Blue stained wood with crimson carnations

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Book Review: Seeking Persephone

Read with caution, some spoilers.

I have to admit right off that the thing that drew me to this book was the title, "Seeking Persephone". While not loving Greek mythology by any means, I have been a fan of the Persephone/Hades story for quite some time. (Call me weird, but it's true.) If unfamiliar with that tale others will no doubt recognize it as the 'Beauty and the Beast' archetype. So, what better place to retell it than a Regency novel?

Meet Adam Boyce, Duke of Kielder, is a man in need of an arranged marriage. Too bad for him that it comes with a wife he really doesn't want. However, if the young duke is to keep his sniveling, incompetent cousin (from a nearly forgotten branch of the family) from inheriting the estate his fathers have spent generations building then he needs an heir. Enter Persephone Lancaster, the eldest daughter of an impoverished gentleman, the perfect candidate for a marriage- or so his man of business tells him...homely, passed over, likely ancient, and in no position of refuse is exactly what the duke wants. After all, what woman would choose to be married to a deformed, scarred man?
The pretty, young bride with the ridiculous name that arrives at the alter of the church on their wedding morning is not what he bargained for, not at all.

Persephone is a perpetually cheerful young woman who seeks to find the best, and find the joy in all her circumstances but who is reluctant to leave the family that she has mothered, cared for, and held together for the past eight years since her mother's death. But the exorbitant marriage gift that the duke is offering to settle on her father, brothers, and sisters is nothing she can refuse if they are to live comfortably and marry well in her father's declining years.
Persephone is not quite prepared for the new life that greets her within the foreboding castle's walls. It seems her husband, in addition to being distant and not the least interested in her, is notorious across the countryside for his short temper and the fear he engenders and commands. But to her surprise the duke has a best friend who is charming and jovial and has known him from childhood. Harry encourages her not to judge Adam on first impression but look past the calloused exterior to who he truly is and to show her husband what he loves best- courage. Courage is definitely what it is going to take if Persephone is to win her way past her husband's tough exterior and grumpy disposition. But as time passes and crises arises in both their lives will Adam learn to trust her and take down those walls himself?

Author Sarah Eden has in this novel written a good clean story in both style and content and is to be commended. While there was a few pet peeves for me, like some repetitious dialogue and the quick ending to the book, overall I was surprised at the story and the obvious talent of the author. These days you just don't expect to pick up a book and find it most everything you enjoy in a novel but whether I'm just on a good picking streak or the market out there is improving I am glad to be able to sit down and enjoy books like this!
Speaking about that quick ending- I was really surprised by it. The whole reason the duke sets out to marry is to produce an heir but once married the issue is dropped entirely. I would have really liked to have seen a short epilogue that saw the couple a year down the road welcoming their first child. It would have wrapped things up nicely. Since finishing this book I have learned that there is a sequel that follows Persephone's sister ("Courting Miss Lancaster") so I am hoping to hear an update on the duke and duchess through that story. (And I'm really glad that I picked this book to read first as I hate reading series out of order!) The other thing I could have done with in an ending was Adam realizing that his wife didn't care a fig for his disfigurement and Persephone realizing that the only reason her husband kept her at arms length was his self-consciousness over his appearance and the abandonment he suffered as a child. Having said that, it is a reminder that despite appearances, outward or inward, people are flawed and clear communication is something that must be worked at, a good moral of any tale...

Rating: 4

Disclaimer: I did NOT receive this book for review purposes from the publisher.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Book Review: Edenbrooke

"Edenbrooke" is a regency novel about Marianne Daventry a young woman feeling cornered by her
circumstances in life. Her mother has died, her father has run off to France to grieve in solitude, and her twin sister taken to live in London while she has been packed off to live with her cantankerous grandmother in Bath. Marianne hates Bath and the people there and longs for her family and for the countryside surroundings of her home. Soon she finds herself on a journey to the next best thing- a reunion with her sister and a summer at Edenbrooke, the estate of her mother's dearest friend.
While Cecily her cultured, prettier sister plans to snag the heir and make a rich match, Marianne hopes to find rest and comfort to her soul in the beauty that surrounds her in the picturesque landscape. But even the best laid plans go awry... Accosted by highwaymen on her journey and being assisted by a kind gentleman who refuses to give his name was never apart of the plan- neither was spending morning rides and afternoon talks with the second son of the manor- but through it Marianne finds freedom, friendship, laughter, home, and more in Edenbrooke then she ever anticipated.

The truth is I don't remember where I first saw "Edenbrooke", but I'm glad I did. The beautiful cover art drew me in and so I  picked it up at the library and this weekend I spent a day engrossed in the pages of this delightful book. When I was finished I was happy, satisfied, and completely mystified as to why I had never heard of the author or publisher (Shadow Mountain) before! I was even more surprised when I looked the company up and learned that it is a secular publisher! The cover of the book proclaims it to be "A Proper Romance" and I would heartily agree. While this book is, admittedly, a historical romance there is nothing in it which I would discourage anyone, even younger readers, from putting before them. It is really the cleanest non-Christian/inspirational fiction I've ever read. In fact, with its characters sincere and likable dispositions, it's dialogue's genuine humor and tender sentiment, and it's breezy readability I think the Christian fiction authors (that I typically read) should take a page from new author Julianne Donaldson's style. ...In fact, I can't think of a single thing that I found fault with in this book- and that's quite a statement coming from me! The language and styling of this book hangs between 'written by Jane Austen' and 'modern chick lit' and Donaldson finds a way to make that work perfectly. The main characters stichomythia and rapport is classic, the secondary characters are suitably helpful to move the plot along, and the villains are appropriately evil without being crude or lecherous. All in all it was a refreshing fun read that I am happy to recommend and intend to add to my bookshelf very soon!

Rating: 5 stars

Disclosure: I did NOT receive this book for review purposes from the publisher.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

On Being Heavy-Laden...

Somedays I don't think I know how to be the person that I really am.

In fact, most days I know I don't.

I had to be around 11 or 12 when my mom went through a Spiritual gifts test with us older children and we confirmed what my mom had known for a long time- my gift was that of 'Mercy'. Now in my mind the gift of Mercy is both a blessing and a curse for those of us who find it our motivational gifting in the Body of Christ. This gift allows us to both sense deeply and feel deeply. It allows us to get to the root of anothers emotional battle and it compels us to feel very deeply our own emotional highs and lows. It drives us to bring restoration, and a balm or cure to those who hurt- Spiritually or otherwise, and all too often it keeps us inside of our own heads and struggling with something akin to "Physician heal thyself".

It is distinctly burned into my memory mom talking to each of us that night and explaining our newly defined natural inclinations and how we were to be using them for the Kingdom of Christ. For me she opened to Romans 12:15 which states "Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep." As we talked those verses lifted off the page and burned themselves on my heart. They couldn't be a more moving enjoinder in all of Christendom then what I felt I had just been commissioned to do. In a few short lines I felt like my life purpose had been defined.

Over the years I have found that nothing is as easy at it seems. Including my commission.

Today I have sat in my room reading my brains out and hiding in the pages of a well written novel 200 years and 3,000 miles from where I sit. It has provided a good distraction, a cover for the emotional storm inside me. The book has given me a place to vent my tears, spend my nervous energy, and recover my humor. But outside my little room the world moves on and continues passing. Removed from me by distances near and far are friends, and strangers, experiencing the heights of joy and the depths of sorrow. Today, a friend of mine was married, and another engaged. Today, I read of a member of the Body that has lost a 13 year old girl in a car accident, while at the same time I know another friend of mine hosted the celebration of a family milestone amidst the shadow of wayward siblings. Today, I heard that a former acquaintance has lost her father, while at the same time another friend of mine was celebrating the birthday's of two of her children with family and friends.

I suppose that things like this happen every day, but today I'm really feeling every one of them.

I feel the joy. I feel the loss. I feel the complexity of emotions inbetween.

So today, between the pages of my escape trip I have not been able to stop up my prayers. From my mind to God's ears they have flown unhindered by my own emotion and laid at the feet of the One who feels each one of these far more than I do... and who has far more power to bind them up, provide the cure, or put on shoes of dancing. It is a reminder to me that I should be here far more often, and far more willingly surrendering my mission to deliver the healing touch.

Finishing out my evening I decided to get busy "Pinning" over on my Pinterest page where I ran into this free printable graphic and the thoughts and emotions, and prayers of my day came full circle for me. It brought cool, calming water to bathe my soul in and reminded me that all of us, at all times, whether joyous or sad, whether mercy-bearers or other-gifted, need true rest.

And that when I reflect on it, that my friends is what gives me strength to dust out my tangled emotional cobwebs and be who I really am... one who rests in my Jesus.