Showing posts with label historical fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label historical fiction. Show all posts

Friday, November 29, 2019

The Captured Bride Book Reviewed

Daughters of the Mayflower - Book 3 in the Series


The Captured Bride: Daughters of the Mayflower Series - Book 3 Reviewed
Every book in the Daughters of the Mayflower series is fabulous!

I started reading through this series several weeks ago. I wasn't sure how cohesive the series would be since the books were individually written by different authors.  The first book, The Mayflower Bride, was written by Kimberley Woodhouse, a new author to me.  The second book, The Pirate Bride, was written by Kathleen Y'Barbo.  I have read several books by Y'Barbo, therefore I knew it would be a great book.  The subject of today's review, The Captured Bride, was written by Michelle Griep, another new author to me.

Thus far, I have loved every book in this series and I have been thrilled to find new authors (to me) that I can trust to offer excellence in writing without explicit, gory, or less desirable content.  Simply, pure literary entertainment that is well worth reading.



Background on the Daughters of the Mayflower Series


As you may already know, or have guessed, these books are filled with American history references and characters.  The historical accuracy is part of what makes them so fascinating.

Starting at the beginning of American history with the Mayflower, the authors have created a family lineage that carries down through each book.  In the Mayflower Bride, Mary Elizabeth Chapman marries William Lytton, thus the beginning of the subsequent stories.

Each book places a Lytton descendant in a pivotal, or important, place in the history of America.  The characters and plots are all compelling. Even though the series was written by different authors, the books have a cohesive thread.  I can detect a bit of author individual style in the books, but it is not so obvious that it is detracting from the stories. 


Daughters of the Mayflower Series - Books



The Captured Bride Book Synopsis
1760 - French & Indian War


One could hardly write a series about American history and omit the American Indian heritage.  

 The Captured Bride: Daughters of the Mayflower -
Book 3
Check Price
Mercy Lytton is the daughter of a Mohawk Indian and a captive white mother.  Because of her mixed race, Mercy has loyalties to both the English and her Native American tribe, which are aligned against the French.  Her keen eyesight and ability to move throughout the woods without detection make her the perfect scout for the English.  For years, Mercy has worked closely with Captain Matthew Prinn.  She scouts and he has her back, always protecting her.  

Mercy and Matthew are assigned to transport gold from one fort to another.  Since it must be moved by wagon, they are to pose as a father, daughter and husband.  However, who is the husband?  Much to Mercy's disdain, her designated "husband" is a prisoner of French heritage.  They are instructed to never give Elias Dubois a gun.  He is simply being transported along with the gold.  

On their journey, it becomes necessary to form a fragile alliance with one another in order to survive, but Matthew & Mercy are hesitant to fully trust Elias.  They hold to their orders and refuse to give him a gun.  However, Elias proves to be a formidable foe without a rifle.  Unbeknownst to them, Elias has his own agenda that, for now, is served well by being aligned with the traveling scouts. 

At least, that is his plan until the unthinkable happens!



My Personal Opinion of "The Captured Bride"


I always love a book that surprises me and holds me captive.  Thus was the case with "The Captured Bride". 

While the name of the book gives some expectation of what must take place, the how, who and why, was still rather unforeseen.  This book takes the reader on a journey of their own, full of adventure, intrigue and completely unexpected events.  

Yes, I was fighting sleep because I simply had to keep reading.  It was a sad moment, yet satisfying, when I realized I had read the last word. 

As I said earlier, this author was previously unknown to me.  However, after reading "The Captured Bride", I will be seeking out more of her books.  As for "The Captured Bride", I highly recommend this book!



The Daughters of the Mayflower Series





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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Crown Reviewed

Series for the Anglophile

My husband and I have just watched Season 3 of The Crown on Netflix. Have you been watching this series? If not, I think you should. Not only is it entertaining but there is a whole lot of history packed into this original series made for Netflix.

the crown
A Crown
image courtesy of pixabay.com
I'll admit that I'm a bit of an Anglophile (person who admires the United Kingdom). My fascination with the country goes pretty far back. Being a bit of a history nerd, their history is one aspect of my curiosity and the Royal family is another. I think it might be why this series has grabbed my attention. This series documents in a artistic way a history that I have lived for the most part. Queen Elizabeth was named queen the year that I was born, her coronation was a year later. So, obviously I don't have a memory of that but there has been a lot of historical ground covered that I do remember.


Viewing history from the palace 

One of the take-a-ways for me while watching this series is a better understanding of how the Queen and Parliament work. I realize a lot of this is written for entertainment and there are probably some liberties being taken for a story but seeing the interaction of the Queen and the different Prime Ministers she has worked with has been quite interesting. Realizing that she and the royal family as a whole might have an opinion on different aspects of governing but are not often at liberty to voice what they really think or feel has given me a different perspective on a lot of history and even the leaders of today. 

The Crown, even though it is historical fiction, has made me appreciate different members of the royal family in ways that I hadn't even considered before. It is easier to see them as people instead of figure-heads. I hadn't really considered that they sometimes have insecurities, feel unappreciated, get their feelings hurt, and all of those emotions that us 'regular' people do. They don't live what we consider a normal life but they are human and experience many of the same things we do in our lives. 

If you haven't watched this series, I recommend that you do. It can be purchased on DVDs, if you don't happen to have a subscription to Netflix. I don't think that you will be disappointed, not even kind of. I'm looking forward to a season four already.




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Friday, November 15, 2019

The Pirate Bride Book Review

Daughters of the Mayflower - Book 2 in the Series


The Pirate Bride Book Revies
I recently discovered this fabulous historical romance series.  To say it has kept me up into the wee hours of the morning on several nights, would be an understatement.  

I like to read at bedtime.  I've found that it normally helps me ease into a restful sleep by taking my mind off real life concerns.  However, in the case of the Daughters of the Mayflower series, these books have been so spellbinding that I can't put them down.  I get wrapped up in the story and must read just one more chapter.  Before I know it, it is 2 am and I am fighting sleep.  I need to know what happens next!

I previously reviewed the first book in this series, The Mayflower Bride.  An excellent story filled with fascinating history.  After I read The Mayflower Bride, I immediately started this book, The Pirate Bride.  Sadly, I finished it in two nights and started the third book in the series the following night.  I'll tell you in advance, I am suffering from sleep deprivation as I write.  At 4 am this morning, I was still reading that 3rd book.  This series really is that captivating.


The Pirate Bride Book Synopsis

April 1724

 The Pirate Bride: Daughters of the Mayflower - Book 2Check PriceMaribel Cordoba is only 12 years old when her estranged father appears and informs her that her mother and grandfather are dead.  Therefore, she will be joining him on a ship bound for Havana, immediately.  Antonia Cordoba is a cruel and heartless man.  He doesn't even allow Maribel to stay long enough to attend her mother and grandfather's funerals.  

As you might expect for someone so evil, Antonia has enemies who are equipped and strong enough to pursue him.  While at sea, their ship is overtaken by a privateer's ship that is commanded by Captain Jean Beaumont.  

A privateer is different than a pirate.  While they both seize cargo and assets, the privateer has a government commission to legally rob a country's enemy ships and divide the proceeds with their government. Therefore, the French Ghost Ship is breaking no law when they attack and board the Spanish Venganza.

On that fateful day, Captain Beaumont is more interested in a passenger then he is in the ship's valuables.  Many years before, Cordoba had killed Beaumont's mother and brother.  It was time for revenge!  After a short struggle onboard between Beaumont and Cordoba, they both fell overboard.  Beaumont had the advantage, but was convicted by the voice of God.  He took hands off of Cordoba and allowed the sea to take her prey naturally.  

Back on his own ship, Captain Beaumont discovers that he is now the reluctant guardian of a very opinionated and independent, Maribel Cordoba who is fascinated by pirates. Her intelligence, mental strength and adventurous spirit endears her to the crew of the Ghost Ship.  After a few months together and a life threatening incident, a few of the remaining crew decide it would be best for Maribel if she was raised by nuns in an established orphanage.  While she is still unconscious, they deliver her to Mother Superior on Isle de Santa Maria. 


Conclusion & Recommendation

There is so much more to this story!  The characters easily come to life in the pages of this book.  There are quite a few twists & turns that keep you reading.  What would normally be a difficult concept to "sell", the author seamlessly leads the reader to the point where we embrace the idea of this Pirate Bride. 

I have read several books by Kathleen Y'Barbo.  She never disappoints.  This is yet another book by this author that I would highly recommend.







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Friday, November 1, 2019

The Mayflower Bride: Daughters of the Mayflower Series - Book 1 Reviewed

True American History woven into the fabric of fiction!

The Mayflower Bride: Daughters of the Mayflower Book Review
I was fascinated by the real history in this book and riveted to the story.  I had no idea that only 5 women survived the Mayflower journey.  I could almost hear the echo of lamentation that surely accompanied these brave souls who set out for a new world and religious freedom.

In my American History class decades ago, I somehow missed the fact that a second ship, the "Speedwell", started the journey with the Mayflower.  Due to confessed sabotage by the crew that was paid to help settle the colony, the Speedwell had continuous leaks that wouldn't allow it to safely cross the ocean.  The Separatists on the Speedwell, were transferred to the Mayflower, while the fraudulent crew was allowed to do as they wished, stay in England.

In the book, there is a man who takes great delight in tormenting the Separatists.  He bullied the sick church members and enjoyed taunting them with the promise that he would throw their dead bodies into the sea.  The author, Kimberley Woodhouse, brought this real character to life for me.  I was disgusted by his words and I wondered how anyone could be so cruel and evil.  Interestingly, he was a real person, written about in the Pilgrim's journals.  It seems somehow fitting that he was the first Mayflower voyager to die and be buried at sea.

I admit that I picked this book up because I was seeking a historical romance.  However, the history that is intertwined throughout the pages of this book, was very eyeopening to me!  It makes me more grateful to the Separatists who sacrificed and struggled for religious freedom in the New World.


Synopsis of The Mayflower Bride


 The Mayflower Bride: Daughters of the Mayflower - Book 1Check PriceJust as the name implies, there is a romantic fiction story too. Mary Elizabeth, a Separatist, falls in love with William, a carpenter, who started the journey as a non-believer.  Part of what makes the love story better, is William's conversion, which he does not do just because of Mary Elizabeth. He truly desires to know God and to worship with the Separatists.

Mary Elizabeth joined her father and young brother on the Speedwell, bound for the New World.  She wasn't happy about leaving behind her mother's grave, her familiar home and life.  It was a frighting change for her, full of unknowns.  However, her best friend, Dorothy, was also making the journey with her parents.  Dorothy's exuberance about the venture helps Mary Elizabeth to try to view it as exciting and a blessing for them to be included in the first group to go. 

Williams mentor and master in carpentry, paid for William's part and passage on the Mayflower.  Because William is an orphan who lived on the streets until he was taken in by Paul, they believe the New World offers William a new life.  A future that is unburdened by his past and the condescension of people who know about him.

There are many trials and difficulties the passengers on the Mayflower faced.  Their own survival on the ship, was just the beginning.


Daughters of the Mayflower Series


The books in this series were not all written by the same author.  While I am familiar with a few of the inspiring authors, The Mayflower Bride, Book 1, was the first book I have read by the author, Kimberley Woodhouse.  It is an excellent book to start the series!  I can hardly wait to dive into the second book in the series, The Pirate Bride, written by Kathleen Y'Barbo (an awesome author).  I have no doubt, it will also be fabulous!  

It is exciting to discover this new series, especially at this time of the year when we focus on our blessings and our own American Thanksgiving.  After all, the voyagers on the Mayflower were the foundation of our country.






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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Seven Sisters Book Review

Historical Fiction of the Roman Empire

roman legion
Could this Roman legion be marching to the Seven Sisters?
image courtesy of pixabay.com
I would like to share a review of the book Seven Sisters by David Bowman with you today. Most of the time when I pick a book to share with you, it is one that is typically written with the female reader in mind. Oh, a few would be appealing to both genders but generally my reading tastes lean toward my own gender. Today's review will be about a book that I think will appeal to most men.

Mr. Bowman has written a fine piece of historical fiction that takes place in the Roman Empire during the Ninth Century. The story falls into what is often termed as alternative history where actual history takes on a speculative nature allowing for people, places, and events to be in the plot that either didn't exist or didn't happen.



Short Synopsis of Seven Sisters

Crastus is the Commander of the Fifth Legion for the Emperor of Rome. He is a veteran of the Roman military and has earned a great deal of respect from the men he leads and fellow commanders of other legions in the vast military of the empire. He is affectionately referred to as "The Silver Fox" and is known for his superb strategies in battle and for his element of surprise when fighting the enemy. As the story begins, Crastus has been commanded by the Emperor to oversee a campaign involving his own legion along with the Seventh and the Seventeenth. Their mission? To take back the fortified city called Seven Sisters from The Pretender who has kept the empire in a civil war for the last 5 years. This city is the best fortified area in the entire empire, even better than Rome. It has seven fortresses and an ingenuous water defense system. It will be up to Crastus to direct all three legions as they besiege the fortified city and defeat what is left of the rebel army. The task before him will not be easy and if he fails, the Emperor will surely have his head. Will he be able to use the new weapons and his cunning to win the city back? At what cost?

My recommendation:


As I mentioned above this is a book that will appeal to many male readers. I'm not saying woman can't enjoy it; I actually did find it fascinating. There is no romance involved in the plot. It is strictly preparing for battles, strategy planning  and the battles themselves. Political schemes and corruption in the government are also revealed. The battle scenes aren't too horribly graphic but it doesn't take much to see in your mind's eye what is going on during the attacks. I thought the use of their "new weapons" was a fun piece to the story. A kind of using the latest technology of war only it is taking place in the Ninth Century. 

I can see where this wouldn't necessarily be a book that female readers would enjoy but I do think that it would be a very nice gift for your spouse or son to have to read. They are going to enjoy the regimen of the soldiers, the preparing for attacks and the way the men interact with each other. Actually, I enjoyed it quite a lot. It was refreshing to read something that I normally wouldn't choose to read. 

So, why did I pick this book in the first place you might ask? Well, you know me; I am always looking for authors who haven't received much recognition from the reading public. David Bowman actually came to my attention in an unexpected way. I was looking for a designer to do book covers for me and found his website, Brightling Spur. David worked with me to come up with new covers for my Roni Rainer Mysteries and he has also helped me with the covers for my newest (soon to be released) series Cabin 9 Mysteries. When I discovered that he was not only a clever designer of book covers but also an author, I wanted to read his work. I wasn't disappointed in his covers or his writing.

In fact, Seven Sisters is the first book in a trilogy. He has also written Two Brothers which continues the story of Crastus and Rome and the final book is Imperator that concludes the story. I have read the first two completely and am about to finish the third book. If you are looking for a good gift to a male reader on your list, these books will not disappoint.




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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

My Real Name Is Hanna Book Review

Historical Fiction Aimed At A Young Adult Audience


pysanky eggs
Pysanky Eggs play a roll in My Real Name Is Hanna
(image courtesy of pixabay.com)
Let me share a book review with you today for My Real Name Is Hanna. I have always loved to read historical fiction. There is something intriguing about an author taking a specific time in history and envisioning a story of what it might have been like for characters in that era. 

When I sat down to begin reading this book, I thought that I would read a chapter or two and then set it aside to continue later or even the next day. That is typically how I read books. So, I read the first couple of chapters and thought, "Well, maybe a few more and then I'll quit for the day." I did take a short break to get some household chores completed but the book was nagging at me to come back. Long story short, I ended up reading the entire book by day's end. 

Captivating Story Not easy to put down

The story is about a young girl named Hanna. Her family is Jewish and had fled from Russia after the pogroms and what was referred to as the Hunger War. Her mother and father have settled in an area of Ukraine that was sometimes under Polish rule and sometimes under Russian rule. At the beginning of Hanna's story we learn about a time when the Russians have taken over. Stalin has required that all Polish allegiances be stopped. Flags are changed from the red and white of Poland to the red flag with the crescent moon and star of Russia. School subjects are now taught in the Russian language. News is controlled by Stalin along with the ability to worship or practice local customs. Life is changing and not for the better.

Rumors begin to circulate around the small town where Hanna lives. People begin to disappear. Quiet conversations are heard about a man named Hitler sending his armies to fight with the Russians for control of Poland. Some think this German might be better than Stalin, others aren't so sure. Neighbors begin to turn against neighbors, especially when the German soldiers come. 

A Story of Survival: My Real Name is Hanna

The author, Tara Lynn Masih, gives us a story of one family's survival during this horrible time in world history. Her fictional account is based on a real family who found the courage and strength to keep clear of the worst of the Holocaust. Hanna and her family were able to escape being taken to the ghettos and the work camps. They were able to keep from falling into a trench after being shot. What they endured to stay alive is a remarkable story! You need to read the book to find out how and for how long their lives were hanging in an unstable imbalance.

One of the things that I loved about this book is that it is written with the teen and young adult reader in mind. Although, some atrocities are mentioned the very worst are only hinted at. A young person can get the feeling of the awful inhumanity that can be inflicted in a way that is less repulsive than what really occurred in Europe. It might help them to understand history a little better and make them curious to delve into it more. 

I want to stress how this is not a depressing book. Certainly, you can't help but feel disgusted and appalled at what happened in WWII. It is a story of hope. A story of love and family; it is a story of people helping people even when it means their own lives are at risk. Read the book to find out what role the Pysanky eggs play in Hanna's life. I thought it was a fascinating addition to the overall story and I learned more about those lovely decorated eggs.

If you enjoy historical fiction, I highly recommend this book to you. I sincerely believe you will be glad you read it.




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Friday, March 1, 2019

Somewhere in France Book Review

Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson, A Book Review

Somewhere in France: A Novel of the Great War by Jennifer Robson


I believe that I read more books set in the years surrounding the Second World War then I do set in the First World War so the time frame of Somewhere in France felt a little different to me when I first picked up the book and the claim that it would be “especially satisfying for fans of Downton Abbey” was somehow a little off-putting to me. Can anything compare to our beloved Downton Abbey?

However, somewhere in France delivered a solid story. As a matter of fact I just finished it moments ago after putting aside all of the other things that I should have been doing this morning and leaving my husband to cope with the mess in the kitchen on his own. Don’t worry, he was up to the task.

Somewhere in France is the story of Lady Ashford (Lilly), her brother the Viscount Ashford (Edward) and his best friend Robert Fraser (Robbie).

Lilly breaks with her wealthy family in order to do the work she wants to do in support of the Great War. She is not content to stay home, find a husband and raise a family so she learns how to drive and joins the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps and becomes an ambulance driver.

Edward, who previously was not much more than a spoiled aristocrat, joins the war effort in the trenches where he finds success leading a group of men.

Robbie, who originally hailed from slums in Scotland but who managed via a scholarship to become a talented surgeon, is assigned to a field hospital where he serves as Captain Fraser.

They all keep up a stream of good, old-fashioned correspondence, which helps them maintain close ties. They continue to do so even after Miss Ashford, as Lilly calls herself after her break with her family, is assigned as an ambulance driver to the same field hospital that Robbie works at.

Somewhere in France is most definitely a love story though it takes a while for that love to be discovered and then years for it to be exposed.

WHAT TO BE AWARE OF IN THIS BOOK


Somewhere in France Book Review
If you decide to read this book, you might like to know that there is a lengthy sex scene and that, of course, there is violence.

Since all three are working near the front lines in the Great War, it is inevitable that this story includes scenes from the injuries received by those fighting the war and those injuries and the resulting treatments were not nice for the patient or the professional who had to treat him.

You might not expect the fairly lengthy sex scene. However, I think that it was handled beautifully. It demonstrates how some women, particularly those in the upper class, were so protected from realities of life that they knew literally nothing about sexuality and reproduction.

There is some discussion on the website GoodReads about this very issue Some writers call the scene short, which I would not. Others comment about how it important the scene was for the relationship of two adult individuals who would have been married years before if not for the war and because of the historical facts it demonstrated about the lack of knowledge about procreation on the part of the main character and presumably other women of the era.  Lilly's partner was actually forced into the position of educating her on the topic. As one writer said, the scene is not anything like Fifty Shades of Grey. It is beautifully handled though perhaps longer than it needed to be. If this subject matter is of concern to you, you might like to read the discussion for yourself by visiting GoodReads.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Don’t let these things turn you off this book. Somewhere in France is definitely a page turner, a love story with drama and suspense and a look into the life of people who lived and worked directly on the battlefields during the Great War, the war to end all wars. It is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me. I have to say now that I agree with the comment on the cover that if you love Downton Abbey, you will enjoy this book. You can find your copy in whatever format you prefer on Amazon by clicking right here.

See you
At the bookstore!
Brenda

More Downton Abbey Reading:

Buy your copy of Somewhere in France on Amazon.
Watch the Downton Abbey Christmas video parodies.
Find the beautiful Downton Abbey teacups.
Discover the period drama Lark Rise to Candleford.







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Monday, February 18, 2019

The Girl They Left Behind Book Review

The Girl They Left Behind Book Review

The Girl They Left Behind: A Novel by Roxanne Veletzos


I have read a number of books since I last wrote a post here on Review This and I had to do a bit of a  debate with myself as to which one I would write about today since they have all been such good stories.  Please stay tuned for more reviews of books that you should add to your reading list!

The Girl They Left Behind, by Roxanne Veletzos, is a moving story. The title tells exactly what the book is about. Quite literally, a three-year old girl is left behind in Bucharest, Romania in 1941. Her parents abandon her on the steps of an apartment building in the face of Nazi persecution with the hope that she might somehow survive.

What a brutal decision. At first I struggled with this book because it seemed not just heartbreaking but also outlandish that anyone would abandon such a young child and expect her to survive in a place where people would not be quick to take in an unknown child. I know these things and worse happened, but I still struggled at first with this theme.

The little girl is rescued and then left with an orphanage until eventually a wealthy family adopts her and renames her Natalia. Because of her age, she quickly puts all early memories of her birth parents behind her though of course, the abandonment would haunt both her birth mother and father forever.

The story is slightly unusual because it deals with the persecution of the Jewish people in Romania and of communist life behind the Iron Curtain in the Soviet Union. I have read numerous similar stories set in other countries like France, Germany and Poland but I am not sure if I have read another one set in Romania and I expect I have read few set behind the Iron Curtain.

Anyway, the story is a tangled story of survival that spans decades and eventually sees Natalia give up her adoptive family and her love in order to start a new life in the United States.

The story is one of those impossible-but-true stories. It turns out that the author, Roxanne Veletzos,  was born in Bucharest and eventually moved to California and that this this book was inspired by her mother's life though I do not know if in fact she was abandoned by her parents.


Highly Recommended


The Girl They Left Behind is in my opinion very well told. It is engrossing; you will not be able to put it down. It is about family and love and history. It features drama and suspense and even has an ending that will satisfy you. Yes, this book is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me.

If you enjoy historically based fiction like Sarah's Key, The Nightingale, The Ragged Edge of NightAll The Light We Cannot See, The Piano Maker and The Orphan Train you will enjoy this book. You can buy your copy in the format of your choice on Amazon by clicking right here.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy The Girl They Left Behind on Amazon.
Find more HISTORICAL FICTION on Review This!






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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Understanding Elizabeth by Robin Helm: A Review

It Began with Pride and Prejudice


The love story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy as written by Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice has been one of the most popular in all of English literature. Now over 200 years old it's been made into numerous movies, plays, and variations. Understanding Elizabeth is one of these variations.

Since most of the characters in Understanding Elizabeth came straight from Pride and Prejudice, I'm going to refresh your memory with this diagram to show how they are related.

Understanding Elizabeth by Robin Helm: A Review
Pride and Prejudice Character Map by Jellomania at the English language Wikipedia

It has been sixty years since I read Pride and Prejudice, and that's why I needed to read it again before writing this review of Understanding Elizabeth. If you haven't read Jane Austen's original recently enough to remember the plot and characters, you can watch this video summary or download the free book from Amazon, as I did. This is the best of the summary videos I found.




If you prefer to read a plot summary with descriptions of the original characters in Pride and Prejudice, Wikipedia provides it. I reread the 410 pages in two days to refresh my memory, since the plot is complex and my memory isn't what it used to be. I found I appreciated Pride and Prejudice more at 75 than I did at 15.

Understanding Elizabeth

Understanding ElizabethUnderstanding Elizabeth

Understanding Elizabeth by Robin Helm focuses on Mr. Darcy's inner thoughts. Although the narrator tells the story, Robin Helm lets the reader inside Mr. Darcy's head. Whereas Jane Austen reveals what her characters are thinking through their words to each other and comments from the narrator, in the Helm book Darcy's italicized thoughts are interspersed between his spoken thoughts and the narration.

We discover what motivates his words, including those infamous insulting words spoken to his friend Mr. Bingley at an Assembly. Bingley wanted Darcy to dance with Elizabeth and offered to arrange an introduction, but Darcy coldly replied, 'She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me...' Elizabeth overheard him, and although wounded, she joked about it with her friends. The offending words came from Pride and Prejudice, but they play a major part in both books.


In Understanding Elizabeth, Elizabeth writes in her journal: 
Fortunately I need not care for Mr. Darcy's good opinion, as I have known from the first moments of our acquaintance that I am not handsome enough to tempt him. After all, in his own words, I am barely tolerable....As I told Charlotte, I could easily forgive his pride had he not mortified mine. 

Darcy Reads Elizabeth's Journal


It was in trying to understand Elizabeth that Darcy alienated her. After hearing that her sister Jane who was staying with the Bingleys at Netherfield had become ill, Elizabeth immediately left for Netherfield to care for her .

Darcy was also staying there, and one evening while a group was in the parlour, Darcy observed Elizabeth reading a book. That impressed him because he liked intelligent women who read. He wondered what she was reading. As he observed she was also writing, he became curious about that, as well.

When she left to go back to Jane's room, she accidently left her book behind. Darcy took advantage of this and grabbed it, hoping to read the pages she had written and concealed in the book's pages. He battled his conscience before doing this, knowing he shouldn't, but he couldn't stop himself. He hid the book in his newspaper and took it to his room.

The first papers reveal her thoughts on the poem she was reading, but then after arguing back and forth with himself about invading Elizabeth's privacy, he yields to the temptation to understand her thoughts. As he reads her notes on Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," he sees her opinion that 'to be generous and sincere is better than to live for worldly fame and fortune.' He wonders if she thinks he "wallow[s] in luxury and pride." He questions his own character.

As he reads her opinions,  he 'picture[s] himself under a magnifying glass held in her small hands.' Then he realizes the rest of the papers in the book are her personal journal. As he reads he realizes she overheard his remark about her not being handsome enough to tempt him, and he admits to himself he hadn't meant it but was merely trying to get the matchmakers, including Bingley, off his back. By this time he knew he was becoming attracted to Elizabeth against his will.

He closes the book and sneaks it downstairs to return it to where Elizabeth had left it, now dark. Everyone else had retired by then, and, newspaper in hand, he is headed back to his room when he runs smack into Elizabeth who had come to retrieve her book. After a brief conversation about why they are there, they return to their rooms. And he realizes he is in danger of falling in love with Elizabeth.


The Dreams


Understanding Elizabeth by Robin Helm: A Review of a Pride and Prejudice Spin Off
Image Courtesy of Pixabay

By this time Darcy deeply regrets the insulting words he had spoken to Bingley about Elizabeth. He had never intended for her to know about them. Now they were thwarting his desire to have her think well of him and she made it clear that she loathed him. As he wishes he could take back his words, the theme turns Faustian as the devil appears in a dream to ask what he'd give to take back his words. But the angel who also appears in the dream reminds him that anyone dealing with the devil has a price to pay.

These dreams are repeated all through the book as Darcy tries to repair the relationship damage his words have caused. Elizabeth still doesn't realize he knows that she overheard them. That comes out later just as the relationship seems to be healing.

By this time Jane's illness has become more serious and Elizabeth spends a great deal of time in Jane's room. To give her some diversion, Darcy suggests they play chess. Each has a chessboard. Each writes their next move on a paper. They arrange that Molly, a servant, and Watkins, Darcy's valet, carry the notes back and forth so Elizabeth and Darcy can play their chess games without being in the same room. (Molly and Watkins don't appear in Pride and Prejudice.)

The relationship continues to develop until Darcy makes a verbal slip that makes Elizabeth realize he had read her journal. When she confronts him, he at first denies it. She then ends the chess games and the relationship because he not only invaded her privacy but also denied it. She returns his book and tells him to burn any of her notes in his possession. She also forbids him to call her Elizabeth any more and insists it be Miss Elizabeth.

That night the angel and the demon return again in a dream. Only quoting the Scriptures keeps Darcy from dealing with the Devil. The demon says he will return only once more. The quote in the image below was a warning from the angel.

Understanding Elizabeth by Robin Helm: A Review


Comparing Understanding Elizabeth and Pride and Prejudice


Unlike many Pride and Prejudice variations, this book is not a sequel. Instead it parallels the plot of Pride and Prejudice, adding many more details about the period Jane and Elizabeth spent at Netherfield during Jane's illness. It also elaborates on what Darcy did to help after Lydia ran off with Wickham.

In Understanding Elizabeth, Darcy doesn't try to break up Bingham and Jane, nor does Elizabeth become as friendly with Wickham as she does in Pride and Prejudice. Darcy's marriage proposals are handled differently, and so are the weddings.

The most significant difference in the books is the Christian element. Whereas Austen devotes several pages to making Parson Collins look pompous and ridiculous, he is not so major a character in Helm's book. We get only a hint of his attitudes and see fewer of his interactions.

Helms also explores Darcy's spiritual life. She reveals the torment he goes through in his dream visions and temptations before he finally achieves a difficult victory in which the Scriptures play an important role.

In his search to understand Elizabeth, Darcy learns to better understand himself. As he sees more of his own sin, he loses ungodly pride and develops more humility. He is finally able to love more unselfishly.

My Recommendation 


Fans of Jane Austen will enjoy the additional details in Helm's plot. Helm doesn't change any of the main plot elements, but she gives readers deeper insight into what motivates Darcy and Elizabeth. She alters some of the plot details and adds some characters such as Molly and Watkins, but she doesn't change the personalities of the main characters Austen created.

Austen lets Jane recover from her illness and leave Netherfield in chapters 7-12.  Helm devoted at least her first sixteen chapters - more than half the book - to Jane's convalescence, thus giving Elizabeth and Darcy much more time to develop a relationship before Elizabeth breaks it. I appreciated this.

Understanding Elizabeth is much easier to read than Pride and Prejudice. Though it retains the style and customs of Austen's book, it's easier to keep the cast of characters straight in Helm's book. The language is not as obsolete. Many of Austen's words have different meanings today than they did 200 years ago.

That being said, Austen's book still surpasses Helm's in overall literary quality and character portrayal. Still, I'd give Understanding Elizabeth five stars. It's entertaining, the main characters are well-developed while remaining true to Austen, and the spiritual elements add depth. I loved the ending.

Many others have written variations of Pride and Prejudice I've not yet had a chance to read. I'm amazed at how many there are -- from historical to modern. Some make the romantic details much more explicit than others set in that historical period.  The three I'd like to read next are in the group below. Why not download one today?




You may also enjoy my reviews of these Christian historical novels:

  • Untamed Land by Lauraine Snelling - the story of two Norwegian brothers who settled the Dakota country in the 1800's with their wives
  • Paper Roses by Amanda Cabot: A Christian Mail Order Bride Romance



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Monday, June 11, 2018

Reviewing Caroline: Little House, Revisited

Book Review: Caroline: Little House, Revisited.
I just finished reading Caroline: Little House, Revisited.  It is beautiful historical fiction by Sarah Miller and written from the perspective of Ma Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie fame. Caroline was written with permission from the Little House Heritage Trust and with a focus on historical accuracy. Little House on the Prairie fans will recognize the Ingalls family and this fan was thrilled to find a book written from the perspective of an adult in the family.

If you have ever tried to imagine what it might have been like to be a parent in the late 1800's, hauling your children and every belonging you own across the states in a covered wagon, you'll want to read this story. I found myself trying to carve more time out of each busy day to read. 

Caroline begins as Charles sells their house and land in Wisconsin. In February 1870, the Ingalls family loads the covered wagon (complete with the cover sewn by Ma) and heads toward Kansas - leaving all of their extended family behind.

As the story unfolds, the love Ma has for Charles, Mary, Laura and the child she carries within her is clear. Her thoughts and fears of moving to a new land, transcend the decades and resonated with me. She is pregnant and leaving the family who helped her birth her children. Who, if anyone, will help her when the time comes?



Finally arriving in Kansas, the Ingalls family begins to set up a home. Life totters precariously on the brink at times as they build their home, dig a well, and settle in Indian Territory. The cultures are clearly very different and there are no translation apps at their fingertips to help provide any sort of communication assistance. 

Times were different then. Daily chores (cooking, sewing, darning, taking care of the garden and the animals) moved at a slower pace. Sundays were the sabbath and the family strictly observed the sabbath. Parenting was different. Ma worked at protecting her young children from anything that may cause them fear - including any stressful feelings she and Pa had. Adults and children had clear roles - very different than modern parenting.

I found this to be a beautiful book. I could relate to Caroline's inner dialogues and her observations of the world around her. Without the distractions and noise pollution of modern life, it would have been easier to note the sunlight shining through the canopy of the wagon and the prairie grass waving in the wind. Of course our private thoughts will become more clear if the constant assault on our ears by televisions, radios, cell phones and each other is absent. 

Some reviewers found Caroline's observations to be distracting. I found them to be beautiful and an integral part of the story. Perhaps that is because I have similar thoughts and observations while alone and off-grid at The Shack. Without the clutter of modern life, the mind drifts to the natural things around us.

There was one piece of the story that I found a bit confusing as a Little House on the Prairie fan (confusing but not distracting from the story at that point). Ms. Miller speaks to that in her Author's Notes in the end:
"Caroline is a marriage of fact and Laura Ingalls Wilder's fiction. I have knowingly departed from Wilder's version of the events only where the historical record stands in contradiction to her stories"
Caroline: Little House, Revisited was a beautiful story and one of those books that I will read again later - just as I read Little House on the Prairie over and over.






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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Wilderness Series Reviewed

Stories of Fantasy, Time Travel and American Indians

Sitting Bull
Sitting Bull image (public domain)
I have discovered another series to share with you. The group of books are called The Wilderness Series and are written by Pamela Ackerson. Let me just say that I am in awe of her imagination and her combining several genres to make an intriguing (at least for me) set of stories to read. 

You will find that there are several areas of interest that will appeal to a variety of readers. The books are listed in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre and fit the Fantasy section of interest. Added to that is the element of time travel and Ms. Ackerson has created a unique way for that travel to occur! She has added an element of history in the traveling in time, most specifically back to the late 1800s. She has also created an amazing love story as a part of the books. 

I mentioned the time travel and that is what piqued my interest to read the first book in the series. Dr. Karen Anderson dreams of being in the land occupied by the Lakota Sioux. She is certain that she is dreaming and is fascinated by the detail in her dream. She encounters a Lakota warrior named Standing Deer and feels a very strong attraction. After waking up from what she assumed was a dream, she talks to a friend about her dream and how vivid it was. The two women figure out after a couple of these vivid dreams that they are not dreams at all and that she is actually traveling back in time. 

Her travels begin at a time when Sitting Bull was a young man and Crazy Horse isn't much more than a boy. If you know your history, you might figure out that she is traveling back to the time in history that is the beginning of the end for the great Sioux Nation. Some of you reading this, who know me well, will understand why this specific time in history would grab my attention.  For those of you who don't know me, I have a strong connection to the Sioux and specifically the Lakota. For many years I have supported efforts to help the Lakota at the Pine Ridge Reservation. Anyway, that is why I decided to read the first book and have continued to read them. 

I applaud Pamela Ackerson for her research in the events during this time in history. She has done an excellent job of portraying the Sioux as they really are and were. There is no sugar coating the facts and she does a good job of explaining what happened. 

I mentioned a love story a little earlier. This caused a bit of a struggle for me. Although, I love the concept of two souls meant to be together and the intensity of that love; I could do with a little less description of the physical part of that love. It is just racier than I like to read. It isn't too horrible but I did blush a couple of times. So, I am warning you that the love scenes are not subtle. The thing is these stories would survive quite well without the explicit wording. In other words, I personally don't think those scenes need to be in the books. A more understated scene would have worked just as well. That is really my only complaint with the books.

Even with the love scenes that I could do without, I still love this series. The history involved pulls me in far enough that I can overlook the love scenes. The books are well written and the stories are fascinating. If you like a good fantasy book and enjoy the idea of time travel, I think you will like this Wilderness Series, too. 



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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale Book Review

A friend told me that Kristin Hannah’s novel The Nightingale was an excellent book and it was. Though I know this book is a work of fiction, it does deal with real situations that happened during the time period that France was occupied by Germany in World War II.

I know things that happen in this book happened to real people in France. I have always read books set in this time period. However, what happened in that war is still hard to believe. Truly unbelievable. Despite knowing that people were treated in this manner, I still managed to come away in disbelief saying to my husband things like, "How could anyone treat people the way they did?" and "How did the French people manage to survive in those conditions?" We are not talking about one or two crazy people here, right? We are talking about an 'army' of people mistreating people.

Anyway, in my opinion, Kristin Hannah has crafted a wrenching story with a family and with characters that you will come to love. Yes, you are likely going to shed some tears. Yes, you will be upset by the violence and the cruelty and the sexual situations in this book though I must say that it is far from the worst book that I have read in those matters though perhaps more disturbing because it feels so real.

The Nightingale deals with the contributions made to World War II by women. Unfortunately, those important contributions like the women depicted in this book who joined the French Resistance or who managed despite incredible odds to feed their families, have not been as widely acknowledged or recognised as those of men.

In particular, this book deals with two quite different sisters: One who wants to keep her family safe; the other who is not willing to accept the things that are happening to them. It is a story of courage and survival parts of which were inspired by real women like 19-year old Belgian, Andrée De Jongh, who took considerable risks helping people escape from France.

Here is the book trailer. I do not know if it is official or not but it does give a good idea of the things that happen in this story:



This book is well done and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me and by many others. If you love a book that shares a great story about women’s lives and that is historically based you will enjoy The Nightingale. It is riveting. You will not even notice that it the hardcover book is 440 pages or that the paperback is 600, particularly if you read it as an ebook.

By way of further recommendation, you might take the fact that, according to The New York Times in 2016, this book had sold more than two million copies. This book has drawn both men and women as well as young and old readers. As one who has always been captivated by World War II novels it comes as no surprise to me when the Times stated that people are drawn to them. However, I was interested to learn that this book has drawn a younger generation of readers who perhaps relate to this novel because of how young people were drawn to the French Resistance.

If you are interested in reading The Nightingale, you can find it in all formats including eBook, audiobook and traditional paper book, on Amazon by clicking right here.  I’ve just noticed on the cover that this movie is to become a major motion picture. There is not much information available as I write this other than a rumoured movie release date of 2017, which means that once you have read the book you have a movie to look forward to.

If you like historical fiction, you might also enjoy these reviews on Review This:

Secret Healer by Ellin Carsta, which is set in 14th Century Germany.

The movie The Bridge of Spies, which is set in the cold war.

The One Man by Andrew Gross, which is set in Poland in 1944.

See you
At the book store!
Brenda

Quick Link:

Order your copy of Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale from Amazon.






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Friday, July 21, 2017

The Inheritance Movie Review

The Inheritance Movie Review

The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott


While searching for a Sunday afternoon movie to watch, I was immediately drawn to The Inheritance for several reasons.  First, it is based on the novel written by Louisa May Alcott.  Second, like the book Little Women, the setting is during the Victorian Era which was actually Alcott's contemporary time.  And, last but not least, because Meredith Baxter stars in the movie and she is one of my favorite leading ladies. 

The hairstyles, the clothes, the home decor, all appeal to me.   From the very beginning, I expected to like The Inheritance and I was not disappointed.  For 90 minutes I was transported to New England in the 1800's and the world of haut monde


Plot of the Movie, The Inheritance


As a companion to a beautiful, wealthy young woman, Edith is caught between the world of a servant and the the lifestyle of the wealthy. 

 The InheritanceIn infancy, Edith was a survivor of an epidemic that swept Italy and the home of Mr. Hamilton's estranged brother who died from the illness.  Since Edith's mother, a maid in the brother's home, was also a victim of the epidemic, Edith was brought to Evenswood and raised alongside Hamilton's own daughter, Amy.  The girls are great friends, perhaps even as close a sisters.  Edith's days are spent reading, practicing archery, playing lawn tennis and chumming around with Amy.  Her clothes and hairstyle are more in line with society, but her status is that of a servant, except one with special privileges like playing the piano, riding the horses and partaking in family teas.  In fact, there are times when she is treated more like family than staff.

Early into the movie, a distant cousin to Mrs. Hamilton, is invited to visit.  Mrs. Hamilton has agreed to help Ida find a suitable husband.  As a matter of fact, Ida's visit coincides with a visit from a very eligible, wealthy gentleman, James Percy, who Mrs. Hamilton hopes will be enchanted by her cousin, Ida.  In her mind, it is all a neat and easy arrangement.  However, James is more enchanted by Edith, and Ida is a nasty, spiteful woman who takes an instant dislike to Edith.

As the title of the book and movie would imply, there is definitely an unexpected turn of events in the plot.  The resolution of the story is quite satisfying in spite of the temporary tension felt during portions of the movie.

Now I want to read the book!  I am certain it would be even more intriguing than the movie since Louisa May Alcott never disappoints readers.  Plus, I know it will be more detailed and in depth.  

One note of interest, the movie takes place in New England, yet in the book, the setting is England.  In the movie, Lord and Lady Hamilton of the book, are Mr. & Mrs. Hamilton.  Either way, the movie was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  I can highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys an old fashioned romantic historical movie.







The Inheritance Movie Review Written by:
House of Sylvestermouse





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