Review: “Unblemished” by Sara Ella

I would consider myself an occasional YA (or young adult) reader, enjoying the lighter side this genre can present or a rare “popular” series (in the dystopian sub-genre). I’m also a fan of fairytale-esque stories, whether they be retellings or stories with underlying themes similar to happily-ever-after adventures. When I read raving reviews for Booktuber and author Sara Ella’s debut, Unblemished, and heard it was a combination of a fantasy-fairytale adventure with a modern twist, I was eager to experience this story world for myself. Especially when a review opportunity presented itself. What I discovered surpassed my expectations, sweeping me away in Eliyana’s journey of discovery and her newfound world of mystery.

About the Book

Eliyana has always recoiled from her own reflection in the mirror. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world existed where her blemish could become her strength?

Unblemished.jpgEliyana is used to the shadows. With a hideous birthmark covering half her face, she just hopes to graduate high school unscathed. That is, until Joshua hops a fence and changes her perspective. No one, aside from her mother, has ever treated her as normal. Maybe even beautiful. Because of Joshua, Eliyana finally begins to believe she could be loved.

But one night her mother doesn’t come home, and that’s when everything gets weird.

Now Joshua is her new, and rather reluctant, legal Guardian. Add a hooded stalker and a Central Park battle to the mix and you’ve gone from weird to otherworldly.

Eliyana soon finds herself in a world much larger and more complicated than she’s ever known. A world enslaved by a powerful and vile man. And Eliyana holds the answer to defeating him. How can an ordinary girl, a blemished girl, become a savior when she can’t even save herself?


My first thought when I finished this book was WOW. I’m still stunned by the genius of this story and all its complexity. One of the many things that stood out to me was the way the setting was established throughout. At first, it is an authentic and real feeling New York City. As the story picks up pace, the “reflection world” is a place of clever design, utilizing urban elements of NYC and an enchanted-forest-world, if you will, to create a vast backdrop for all the scenes.


I wish you all could see the hard copy of this book! It has a beautiful, pearl-like paper finish that just makes the purple “pop”.

Another thing I really loved was the symbolism of sacrifice and a good vs evil, dark vs light element. As the secrets of the power figures in the reflection world are revealed –and then, PLOT TWIST! — revealed a little more, a battle for every heart’s allegiance is clearly at the center. Though completely a fantasy story, it mirrors a spiritual battle and a grand design that allows for free will and the sacrifice of a savior figure. I noticed and appreciated subtle threads of Biblical truths (though not expressly said) which would make this story a great conversation starter and topic of God’s divine plan of redemption.

This story employs a bit of a love triangle, not usually my favorite device. BUT, it works very well because it builds more complexity into the story. Forces outside of El and the two leading love interest figures influence and manipulate the situation, too. The story wouldn’t be as cleverly complicated without the triangle because it raises deep questions of purpose and destiny. And, it left me with plenty of lingering questions and theories concerning the next book in the series! (If you’ve read the book, I’m #TeamKy. Let me know your choice in the comments!)

Unblemished is a story of beauty and brave actions, emphasizing that life is not about the surface, but the heart. Add to this message a plethora of pop culture and music references, a bit of sarcasm on Eliyana’s part, two opposite and fascinating possible love interests, controlling figures and mystery surrounding this new world, plus a few surprises and major plot twists, and you have a great start to promising series.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson Fiction Guild for the complimentary review copy. This review is my honest opinion.

To learn more about author Sara Ella, visit her WEBSITE.

What is your favorite YA novel? Or favorite fantasy? I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations! (And, if you’ve read this book, I’m ready to discuss!)

Review: “How to Catch a Prince” by Rachel Hauck

“It’s not easy to catch a prince, even harder to keep one.”- Corina Del Rey in How to Catch a Prince

Those words, uttered by the main character in Rachel Hauck’s latest novel in the “Royal Weddings” series, perfectly set up the story of wealthy socialite Corina Del Rey and Prince Stephen of Brighton kingdom. This book is a wonderful modern fairy tale whose message is this: love is a choice, and requires selfless sacrifice.


How to Catch a Prince by Rachel Hauck Click to visit Rachel’s website!

I’m so happy to be a part of Rachel Hauck’s team for reviewing this recent release! Without further ado, here’s a summary of the book and my thoughts.

Book Summary: Prince Stephen came to America to escape responsibility. But what he found complicates his life more than ever.

Corina Del Rey is happy with her life in Melbourne, Florida. She spends her days engrossed in her career as a journalist and has her sights set on climbing the corporate ladder if for no other reason, to distract herself from her dissolving family. But when she is confronted with the past she fought so hard to put behind her, she struggles to make sense of her future.

Prince Stephen of Brighton Kingdom has moved on since the tragic death of his buddies in Afghanistan. A star professional rugby player, he has no intention of looking over his shoulder at what could’ve been.

But when a notice arrives in the mail requiring his and his wife’s appearance before the courts to dissolve their marriage, he must deal with the questions rumbling around in his heart. He thought his marriage had been annulled long ago, but his memories of Corina Del Rey remain close. Does he still love her? Can he even find her? Above all, can he tell her the truth about that fateful night in Afghanistan seven years ago? If he does, he might really lose her forever.

This book has a rare premise – the hero and heroine are already married at the start of the story. The challenge to the characters comes when this is unexpectedly discovered (that they are still secretly married), and they are faced with a possible annulment and external circumstances that reunite them publicly.

Corina’s family has not been the same since her twin brother was killed during war time. Still searching for the truth of what happened, she corners Stephen to help her learn the truth. What she doesn’t know, however, is that Stephen knows more than he’s saying about the events that killed her brother and caused Stephen to run from their marriage. Stephen is still running from the past and has stopped trusting God.

Both of these characters undergo transformations as a result of their experiences and the call of God through this story. Rachel Hauck has used beautiful and endearing secondary characters to speak wisdom to the characters and show them what life lived for God looks like (sometimes it’s intimidating, requiring the faith to step out in love, or requiring a selfless attitude).

The setting of this story in a fictitious Brighton Kingdom is picturesque, modern, and realistic at the same time. It is most definitely a modern fairy tale, with a few mysterious – maybe “magical”? – characters. These characters instead have a hinted Divine origin and purpose, with an unearthly knowledge of the past and Corina and Stephen’s current circumstances. I thought they were a clever way to encourage Corina.

At the heart of this story is a wonderful message of a relationship centered on Christ. With His sacrifice, He makes us worthy of love, gives us value beyond our abilities. In so many ways, Rachel weaves Corina’s and Stephen’s past together to teach them lessons of sacrifice, worth, and forgiveness.

One more thing I loved about these characters is that they realized they were royal or famous by the world’s standards, but they were still called to serve and love others through their positions.

I’m so glad I was able to read this last book in the series! It stands alone, though, as a complete story. (Confession: I’ve not read the other two in the series yet, but I can’t wait to!) A big thank-you to Rachel for inviting me to be on her team! I’ll leave you with one more quote from the book:

“Your worth is not determined by who you are or what you do, even what you don’t do. It’s determined by the work of your Savior.” – Archbishop Caldwell in How to Catch a Prince

Thank you to Rachel Hauck and to Zondervan for the ebook copy in exchange for my honest review.