Review & GIVEAWAY: The Uncloaked Trilogy by J. Rodes ~ A YA/Dystopian Series

Uncloaked Trilogy Tour Banner SLB

Today’s featured book series is a TREAT to share because it’s not my normal cup-of-tea in the best way. I DO like to read outside my comfort zone sometimes and foray into YA/Dystopian or even stories with fantastical elements. Lucky for me, “The Uncloaked” series is just that —- a futuristic beginning of a dystopian society all from a 1st-person POV AND a subtle Christian worldview. Author J. Rodes is quickly becoming a favorite and must-read for me (some readers might know her better under the name Jennifer Rodewald *wink* who pens stories that are perfectly my cup of tea. Talk about versatility!).

Before you go on and enter the series giveaway, please do stop by some other tour stops (listed at the end of this post) because they feature wonderful behind-the-scenes glimpses and interviews with Jennifer AND HER FAMILY.

About the Books

From Sellout to hero, by way of the den. Braxton Luther finds himself in the crossfire of a new order, and discovers apathy is a dangerous option.

1-The UncloakedThe Uncloaked

Apathy is the illness of the overprivileged…” Words laced with fear—and maybe a hint of prophecy. His father’s words. Words Braxton would prefer to ignore. 

Braxton Luther is sixteen when the Progressive Reform Party takes over the government. It can’t be that bad. So they don’t want religion in government—that’s constitutional. He can’t understand his church’s hypersensitive reaction or his father’s cryptic warning to stand against the Party’s ultimatums. 

But after living under the new government for a year, Braxton faces a choice—conform to the demands of the ungodded in order to protect his best friend, Eliza, or defy the system and go into hiding, ensuring a life of misery. Still certain that life will settle back into normalcy in the near future, Braxton chooses compliance. 

Then the killings begin, and Eliza is captured and sent to Reformation Camp for her defiance. Reality finally sinks in. 

Apathy is no longer a choice.

2-Tearing the VeilTearing the Veil

“They trained us well. Power punctuated our every move, driving fear into the intended target. Who would stand against them? ”

Braxton Luther, the sellout. 

Now a part of the Den, he’s determined to make good on Eliza Knight’s faith in him—to be more than what he’d settled for when the Party had taken over. But his goal is dangerous, and not just for him. As he searches for a way to protect the silent, invisible victims of the new government, Braxton’s mission—which includes finding a way to rescue Eliza from the Reformation Camp—becomes even more complicated. Hannah Knight, Eliza’s sister, is simply too much like him. 

Tired of standing in her perfect sister’s shadow, Hannah determines to find her own place in the world. If that place is with the Pride—the girls’ home and training center provided by the Party—so be it. When she leaves the hopelessness of the cellar, that’s all she’s aiming for. But Quinn Sanger, the handsome son of a powerful political leader, finds her at the creek, and her life takes an unexpected and optimistic turn. 

Braxton’s convinced Hannah’s in trouble. Hannah’s convinced Braxton, and all the Uncloaked, are insane. But when they peek behind the real veil the Party maintains, the truth is beyond what either had feared or hoped. 

If everyone knew, it could change everything. They redefine their mission. It’s time to tear the veil. 

3-The Charging DarknessCharging the Darkness

“You were not saved for this… “

The veil has been torn, but Braxton Luther still has more to do. 

The captive Uncloaked have been freed, and the people know the dark truth. A rebellion against the Party has begun, but the question lingers among those who are safely hidden in the Refuge–what will happen to their broken nation? Secrets and shame, resentment and hatred continue to shake the nation, now divided. 

What will it take to break the grip of the Party? Beyond that, is there any hope of healing after the damage of the darkness? 

 

GOODREADS | AMAZON

Review

“The Uncloaked” trilogy is the thrilling dystopian/YA series from a Christian worldview you didn’t know you needed in your life. It’s a story of family, trust, friendship, loyalty, betrayal, and hardships. Overarching is an abundant theme of choice. Choice of forgiveness or bitterness, of following the Light or living in darkness, of believing in redemption for any soul or living with hate. The Christian worldview offers a realistic scenario and a reason for both the evil and hope portrayed in the story. This is something rare in the  dystopian genre, at least as far as I have experienced it. It makes the story an allegory of sorts that represents choices you and I have every day, to stand for the Light and choose hope.

The Uncloaked sets up the environment, characters, and dilemma. It explores the real dangers of apathy with a very close-to-life scenario in the near future. Braxton begins in this book with great potential, but by story’s end makes choices that set in motion spiraling events that impact the rest of his own story. His 1st person POV serves to make him relatable even while he makes exasperating choices.

The second book, Tearing the Veil, adds another character’s perspective (Hannah’s) and further complications because of her involvement. Where some second books in a trilogy would lose momentum, this one has plenty of action  and character development, particularly with Braxton and a finality of his choices that mature him greatly (yay I’m soooo proud!) by book’s end.

Random observation: I’m continually impressed with Jennifer’s skill as an author to compellingly write such diverse characters and genres.

Charging the Darkness is the conclusion I hoped it would be. Its edge-of-your seat movement and ALL THE EMOTIONS kept me turning pages late into the night. Seriously, to say very much about this conclusion would reveal its surprises. Just trust me when I say it has more amazing character development and emotional depth that is crazy good! In short, it brings together a group of characters drastically changed by events and choices and –finally– unites them in purpose in a beautiful way.

Two more tiny comments: I first expected the relationship between Braxton and Eliza to work out to be a friendship-turned romance, and it kind of was, but it caught me off guard at times by being so much more. Wonderfully so. And, as noted on retailer sites in book 1’s description, this series should be considered PG-13 due to its sometimes dark (though not graphic) scenes (I would recommend it for teens +). It is still, very much, a Christian Fiction series.

Thank you to the author and SLB tours for the review copies. This is my honest review.

About the Author

jennifer-rodewald_4_origJ. Rodes lives on the wide plains somewhere near the middle of Nowhere. A coffee addict, pickleball enthusiast, and storyteller, she also wears the hats of mom, teacher, and friend. Mostly, she loves Jesus and wants to see the kids she’s honored to teach fall in love with Him too.

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Giveaway

3 Prizes!

  • Print copies of the books (US only)
  • E-copies of the books (International)
  • Audio copies of the books (International)

Enter the giveaway HERE.

Tour Schedule

January 8-Soulfully Romantic
January 9-Smiling Book Reviews
January 10-Book by Book | Flowers of Quiet Happiness
January 11-Just Commonly 
January 12-Remembrancy
January 13-The Green Mockingbird
January 15-amandainpa
January 16-Fiction Aficionado | A Baker’s Perspective
Janaury 17-Singing Librarain Books
January 18-Henry Happens
January 19-Reader’s Cozy Corner
January 20-Pause for Tales

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Best of 2017

This annual blog post has become a favorite because I’m sharing MY favorite reads from the year!!!!! 2017 has been a wonderful reading year. I’ve added several new all-time favorite books to my “shelves”, met some amazing new authors both through their books and on social media, and been blown away by story multiple times. At latest count, I’ve read 58 books! Whew! Comparing genres, I’ve read quite a few more contemporary stories versus historical, and my list here is representative of that slant. Most of these books were published in 2017, but a few were new discoveries I can’t believe I waited this long to read!

IMG_20171227_211635_435.jpg

But first, some ground rules: in an effort to NOT be long-winded and wordy, I’m choosing to share 3 things that describe each of these stories along with a link to Goodreads and my review. (Click each title to visit Goodreads).

Historical

The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green | Review

Poignant. Fleur-de-lys. Scars.

A Moonbow Night by Laura Frantz | Review

Immersive. Frontier. Growth.

Many Sparrows by Lori Benton | Review

Epic. Grace. History.

A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White | Review

Loyalty. Books. Romance.

High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin | Review

Spies. Secrets. Tenacity.

With Love, Wherever You Are by Dandi Daley Mackall | Review

Letters. Love. Sacrifice.

The White Feather Murders by Rachel McMillan | Review

Friends. Mysteries. Toronto.

Contemporary

Jane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility by Hillary Manton Lodge | Review

Tea. Sisters. Colonel Brandon.

True to You by Becky Wade | Review

Bookish. Romance. Forgiveness.

Just the Way You Are by Pepper Basham | Review

Redemption. Fairytale. Chocolate.

Reclaimed by Jennifer Rodewald | Review

Grace. Country. Pickle.

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner | Review

Honesty. The Sound of Music. Humor.

All This Time by Melissa Tagg | Review

Belonging. Security. Family.

Hometown Girl by Courtney Walsh | Review

Farmhouses. Siblings. Introverts.

Charming the Troublemaker by Pepper Basham | Review

Laughter. Trustworthiness. Closets.

Life After by Katie Ganshert | Review

Bittersweet. Peace. Letting go.

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay | Review

Bubble gum. Connection. Growth.

The Esther Paradigm by Sarah Monzon | Review

Desert. Obedience. Strength.

Contemporary Action/Adventure (with romance, of course!)

Unblemished and Unraveling by Sara Ella | Book 1 Review | Book 2 Review

Disney. Twists. Enchanting.

Conspiracy of Silence and Crown of Souls by Ronie Kendig | Book 1 Review | Book 2 Review

Adventure. Dynamic. Heroes.

Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey | Review

Suspense. Puzzles. Action.

Rescue Me by Susan May Warren | Review

Tension. Reconciliation. Encouragement.

Novellas

The Message in a Bottle Collection Romance Collection by Heather Day Gilbert, Amanda Dykes, Maureen Lang, Jocelyn Green, and Joanne Bischof | Review

Hope. Strength. Nautical.

I’ll Be There by Susan May Warren | Review

Faith. Spark. Peace.

Right Where We Belong Collection by Deborah Raney, Melissa Tagg, and Courtney Walsh | Review

Quaint. Lighthearted. Happiness.

Then Came You by Becky Wade | Review

Epistolary. Patience. Family.

Christmas Stories

Ordinary Snowflakes by Jennifer Rodewald | Review

Hot cocoa. Friends. Familiarity.

 A Cliché Christmas by Nicole Deese | Review

Dimension. Unconditional. Gloves.

WHEW! That’s it! These favorites are ones I can highly recommend and gush about for days. Have you read any of these? What are your favorite books of 2017? If you have a favorites blog post, share your link in the comments!

Review: “A Cliché Christmas” by Nicole Deese


Though Christmas is already past, this is still the time of year to enjoy reading festive stories. One I just finished — and was quite blown away by — was A Cliché Christmas by Nicole Deese. I had the privilege of interviewing Nicole earlier this year, but I had not previously read a story of hers until now. That will be remedied in the near future. Before I made it half way through this story, I added the next 2 books in the “Love in Lenox” series to my virtual shelf! 2018 TBR, here I come!

About the Book

A Cliche ChristmasWriting happy endings is easy. Living one is the hard part.

Georgia Cole—known in Hollywood as the “Holiday Goddess”—has made a name for herself writing heartwarming screenplays chock-full of Christmas clichés, but she has yet to experience the true magic of the season. So, when her eccentric grandmother volunteers her to direct a pageant at Georgia’s hometown community theater, she is less than thrilled. To make matters worse, she’ll be working alongside Weston James, her childhood crush and the one man she has tried desperately to forget.

Now, facing memories of a lonely childhood and the humiliation of her last onstage performance, seven years earlier, Georgia is on the verge of a complete mistletoe meltdown. As Weston attempts to thaw the frozen walls around her heart, Georgia endeavors to let go of her fears and give love a second chance. If she does, will she finally believe that Christmas can be more than a cliché? 

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

Don’t let the title fool you. Yes, this book includes a few clichés, but it is unexpectedly deeper. It is a beautiful story of belonging with characters that have great dimension. And oh, the chemistry!!!! It reminds me of the spark-filled romance dynamic Kristen Heitzmann accomplishes, which is a top-notch compliment.

Weston and Georgia’s shared childhood memories and history work to strengthen their characters and solidify the constant pull between them. Add to that a building anticipation of something that the reader knows will test their newfound banter and friendship, and we have the makings of a sturdy story with a few surprises.

From laugh out loud moments, swoony interludes in the snow, to emotionally touching (especially when little Savannah is involved) and meaningful conversations, A Cliché Christmas is anything but commonplace and predictable. It is a story of forgiveness as much as it is of trusting the unconditional things in life; like the support of family, professed love, and the best unconditional gift given at Christmas: the love of a newborn Savior.

 

Review: “Enchanted: A Christmas Collection” by Melissa Tagg

As you regular blog readers might realize, any time Melissa Tagg releases a story, I HAVE to read it. As a wonderful treat the past 3 years, Melissa has released a Christmas novella series featuring a little family from (you guessed it) “Maple Valley”. This year the final story in the collection is out, One Enchanted Noël, AND the whole collection is available in a gorgeous paperback format! Today, I’ve compiled my past reviews plus my thoughts on this latest release.

Enchanted A Christmas Collection

A Collection of Heartwarming, Small-Town Holiday Romances 

One Enchanted Christmas

Goodreads | Amazon

Last December, author Maren Grant went on a magical date with her book’s cover model–Colin Renwycke. Fast forward one year. With a looming deadline, Maren is desperate to recapture her creative spark. Then she remembers Colin’s invitation to visit his family’s Iowa farm…

Drew Renwycke never planned to move home and take over the farm. But he’s spent too many years watching his siblings unravel–including Colin. When Maren lands on his doorstep, he realizes she may be the key to coaxing his brother home.

(originally published as a standalone in 2015)

One Enchanted Eve

Goodreads | Amazon

As a Denver Culinary Institute student, Colin Renwyke is out to embark on a new career as a pastry chef. But despite his skills in the kitchen, he’s a mess in the classroom and his ongoing disasters are proving too much for his prickly instructor. If he loses his spot at the school, he’s out of backup plans.

Culinary school instructor Rylan Jefferson has the chance to reclaim her dream of running her own bakery. But she only has until Christmas Eve to come up with the perfect recipe to impress an eccentric investor. She has no time for holiday parties or family plans . . . and especially not for her unruliest student baker.

But Colin has the one ingredient Rylan needs most–talent. Lots of it. And when he makes a proposal that just might solve both their problems, Rylan can’t say no.

(originally published as a standalone in 2016)

One Enchanted Noël

Goodreads | Amazon

When Seb Pierce agreed to work for his wealthy grandfather for one year–in return for an early draw on his inheritance–he never expected the agreement to land him in a quirky small town in Iowa at Christmas-time, renovating a dilapidated theater…and running into a woman he never thought he’d see again.

Although she’s finally settled in her hometown, Leigh Renwycke can’t shake the familiar restlessness that used to get her into trouble. When Seb Pierce waltzes into her world and begs for her help planning the theater’s holiday reopening, it might be enough to jumpstart a new career…and to prove once and for all that the new-and-improved Leigh is here to stay. Until old secrets and new sparks get in the way…

(brand new in 2017!)

Find the collection edition on Goodreads | Amazon

Review

One Enchanted Christmas by Melissa Tagg, mini reviewOne Enchanted Christmas

Melissa just makes me smile with her clever prose, the normalcy of her characters, and the laugh-out-loud situations her characters find themselves in. I literally laughed while reading this one!

Case in point: check out this line concerning the fashionable-yet-not-warm-for-snow attire of our main character, Maren. “But a girl didn’t meet a man who might be the love of her life dressed like an Eskimo”- chapter 1. That ought to make you smile!

Besides the heartwarming characters and storyline, one other unique element to this novella was the use of a “narrator”. The narrator set up the story and added a few little side commentary moments which were so clever! And, something new-to-me in fiction. This device allows the story to move faster and still flow, filling in necessary details without cheating on story, and revealing the true feelings of Drew and Maren like an all-knowing outside perspective.

If you’re looking for a quick, sweet, and touching read that’s perfect for the Christmas season, look no further One Enchanted Christmas! And did I mention it’s an independently-published endeavor by Melissa herself? Go support her spunk today.

One Enchanted Eveone-enchanted-eve

This novella proves there is always more to the story behind the seemingly antihero of the previous story, illustrating everyone has a journey and has trials. I love revisiting Maple Valley, especially the Renwyckes for Christmas. This is a must-read Christmas novella! The combo of drama, humor, and family is just perfect. And I can’t forget to mention the bonding that happens between Collin and Rylan over pastry and the flirting with recipe cards = swoon! In true “Tagg” style, this story is at once nostalgic and insightful, drawing out an emotional depth and realness from its characters, taking us home for Christmas and to blessings in unexpected little things.

One Enchanted NoelOne Enchanted Noël

Just when I think I couldn’t love Melissa Tagg’s storytelling more, she goes and does something surprising like this and writes two new, compelling lead characters – one of which is a COWBOY! A gentleman complete with a Texas drawl and plaid shirts, even if he does originally hale from California. I can’t see his name in print without pronouncing it in my head just like Leigh always calls him: Sebastian Parker Pierce III. He’s a catch! 🙂

And then there’s Leigh. The last of the Renwycke siblings to befriend. My heart just wants to hug her and tell her she is loved for who she IS and who she is daily choosing to BE. Thankfully, a host of family and a few friends, most notably Seb and his knowing care, encourage her along the way. She learns an important lesson of dreaming and reaching and trusting God to have insanely awesome plans for her life.

My movie-nerd self LOVED the fact that Sebastian is renovating a MOVIE THEATER!!! Speaking from personal experience in that setting, Melissa got her facts very straight except for one teeny, tiny detail that is totally forgivable for the sake of artistic license and the resulting cute scene 😉 . I could virtually hear the projectors whirring and smell the popcorn as I read.

One Enchanted Noël has the signature humor and pop culture I’ve come to expect from Melissa, set in the “enchanting” world of Maple Valley with its quirkiness. Among many other things, I LOVED getting to see the humor of Mayor Milt again and a “peek behind the curtain” of his attitude in one little scene. But at the heart of it all is a message of hope and dreams within grasp, of supporting family and embracing new beginnings.

Review & Author Interview + GIVEAWAY: “The Esther Paradigm” by Sarah Monzon

The Esther Paradigm by Sarah Monzon is a unique and compelling story; an easy addition to my favorites list. It is a story of romance and encouragement, but threaded between its pages of an adventurous journey is a mostly-whispered-sometimes-shouted challenge to live out your faith and proclaim the life-changing message of Jesus outside of your comfort zone. I have the privilege of sharing my review as part of the SLB Blog Tour for this book, along with sharing my interview with Sarah and blog tour GIVEAWAY info! Read on for more fun stuff!

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The Esther ParadigmjpgGenre:  Christian, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Radiant Publications
Publication date: November 2, 2017

The daughter of missionaries, Hannah Pratt dreams of starting a school for the Bedouin clan with whom she spent her childhood. After completing her education in the United States, she returns to the desert to pursue that dream—only to learn her parents have been receiving threats from within the community they serve. As the danger escalates, Hannah must decide how far she’ll go to stay faithful to a calling that could cost her everything.

As sheikh, Karim Al-Amir feels the weight of responsibility as the leader of his people. When a mysterious illness ravages the clan’s flocks and threatens to destroy their centuries-old way of life, some of his people believe the American doctors and their daughter, his childhood friend, are to blame. Karim must do something to keep Hannah and her parents safe—even if the only solution is to be found within marriage vows.

In a society where the line is drawn between us and them, where Christianity is outlawed and foreigners suspect, will Karim and Hannah’s union heal wounds . . . or inflict a final, fatal blow?

Old Testament history meets Twenty-first Century tensions in this compassionate, tender inspirational romance.

GOODREADS | AMAZON

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A totally new retelling of the story of Esther, The Esther Paradigm outright acknowledges its similarities to the Biblical story and applies them in a unique way to a modern situation. I would say it is influenced more by Esther’s own task to obey a calling to eventually save her people than it is a straight adaptation of her story.

With the utmost respect and care, Sarah Monzon has presented the culture and vivid environment of a Bedouin tribe in the “middle east”, acknowledging the customs and beliefs of a Muslim people group and the danger and challenge of sharing the Gospel and truth of Jesus. With no specifics of people or place, this is a story that could describe any number of real missionaries or situations right now which makes this story all the more relevant. I admired Hannah’s character for her tenacity, commitment, and obedience to sharing her faith in an environment that proves a physical danger to her both from natural elements (hello sandstorms, camels, etc!) and from the very people of her community.

The storytelling style is immersive and vibrant, painting everything from the desert grittiness to the romantic heat with detail and prose. Most fascinating to me was the way dual 1st person POVs contrasted both Hannah and Karim’s perspectives alternately, showing their friendship, growth, and the subtle influence of faith in each of their lives. Most of all, I enjoyed how the story showed how the earnest seeking of God’s will in Hannah’s life shaped her decisions and how her life was a testimony in itself of the truth of Jesus to Karim and others.

Thank you to the author and SLB Tours for the review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.

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What inspired you to write The Esther Paradigm?

Is it okay to say I didn’t really have a direct inspiration? I’m not even sure where the idea came from except from God. One day the idea for a modern day story inspired by Esther entered my head and the need to write it was so strong, the character’s voices so loud, that I had to write it then even though I was in the middle of writing another series. This story…it was more like it wrote me than the other way around. Like I was but a tool to get it down, it flowed so freely. No other story has been like that before.

 That is awesome!

What spiritual message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with this story?

Love. I want readers to take away love. Love for those who are different, whether they believe differently, live differently, or look differently. I want 1 Corinthians 16:14 to take root in everyone’s hearts. “Let all that you do be done in love.”

And, I must say I believe you have accomplished this. Love is a strong and clear part of the story.

What was most challenging about writing a story in this settting?

Well, I have never been anywhere in the Middle East before so I had to rely heavily on pictures and a series I watched on Netflix about the region. It would have been easier to have experienced the atmosphere and culture firsthand, but I’m thankful for the research that was right at my fingertips.

Which character was your favorite to write?

This may sound weird since I am neither male, Muslim, or a leader, but Karim was pretty fun to write. =)

 I can totally see that! 🙂

Just for fun: Do you have any hobbies?

Hobbies? What are those? Lol! One must have time for hobbies, right? I have a six-year-old and a three year old and live on the other side of the country from any family (read no babysitters) so when I have free time after they’ve gone to bed I’m usually too exhausted to do much of anything.

If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

Oh this question is so hard! Can I cheat and just have a time machine I can travel and visit all the time periods and then come back to the convenience of the 21st century?

That is a valid choice! 😉

What are you currently reading?

Dreamlander by K. M. Weiland. I’m a mood reader and was in the mood for something speculative after a long line of contemporary and historical romances.

Oooh, I will have to look that one up! Thank you, Sarah, for taking the time to share your answers!

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sarah-monzon-hr-4Sarah Monzon is a Navy chaplain’s wife and a stay at home mom to the two cutest littles in the world. Playing pretend all day with them isn’t enough, she spends the evenings after their heads hit the pillow to create her own imaginary characters. When she isn’t in the world of make believe, she can be found in the pine forests of western Washington taking care of her family, fostering friendships, and enjoying all the adventures each day brings. Her debut novel, The Isaac Project, skyrocketed to Amazon bestseller status while her Sophomore book, Finders Keepers, won the 2017 SELAH award for contemporary romance.

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$25 Amazon Gift Card

Enter the rafflecopter giveaway HERE.

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December 11-The Green Mockingbird | Paulette’s Papers | Zerina Blossom’s Books
December 12-Faithfully Bookish | Karen Sue Hadley | Flowers of Quiet Happiness 
December 13-Singing Librarian Books | Heidi Reads… | A Baker’s Perspective
December 14-Book by Book | allofakindmom | Fiction Aficionado
December 15-Remembrancy | Bibliophile Reviews | Kat’s Corner Books
December 16-Red Headed Book Lady Bookworm Mama | Ponderings of a Poet & Procrastinator

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Review: “Lady Jayne Disappears” by Joanna Davidson Politano

Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano is an exciting and complex debut. I’ve been anticipating this book for a LONG time! In fact, I added it to my TBR “shelf” way early in the year. The premise of a young lady in Victorian England secretly writing under a pen name while trying to solve a mystery connected to her own family just sounded so intriguing! And, it was.

About the Book

Lady Jayne Disappears

When Aurelie Harcourt’s father dies in debtor’s prison, he leaves her just two things: his wealthy family, whom she has never met, and his famous pen name, Nathaniel Droll. Her new family greets her with apathy and even resentment. Only the quiet houseguest, Silas Rotherham, welcomes her company.

When Aurelie decides to complete her father’s unfinished serial novel, writing the family into the story as unflattering characters, she must keep her identity as Nathaniel Droll hidden while searching for the truth about her mother’s disappearance–and perhaps even her father’s death.

Author Joanna Davidson Politano’s stunning debut set in Victorian England will delight readers with its highly original plot, lush setting, vibrant characters, and reluctant romance.

Review

The one word that sums up the feeling of this story: ALLURING. From start to finish, I was impressed by the character growth, vibrancy of setting, and well-told mystery arc.

While Aurelie’s naivete was frustrating at times (to me, the reader), it truly is an asset to the story. It both excuses her innocence when it comes to her almost nonexistent knowledge of society norms and justifies her experience and manner when she’s faced with the realistic plight of common people whom society deems inferior. These seemingly contradictory facets of her character made me like her all the more — and, they are what drew the hero of the story to recognize her unique and compassionate nature.

My two favorite aspects of this story were the romance and the wonderfully deep love of literature acknowledged by the characters and observed by the reader ;). The romance cannot be commented on *no spoilers here* past saying it is as sweet as I hoped it would be and as surprising at times with its tenderness and depth. The book and story love, however, are wonderful bookworm tendencies for the people of that time AND a nod to story in itself. It’s delightful.

Victorian society is the perfect backdrop for the many twists, secrets, and mystery of Lady Jayne Disappears. All this combine with the romance to form a Dickensian-like tale of belonging and purpose. It’s a treat for lovers of historical romance and drama! I eagerly look forward to whatever Joanne pens next.

Thank you to Revell publishers and Netgalley for a complimentary copy of this novel. This is my honest review.

Review: “The Austen Escape” by Katherine Reay

Review: “The Austen Escape” by Katherine Reay

With each novel, Katherine Reay proves her craft and place on my all time favorite authors shelf. Her stories explore so much depth within the relationships of her main character(s), more than just a story of romance, friendship, or family alone. They portray real people with struggles and insecurities and, most importantly, a season of growth. Her main character is ALWAYS greatly changed between chapter 1 and “the end”, and I’ve often found the same is true of myself, the reader, as I’m subtly changed, encouraged, and influenced by Katherine’s story.

Of course, reading this story along with some #bookbesties and chatting on Twitter via #TAERAL was super FUN, too!!!! (Click on the hashtag to see our gushing thoughts, quotes, and general observations as we read.) Thanks to everyone who joined! More Katherine Reay/Austen-fun is coming on the blog soon.

About the Book

the-austen-escapeAfter years of following her best friend’s lead, Mary Davies finds a whimsical trip back to Austen’s Regency England paves the way towards a new future.

Mary Davies lives and works in Austin, Texas, as an industrial engineer. She has an orderly and productive life, a job and colleagues that she enjoys—particularly a certain adorable, intelligent, and hilarious consultant. But something is missing for Mary. When her estranged and emotionally fragile childhood friend Isabel Dwyer offers Mary a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in Bath, Mary reluctantly agrees to come along, in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways. But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes that she lives in Regency England. Mary becomes dependent on a household of strangers to take care of Isabel until she wakes up.

With Mary in charge and surrounded by new friends, Isabel rests and enjoys the leisure of a Regency lady. But life gets even more complicated when Mary makes the discovery that her life and Isabel’s have intersected in more ways that she knew, and she finds herself caught between who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who stands between them. Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this triangle works out their lives and hearts among a company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation.

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Like Katherine Reay’s previous stories, The Austen Escape is full of literary references and general Jane Austen fun (like traveling to Bath and dressing in period-appropriate clothes!). It is not a retelling but candidly acknowledges the similarities between the characters and Austen’s own, like Mary’s friend Isabel sharing qualities with Isabella of Northanger Abbey, comparing Mary to Catherine of the same, and nods to all of Austen’s other works, too. Because of all the references, I think The Austen Escape would be best enjoyed by someone familiar with Austen’s works or main characters (if only through movie adaptation form).

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I could talk about so many elements of this story and why I connected with it, but I will simply state that it is a story of the intricacies of life: how friendship, work, dreams, relationship, family, and even hobbies are interconnected and form the identity of a person. These little things make up the big picture and determine how a person responds when faced with challenges. For Mary, she experiences a season of growth because of challenges to her comfort zone and what she believes to be true about the people around her. A few eye-opening events (and timely encouraging relationships — I’m talking about Nathan and his swoony Austen nerdiness here) spur her to recognize the beauty and opportunity right in front of her.

Jane Austen wrote about people and their need to connect on some level – from friendship to family camaraderie to romantic relationships. Katherine Reay captures the same drive in her characters, using the same timeless lens of connection, to show a heart-level story of individuality and friendship.

More little things I loved about The Austen Escape:

  • Nathan <3, a fitting hero
  • The juxtaposition of modern and old elements: Mary’s work vs the frill and formality of Austen’ s world
  • How neither Jane Austen, HER characters, nor Mary quite “fit in” with the expectations of their environments
  • Red velvet cupcakes, sticky toffee pudding, bubble gum
  • Nicknames and what they reveal
  • Absolutely ENDEARING secondary characters like Gertrude, Moira, Grant, and Clara
  • Little wire animals and skittle contraptions
  • All the love for books and music
  • All the Jane Austen talk — especially when Persuasion is hinted

Thank you to the author and publisher, Thomas Nelson, for the complimentary review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.