Review: “Impossible Saints” by Clarissa Harwood

When authors I love endorse or excessively talk about stories they love, I try to pay attention — even if a story is outside my “normal” reading scope (i.e. new authors, small publishers, different genres). When author Rachel McMillan gushed over Impossible Saints by Clarissa Harwood, a general market historical romance, I knew I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. And, I really liked it!

 

About the BookSet in England in 1907, Impossible Saints is a novel that burns as brightly as the suffrage movement it depicts, with the emotional resonance of Tracy Chevalier and Jennifer Robson. 
Impossible SaintsEscaping the constraints of life as a village schoolmistress, Lilia Brooke bursts into London and into Paul Harris’s orderly life, shattering his belief that women are gentle creatures who need protection. Lilia wants to change women’s lives by advocating for the vote, free unions, and contraception. Paul, an Anglican priest, has a big ambition of his own: to become the youngest dean of St. John’s Cathedral. Lilia doesn’t believe in God, but she’s attracted to Paul’s intellect, ethics, and dazzling smile.

As Lilia finds her calling in the militant Women’s Social and Political Union, Paul is increasingly driven to rise in the church. They can’t deny their attraction, but they know they don’t belong in each other’s worlds. Lilia would rather destroy property and serve time in prison than see her spirit destroyed and imprisoned by marriage to a clergyman, while Paul wants nothing more than to settle down and keep Lilia out of harm’s way. Paul and Lilia must reach their breaking points before they can decide whether their love is worth fighting for.

GoodreadsAmazon

ReviewImpossible Saints is a flowing, layered general fiction title with subtle Christian overtones, exploring themes of conviction, purpose, and challenges to preconceptions or societal norms. Its two characteristics that stand out the most are its depiction of an era both tumultuous and expectation-laden, a relevant parallel with today in some ways; and its endearing characters, with even the secondary characters taking on vibrant tones. Rachel McMillan was right in referencing both Grantchester (ITV) and the film Suffragette(2015) in her review. This book has similarities with both “visual” depictions, but its storyline is distinctly its own. I would say it is like Grantchester without the moral ambiguity or mystery meets Suffragette with all the wit and verbal banter of the classic Hollywood era.

Oh, the romance! What starts as believable camaraderie between reunited childhood friends grows into an authentic friendship with sparks of attraction. Before long, Paul and Lilia must face what their relationship must look like in the face of the women’s movement, church and societal expectations, and personal motives as it morphs into a romantic dynamic. The push-pull of their relationship really represents the importance of broadening perspective — that being inclusive and choosing to care for someone doesn’t mean you must compromise your identity or convictions.

For my blog readers who typically stick to clean inspirational fiction titles, I do want to mention a few things about this novel’s content. It is a *little* more candid and sensual when it comes to the romance verbiage, it depicts tobacco use, and has a few very mild expletives.

Impossible Saints is equally candid, and refreshingly so, when tackling issues such as women’s roles or the contrasts between ritual in the church vs. faith in action. I would have liked Lilia’s growth in receptiveness to Paul’s faith to have been a little more by story’s end, though I think the door is left open to her for deeper faith after “the end”. But maybe that’s my personal convictions shining through in my perception of her character. Overall, I thought it an authentic portrayal of the era and a beautiful story of romance.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the ebook review copy. This is my honest review.

 

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Mansfield Park Read-Along ~ Week 1 Thoughts

The lovely and amazing Amber is hosting a Mansfield Park (by Jane Austen) Read-Along in the month of January!!!! Each week, we are discussing 12 chapters. We’re also tweeting as we go with the hashtag #MansfieldReadAlong!

No surprise, but I’m a *little* behind already (I blame it on life craziness and other really, really good books I’m currently reading). Anyway, this is my post all about these chapters following the format Amber has set. This is my first time reading Mansfield Park, so the read-along experience is adding to my excitement and absorption of the story!

Mansfield Park Read-along

Please go visit her discussion post to see other readers’ thoughts and post links, too!

Mansfield Park Volume I: Chapters 1-12

Discussion Format: your favorite quotes, general impressions, and three questions to answer for each week’s reading

Favorite Quotes

“It is unknown how much was consumed in our kitchen by odd comers and goers.” -chapter 3, the worrisome Mrs. Norris

“When he returned, to understand how Fanny was situated, and perceived its ill effects, there seemed with him but one thing to be done’ and that ‘Fanny must have a horse’ was the resolute declaration…” -Edmund, chapter 4 (this reminds me of a tiny part of North and South where Mr. Thornton has the wallpaper changed in consideration of Margaret ❤ )

“Her own thoughts and reflections were habitually her best companions; and, in observing the appearance of the country, the bearings of the roads, the difference of soil, the state of the harvest, the cottages, the cattle, the children, she found entertainment that could only have been heightened by having Edmund to speak to of what she felt.” -Fanny, chapter 8 (This is a telling passage, showing Fanny’s contentment in keeping things to herself and revealing her high esteem of Edmund’s companionship and conversation.)

General Impressions

IMG_20180103_205419_127.jpgBecause of my slight familiarity with the story (I’ve seen the 1999 BBC film only), I know a little of what to expect with how the main characters behave and are resolved. With that said, it’s a little surprising to me that so much focus is on everyone else at Mansfield Park while Fanny Price, the main character, seems pushed to the side. Clearly, the reader is to be most sympathetic with her and see how their treatment is influencing her life greatly. Maybe this minimum focus is intentional to make us feel her emotions, when expressed, more keenly?

The Bertrams are puzzling. Like Fanny, I care the most for Edmund, though he does concern me at times with his nearsightedness. The Miss Bertrams are just plain spoiled! And, the other men of the family, the Thomases (elder and son), haven’t been on the page quite long enough for me to judge them.

Mrs. Norris, the Rushworths, and the Crawfords are all colorful characters, if often self-centered, that are adding much humor and interest to the story so far. I’m anxious to see how entangled it all becomes — and how Fanny overcomes her situation.

3 Questions

1. Would you consider the Bertram family taking in Fanny to be a kindness in the long run? If so, why? If not, could it have been a kindness if they approached things differently?

Yes, in the long run, I think it will be. She is being raised to an advantage of education and exposure to a different class of people which was important at the time. Though I think she is treated as unwanted and as a nuisance at times, I believe her experiences are shaping her character. Thank goodness she has a kind friend in Edmund! That is the light in her situation.

2. If you were a governess teaching the Bertram children and Fanny, what lesson would you specifically choose for each of them (as kids or adults)? Feel free to have fun with this!

I would teach the Miss Bertrams about kindness and courtesy, Thomas Bertram about respect and the blessing of his family, Edmund Bertram about the danger of flirtatious women (ahem, Mary Crawford), and Fanny Price about bravery and the importance of her individuality (I think she puts too much stock into “standards” her relatives dictate).

3. Imagine you had joined the group on their visit to Sotherton. Which part of the tour would you most have enjoyed? Would we find you wandering the halls or meandering through the wilderness?

You would find me out in the wilderness, perhaps even climbing over the gate (but not arm in arm with Mr. Crawford).

 

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my musings on Mansfield Park?

Cover Reveal! “Amongst the Roses” by Meghan M. Gorecki

Today is a good day because I get to share the cover of author Meghan M. Gorecki’s upcoming historical novel here on the blog! This promises to be the start of a fabulous series.

Amongst the Roses

Book 1 in “The Keystone Legacy” Series by Meghan M. Gorecki

Releases April 12, 2018

Amongst The Roses

The War Between the States shakes Margaret Bryant out of her comfortable upper-class life when her father enlists in the Army of the Potomac. Despite being safely ensconced above the Mason-Dixon Line in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, Margaret finds her strength tested by opposition from familiar faces and Confederate threats. Will she let a young man from a lesser station into her heart even as war rages ever nearer to the home front?

Restless Connor Doyle sees the war as a way to escape from his family’s farm and his identity as a poor Irishman’s son. His brother, Adam, torn between duty to country and his family, enlists alongside Connor. Adam dares to hope in a future with Margaret when he begins a courtship correspondence from the war front. The two brothers make a vow to protect one another at all costs, but when faced with death and destruction from all sides—will they be able to uphold it?

The three bloodiest days in America’s history bring these three together at Gettysburg and tragedy’s cruelty threatens to tear two hearts apart—and bring two unlikely allies together.

MARK IT TO READ ON GOODREADS


About the Author

FB_IMG_1512512640450.jpgMeghan M. Gorecki is an author of inspirational fiction about what God can make beautiful from the ashes of history, and hearts. A lover and avid studier of people, times gone by, and fiction, she has been writing since childhood and now houses her books under Northern Belle Publishing. Coffee and red lipstick color her days as a redhead from a box, alongside her treasured tribe of family and friends in her beloved hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Connect with her on social media and at her blog/website at: Northern Belle Publishing

Amazon // Facebook // Goodreads // Instagram // Twitter

 

Too impatient to wait till April?Wrapped in Red promo

Snag Wrapped in Red today for just 99 Cents!

Amazon // Goodreads

See MY REVIEW of Wrapped in Red here!

Northern Belle Publishing

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books on my Winter TBR

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is all about Winter TBRs. This means I have to set some guidelines for myself. Because I have a continent-sized TBR and a pretty good stack for immediate reading, I’m mostly including books I’m anticipating for early 2018 and a few others I hope to read over the winter break. It contains mostly favorite authors and a few highly anticipated titles by new-to-me authors. So, you won’t find the requisite Christmas novellas here! But, people, I will be reading all things Merry in December, too.

One more note: as I compile this list, I see that my TBR has a TON of historical novels… and that makes my nerdy reader heart happy. Looking at 2017, I read more contemporary than historical, so this trend will be a pleasant switch.

Top 10 Books on my Winter TBR

Historical:

The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz

A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White

A Refuge Assured by Jocelyn Green

The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin

Impossible Saints by Clarissa Harwood

Not by Sight by Kate Breslin

Contemporary:

Troubled Waters by Susan May Warren

The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano

Dual/Multiple Timelines:

The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron

The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright

Isn’t this a gorgeous collection of covers?! Which one is your favorite?

What does your winter TBR look like? Did you participate in this week’s TTT? Have you read any of these authors before? 

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.

‘Inspired by Classics’ Guest Post by Pepper Basham + Review & Giveaway: “Charming the Troublemaker”

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Today I have a real TREAT for you guys! Author Pepper Basham has shared a guest post: “Inspired by Classics” all about how classic literature and story fit in with modern writing. I’m also sharing my review of her new release, Charming the Troublemaker, book 2 in her “Mitchell’s Crossroads” Appalachian rom-com series. And, there’s a #GIVEAWAY of an ebook copy of Charming the Troublemaker! So, read on for my little review and her AMAZING thoughts, then enter the giveaway at the end!

About the Book

Charming the TroublemakerWhen Dr. Alex Murdock is demoted to a university in rural Virginia, the last thing he expects to find is a future. But country charm never looked as good as it did on Rainey Mitchell. 

Rainey Mitchell does not need a high-class flirt in her wounded world, but trouble and temptation wafts off the new professor as strong as his sandalwood-scented cologne.

When circumstances thrust them together to save her tutoring clinic, can the troublemaker find the hero inside and encourage the reticent Rainey to open her heart again?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

You all might recall my excitement for this book in the cover reveal and in a Behind the Scenes Interview with Pepper + Book Recommendations.

Since the very first book of this series, A Twist of Faith, I have been interested in Rainey’s story. Learning hers would be a “loose” retelling of North and South (Elizabeth Gaskell) AND that Rainey would be paired with Alex Murdock, an interesting if frustrating person in book 1, I was ecstatic!!! I mean, woohoo because I ❤ the book & miniseries, and anything Pepper writes is a #mustread, magical romance.

While the humor is laugh-out-loud and the family drama endearing, a most intriguing new-to-Pepper’s-books element is present in Charming the Troublemaker: SUSPENSE! A few surprises and moments of suspense add a good measure of intensity to this Appalachian rom-com full of love and heart.

The hero of this story has been dubbed #AdorkableAlex — and for good reason! His hilarity and flirty manner guards a humble heart that needs a little nudging to find an inner hero, and the people of Ransom, ESPECIALLY the Mitchells, are the ones to help him find that belonging. When he is determined to help or get involved in something, his whole heart jumps in, and it is just so endearing. And have I mentioned he likes Hallmark movies?! #swoon

Rainey Mitchell is the kind of friend you want to have… fiercely protective and discerning, yet adorably clueless about her own value. Her independence is a contrast with some of the baggage and insecurities she carries, and her journey toward a new confidence is wonderfully spurred on by her friendship with Alex. Her little girl, Sarah, is cute from start to finish! And when Sarah and Alex are together on the page, it’s just precious.

The swoony romance is “I NEED A FREEZER” level on multiple occasions! (Pepper has mad kissing book skills). Even through that, however, Alex is EVER the gentleman. And Rainey has a few surprises up her sleeve with her sassyness! Let’s just say it’s fun to see Rainey catch Alex off guard.

More than the romance and the dynamic of these two lead characters, a strong theme of security, honesty, and life direction found ONLY IN JESUS centers this story as it winds its way toward a happy-ending. The emotional moments connected to this faith thread were the most joyous parts of the story. Mama Mitchell was often a tool of wisdom and grace for this purpose, and I just wanted to hug her. And eat her cookin’.

There are so many little things to love about Charming the Troublemaker. Like the walkie talkies. And the kisses. And names of a sleek sports car and practical truck! (Marilyn and Indiana, respectively) 🙂 And all the little North and South parallels you “have to look hard” for that added to the story in just the right ways. And the Mitchell clan with all their hometown love. This is one family I will happily revisit in these pages and, hopefully, in stories to come for a long while.

Thank you to the author and publisher, Bling! Romance (LPC), for the complimentary review copy. This is my honest review.


From Pepper: Inspired by Classics

It is said that there are no NEW stories for authors to write, only the influence our imaginations lend to the stories that have already been created.

Pepper 3And for the most part, this is true. There are basic story tropes that get repeated over and over again, but each author adds their interpretation, their characters, their heart into explaining that trope through their own voices.

I was just talking to my agent, Julie Gwinn, last week about how my brain immediately goes to reinventing stories or creating sequels. I can’t help it. In college I wrote a sequel to Frankenstein! Not long after that, I was determined to write a sequel to the Toby McGuire Spiderman movie. I REALLY wanted to write a sequel to Jane Eyre at another point in time and have found various other books I wanted to reinvent in a different time period or put my spin on them.

As L.M. Montgomery uses (an old proverb) through her classic, Anne of Green Gables, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” So, I think that’s why we see these wonderful (and sometimes not so wonderful) remakes of the classics we all love so much.

Pepper 1Their stories, characters, and/or dialogue is so timeless we, as storytellers, want to capture that spark in some way and make it our own. Of course, we’ll never write exactly like them, but the stories they tell have the unique ability to touch us in special ways – and who wouldn’t want to recreate that feeling?

In my Mitchell’s Crossroads series, I’ve taken some of the things I’ve loved from classics and tries to put a very ‘loose’ and modern spin on them. A Twist of Faith is a loose retelling of Pygmalion (My Fair Lady) and Charming the Troublemaker has aspects of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South in it. Can you find them? It’s clearer in A Twist of Faith than Charming the Troublemaker, but you can find them, and ‘you have to look hard’ (fangirl reference). Courtney: squeee! I ❤ N&S

For me, elements of classics I want to recreate stem in part from the way these stories make me feel when I read them, but also in the essentials that make them memorable.

I want to write engaging characters like Henry Higgins, Eliza Doolittle, John Thornton, and Margaret Hale.

I want to inspire smile from witty dialogue and maybe even sneak in a mystery here or there.

I want to portray a variety of romances – not just hate-to-love or opposites attract, but delve into the fun (almost magical) assortment of possibilities. They’ve ALL been written in some form before, and watching out the masters do it provides excellent inspiration.

From fairytales to adventures to romances to mysteries, the possibilities are limitless.

So, what classics would you enjoy seeing rewritten/modernized?

What do you think makes a classic…a classic???

Giveaway

Enter the rafflecopter giveaway.

Giveaway is for one (1) ebook copy of Charming the Troublemaker provided by Pepper Basham. Giveaway ends 11/18/2017 11:59pm CT. Void where prohibited.

 

Review + Giveaway & Blog Tour: Returning Home by Toni Shiloh

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returning-home_1Series: Freedom Lake
Genre:  Adult, Christian, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Indie
Publication date: September 26, 2017

Jo Ellen Baker is shocked to find out that the boy who teased her mercilessly throughout high school, has returned to their hometown of Freedom Lake, and he’s missing a leg. When his mother asks her to renovate their carriage house to give him a place to gain his independence back, she wants to say no. But one look at him brings a rush of forgotten feelings.

Evan Carter can’t believe he has to return home and live with his parents. Every hope and dream he ever had dissipated in a car crash that cost him his leg. Stuck in a wheelchair, he’s forced to reexamine his relationship with God and the local carpenter, Jo Ellen Baker.

Will renovating his home open the door for a mended relationship, or are some wounds too deep to heal from?  ​

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Toni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. Once she understood the powerful saving grace thanks to the love of Christ, she was moved to honor her Savior. She writes to bring Him glory and to learn more about His goodness.

She spends her days hanging out with her husband and their two boys. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and president of the Virginia Chapter.

You can find her on her website at http://tonishiloh.wordpress.com.

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Blog Contributor:
Putting on the New | Heartwings  Blog | Diversity Between the Pages | ACFW Virginia

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Returning Home is a poignant story of healing, faith, and friendship. More than just a sweet and naturally-progressing romance relationship, the intertwining relationships of the characters, including Jo, Evan, and their close friend group, are a testament to the ways you can choose to react to life changes and challenges.

There is a prominent thread of faith I loved in this story. It’s fleshed out in both Evan and Jo as they deal with forgiveness and relying on God’s never-changing strength in completely different ways. And, this faith shines from Evan and Jo as they each grow and have opportunity to come alongside each other in support and understanding (this also wonderfully spills over in their friend group in an encouraging way). My favorite was Nana’s knowing advice and kind prodding — I would just love to have a real-life conversation with her!

With both complexity and camaraderie, this story of Jo and Evan is deeper than a romance or a story of second chances. It’s all about how prayer can change your heart, how love can mean hard lessons of forgiveness, and how faith can be the means of strength and peace no matter your circumstances.

Thank you to SLB Tours and the author for the complimentary ebook copy. This review is my honest opinion.

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