Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Like A Flower in Bloom by Siri Mitchell is a delight!!

Being a true bibliophile, I own a few books by Siri Mitchell, but truth be told I haven't read all of them yet.  After reading Like A Flower in Bloom, my interest in this author has been re-kindled. I found this historical romance set in 1850's England delightful, charming, and funny to the end.

Twenty-two year old Charlotte Whithersby has been allowed to assist her widowed father in her passion for botany. Her interfering uncle convinces her father that she needs to join society for the purpose of finding a husband because at twenty-two she's practically an old maid! Her father agrees with her uncle and before she can protest; her job assisting her father has been taken over by Mr. Edward Trimble, a sheep farmer from New Zealand who has a keen interest in botany.

Begrudgingly, she agrees with her father and uncle all the while hoping that her father would soon see how valuable she is to him and eventually she would get her job back.

Charlotte is a unique heroine who marches to the beat of her own drum.  In today's society this individuality is celebrated, but in 1850's England she was thought as a bit of an oddity. Personally, I found her to be a refreshing heroine.

Ms. Mitchell hits the perfect balance with the reader's reaction to Charlotte...a mix of sympathetic to her plight of being pushed into unfamiliar and awkward social situations, but at the same time amused and chuckling at her social faux pas. One funny example in particular is when Charlotte meets a young woman at a dinner party, she informs, Miss Templeton, her new acquaintance that the embroidered flowers on her dress do not have the correct number of petals.
 "Do you know that the flowers on your dress haven't got the right number of petals?"
She glanced down at it. "I had no idea."
"Some of them have five petals and some have six, and although that's possible considering the different varieties of the strawberry have different number of petals, I would assume that your dress is meant to depict just one variety, wouldn't you?"  (Mitchell, 73)

Edward Trimble is distinctive hero. He has a variety of interests, botany, sheep farmer, and he's also knowledgeable of ladies fashion and the social rules of the day. He reminded me somewhat of Mr. Knightley, Jane Austen's hero from Emma.

The banter between Edward and Charlotte is charged. The quote below is one of my favorite moments in the book between the two leads and I think it shows how much he admires her.
"He studied my face for a moment and then glanced down at his empty sketchbook. "You don't approve of my choice?"
"May I remind you of a bluebell, Mr. Trimble? It's a very common flower. One might say it's the commonest."
"I have never thought so. Indeed, most consider it the kingdom's favorite flower. And what would our lives be- how would we even make it though a barren winter- without the hope of our bluebell woods come spring?"
"But bluebells droop under the weight of their own blossoms, of their expectations. They're much too fragile for the realities of life."
"Bend, Miss Withersby. Bluebells don't droop, they bend.They offer their strength to the needs of the moment." (Mitchell, 256).

Ms. Mitchell slowly builds Charlotte and Edward's relationship. I felt that Like A Flower in Bloom had undertones of Jane Austen's works. Like many of Austen's characters the road to love is full of ups and downs; the same could be said of Edward and Charlotte. Also, Charlotte plays the role of matchmaker between her new acquaintance, Miss Templeton and another young gentleman in the story. Jane Austen's Emma sprang to mind.

Like A Flower in Bloom is one of those stories that stays with you long after you read it.  Ms. Mitchell's books will most certainly be added to my ever growing "to be read" pile.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Undaunted Hope is a dramatic conclusion to Jody Hedlund's Beacons of Hope series

Jody Hedlund is quickly becoming one of my "go-to" and "must read" authors.
The Doctor's Lady was the first book I read by Ms. Hedlund and after that I was hooked on her books and her unique style of writing. One of the aspects I like about her writing is that her books are loosely based on historical people. Her books entertain you, but at the same time you also get a history lesson without feeling like your reading a textbook.

Ms. Hedlund effortlessly weaves history into her stories and you can tell she's done her research when she writes her stories.  This makes me enjoy her books that much more because I know the author isn't simply 'making up' facts, but has taken time to research before writing. Another facet of her writing that I identify with is the way she seamlessly incorporates the gospel in all her books.

Ms. Hedlund's new Beacons of Hope series continues to showcase her high caliber of storytelling and most importantly reminds readers of the hope there is in the gospel.

Undaunted Hope takes place in 1870's Michigan and follows lovely school teacher Tessa Taylor as she travels to a copper mining town to teach. Desperate to escape her past she throws herself into teaching both the children and the miner's of the community.

Tess faces extreme opposition from Percival Updegraff, the superintendent and principle mine clerk who rules the town with an iron fist and knows everything that goes on.

She soon finds herself drawn into the world of the Bjorklund brothers, Michael and Alex. Both men work at the lighthouse in town. Michael, a widower, with two young children is the light-keeper and Alex is his assistant. Both brothers vie for her hand, but ultimately only one brother wins. Which brother will it be? You'll have to read the book to find out!

One of the qualities I liked best about Tessa is her willingness to help others. Especially, when it came to education...she's eager for her students of all ages to learn. Not only education, but anytime she was called upon to help out in the community she did. This willingness to serve others caused the townspeople to respect and appreciate her and eventually stand up for her when she needed them the most.

Unlike Ms. Hedlund's previous books in this series where the lighthouse is seen as a beacon of hope, Tessa does not view the lighthouse as this having lost family members in tragic accidents. Her view is the complete opposite...she's bitter and vows to never set foot in a lighthouse or marry a keeper.

One feature of this series that I liked was the wooden cross made out of driftwood along with a story of a romance and instructions to pass it along to someone else who needed hope. This was a recurring theme in all Ms. Hedlund's Beacons of Hope books. At the end of Undaunted Hope this story comes full circle. Hint: if you've read the novella Out of the Storm you'll make the connection.  I was so excited when I made the connection and thought it was so unique that the author chose to tie in the stories of this series with the beginning novella. Saying it was so cool is an understatement, but it was cool!

Ms.  Hedlund's Beacons of Hope series is wonderful and I urge you to check it out if you enjoy historical fiction interwoven with a solid gospel message.

~~ Undaunted Hope was provided to me by Bethany House in return for my honest opinion. I received a copy of this book via Net Galley from the publisher , for which I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone ~~

At Love's Bidding is an endearing romance

At Love's Bidding( Ozark Mountain Romance Book 2) takes you back to Boston in 1873. Miranda Wimplegate assists her family at their renowned auction house.  Her grandfather Elmer Wimplegate has accidentally sold a prized portrait of an influential Boston family.

In an order to help save the auction house from scandal and ruin; Miranda accompanies her grandfather to the Missouri Ozarks where they have tracked the painting. In an effort to keep the painting from being sold the Wimplegates buy the 'auction' house in Missouri not realizing that they specialize in livestock not antiques!
Wyatt Ballentine, the good-looking manager is irritated with the new owner's changes as they clearly have no idea of how a livestock auction is run. He was doing just fine on his own until Miranda Wimplegate stuck her nose in his business attempting to change some of the ways he operated the cattle barn.

Can Miranda and her grandfather find the portrait in time to salvage the reputation of their public sale house?

At first, there is some animosity between Wyatt and Miranda, but over time this enmity turns to friendship and the friendship blossoms into love.  I liked how the romance slowly developed between this unlikely pair.

Another aspect of Ms. Jenning's novel that interested me is that the grandfather Elmer had a fairly large role in the story.  Typically, I find when grandparents are involved in a story their role is minor and in At Love's Budding,  Elmer has a little bit more of a major role. I also liked how Miranda genuinely cares and is concerned for her grandfather. I thought this was so sweet and as a reader this quality endeared her to me.

If you've read book one in this series, (A Most Inconvenient Marriage) Ms. Jennings reunites readers with characters from her first book. Having enjoyed book one it was a delight to have favorite characters interwoven into At Love's Bidding.

Ms. Jennings is making her mark in Christian fiction with her blend of mystery, romance, and humor. If historical fiction appeals to you I would most certainly check out At Love's Bidding and other works by Ms. Jennings.

~~At Love's Bidding  was provided to my by Bethany House in return for my honest opinion. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, for which I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone ~~