Blue stained wood with crimson carnations

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Book Review: Among the Fair Magnolias

Among the Fair Magnolias is a compilation of short stories written by four different Christian fiction authors. I had been looking forward to reading this book long before it came out as it includes an entry from my personal favorite Tamera Alexander, and also at the time I won it from a Goodreads giveaway I was not familiar with any of the other authors and was eager to get to know them! The cover on this book is incredibly pretty and makes me want to grab it right up and set to some cozy reading!

With there being four novellas in this book I don’t want to take up too much space in detailing the entire plot of each story and my reactions so I will try and summarize things briefly and add a few thoughts from there.


A Heart So True by Dorothy Love
In this story Abigail must choose between marrying the man her father has picked for her even though she knows he is unscrupulous and violent and the childhood friend and sweetheart she is truly in love with.

As I have mentioned before I really am tired out with the ‘tyrant father’ trope in writing and here in this book we find it in full force. It is overused and I think it shows bad precedent for teen readers that contributes to pulling down their own dads. Having said that however, in this story I found it equally annoying that ninety percent of the heroine’s problems stem from keeping a secret from her father that she should have immediately revealed when it occurred then none of this would have happened! Additionally, when she did talk to her father and have the chance to tell again she didn’t press the point and make him listen!

I didn’t feel like there was anything to praise in this story, I feel like the writers style is very blunt and lacks subtlety. It was not my favorite story in this collection.

To Mend A Dream by Tamera Alexander
In this story Savannah, a side character from the novel “To Win Her Favor” gets to tell her story!  Savannah is a seamstress in post-Civil War Nashville taking care of her younger siblings and taking on a redecorating job in her former family home! She knows her father left a treasure for her family- now this is her last chance to find it!  
I don’t know if being a Tamera Alexander fangirl makes me the best of worst candidate to review this story but I do know how much I enjoyed it! This story really makes me wish that Savannah had her own full length book! Every inch of what is backed into this story however is gold!  I really liked the hero Aiden and I would have loved to get more on his backstory! I appreciated that I didn’t feel like the way that his and Savannah’s relationship develops cheated or was at the expense of any other character. They were a great couple!

I love how on point Tamera always is with her Spiritual content! Her observations are always timely and her writing always ends up being my own personal reminder note for me from God!

Love Beyond Limits by Elizabeth Musser
In this story Emily teaches freed blacks, young and old, in her little schoolhouse and struggles to protect them against the growing threat of the Klan even as her family pressures her to marry.
I was really surprised by this story! It took me a lot of different directions that I wasn’t expecting and delivered on a satisfying ending! I found there to be good historical accuracy with the origins of the Klan and of the political environment of the day which is always refreshing to read! This is my first time reading a story by this author and I really liked it! I think I will have to check out more of her books in the future!

An Outlaw’s Heart by Shelley Grey
In this story Russell finds his way home after fleeing seven years ago as a mere boy of 15, now he must reconcile with his dying mother and see if his fleeting hopes of rekindling love with his former sweetheart is possible.

This story is set a bit west of the deep south as it slides on over to Texas- and really- I may have enjoyed this story a little too much! For many years I have been a huge fan of westerns and cowboy stories and have spent many hours reading that genre but those stories aren’t popular in the Christian market anymore and it’s a shame! This story was delightful and though short, explored some important themes of forgiveness and redemption- all with great cowboy stubbornness and humor! It was easily the best western story I’ve read since Stephen Bly’s passing and I can’t wait to read another! I very much hope the author continues to write in this genre!


In the end this was a great collection of novellas and it was a great pleasure to read! Though I didn’t personally enjoy one of the stories it was really nice to be able to have a ‘sampler’ of authors and if you haven’t read any- or some- of them before it will give you a great idea of whether you should try their other works! Among the Fair Magnolias is a definite recommend for me! I’m sure you will enjoy it! 

Final Rating: 4

I have been given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.

Book Review: A Respectable Actress

I was intrigued by Dorothy Love’s A Respectable Actress when I first picked it up, the cover is attractive and the back cover reveals a detailed storyline and promises a good mystery set in post-Civil War Georgia. I wish the inside of the book had held up to that promise.

This story follows India Hartley, professional touring actress- and accused murderess. On the second night of her new show her leading man is shot dead on stage seemingly at her own hand- but she insists it is all a horrible mistake. Enter Philip Sinclair, her legal counsel and the man who whisks her away from the outrage of the city to the solitude of his country plantation. As Philip and India try to unwind the hidden details of her case India begins to find some mysteries lurking around the plantation as well and begins to fall for who will help determine her fate.

As I look over my notes I’m really not sure where to begin on all the ways I disliked this book. The ‘fake-out’ opening of the book was confusing to understand and a blur of sensationalized information that was simply repeated in more detail a few paragraphs later and it annoyed me from the first. I had a really difficult time connecting with India and found her whiny and clueless. Her romance with Philip was sadly lacking and frankly boiled down to ‘oh my, what a handsome man with such broad shoulders and look he rescued me, let me cling to him’. India was far more interested in assessing his physique and snooping around his home than she was in aiding her own defense. Where I was expecting the two of them to spend many long hours together talking and sleuthing methodically working over her case they only had a couple of minimal conversations and the remainder of the time she went around playing amateur Nancy Drew on his past while he was back and forth away on other business! It annoyed me that only minutes from her trial he gives her a few rushed instructions and coaching on being a defendant and how this was needed to be her role of a lifetime if she hoped to get off!

Aside from the story I did not enjoy the writing style either. I felt the pacing of the details of the stories- things like the conversations, and the how we get from here to there narration to be rushed and choppy. For example, at one point when India is found snooping and is questioned she offers an excuse and then suddenly is magic'ed back into her bed without any response from the other party or further discussion of any sort on the matter. It’s like the people around her are players, only meant to bounce her thoughts and feelings off of to her own ends and benefit and not individuals with autonomy, action, and feeling! Additionally, there is a great deal of unusually large words in this book that I had difficulty slogging through much less understanding, even from the context, what they were or meant.

Overall, I just didn’t like this book. I felt like the author tossed the reader from one implausible scenario to another racking up scenes but not developing the characters or plot. There was nothing about the characters or plot that I found engaging and all too often I found myself checking and gauging how much more was left in this book and how soon I could stop reading. In the end I couldn’t even give myself any good reason for India and Philip to be together- or even care about who the culprit in the shooting was. This is not a book I will be recommending to anyone anytime. 

Final Rating: 1

I have been given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.