the book.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

From the 15th district Mavis GallantIn 1952 Mavis Gallant (1922–2014) left a successful career as a journalist in Montreal to live independently as a writer of fiction in Europe. She had gained international recognition in 1951 when she was published in the New Yorker, which in subsequent years released over one hundred of her short stories, most of which are set in European cities or Montreal. Random House published twelve volumes of her work. Gallant was awarded the 1981 Governor General’s Award for Home Truths, the 2002 Rea Award for the Short Story, and the 2004 PEN/Nabokov Award for lifetime achievement. She was a companion of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest honor. After traveling widely in Europe, in 1960 Gallant settled in Paris, where she died in 2014. The Journals of Mavis Gallant: 1952–1969 is tentatively scheduled for publication by Alfred A. Knopf in 2015.

GIVEAWAY

Click on Entry-Form to enter the giveaway:

Entry-Form

Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour
will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

US only giveaway:
your choice of kindle/epub of this book

The Beautiful American by Jeanne Mackin – Blog Tour & GIVEAWAY!

thebeautifulamerican

“Some memories, the more you talk about them, the stronger they become.”

The Beautiful American by Jeanne Mackin
Published June 3, 2014 by New American Library/Penguin
Historical Fiction
Format: paperback; 352 pages
Cover Appeal: A
Also From This Author: The Sweet By and By, The Frenchwoman
Goodreads | Amazon | Website
My Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

As recovery from World War II begins, expat American Nora Tours travels from her home in southern France to London in search of her missing daughter. There, she unexpectedly meets up with an old acquaintance, famous model-turned-photographer Lee Miller. Neither has emerged from the war unscathed. Nora is racked with the fear that her efforts to survive under the Vichy regime may have cost her daughter’s life. Lee suffers from what she witnessed as a war correspondent photographing the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps.

Nora and Lee knew each other in the heady days of late 1920’s Paris: when Nora was giddy with love for her childhood sweetheart, Lee became the celebrated mistress of the artist Man Ray, and Lee’s magnetic beauty drew them all into the glamorous lives of famous artists and their wealthy patrons. But Lee fails to realize that her friendship with Nora is even older, that it goes back to their days as children in Poughkeepsie, New York, when a devastating trauma marked Lee forever.

A novel of freedom and frailty, desire and daring, The Beautiful American portrays the extraordinary relationship between two passionate, unconventional women.

Thoughts

This novel brought on so many nostalgic feelings! One of my favorite things about reading novels set in France is all the cultural references I get to latch on to. I like reading about a city or cuisine or French habit and being able to say, “Yes! I know exactly what that is.” I’ve read some books set in France that had too many cultural and French language errors for me to be able to enjoy reading it. The Beautiful American is not one of those books. Jeanne Mackin depicts a vividly accurate and alive portrait of France, so that it is a character as much as it is a setting.

The book starts off to a slower tempo but that really adds to the whole suspense of the novel. We know right from the beginning that Nora, our main character and American expatriate, is searching for her missing daughter, and is also hiding a torturous and heartbreaking past. Then suddenly we are presented with detailed flashbacks of a promiscuous and carefree 1920s Paris. During these earlier flashbacks I kept comparing The Beautiful American to The Great Gatsby; they both play with themes of 1920s idealism, and the suspense I mentioned earlier is strengthened by the foreboding knowledge that everything is about to come crashing down. Once it finally does, you cannot put this book down until you know how it ends.

I was happy, and nothing in the world can make you oblivious to your surroundings like happiness.

As far as historical fiction novels go, this one is captivating and inspiring. Nora and her celebutante childhood friend are bold and courageous characters who witness some true horrors from the WWII era. As a warning to anyone interested in reading this book, there is some mild sex and violence that is unsettling but not explicit.

If you are a fan of historical fiction that feels real and intense, The Beautiful American will no doubt be an enjoyable novel for you! You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to WWII era France even if you’ve never been to France before in your life :)

Read This Book If…:

…you love France!
…you enjoy reading historical fiction that takes place in Europe during WWII
…you like The Great Gatsby (it has that same 1920s idealism that you just know is about to collapse)
…you’re longing for a book that will captivate you even after you’ve turned the last page

Final Musings

FranceBookTours I’m reviewing The Beautiful American as part of a blog tour hosted by France Book Tours. Please click on the banner to see a list of other bloggers participating in the tour!

Praise for The Beautiful American

“Readers will rank [it] right up there with The Paris Wife…. A brilliant, beautifully written literary masterpiece…”–New York Times bestselling author Sandra Dallas

“Will transport you to expat Paris… and from there take you on a journey through the complexities of a friendship…breathes new life into such luminaries as Man Ray, Picasso, and, of course, the titular character, Lee Miller, while at the same time offering up a wonderfully human and sympathetic protagonist in Nora Tours.”–Suzanne Rindell, author of The Other Typist

“Achingly beautiful and utterly mesmerizing… Sure to appeal to fans of Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife and Erika Robuck’s Call Me Zelda, or indeed to anyone with a taste for impeccably researched and beautifully written historical fiction.”– Jennifer Robson, author of Somewhere in France

“Beautiful…A fascinating account of a little-known woman who was determined to play by her own rules.”–Historical Novel Society

unnamedABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeanne Mackin is the author of several historical novels set in France, and has earned awards for her journalism
as well as a creative writing fellowship from the American Antiquarian Society. She lives in upstate New York with her husband, cats and herd of deer, and is still trying to master the French subjunctive.

Visit her website.
Follow Jeanne Mackin on Twitter  | Facebook

Buy the book on Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books a Million | Google Play | iBookstore | Indiebound | Powells

GIVEAWAY

Click here to enter a giveaway for Jeanne Mackin’s The Beautiful American. Five copies will be given away to US/Canada residents only.