First Line Fridays # 23: In The Shadow of Croft Towers

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!

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Happy weekend! Book mail is a fun thing. Especially when you are expecting a few different books and it’s a little bit of a surprise each time one arrives (because you don’t know which it is!). It’s the little things in life that make me happy.

I received this pretty novel in the mail this week! In the Shadow of Croft Towers (by Abigail Wilson) is a Regency story that sounds wholly intriguing! I’m excited to read it soon, especially after glimpsing the first few lines. It releases onto shelves on 1/15.

First Line:

1813

The English Countryside

I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had never learned the truth.

Your turn! Find the book closest to you and share your first line in the comments! Then, head over to Hoarding Books for the linky and visit other FLF posts!

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Mini Review: “A Heart Revealed” by Josi S. Kilpack

A Heart Revealed is the very first novel of Josi S. Kilpack’s that I have read, but it won’t be my last! I’m thankful that Rachel McMillan reccomended this novel to me as a historical story with a strong voice — one that I would like. (This makes another on my “read” list that Rachel got just right.)

About the book:
Amber Marie Sterlington, the Rage of the Season in Regency-era London, has her pick of men, and she knows what she wants most in a husband: a title and a fortune. Why would she ever marry for something as fickle as love? And why would she ever look twice at Thomas Richards, a third son of a country lord?

But when Amber’s social standing is threatened, the character of her future husband becomes far more important than his position. After a public humiliation, she finds herself exiled to Yorkshire. Alone except for her maid, Amber is faced with a future she never expected in a circumstance far below what she has known all her life. Humbled and lonely, Amber begins to wonder if isolation is for the best. Who could ever love her now?

My thoughts:

I love this book! With a wonderfully unique premise, Kilpack presents a heroine whose growth and change through the story is drastic but still believable. Even when Amber began as not-so-likable, I had empathy for her situation (and even her ignorance), especially as she appears through the hero’s eyes. The romance’s timeline is not what is considered “conventional” for the genre, either, but that is one reason I am impressed with this story even more. The theme of love is carried to a greater degree than just a romance between the hero and heroine and on to that of the acceptance, worth, and the resulting kindness of a person when they are truly loved and known for their character.

Favorite Quotes from “Persuasion” by Jane Austen

As you may have read, I recently participated in a read-along of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Amber over at Seasons Humility put together some wonderful posts full of quotes, discussion questions, and great observations. (you can check them out here) Oh, and we had some fun discussions on Twitter with the hashtag #InspiredbyAusten. And watched the 1995 movie adaptation. July was a month of Jane Austen for me!

This book is FULL of wonderful quotes. Jane Austen had such wit and skill with prose! I wanted to share a few of my favorite quotes with you here. If you are unfamiliar with the story, may I suggest you read it? Or at least watch one of the movie adaptations? The 1995 version is very true to the book, while the 2007 version has a dreamier Captain Wentworth (it’s just the truth!). (Kara has compared some characters from each one in this fun post!)

Favorite Quotes from Persuasion by Jane Austen

“It sometimes happens that a woman is handsomer at twenty-nine than she was ten years before…” from chapter 1

“A lady without a family was the very best preserver of furniture in the world.” from chapter 3 (oh, Sir Walter is SO dramatic!)

“Anne hoped she had outlived the age of blushing; but the age of emotion she certainly had not.” from chapter 6

“…there could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, on feelings so in unison, no countenances so beloved. Now they were as strangers; nay, worse than strangers, for they could never become acquainted. It was a perpetual estrangement.” from chapter 8

“I knew that we should either go to the bottom together, or that she would be the making of me. – Captain Wentworth, from chapter 8, speaking of his ship. (I think this such a neat parallel to he and Anne. While their relationship failed, his naval achievements were a success.)

“One man’s ways may be as good as another’s, but we all like our own best.” – Admiral Croft, from chapter 13

“She felt that she could so much more depend upon the sincerity of those who sometimes looked or said a careless or hasty thing, than of those whose presence of mind never varied, whose tongue never slipped.” from chapter 17

“A man does not recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman! He ought not, — he does not.” -Captain Wentworth, from chapter 20

“…and Anne, –but it would be an insult to the nature of Anne’s felicity to draw any comparisons between it and her sister’s; the origin of one all selfish vanity, of the other all generous attachment.” from chapter 20

“At nineteen, you know, one does not think very seriously.” -Mrs. Smith, from chapter 21

And then we have Captain Wentworth’s letter ♥ in chapter 23! The whole thing is quotable, but here is my favorite part: “I am half agony, half hope.” 

“Such a letter was not soon to be recovered from.” from chapter 23

“…and soon words enough had passed between them to decide their direction towards the comparatively quiet and retired gravel walk, where the power of conversation would make the present hour a blessing indeed, and prepare it for all the immortality which the happiest recollections of their own future lives could bestow.” from chapter 23

“There they returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their reunion than when it had been first projected; more tender, more tried, more fixed in a knowledge of each other’s character, truth, and attachment; more equal to act, more justified in acting.” from chapter 23

“At last Anne was at home again, and happier than any one in that house could have conceived.” from chapter 23

What about you? Are you a fan of Jane Austen? Do you have more favorite quotes from Persuasion? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Review: A Lady at Willowgrove Hall by Sarah E. Ladd

Regency Era stories are becoming some of my favorites! After two great books in Sarah E. Ladd’s “Whispers on the Moors” series, I was excited to read the conclusion, A Lady at Willowgrove Hall. Each of these stories has been captivating and unique, each being a complete story that stands alone but fits beautifully in this series. (Read my reviews of The Heiress of Winterwood and The Headmistress of Rosemere)

A Lady at Willowgrove HallSummary from Goodreads: Willowgrove Hall is full of secrets, but soon everything hidden is brought to light.

Cecily Faire has a secret—and she intends to keep it. But when she arrives at Willowgrove Hall to serve as a lady’s companion, she comes face-to-face with the only person who knows the truth about her past.

As the steward of Willowgrove Hall, Nathaniel Stanton is dedicated to serving those around him. Nothing escapes his notice—including the beautiful new lady’s companion. He is certain the lovely Miss Faire is hiding something, and he determines to uncover it. But Nathaniel has a secret of his own: he is the illegitimate son of Willowgrove’s former master. Falling in love was not part of his plans . . . until he meets Cecily Faire.

When Willowgrove’s mistress dies, everything changes. Fear of exposure forces Cecily to leave under the cover of darkness, embarking on a journey to finally find her long-lost sister. When the will is read, Nathaniel’s inheritance makes him question his future plans. Cecily and Nathaniel are forced to make decisions that will change the course of their lives. Is their love strong enough to survive?

My thoughts: Sarah has the unique talent of writing the Regency era exceptionally well. She beautifully paints the characters, settings, and dress in a vivid manner. Her stories are comparable to the well-known classics of that era (Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte), but with a modern language consideration which makes them flow smoothly for the 21st century reader.

The secrets that both Cecily and Nathaniel keep hidden are revealed to the reader early on, so the ensuing story builds tension to the moment they could be revealed. Watching the character of Cecily grow and change through this story was delightful. After a dramatic event early in her life, she spent many years under the shelter of a girls’ school. Through her eyes, we see her adjust to the new and formal life of a lady’s companion, open up to new friends and confidants of her own, and reluctantly fall in love. Cecily’s steadfast faith in God through all the ups and downs of her journey is a credit to her character.

With a themes of forgiveness and love, I thought that this was a beautiful conclusion to Sarah’s series. I would recommend this to any fans of historical romance or the Regency era.

Thank you to BookLook Bloggers.com for the complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Review: “A Heart’s Rebellion” by Ruth Axtell

A Heart’s Rebellion (Revell), the second in the “London Encounters” series by Ruth Axtell, is a Regency-era romance set in the city of London. It follows the story of Jessamine Barry as she spends her first season in London and struggles to overcome the heartbreak of her youth.

Jessamine BarA Heart's Rebellionry, a vicar’s daughter from a small village in the country, is staying with her benevolent godmother Lady Beasinger for the season. Her best friend, Megan Phillips, has accompanied her. Still heartbroken and saddened over the rejection of Rees Phillips – Megan’s older brother – she tries to find solace in her new surroundings. Everywhere she turns, however, she is reminded of his neutral feelings and her unrequited love. While out with their older godmother, who is less in touch with society now than in her prime, Jessamine and Megan struggle to make the acquaintance of any eligible young men. It seems tha
t dinner parties and card games with Lady Beasinger’s associates are not the best place to make the proper social connections – until the girls meet Lancelot Marfleet.

Lancelot Marfleet, a vicar (preacher), has recently returned from a missionary voyage to India. A quiet and humble man, he is not concerned with socially expected obligations. However, as a Baronet’s youngest son, his parents are pushing him to marry and produce an heir, due to his brother’s current lack of children. After the two young ladies amuse and spark his interest, they soon become invited to more social gatherings.

When news of Rees returning to town with his new French wife reaches Jess, it makes her aloneness all the more real. With her newfound social status, Jess turns to more frivolous pursuits, determining to move past her small-village image. She proceeds to alter her dress to fit the fashion of the times, which happens to be immodest for a young lady of her character. As a result, her flirtatious manner attracts the attention of several “gentlemen” of questionable character.

The social scene of London consists of an endless array of dinner parties and balls – anyone who’s anyone is to be invited. Lancelot’s character continually finds himself at odds with Jess over matters of propriety. This serves to make her weary of him. She won’t admit that she’s fond of his interest in botany or his quiet manner because they remind her of her father. And that’s the last kind of man she’d be interested in. Jess is faced with circumstances and decisions which cause her to question her actions and the person she’s become.

Axtell includes beautiful detail of the era in London, from the dinner parties, dances, ball gowns, fashionable buggy rides in parks, and visits to gardens. Botany is an uncommon and refreshing element in this novel, complete with a visit to the famed royal Kew Gardens.

Axtell includes snippets about current practices of the Anglican Church of England – and then-radical evangelical tendencies of the Baptists and Methodists. One example is the idea of sending evangelists and missionaries to foreign lands. This added an interesting historical perspective to the growth of Christianity during that time.

At the opening of the story, Jess is already brokenhearted and determined to guard her heart from anyone else. As the story unfolds, the reader glimpses small bits of compatibility between Jess and her eventual hero. Her character faces challenges and must learn to rely on others to help her overcome them. Ultimately, the characters experience that real love forgives as Christ forgave, and trusting your heart and future to God is the best thing to do.

Learn more about Ruth Axtell at her website here.

Read this review on Family Fiction here.

Note: thanks to Revell for a complimentary advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Mini Review: “Moonlight Masquerade” by Ruth Axtell (Empty Shelf #8)

Moonlight Masquerade (Revell Publishers) by Ruth Axtell is a Regency-Era Romance, the first in her “London Encounters” series.

"Moonlight Masquerade" by Ruth Axtell (Empty Shelf #8)

Summary from Ruth Axtell’s website: 

Lady Celine Wexham seems the model British subject. French by birth but enjoying life in 1813 as a widowed English countess, she is in the unique position of being able to help those in need–or to spy for the notorious Napoleon Bonaparte. When Rees Phillips of the British Foreign Office is sent to pose as the countess’s butler and discover where her true loyalties lie, he is confident he will uncover the truth. But the longer he is in her fashionable townhouse in London’s West End, the more his staunch loyalty to the Crown begins to waver as he falls under Lady Wexham’s spell. Will he find the proof he needs? And if she is a spy after all, will he do the right thing?

My thoughts:

As Rees attempts to ascertain kind Lady Wexham’s loyalties and find proof of her spying activities, he befriends her. As her true loyalties are uncovered, Rees begins to doubt his own political positions. His efforts to protect Lady Wexham from all sides of the political conflict are admirable and endearing. A sweet and unconventional friendship forms between Lady and butler, though both characters are not all they appear to be. Each character encounters obstacles which result in reliance and trust in God. Overall, I thought Moonlight Masquerade was an entertaining and delightful romance, woven with mystery, suspense, and elements of faith.

You can find out more about author Ruth Axtell at her website. 

Book Review: “The Headmistress of Rosemere” by Sarah Ladd

If you adore the Regency Era in England (think characters Jane Austen and Jane Eyre), you will enjoy the “Whispers on the Moors” series by Sarah E. Ladd. The series started with The Heiress  of Winterwood. I recently finished the second in the series, The Headmistress of Rosemere. set in Darbury, England in 1816.

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Book Summary from Goodreads:

Patience Creighton will finally find the peace she lost years ago–if she can open her heart and forgive the man who loves her.

Bright, sensible Patience knows what is expected of her. At twenty-five, her opportunity for a family of her own has passed, so she finds contentment teaching at her father’s school for girls. When her father dies suddenly and her brother moves away to London, she is determined to keep her father’s dream alive.

Confirmed bachelor William Sterling also knows what is expected of him, but mistake after mistake has left him teetering on ruin’s edge. As master of Eastmore Hall he owns a great deal of land but possesses little money to manage the upkeep. He is desperate to find a new source of income, including the sacrifice of land connected to Rosemere.

When her brother returns with a new wife to take over management of the school, Patience is heartbroken to no longer be responsible for her beloved school and is forced to reassess God’s purpose for her life. After her sister-in-law’s matchmaking brings Patience and William together, they both learn new truths about their character and find a common goal in restoring Eastmore’s legacy

My thoughts:

Patience Creighton, filling the role of headmistress out of necessity, is a responsible spinster and sister, very capable of handling the school on her own. Her mother’s continual depression over her father’s death has not improved with her brother, Rawdon’s, absence. When she meets Eastmore estate owner William Sterling, her monotonous routine abruptly changes. Through a few peculiar and trying occurrences, hope for a different future springs forth and her faith in God begins to reawaken.

Character William Sterling is working hard to clear his debts from his days of gambling. After he meets steadfast Patience Creighton, he is drawn to a dream of a future with a family. Secrets from his past haunt him, however, as he struggles to clear his name. Unknown to him, his trials are slowly showing him the true meaning and value of redemption.

The progression of the characters as they search for resolution and uncover past secrets is realistic and true to an era which limited the roles of both men and women according to their stations. I was pleased to see that elements of faith and hope are prevalent components of the characters’ lives. Also, the setting of this novel is very enjoyable – I always love to explore different eras and countries through books! Sarah Ladd is a talented painter with words as she vividly describes the girls’ school, Eastmore estate, and the English moors.

I loved this novel, and I can’t wait to read the final one in the “Whispers on the Moors” series, A Lady at Willowgrove Hall, releasing later this year.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Thank you to Booksneeze and the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.