Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 1

Chapter 1

The stony-eyed glare of a gargoyle could not have been more intimidating than the intense gaze of the woman across from her. Anne’s palms grew damp within her prim gloves.

“I am very protective of my girl sleuth. Through the years Lacey Carew has become like my own daughter.”

Anne found herself nodding in agreement as if she were listening to a sermon in church.

Mrs. Adams tapped Anne’s portfolio with a finger gnarled by arthritis. “Your work impressed me, however, and I believe you can handle the assignment. Indeed you remind me a little of Lacey.”

Anne glanced down at her neat three-quarter sleeved jacket and pencil skirt.

“Not the way you look of course, but in the way you carry yourself. There is a certain... something.” She pursed her lips and regarded Anne. “No, it’s gone. Here I work with words and yet sometimes they elude me.”

Mrs. Adams smiled ruefully, and for the first time, Anne saw a vital humanity beneath the businesswoman exterior. Pushing through her awe, she summoned her voice.

“I would be thrilled to write a Lacey Carew for you. I’ve loved the stories since I was a young girl.”

Mrs. Adams sat back in her seat. “Lacey Carew is our top performer. I hesitate to risk her on an unknown.”

Anne nodded and swallowed hard. Another dead end.

“But, some of our established authors and I have had disagreements about how she should be portrayed. It may be time to bring in some fresh blood.”

Anne perked up and met the older woman’s gaze steadily. What precisely was she getting at?

“I propose a trial. I will provide you with the latest outline and three weeks. If you can produce a satisfactory manuscript, I will assign you more work.”

A small gilt clock on the bookcase behind Mrs. Adams warbled an odd little chime as if it were underwater.

“I recognize that this will require a good deal of effort on your part, but since this is a trial, I will offer only $75 for the completed work. Should the work be satisfactory the remuneration you receive will be properly adjusted. You will, of course, be required to sign the usual contract including the confidentiality clause.”

Anne nodded. She would agree to just about anything if it meant getting her foot in the door of the publishing world.

* * *

“Carol!” Anne stood to give her friend a hug. “I haven’t seen you in so long. You look great.” Guiltily, she crossed her fingers. It was a lie. Carol looked wan and distracted.

“Oh, Anne.” Carol stepped back and looked at her for a second still hanging on to one of her hands. A bright sheen of unshed tears glistened in her eyes. “It is good to see you.”

Anne frowned, brow furrowed. They settled into the comfortable booth as a waitress appeared with a pot of coffee.

“So what brings you to East Orange?”

“Is everything okay?” Anne leaned in and covered Carol’s hand with her own.

“Yes, of course. Everything is wonderful. I have a terrific job and a nice apartment and…“ She seemed to run out of steam, and pulled her hand away. “What more could I need?”

Anne sat back and picked up her coffee cup. She was still concerned, but Carol would talk when she was ready. She had always proceeded at her own pace.

“So what did bring you all the way out here when you have a job and an apartment in New York?”

“A writing opportunity.” Glancing about, Anne moved closer to Carol. “Can you keep a secret?”

A small grimace quirked her friends lips. “If anyone can keep a secret, I can.”

Anne’s percolating enthusiasm boiled over again and she launched into a recital of her meeting with Mrs. Adams. Carol seemed to shake off whatever had been bothering her and followed along with admirable enthusiasm.

“So I finally have my foot in the door. I mean, I know I won’t be writing the Great American Novel, but it will mean earning my living as a writer.”

“You always did want to be an author, ever since we were little.” Carol held up a forkful of chocolate cake. “Here’s to you. You finally made it.”

Anne couldn’t help the tears that dampened her lashes. “I can hardly believe it. I will make it though. The Lacey Carew I write will be the best darn manuscript she’s ever seen.”

“That’s the spirit.”

Anne caught sight of a clock on the wall near the door. “Is it really so late? I’ve monopolized the whole conversation. You have to tell me why you were so upset.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Carol stood and took up the check. “Come on, I’ll walk you back to the train station.”

* * *

The sun set with a brilliant burst of fuchsia and gold.

A cluster of three men in business suits, ties and fedoras stood at the far end of the platform, each studiously absorbed in his newspaper. Littering the intervening space, were an elderly lady engrossed in her knitting and a gaggle of high school boys wearing letterman jackets. The little twerps were obviously up to no good. One of them winked and beckoned to Anne. She rolled her eyes.

A chill wind skittered by and Anne shivered. Carol lingered with her a few moments, chatting over their childhood days. The revived camaraderie warmed Anne and she regarded Carol fondly. Her friend’s color was better than it had been and some of the sparkle had returned to her gentle brown eyes. Even as she watched however, Carol seemed to focus on something behind Anne and her eyes grew wide.

Anne turned to see what had drained the joy from her friend’s features, but she saw nothing out of the ordinary. A few more people had filtered onto the platform, but no one paid them any special attention. She turned back to find that her friends expression had shuttered tightly closed as if in preparation for a tempest.

“Carol, what is it?”

A smile traced a sketchy path over Carol’s palpable anxiety. “Would you believe it, Anne, I forgot about a very important meeting. I have to run.” Opening her arms wide, Carol leaned in and embraced her. “I’ve missed you. We’ll have to get together again soon.”

“Of course. I’d love to have you come visit me in the city for a whole weekend. We would have a great time.” Anne’s bag shifted and slid off her shoulder. “Whoops, I can’t lose that. I’ve got that precious outline from Mrs. Adams.”

Carol nodded and gave her hand a final squeeze. She turned on her heel and her wide skirt swirled as if she were at a dance. Anne bit her lip and wandered to a nearby bench. She would write Carol first thing in the morning and find out what on earth was going on.

Somewhere out in the street a car’s engine growled to life. The tires screeched a protest as the vehicle sped away.

The train would be another ten minutes at least. Anne patted her oversized handbag. Her future lay securely tucked in the bag. She stilled the impulse to clutch it to her chest and chuckle maniacally.

She had work to do, but at last, at last her dreams were coming true.

A high-pitched wail sliced the sleepy atmosphere. Anne straightened and looked about for the source of the sound. The others on the platform had stiffened like Bambi’s mother scenting the air for danger.

Anne stood and then, as if the movement had broken her free of some spell, rushed toward the noise. A sobbing woman barreled into her driving the breath from her chest.

“It’s awful, terrible.” The woman said. Her sobs came in fits and starts. She pointed a trembling finger toward the parking lot.

Anne passed the woman off to an elderly lady who drew her into an embrace. Following the men who had hurried in the direction the woman indicated, she found them hovering around a crumpled form. She shoved her way through the circle.

She recognized that yellow dress and jaunty straw hat. Oh, Lord please help her. Crouching beside Carol, she reached out to feel her neck for a pulse. Tears pricked the back of her eyes and her nose began to run. Anne shook her head. No, no, no.

It was simply not possible. They had just been speaking. She searched again for a pulse, lifting a limp wrist that felt surprisingly heavy. No luck. Forcing herself to breathe, she mentally went through the steps of her Red Cross training. Maybe she could resuscitate her.

Someone leaned closer. “She’s a goner, Miss.”

She smoothed the hair back from Carol’s face and her fingers came away stained by blood. The gash she revealed was thick and deep exposing shattered bone beneath.

The man was right. He was right. Oh, God, be merciful.

Heedless of her pencil slim skirt and last pair of silk stockings, she slumped to the damp pavement, still clutching Carol’s hand. Who could have done this?

* * *

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Special Edition-Before the Season Ends by Linore Rose Burkard

Before the Season Ends is a frothy, feel good story set in Regency England. The heroine, Miss Ariana Forsythe is a sweetly naive young lady from the country. When she is given the opportunity to experience a real London season with her wealthy aunt she expects little more than a couple of months of diversion.

Instead she manages to fall into company with ‘The Paragon,” Mr. Phillip Mornay. As a series of misadventures draw them into closer contact, Ariana fights the growing attraction she feels for this enigmatic man.

Ariana’s faith and her heart clash as she faces a spiritual dilemma. She must trust in God to help her sort out her predicament.

My favorite character was Mr. Mornay who cuts a very Darcyesque figure. He is all that is dashing and romantic.

If you are looking for a quick, fun read, crack open Before the Season Ends.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Girl Sleuth

I promised more details about our newest adventure. 

It is 1950 and New York City is the place to be. In the midst of the glitz and glamour of the post-war boom, Anne Leighton is one more of the thousands of aspiring authors who flock to the city with dreams of writing the next Great American Novel. She never bargained on becoming involved in a murder.

When a dear friend is killed shortly after they dine together, Anne is saddened but it is not until she discovers the note her friend slipped her that she is inexorably drawn into the quest for a murderer. 

When a couple rough looking characters begin to dog her footsteps, Anne realizes she may be in over her head. Will she be able to solve the mystery before they write 'The End' to her life story?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Starting in January I intend to change the format of this blog. 

I am very excited about the changes and I think it will be a lot of fun for everyone. Any child of the late 80's is bound to remember the "Choose Your Own Adventures". These cool little books gave you the option of deciding what was going to happen to the character next. 

Here on Inspired Adventures we are going to do something similar. Each week I will post a portion of a novel. I will also post a poll and readers will be able to vote for the direction in which they would like the story to go.

In addition, if my very creative readers think of a great idea that is "out of the box" they can leave it in the comment section for consideration.

We will be starting with a mystery set in the 1950's. I will put a blurb up next week with more details about the story. I think you all will keep me on my toes and I'm looking forward to it! 

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My Hands Came Away Red by Lisa McKay

This novel is compellingly written, with a clear voice and great characterization. I was drawn right in. The story revolves around the first hand account of a young woman who goes on a mission’s trip to Indonesia to help build a church. Things go horribly wrong when violence erupts between the Muslims and Christians in the area and the people of the village are slaughtered. The young people of the missions team take to the mountains to escape the carnage.

Lisa McKay did a fantastic job of capturing the emotion and hardship as well as the camaraderie that develops and the emotional turmoil that results from such horrific events. I appreciated the fact that she did not shy away from presenting the questions that are inevitable in such circumstances: “Why did God allow this?” and so on.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner

Susan Meissner’s The Shape of Mercy has been garnering a lot of buzz in the publishing industry. She has received numerous positive reviews, including a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. I find myself on the fence.

The Shape of Mercy is a framed story. We are taken on this journey by the narrator Lauren who is a trust-fun baby, determined to prove to the world, and herself, that she can stand on her own two feet. She is hired by an elderly woman, Abigail, to translate a diary. This diary has been handed down in Abigail’s family for centuries and is a first hand account of the Salem Witch Trials, written by a young woman named Mercy, who was later tried and sentenced to death as a witch. Thus, in effect we have a modern story framing the historical story.

The writing is beautiful, poetic and lyrical. The characters draw you in and wring tears from you as they discover truths about themselves along the way. The story is compelling and even though you know that Mercy is fated to die, you can’t help reading and hoping.

For me this book came down to the ending. And when I got there I was in such an ethical dilemma that I was only relieved that it was over.


My issue with this story is that it portrays suicide as an act of mercy. As somehow more honorable than execution. The premise is that Mercy knows she has been condemned to die, but she doesn’t want the man she loves to be left with the image of her being hung. Instead she takes matters into her own hands and hangs herself. To me this smacks more of vanity than mercy. I appreciate the thought behind this novel, but I just cannot buy into it, despite my best efforts. After all, what if Jesus decided to commit suicide instead of being crucified, so that his mother would be spared unpleasant memories. Which is the greater act of mercy?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Constant Heart by Siri Mitchell

Set in the waning years Elizabethan England, A Constant Heart is the story of the Earl of Selwyck and his lovely and naïve young bride. A young woman he married for her dowry. As he schemes and intrigues for the Queen’s favor, his new wife is left floundering amidst the grandeur and pettiness of Elizabeth’s court.

As their family totters on the brink of ruin they must learn to trust the Lord and one another in order to survive.

Siri Mitchell’s prose is gripping from page one. I found myself hard pressed to put down this book. It is beautifully written and full of historical details, which bring it to life rather than weighing it down. One of the themes is beauty and the price women will pay to achieve the look considered beautiful in their society. The make-up used by women of the time, mercury and so on literally poisoned them. It is a fascinating tale and one that has ramifications for women today.

The only caveat I have about this story is that it is told in First person, both in the hero and the heroine’s perspective. At times, especially when you are really devouring the pages the transitions, get lost and it can be confusing as you wonder whose head you are really in.

Overall, however, I was totally invested in these characters and I had to find out what happened to them. A little awkwardness in the transitions was a small price to pay for a great and memorable story.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Jane Aus... Er, Stephanie Barron

Jane Austen, Detective.

I loved the concept but wondered about the execution. Could anyone pull it off, particularly in first person? I shouldn’t have worried. Stephanie Barron does a marvelous job of pulling us right into Jane’s world and she does it all in her inimitable voice.

When Jane’s dear friend Isobel is married to an Earl everything seems to point to a felicitous future for the happy couple. That the Earl falls ill and dies on the eve of their bridal ball seems a cruel vagary of fate. Soon a note arrives that accuses Isobel of murder and she seeks advice from level-headed Jane. Together they must outwit a murderer and a nefarious younger son, and bring the true murderer to justice.

There are now nine books in this series and I have read them all. I have just revisited this, the first, after a couple years and it is as enjoyable the second time as it was the first. Due to the old-fashioned language and phraseology some readers might find this book a bit slow going, but it is well worth the effort. In addition there are actually footnotes in the text that help to explain the more archaic terms and customs of the time. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

All the Tea in China by Jane Orcutt

This Regency offering from Jane Orcutt was just what I have been looking for. A Regency that isn’t totally consumed with balls and the haute ton. The heroine, Isabella, is fascinated when a missionary to China comes to meet her uncle. Her sudden exposure to a world of need beyond her secure social circle jars her faith. She feels led to join the missionary endeavor. When her services are rebuffed, Impetuous Isabella takes matters into her own hands.

What happens is a rousing tale of adventure and faith. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and I particularly liked that the story shifted from England, to life aboard ship, to China. The details of Chinese life and culture were fascinating.

This novel truly deserved its billing as a Rollicking Regency. I thoroughly applaud it and its author. Sadly, Jane has passed away. I would have loved other stories in this style. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

In the Shadow of the Sun King by Golden Keyes Parsons

In the Shadow of the Sun King is a fantastic read based on the author’s family history. It immediately sucks you in and just won’t let go. The characters are compelling, as is their story. The background for the tale is the persecution of the Hugenots in France. When Madeleine Clavell’s family estate is invaded by dragoons, and her sons have to go into hiding in order to avoid being kidnapped and sent to a monastery for a Catholic education, she decides that she must appeal to the king for mercy. She and the Louis had been in love once, long ago. Now she is hoping that the relationship they shared will cause him to spare her family. When his demands exceed what she is able to give, things go from bad to worse for the Clavell’s. They need God’s grace to survive the fury that is rained on them.

With plenty of action and a message of hope and faith this tale had me flipping pages late into the night. It is one of the rare books that will remain on my shelves. I definitely and highly recommend it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Mr. Midshipman Easy by Frederick Marryat

This is more a tip than a review. For anyone who might be researching a regency that has any sort of sea adventure to it, this is a must read, right up there with Patrick O'Brien and C.S. Forester. 

You may have a little trouble finding Marryat in stores, although there are lots of options on Amazon and they have been reprinted many times. Marryat actually served in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars, starting as a 14 year old midshipman in 1806. He worked his way up and became a Post Captain in 1830. He published many books including Mr. Midshipman Easy, Peter Simple, Jacob Faithful, The King's Own and several more. He was credited with sending many men to sea, because of the lifestyle and adventures he painted.

For other novelists he gives us a glimpse into his world that was true not just to its terminologies, (although that is very helpful when it is footnoted!) but to its ideals, its culture, its very heart. His stories are essentially lighthearted so some realities are glossed over, however he would be considered original source material when it comes to custom and habits at sea. Of course his prejudices, and those of his age, also color his world, so be prepared for that.

Anyway as much research as I have done into this area and I had never heard of him until recently, so I thought the info might be helpful to someone else. If you do happen to find Mr. Midshipman Easy, (his most popular), watch for the scene with the duel. It is a hoot.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Miss Fortune by Sara Mills

Miss Fortune, follows Allie Fortune on her adventures as New York’s only female P.I. It is 1947 and the war is over, but not the battle in Allie’s heart. It has been seven years since she has seen David Rubeneski, the only man she ever loved, and she doesn’t even know if he’s dead or alive.

What starts as a fairly routine job turns ugly when she finds that the client lied to her. The case is terminated and Allie thinks little more about it, until a handsome FBI agent comes looking for answers.

The plot thickens when Allie realizes that her last, best hope for discovering what happened to David, may lie in helping the FBI catch her former client, and the ancient treasure she is hiding.

First-timer Sara Mills, does a terrific job with characterization in her debut novel. Allie Fortune has a unique voice. I also enjoyed the plot, and was left in a quandary, should I root for her to become involved with the incredible FBI agent, or for her to find David. The best kind of dilemma, and one that makes me eager to get the second in the series as soon as it is available.

My one slight criticism is that I have no idea how she came to be a PI in the first place. Despite a very upper crust background, we are told that she worked as secretary to a PI for a time. I don’t know how that switch in roles came in to being though and I hope that this is one of the plot threads that will be tied up in the next story.

I do recommend Miss Fortune, so if you haven’t gotten it yet, run out and get a copy while they are still available.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Suspicion of Strawberries by Lynette Sowell

Lynette Sowell’s A Suspicion of Strawberries was my first foray into Barbour’s new line of cozy mysteries. It was a pleasant trip. In a Suspicion of Strawberries, our heroine, Andromeda Clark is the proprietress of a small specialty soap shop in her hometown of Greenburg. Things are looking up for her and her business, when Charla Thacker, one of Greenburg’s leading citizens dies at Andi’s shop of an allergic reaction.

Andi knows full well that the mixture she concocted especially for Charla and her bridesmaids should not have contained any thing harmful. She had worked diligently with the young bride to make sure of that very thing. To save her shop’s reputation she begins nosing around.

To complicate matters, her long-time trucker boyfriend decides it is time to settle down. Andi loves him, but can she live with him? The summer heats up as Andi searches for clues about life, and a death, no one else considers murder.

I enjoyed this book and found it well paced. The highlight is definitely the characterization of the main character. I found her well rounded and very likeable. In particular, I appreciated that Andi’s Christianity was a huge part of her life, it motivated her and made her who she was, rather than being tacked on as an afterthought. In addition I also enjoyed the setting, which was an integral part of the overall story. The plot was a bit predictable and the ending was no surprise, but I would still recommend this story to anyone who enjoys cozy mysteries. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Dorothy and Agatha by Gaylord Larsen

First copyrighted in 1990, Dorothy and Agatha is hardly a new release. Even so, if you can scrounge up a copy I recommend it. Author, Gaylord Larsen crafted a cozy mystery, involving well-loved mystery writers Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie.

When a dead body turns up in Dorothy’s dining room and no one can say who he is, she needs help. But being Dorothy she would never ask for it. Never fear, her friends of the Detection Club step in. Unfortunately, Dorothy has secrets she would prefer to remain hidden. Agatha Christie, the puzzle maker, is the only one who dares Dorothy’s wrath and continues to investigate.

The result is a puzzle reminiscent of the great Christie herself. I thoroughly enjoyed the tale, and the “twist” ending. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Shadow of Colossus by T. L. Higley

Tessa of Delos is Rhodes' premier heteara. To all appearances she has everything a woman could desire—luxury, prominence, the appreciation of men and a powerful patron. Only she truly understands her reality—that the trappings of an enslaved courtesan are simply gilding to the cage. Her deepest desire is to be free, even if the only means is her death.

When her patron, Glaucus is killed by a falling roof tile Tessa knows she will be accused of murder, and so she attempts to hide the body in the hopes that she can finally escape her bondage.

At the same time, conspiracies are fermenting to undermine Rhodian democracy. Tessa must act as mouthpiece for the dead Glaucus and prevent anyone from learning her terrible secret.

Nikos will do anything to make his father proud. After all the man rescued him from the life of a peasant, and brought him into his home, naming him a son. The desire to prove himself is a fire in Nikos’ belly. His first chance comes when he is commissioned by his father to infiltrate the Glaucus home, and learn the man’s position on joining the Achean League.

Instead of the information he seeks, Nikos discovers a dead body and a woman who takes his breath away.

T.L. Higley has a master’s grasp of storytelling. She draws the reader in from the first page and won’t let go with her blend of great characters, gripping suspense and period detail. Shadow of Colossus is one of those rare novels that stay with you long after you read the last word, and leaves you wanting more. I cannot wait to see what she offers in the next book of her Seven Wonders series.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Remembered by Tamera Alexander

Remembered is the third in Tamera Alexander’s Fountain Creek Series. This last installment features the tales of Veronique Girard and Jack Brennan.

Parisienne, Veronique Girard is used to a luxurious life as the companion to a noble Frenchwoman. When her mother passes away, however; Veronique is manipulated into embarking on a quest to search for her father in the far distant, and utterly foreign Colorado Territory.

Jack Brennan is a man on a mission. He has been leading families west for thirteen years, since a tragedy took his wife and son. Now he has come to grips with his past and is ready to settle down.  He takes a job as freighter from the banks of Fountain Creek up into the mining camps.

His plans are disrupted when Veronique arrives in town and buys “his” wagon out from under him. When every other option fails and his obligations loom, he finally agrees to take her with him into the mining towns, in order to search for her father, in exchange for the use of her wagon.

The sparks fly as these two well-drawn characters are inexorably drawn together. The writing is accomplished and Ms. Alexander has a wonderful style. In particular, her characterization shines. She builds a delightful inspirational romance that comes complete with a satisfying end, and a rock solid foundation of truth that speaks to hearts. Highly recommended if you enjoy sweet romance.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Affectionate Adversary by Catherine Marshall

I am incredibly sorry to say that I was disappointed in The Affectionate Adversary. I enjoyed the setting, particularly the time period, and the opening chapter, which was set in the Indian Ocean. However, I found the rest of the book lacking. The conflict felt contrived, in so far as the hero would tell the heroine that he could never see her again, and then she would send him a note, asking to meet, in order to explain that she could never see him again. Ms. Palmer did a good job of getting the research on the big things right (i.e. the corn laws, and their effect on the poor), but I didn’t feel that she was as successful in conveying the realities or the mindset of the era. Finally, her dialogue sounded stilted, much more so than expected of a historical novel. Particularly when compared to the inner monologues, which were not just less formal, but much more modern in tone. Unfortunately, this is not a book that I can recommend. 

Monday, August 11, 2008

Elementary, My Dear Watkins by Mindy Starns Clark

In Elementary, My Dear Watkins, the third of her Smart Chicks mystery series, Mindy Starns Clark really hits her stride. Don’t be fooled by the series name, this is not a chick lit novel, either in style, voice or even point of view.

Jo Tulip is hounded by her ex-fiance, Bradford, who begs for a chance to explain why he jilted her at the altar. Having moved on and found true love with her best friend, Danny, she has little interest in trying to reconcile, but his persistence pays off and she agrees to meet him. To her shock Bradford reveals much more than she bargained for. Not only was he paid to marry her, but her life is in danger. Jo can’t credit his assertions—until she is almost pushed in front of a subway train, and Bradford is seriously injured trying to save her life.

Danny Watkins is in Paris pursuing the opportunity of a lifetime for an aspiring photographer, an internship with Scene It magazine. It is a three-month commitment and he would be sitting on top of the world, if only he hadn’t had to leave Jo behind, in order to take the assignment. When someone tries to get him fired and odd things begin to happen he begins to become concerned about Jo’s safety, but what can he do from Europe?

The danger quickly escalates and Jo seeks refuge at her grandmother’s estate. As the mystery progresses, Jo must figure out how the development of a new medical miracle drug, an old will, and her almost marriage fitted together to place her in danger. And more importantly, how to escape the threat.

There were a few clichés at the beginning of the novel, (i.e. the unseen hand pushing the heroine in front of a speeding train), but it quickly moved into new territory. I found it interesting that there was little romantic conflict in this novel. Jo and Danny know they are meant for each other, and they act as a team. In that sense it was almost as if Ms. Clark was portraying an already married couple. That is not to say that there was no conflict, there was plenty, it was just from other, outside sources. I personally found this to be refreshing. They had made a commitment to one another and they never wavered in that regard.

The ending was nicely twisted and the resolution quite satisfying. I definitely recommend this novel.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Falcon and the Sparrow by M.L. Tyndall

M.L. Tyndall is known for her popular The King’s Pirates series. However, in The Falcon and the Sparrow she draws inspiration from the intrigue and elegance of the Napoleonic era.

Miss Dominique Dawson, is the daughter of an English admiral and a Frenchwoman. After her parents die, she is left financially destitute and adrift in Paris. She turns to a distant cousin for help, but her hopes of returning to a comfortable life are crushed, when she is forced to make a terrible bargain. To save her younger brother’s life, Dominique must agree to spy on her homeland.

Admiral Chase Randal is landlocked, a temporary replacement for a member of the Admiralty board. Despite the honor, he would much rather be at sea. Ashore he finds too many reminders of the wife he lost.

Though struggling with overwhelming grief, Admiral Randal is trying to be a good father to his bright, affectionate son, William. To that end, he hires Dominique Dawson as a governess for the boy. Chase finds the new governess inexplicably timid, but decides to give her a chance for her father’s sake.

Dominique quickly bonds with her young charge, and her heart goes out to his stern father. Against her will, she comes to care for the members of the Randal household—especially her employer. Still her brother’s life is in jeopardy, and Dominique faces her greatest struggle of all in turning her future over to God, and trusting his plans for her.

Chase is quickly enchanted by his new governess, but fearful of loving again. He cannot bear the risk of losing someone else.  At the same time, the Admiralty is informed that Chase has a spy in his home and he lays a trap to catch any would be traitor.

The plot thickens as Dominique and Chase navigate the treacherous seas of society and espionage, and the clock is running out.

Anyone who enjoyed Ms. Tyndall’s first series won’t be disappointed with this new offering. Her writing is a deft blend of romance and adventure, with an interesting setting and unique characters. In particular, she works hard to make her characters real—with very human foibles and feelings. I definitely recommend The Falcon and the Sparrow

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Noble Fugitive by T. Davis and Isabella Dunn

I picked up The Noble Fugitive, by T. Davis and Isabella Dunn, largely because of the setting. The word Venice is a siren call to me, and one day I will have the wherewithal to visit it—hopefully before it sinks into the sea.  I wasn’t disappointed with my choice.

The Noble Fugitive chronicles the lives of Serafina Gavi and John Falconer. She is the spoiled daughter of a Venetian doge, intent on running away with her art instructor, a young man named Luca. Even after she is caught and falls ill, she can think of nothing else. Her father is sent on a secret mission to America, and he takes his wife and daughter with him. Though she loves her parents, she again runs away when the ship docks in Portsmouth. Her plan is to find her aunt, Agatha Donatella, and enlist her aid in returning to Venice.

Luckily for young Serafina, Agatha is having none of it. She is dying, but she shares with Serafina, the truth about her lover. In possession of a broken heart, but no money and no other options, Serafina is forced to enter service as a scullery maid at the great house of Harrow Hall.

John Falconer is a man with a past that hangs over him like a cloud. Once a slaver, he has since given his life to Christ. Although he knows God has forgiven him, he cannot forgive himself for the reprehensible things he has done. He, and a couple of other men on the island of Trinidad, are determined to prove to Parliament that although trafficking in slaves has been outlawed for years, it is still going on. The stakes are magnified many times when they discover that the governor of Trinidad has been bribed into renewing the license for at least one such market. The conspiracy leads as high as the court, if not the crown.

When one of Falconer’s cohorts is murdered, he must begin a perilous journey to take the proofs they have gathered to England, so that the matter can be put before Parliament. His progress is complicated when he is accused of his friends murder and becomes an outlaw. He frog-leaps his way across the Caribbean and up the American coast until he reaches Georgetown. Here he throws his lot in with an invalid, Gareth Powers, and his young daughter, Hannah. Gareth is a pamphleteer devoted to ending slavery. Danger stalks their progress as they cross the Atlantic together.

Serafina and Falconer meet at Harrow Hall, when Gareth seeks refuge there from his enemies. After Falconer rescues her from an attack by the Duke’s son, she leaves her employment there, to act as a caretaker for little Hannah Powers. Falconer quickly falls in love with the beautiful, young Venetian, but he knows nothing can ever come of it.

Truly repentant for her foolish willfulness, Serafina has been humbled. She recognizes the rightness of the fight against slavery, and with the prompting of the Powers family she agrees to use her artistic abilities in their last salvo. The question of slavery, and whether it should be abolished entirely, is about to be put up in Parliament. In the end, Serafina and Falconer must step beyond what they believe themselves capable of, to fight for a greater cause.

My one small criticism is that the prologue would have been more effective as a chapter in the middle of the book. Written from Serafina’s point of view, it doesn’t add any information that couldn’t have waited until later to be introduced.

I had difficulty getting past Serafina’s selfish stupidity in the early chapters. Nobody stone me, but she reminded me of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, another character I didn’t really like. But that was the point. In essence, The Noble Fugitive is about redemption. I liked John Falconer immensely, but that was because I met him after he met the Lord. Had I met him as a murdering, thieving, slave ship skipper, I wouldn’t have been so impressed.  By the end of the novel I was rooting for them both. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Healing Season by Ruth Axtell Morren

Today’s authors don’t often give us a glimpse into the rougher side of the Regency, but in The Healing Season, Ms. Morren tackles what would have been some of the very real, and pressing issues of the day. The glitter of society is a distant world to Methodist surgeon, Ian Russell, as far removed as Paris Hilton’s existence is from mine. He is driven by his work among the poor. It is his heart’s desire to establish a children’s hospital in the heart of London, at a time when many physicians refused to treat children.

When summoned to help a young woman who has botched an attempted abortion, Ian meets Eleanor Neville, who discovered her friend on the brink of death. Together the two work through the night to try to save the girl’s life.

Mrs. Neville, is Eleanor’s stage name, and she is one of the leading actresses in London’s burlettas. When she and Ian are increasingly thrown together she fights her attraction to the one “good” man she has ever met. Having never been introduced to the Bible or church she find his devotion to his ideals, utterly incomprehensible.

Ian finds the beautiful actress an increasing temptation, and struggles against the attraction. She has been used by several men, while he has kept himself pure for his future wife, and he cannot believe her to be anything other than a trap set to ensnare him.

The conflict sizzles as the two are drawn inexorably together. It is only when they discover the power of Godly forgiveness that they can move beyond their pasts, and their prejudices to fine one another.

My only criticism is that there seemed to be no satisfying resolution of the final situation with the villain. He is portrayed as an insanely jealous man, and Eleanor goes into hiding to escape him. Even with some very strong clues, he doesn’t even attempt to find her. His reaction seems strangely anticlimactic, and I kept wondering when he would come for her.

I found the Healing Season to be well researched and engrossing. Ms. Morren is definitely skilled at developing her setting and giving the reader a sense of time and place. It would have been very easy for Ms. Morren to rely on sensationalism as she presented the harsher elements of the story, but she handled the gritty realities with sensitivity. Overall, I would recommend this book highly.


Saturday, July 19, 2008


I always wanted to have a premier. Until I have a little baby book to nudge on out into the world, a blog is as good a way as any to introduce myself to the world. This blog will be devoted to reviews of Christian fiction-specifically, but not exclusively-historical fiction and mysteries. At the bottom of this page is a batting list of what I will be reviewing next. 

My purpose in reviewing is never to be critical for the sake of it, and I will never post anything to be mean-spirited. If I offend please know that I did not set out to do so. I welcome comments on my comments and enjoy a good debate as well as anyone, so fire away!

Must Reads

  • All the Tea in China-Jane Orcutt www.revellbooks.com
  • In the Shadow of the Sun King-Golden Keyes Parsons www.goldenkeyesparsons.com
  • Wings of a Dream-Anne Mateer