Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Runaway Heiress (Dare to Defy #1) by Syrie James

I’ve enjoyed historical fiction novels from Syrie James in the past and was delighted to have a chance to review her new historical romance, Runaway Heiress.  Runaway Heiress is a Victorian historical romance involving the American invasion of heiresses to England trying to snag a titled husband.  Think Cora from Downton Abbey or all the ladies in The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton.

Alexandra Atherton has attended college in America and wants an independent life full of learning.  Her mother has other plans and has brought her to England to use her father’s wealth to lure a titled husband.  This will help the family social standing in America.  Alexandra is horrified when the suiter her mother has chosen tries to have his way with her in the garden.  She runs off to try to return to America to live her own independent life.  During her escape, her money is stolen, and she is left alone and penniless.  Help from some kind strangers allows her to grasp a new opportunity and become the governess to Thomas Carlyle, a handsome artist with two younger sisters.  Their governess has just left Mr. Carlyle in a bind and he quickly hires Alexandra.

Alexandra may be posing as a governess, but Mr. Carlyle is really, Thomas Carlyle, Earl of Longford.  When Alexandra arrives at his estate, she is stunned.  Thomas is earning money as a portrait artist to try to support his family and crumbling estate after his late father and grandfather squandered away the family inheritance.  Working for money is not done by an aristocrat so Thomas must hide his work and identity.

Alexandra learns to loves Thomas’s sisters, Julia and Lillie and becomes quite a good governess.  She also falls in love with Thomas and they have a charged atmosphere between them.  But when the truth comes out about Alexandra’s identity, will Thomas be able to put aside his prejudices against wealthy American heiresses to find true love?

I loved this novel.  I loved the gentle nods to one of my favorite all time Victorian novels, Jane Eyre with Alexandra’s work as a governess and love of the novel.  The chemistry between Alexandra and Thomas fairly leapt off the page – I loved their romance.  I especially loved that Alexandra was an independent woman who was not going to settle as her mother wanted her too but was working towards finding her own path in life.   I loved her relationship with Julia and Lillie.  The next two books in this series follow Alexandra’s sisters, but I hope that Julia and Lillie eventually get their own story as well.

Favorite Quote:
“’Resentment and hatred are wounds that only fester as time goes by’ she pointed out gently, ‘but they can be healed by forgiveness.’

Overall, Runaway Heiress is a well written Victorian romance with a strong independent heroine and great chemistry between the leads.  Jane Eyre and romance fans should take note.

Book Source:  Review Copy from Avon and author Syrie James.  Thank-you!

Great Illustrated Classics: Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

After we moved this summer, all our books were in boxes.  My ten-year-old son Daniel was in despair, but then discovered a set of Illustrated Classics that I bought a few years ago at an antique store and proceeded to read through them all at a fast pace.  I had also bought a few books online a few years ago to augment the set with books I thought the boys would like. His favorite authors were Charles Dickens and Mark Twain.  He really liked The Prince and the Pauper and Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.  He thought Tom Sawyer’s escapades were hilarious.  He saved Huckleberry Finn to read with me and we just finished it last week.

Daniel also liked the humor and adventure in Huckleberry Finn, but he really liked his friendship with Jim.  He was very concerned about Jim and was glad that Jim got a happy ending.  I wish there was a follow up novel on Jim. Now that he is free – what happened to him?

I know that some people are dead set against the Illustrated Classics series as it takes classic stories, reduces them to a shortened kid version, and includes a picture on each paper.  I have always been in favor of them.  I read a few of them as a kid myself and it introduced me to authors that I then looked for as my reading level increased.  I read the full Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn when I was not much older than Daniel.  I have them sitting outside his room on a book shelf, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t pick them up on his own and read them sometime soon.  He is a voracious reader. 

Daniel said he was asked at school what the difference was, and he said there are more pictures and no swearing in the Great Illustrated Classics.  Overall, they are a nice way to start introducing your children to the classics.

Winner of Eleanor Courtown by Lucy E.M. Black

The lucky winner of Elanor Courtown by Lucy E.M. Black is Susan of Suko's Notebook.  I've enjoyed her blog for many years and am glad to see her as the winner!  Susan was chosen by using random.org on the comments on the original post to determine a winner.  I will email her shortly for her mailing address and send the book her way.

Want to learn more about Eleanor Courtown?  Check out my review at this link.

Sad that you didn't win?  Stay tuned as I will have another new giveaway posted this Friday!

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Secret of the Irish Castle by Santa Montefiore (TLC Book Tour)

The Secret of the Irish Castle starts in 1939 Ireland.  The Deverills built their castle on O’Leary land three hundred years before and were cursed for it.  Now in 1939 they have lost the castle to a former maid, Bridie Doyle, who made her fortune in America, married a count, and returned to lay claim to the castle.  Bridie finds she is trapped between two worlds, not accepted by her old friends with her rise in station, and not accepted by the wealthy elite.  She loves her husband Cesare but doesn’t realize that he already has a bad reputation for chasing all the ladies in the village.  Will Bridie be able to find herself and happiness?

Martha Wallace is a young American who has traveled to Ireland with her old nanny to search for her birth mother.  She has found out through her sister that she is adopted and using her birth certificate, she tries to find the truth.  While in Ireland, she meets JP Deverill and instantly falls in love.  The two are perfect for each other, but will the secret of their parentage drive them apart?

With WWII looming and then starting, the Deverill family, friends, and enemies from Ballinakelly Ireland find themselves at the center of the home and war effort.

The Secret of the Irish Castle is at its heart a family drama involving several different families and a lot of characters.  Luckily there are family trees at the start of the novel, which I did use throughout my reading.  I was a bit flummoxed while reading the novel as they seemed to give short back stories on some characters which involved major events.  I kept thinking, I wish there was a novel about those events . . . then I was walking through Costco and saw Daughters of Ireland, which appears to be the book before the Secret of the Irish Castle.  I looked up the author and The Secret of the Irish Castle appears to be the third book in the series.  It is slightly confusing as the book titles are different in the United States.  I read through it fine as a stand-alone book, but I think I would like to go back and read the books before it in the series.

I enjoyed the different characters and the drama that happened in their lives. The drama involves a lot of love and a lot of extra marital affairs. I also loved that the story started with the original curse on the castle by Maggie O’Leary.  I want more on Maggie – she is a very interesting character.  Her curse is that the Deverills are cursed to remain behind at the castle in spirit and never pass on to the other side until an O’Leary returns to the castle. 

I also loved the setting in Ireland, with trips to England. It sounds beautiful.  I especially loved the details about the castle itself – how it was burned down and then restored.

I love WWII historical fiction.  In this novel, I love that JP Deverill becomes a WWII fighter pilot and that others in the book also play parts in WWII as well.  It’s interesting to see how the war changes their lives.

Favorite quote: 

“’Human nature will never change,’ Adeline said wisely. ‘Modes come and go, but human nature remains the same.  Beneath the trappings of civilization, we are closer to the animal kingdom than we realize.’”

Overall, The Secret of the Irish Castle is a very interesting family drama and historical fiction novel set in Ireland and England in the WWII era.

Book Source:  Review Copy for being a part of the TLC Book Tour.  Thank-you!  For more stops on the tour, check out this link.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Author Links: Website, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter