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.

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Series Feature: Price of Privilege by Jessica Dotta + My Dream Cast!

Series Feature: Price of Privilege by Jessica Dotta + My Dream Cast!

Welcome to my post alllll about a favorite series! The “Price of Privilege” series by Jessica Dotta, that is. This gushing post is long overdue— I’m blaming it on the way this series blows me away each time I consider putting into words my thoughts. I should warn you there might be MILD SPOILERS AHEAD with the cast descriptions and book synopses.

I reviewed book 1, Born of Persuasion, a while ago. Then I reread the whole series a year ago with blogger friends and we fangirled on Twitter (with hashtag #POPral). Now, I want to share a few thoughts on each book and my dream cast for the series.

Oh, and I have compiled this fun Pinterest board with my dream cast, quotes, and photos that match the feel of the series :).

MY THOUGHTS ON EACH BOOK

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Born of Persuasion – like I said in my earlier review, it’s a page-turner with the feel of a slightly gothic setting with deep, complex characters. The story is told from a first person narrative in the future, so it’s like Julia is telling her life story with additional insight. A brilliant setup for the rest of the series, we’re plunged into Julia’s fascinating world with questions of who to trust and very few answers. Pay close attention to every detail in this book — upon rereading I noticed so much foreshadowing for books two and three.

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Mark of Distinction – this book takes us deeper into the secrets Julia’s family has kept and the hidden agenda of a certain person trying to dictate her life. It brings to light a real-life good vs evil battle that tugs Julia in multiple directions at once. Through an unexpected friendship (and even mentor-like relationship) with Isaac Dalry <3, Julia finds her footing and a deeper spiritual purpose driving her toward something…. the cliffhanger-like surprise at the end of this book threw me for a loop and had me rooting for Julia!

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Price of Privilege – like the title suggests, this book truly shows the cost of deception and the contrasting beauty of sacrifice. The Christ-like picture painted through one character’s unalterable choice blew me away. Talk about a twist! (and ugly cries!) I appreciated how both Isaac and Edward are portrayed in this conclusion, both loving Julia through anything. And both making selfless decisions to help her in any way they can out of love. For any fans of gothic mysteries or the Victorian era, this series is perfection.

DREAM CAST

I’ve said before that this book series NEEDS to be adapted to a miniseries! I’ve had some of these actors/actresses in my head since first reading the series. I’ll list the book’s descriptions if you need convincing!

Casting Julia Elliston

Julia Elliston – 17 years old, ebony hair

I think Felicity has a youthful look that would convey Julia’s growth and journey to maturity very well.

Casting Edward Auburn

Edward Auburn – hazel eyes and curly, “honey” hair.

Tom Hiddleston could pull off the boyish charm of Edward, along with the more mature role he portrays while offering wisdom to Julia.

Casting Chance Macy

Chance Macy – a “captivating….dark angel”, longish black hair, much older than Julia.

Two words: Richard Armitage. After all, one moment you are as infatuated with Macy as Julia is, the next, you don’t know if you can believe anything he says.
Casting Isaac Dalry

Lord Isaac Dalry – blue eyes and russet hair

James Norton IS Isaac Dalry in my mind. Might as well call it a fact. ❤ ❤

Casting Minors 1

Casting Minors 2

(all images obtained through Pinterest)

What do you think of my choices? See any of your favorites actors on my list? 😉 Would you pick someone else for these roles?

SONGS THAT MATCH

Sometimes, I run across songs that just match a book I’ve read. These three songs fit this series in feel and theme. Do you agree?

Born of Persuasion: Volcano as performed by Phillip Phillips. The melancholy and mysterious feel of it just works. And, when applied as the male antagonist’s perspective, all sorts of underlying meanings make sense.

Mark of Distinction: You Set Me Free  by Angie Miller. This song perfectly matches the faith transformation Julia undergoes midway through book 2.

Price of Privilege: We Remain by Christina Aguilera. I love how this song matches the struggle Julia goes through with a triumphant “whatever happens here, we remain” proclamation.

ABOUT THE BOOKS

Book 1, Born of Persuasion

Born of PersuasionThe year is 1838, and seventeen-year-old Julia Elliston’s position has never been more fragile. Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.

With two months to devise a better plan, Julia’s first choice to marry her childhood sweetheart is denied. But when a titled dowager offers to introduce Julia into society, a realm of possibilities opens. However, treachery and deception are as much a part of Victorian society as titles and decorum, and Julia quickly discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother’s mysterious past. Before she knows what’s happening, Julia finds herself a pawn in a deadly game between two of the country’s most powerful men. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own. But sometimes truth is elusive and knowledge is deadly.

Book 2, Mark of Distinction

Mark of DistinctionLondon is said to be the glittering jewel of society, a world unto itself—but to Julia Elliston it is a city of shadows. Her life is swiftly dissolving into scandal. And in Victorian society, even a whisper of scandal—substantiated or not—can be the death of a young woman’s reputation.

When Julia discovers that Lord Roy Pierson, her guardian and one of most influential men in England, is the father she has never met, she begrudgingly accepts his protection. But Chance Macy’s power is far-reaching as well.

Thrust into society as the Emerald Heiress, Julia is the toast of London, a celebrated curiosity. But in reality she’s trapped between the clutches of two powerful men. Aided only by a gentleman whose intentions she prays she can trust, Julia must finally take control of her own fate—but outwitting one’s foe rarely goes according to plan.

Book 3, Price of Privilege

Price of PrivilegeHaving finally discovered the truth of her birthright, Julia Elliston is determined to outwit Chance Macy at his own game. Holding a secret he’d kill to keep, however, is proving more difficult than she imagined.

Just when Julia thinks she’s managed to untangle herself from Macy’s clutches, he changes tactics with a risky ploy. As the scandal of the century breaks loose, drawing rooms all over London whisper what so far newspapers have not dared to print: Macy’s lost bride is none other than Lord Pierson’s daughter–and one of the most controversial cases of marital law ever seen comes before Victorian courts.

Though Julia knows Macy’s version of events is another masterful manipulation, public opinion is swaying in his favor. Caught in a web of deceit and lies, armed only with a fledgling faith, Julia must face her fiercest trial yet.

Have you read this amazing series? Do you have thoughts or FEELINGS about it?

Book Review: A Haven on Orchard Lane by Lawana Blackwell

Welcome to my blog! Today’s book review features a recent historical release from author Lawana Blackwell, A Haven on Orchard Lane. Read on for more about the book and my thoughts!About the Book

27066716In difficult circumstances, Charlotte Ward, once a famed stage actress, tries to restart her career–only to experience disaster. Against her better judgment, her estranged daughter, Rosalind, comes to her mother’s rescue and moves her to a quiet English coastal village.

Charlotte is grateful to get to know Rosalind after years apart. As one who has regrets about her own romantic past, it’s a joy for Charlotte to see love blossom for her daughter. For Rosalind, however, it’s time away from teaching–and now she must care for the mother who wasn’t there for her. And what could be more complicated than romance

Together, mother and daughter discover that healing is best accomplished when they focus less on themselves and more on the needs of others.

 

ReviewThis review has been a long time coming, and a bit difficult for me to explain. I *rarely* encounter a book which doesn’t click with me, so writing a review that’s not entirely positive is a challenge, especially when considering you all might not feel the same way. So, please don’t let my opinion sway you entirely, because I admit freely that I skipped large portions of the middle to get to the end once I realized it was not exactly my cup of tea.

While I am a die-hard fan of historical dramas, the Victorian era, and family-centered stories of reconciliation, something about this novel didn’t quite live up to my expectations. It felt like the pace wondered a little instead of propelling the characters in a definite direction. While the beginning set up the backstory of Charlotte thoroughly, I thought it waited overlong to introduce some of the other characters who eventually played prominent roles in the story.

Now let’s talk about its positive elements! The detailed writing style painted a vivid setting, it has a darling cover, and it provides an interesting perspective on prejudices and stereotypical ideas in a small village. Overall, it had a clear spiritual theme of extending grace and emphasizes the importance of second chances.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for providing a review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Read-Along Fun: Price of Privilege Series

This is an impromptu announcement-slash-invitation for the Price of Privilege series by Jessica Dotta read-along starting July 1.

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Due to the epicness of this series, Cassie, Jamie, and I have decided to reread it and discuss (it’ll be more like fangirling, analyzing, and swooning) via Twitter with the hashtag #POPral

If you’d like to join in, we would LOVE to have you!!! And, if it’s your first time reading it, please let us know, because spoilers are a real possibility.

Book 1: Born of Persuasion

Book 2: Mark of Distinction 

Book 3: Price of Privilege

 

 

Review: “Born of Persuasion” by Jessica Dotta

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Where should I even start with reviewing this book? Born of Persuasion is the first book in what has become one of my favorite series of all time. I’m not saying that lightly. I had the honor of reading book 2 in this series, Mark of Distinction, as a historical romance judge for the INSPY awards this year. Turns out Mark of Distinction WON the 2015 INSPY award in its category! *insert happy dance here* Now that the judging process is over, I am free to gush about and discuss all of the wonderful books I read.

First, here’s a synopsis of Born of Persuasion: The year is 1838, and seventeen-year-old Julia Elliston’s position has never been more fragile. Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.

With two months to devise a better plan, Julia’s first choice to marry her childhood sweetheart is denied. But when a titled dowager offers to introduce Julia into society, a realm of possibilities opens. However, treachery and deception are as much a part of Victorian society as titles and decorum, and Julia quickly discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother’s mysterious past. Before she knows what’s happening, Julia finds herself a pawn in a deadly game between two of the country’s most powerful men. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own. But sometimes truth is elusive and knowledge is deadly.

Let’s see if I can coherently share my bubbling thoughts.

For any fans of the Victorian era, this series is perfection. It has the feel of a slightly gothic setting with deep, complex characters. Born of Persuasion is certainly a page-turner! The story is told from a first person narrative in the future, so it’s like Julia is telling her life story with additional insight. Her added hints at trials to come increase the mystery and foreshadowing of events through the story. Let’s just say it makes the reader anxious over what could happen next. And anxious over WHO to trust.

While this IS certainly a Christian fiction book, it is extremely different in the fact that the heroine is an atheist. But, she is so well written she is very likable and easy to identify with. I think her viewpoint is relevant to today because the spiritual struggles she faces are ones countless people battle with: belief in God, hypocritical people. and judgmental attitudes. Author Jessica Dotta stretches her spiritual journey and transformation over all three books in the series, so I won’t say more about it just yet.

It has been several weeks since I read this series, but it’s still something I can’t get over. It’s still fresh in my mind! Words cannot possibly convey the amazingness that is this series. Through it all, suspense and mystery are perfectly maintained. With unexpected MAJOR twists around every corner, there is never a dull moment. (Have I used enough CAPS in this review yet?) All I have left to say is you should read this soon.

Do you have a favorite book or series that is stuck in your mind and won’t let go? Are you a fan of Victorian intrigue? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Final Read-along Discussion Post: North and South

The North and South read-along is officially over! It was so fun to read this classic by Elizabeth Gaskell. This is the last of the discussion questions. This post is hosted by Suey, so head over to her post to find links for everyone else!

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North and South Final Discussion Questions

1.  There’s much talk about all the deaths in this book. What are your feelings on that? Do you think they were necessary? Or too much?

Mmm, they were all necessary to the story, though at times they were very sad. They each inspired a reaction (or lack thereof) in different characters.

2. Was there anything that happened during this last part that you found surprising or unexpected? Or was everything very predictable?

It’s been so long since I have seen the miniseries, I forgot a few details of the later portions. Other than the “killed cat” moment (ahem, moving on….), I thought that Margaret’s falling back into her old habits as Edith’s companion was a bit unexpected. I was glad when she stood up for herself a bit later and wanted to make her own choices.

3. What are your feelings on the about face Margaret and Mr. Thornton have with regard to their financial status?

For one thing, it forced them to have to correspond with each other again. On a deeper level, I think it proves the strength of character they both possess. Their change in fortune did not effect their personalities or demeanors by making them greedy or proud.

4. Do you think Margaret is justified in being so anguished over the lie that she told? Does it mostly have to do with her feelings for Mr. Thornton? Or something else?

She certainly spent a lot of time dwelling on the fact that Mr. Thornton didn’t know the truth! I think it had more to do with her feelings for him. Once she asked God’s forgiveness, she should have been satisfied personally, though she had to live with the consequences of it.

5. At what moment exactly do you think her feelings for Mr. Thornton completely changed?

At the moment when he covered for her being at the train station. He really lied for her, because he knew she was in the area with a man. In a way, his deliberate lie, to protect her, was very much like her lie to protect Frederick. Maybe this showed her Thornton’s capacity to care was similar to her love for her brother.

6. Discuss the character of Nicholas Higgins. What do you think about the relationship he has with Mr. Thornton? Did he change Mr. Thornton? Did Mr. Thornton change him?

Nicholas began as a character I liked, but didn’t really love. He changes, though, through everything he goes through with Bessy and Boucher. He became an endearing character; one who represented the working man and all his opinions to the story.

I think his relationship with Mr. Thornton changed both of them. I think, for the first time, their relationship caused each to view the other just as a man, not as a master or worker. Their common goal of providing for their family helped to unite them.

7. How does Mr. Thornton’s views on the master/worker relationship change? Or. . .did it change? Did your view on this issue change as you experienced this book?

His views changed some. Proof comes with his implementation/experiment of a new kitchen area available to his workers. I think he began to see ways he could provide for his workers beyond a fair job at a fair wage.

My view didn’t change. I enjoyed following both sides of the issue and seeing how they ended up working together (not without their trials, though). But I still say I’m on Thornton’s side.

8. Do you have a favorite quote from this book? If so, share and let us know why it’s your favorite.

This book has so many quotable lines!!! I think my favorite, though, is this from chapter 20: “He knew it was the first time their hands had met, though she was perfectly unconscious of the fact.”

I also love this line from Nicholas Higgins: “Any yet, yo see, North and South has both met and made kind o’ friends in this big smoky place.”

9. The ending! Are you happy with how things turned out? (Try not to compare with the movie here… that’s for a later question!)

Yes!!! I’m completely happy with how the story turned out. It did feel slightly abrupt – I would have been happy with a few more pages of John and Margaret getting settled and speaking with their families. But, I am good with how it was resolved. I know that Gaskell had to make the length of it fit at the time in Charles Dickens’ publication. And the roses were sweet 🙂

10. What aspect of this book would you like to address that we haven’t yet talked about? Is there something we’ve skipped over in our discussions that makes you want to say… “Yeah, but what about….?”  And if you’ve got nothing there, answer this: Did you like the book? Why or why not?

Hmm, the one thing we didn’t discuss was the fact that Fanny finally got married. Didn’t she supposedly marry a wealthy man in trade? Why couldn’t he help Mr. Thornton? I do wonder that.

BONUS MOVIE QUESTION:

If you’ve already seen the movie, go ahead… now is your chance to compare the two!

Ok, so I definitely love both the book and the miniseries, for separate reasons. The book is so richly detailed, and we see Mr. Thornton’s point of view. The movie, though, provides a visual for the characters and the setting. The movie has a different first meeting and a totally different ending sequence, which I am happy about. The kiss-less book ending is appropriate for that era of literature, I know. So for us in modern times, we have the series to watch and be happy about.

 

Thank you to Suey, Jenni, and Kami for hosting this fun read-along! It’s the first one I’ve participated in, and it has been fun and memorable.

Do you agree with my answers for this final discussion? Have you seen the miniseries? I’d love to hear your thoughts on either!

Read-along Discussion Post 1: North and South

Ya’ll, if you’ve never read North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, you’re seriously missing out on a great story and some beautiful arrangements of words. We don’t have quite the same vocabulary – or at least the flourish – as they did in the Victorian era. But this means we can admire and enjoy their stories!

So far, we’re 1/3 through with the read-along hosted by Kami, Suey, and Jenni. This means our first discussion post is upon us! Jenni is hosting it; and she’s come up with some great questions for this round. We’re linking up at her post, so be sure to add your link and explore everyone’s thoughts thus far! Also, we had quite the discussion on Twitter with the #NorthSouthRAL hashtag.North-and-South-Read-Along-600x408

1. Is this your first time reading this? If so, what do you think so far? If not, are you liking this reread so far? 

This is my first time reading it! It is better than I expected, actually. I wasn’t sure how entertaining it would be. Sometimes older books are hard to relate to or move too slow. BUT, it’s not that way. The plot moves at a nice pace and the themes seem to be relevant. Plus, the descriptions and history of the era intrigue me.

2. Have you seen the BBC mini-series? Is the book anything like you expected it to be?\

Yes, I have seen it once! So far, the series did stay very close to the book. And, like it was mentioned on Twitter, the casting of all of the characters in the miniseries was very well done.

3. Why do you think Margaret refused Henry? He seems like such a nice chap?

I think she refused him because she didn’t love him. (Perhaps another Pride & Prejudice nod, @moonlight_reads?)

4. What are your first impressions of Mr. Thornton?

Hmmm. With a mental picture of Richard Armitage, it’s hard not to focus on his looks, as Gaskell explains early on 🙂 With that said, he first became an acquaintance of Mr. Hale through whom he connected with a house to rent, etc. So maybe as a considerate person and friend to the Hales? After learning more about his character, it’s clear he deeply cares for the happiness of his mother and sister, Fanny. And he is fair in business.

5. Why is Margaret so indifferent to Mr. Thornton, but she can make friends with the Higgins? They are both northern people and have different customs.

I think Margaret has stereotyped Mr. Thornton as a proud “tradesman”, though she is unaware of the full extent of her feelings. The Higgins family is more comfortable to her. She has called upon “the poor” in the past to aid them, so the Higginses are a new outlet for this habit.

6. Compare the two moms we’ve seen in the story.

They are soooo different! Mrs. Hale is frail, sickly, and annoying in the fact that she pays Margaret little attention. And when she does, it is completely for her benefit to make her tea or sooth her. Mrs. Hale is decidedly selfish.

Mrs. Thornton, on the other hand, is confident and very involved in the day to day life of her son. She comes across as a little stiff and snobby, but I think that is just a crusty outer layer. In chapter 12, we see that she just has a different way of communicating her feelings.

7. What differences are you seeing so far between the north and the south?

Aside from the country/city differences, I think the larger scope of classes living in the north is significant. It allows for more complicated relationships between people (masters/workers, Hales/Thorntons, Margaret/Higgins’).

8. Do you think Mr. Hale was justified in leaving the church and his position?
I do think so. I admire him for standing up for his faith.

9. What are your feelings on Frederick’s situation?

If only I could remember how that comes into play later in the story……

But, it is unfortunate. It’s so sad that they couldn’t really communicate with him.

10. What are your thoughts on the master and worker relationship?

It’s a very interesting situation. One that is definitely relevant today. I can see both sides of the situation, though I do think the masters are more aware of the markets and how all that works. At least Mr. Thornton is known to be fair to his workers 🙂

Thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings about North and South! Have you read anything by Elizabeth Gaskell? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Happy Sunday!