Thursday, May 3, 2012

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

To Have and To Hold (Bridal Veil Island 1) by Tracie Peterson and Judith Miller -- Inspirational Historical Romance

Audrey Cunningham and her father Boyd have returned home to Bridal Veil Island where they have not lived since the Civil War. The war changed everything, making it difficult to find work in the South. The Cunninghams enjoy the serenity and beauty of her new home but Audrey's grandmother failed to pay the back taxes and now their home is threatened. Audrey is eager to go to work to support her father as she did in Pittsburgh. She liked working for the Morelys and became almost one of the family. Boyd is determined to find a way to save Bridal Veil because it's his hard drinking life that got them in this mess in the first place. He believes in a life devoted to God now and thinks God will lead him down the right path; a path that will spare Audrey more pain. Aunt Thora, Audrey's grandmother's friend, believes the d***n Yankees are to blame and she's determined they won't ever set foot on the island again. When a group of wealthy Northern investors, including Mr. Morley, want to create a leisure resort on the island, the Cunninghams refuse to sell their land. Mr. Morely and Mr. Cunningham come up with a compromise that will help. Marshall Graham comes to Bridal Veil at the request of Boyd Cunningham. Marshall is the son of Boyd's old drinking buddy who was killed in a barroom brawl. Audrey distrusts Marshall straight away. Marshall knows he's a good man and is determined to follow the path the Lord has laid out for him. Boyd knows Marshall is a good man too which is why he asks Marshall to look after Audrey. Audrey can look after herself but Marshall is hurt that Audrey can not see him for who he really is. She seems to prefer the company of Dr. Wahler and his two young daughters. He wonders if they will ever be friends. Marshall is determined that Audrey shall come to know the Lord as he does and accept what God has in store for her. In the meantime, he's hired on as the project manager and must deal with deliberate sabotage to his work site. His job and even his life are on the line. This book is one of the most boring novels I have ever read. I had a hard time getting into it. The plot moves very very slowly. Not much happens in most of the book. The second to last chapter contains most of the action! I figured out some of the villains because it was so obvious. I thought certainly I must be wrong but sadly I was not. I didn't really care for any of the characters. Audrey is a well-rounded character - she has her flaws but sometimes she's too good to like. Boys is likewise flawed and I care mostly about him aside from his deep religious convictions that to me, made him seem a bit lazy. I did not like Marshall. He is too good to be true. Again I found his religious beliefs a bit too much to handle. There's no chemistry between Marshall and Audrey and the romance is mostly played out off screen or told in passing. Most of the secondary characters are fairly two-dimensional. Aunt Thora provides the comic relief but she's also a stereotype of the steel magnolia. My biggest beef with this story is that the characters don't sound nineteenth century. Aside from Aunt Thora's comments about the Yankees and the war, this book could take place at any time. I'm not a Christian so I failed to appreciate all the religious sentiment and found it to be a bit too much for my taste. I won't be reading more books by these authors and the gorgeous setting isn't enough to make me want to read any more of the series.

Silent on the Moor (Lady Julia Grey 3) by Deanna Raybourn -- Historical Romance

Lady Julia has been staying with her sister Portia and Portia's partner Jane in London for the last few months. Now spring as arrived and Portia will be on her way to Yorkshire to visit Brisbane and fix up his new house. Julia is determined to go along and settle whatever is between her and Brisbane once and for all. Hopefully it will end in a marriage proposal. Her youngest brother Valerius is roped into going along for propriety's sake and the March siblings prepare to take Yorkshire by storm. They discover Brisbane's new estate is way out in the middle of the moors where no carriage can go. The village is dreary and desolate and the people weary of strangers. To their surprise, the March siblings discover that Brisbane is not alone in the great house. The previous owner, Lady Allenby, and her two daughters live there also. The Allenbys are descended from Saxon kings and are extremely proud. They're kind but reticent, except for Hilda who prefers chickens and sulks because she's not a boy. Brisbane wants Julia to leave but she discovers his words and his actions are in direct contrast to each other. When Julia undertakes the task of cataloging the late Sir Redwall Allenby's Egyptology collection, she stumbles across dark secrets no one was meant to discover. Her shocking discovery leads her to search for clues and when she finds them, the answers are even more horrific than she could ever imagine. Brisbane knows death is coming and he is powerless to stop it. Julia seeks help from a kind Gypsy woman to try to get Brisbane to accept who and what he is and exorcise his demons so they can live happily ever after. Meanwhile, Portia is having her own romantic difficulties and like her sister, may not end up with the happiness she feels she deserves. Someone is about to become a grandmother (comic relief at it's best) which comes as a huge surprise to all involved. This is the BEST Julia Grey novel in the series so far. It's also the most disturbing. The setting is gothic and perfect for a rainy day. There are numerous references to the Brontes, especially Wuthering Heights. If you aren't familiar with Wuthering Heights you may not get some of the references but that won't take away from the enjoyment of the story. The mystery isn't your typical "whodunnit" murder mystery. It's much darker and deeper than that and truly disturbing. I actually figured it out based on some knowledge of Ancient Egyptian culture. The comic relief is really funny and does a great job of relieving the tension of the story. The romance heats up but still remains clean. I love the push-pull relationship between Julia and Brisbane. Julia is stubborn and a perfect match for the equally hard-headed Brisbane. There are numerous bits of the story to swoon over as it is a very character-driven story. Portia's plot line is sad and I hope she finds happiness because I enjoy her. My only complaint besides the very disturbing plot is that the author and therefore Julia, doesn't seem to like dogs very much. If you liked the previous two Lady Julia mysteries. you'll love this one. If you prefer traditional murder mysteries or traditional romance mysteries (a la Georgette Heyer) you probably would not enjoy this book. I loved it! It could have been the last book in the series. I am not sure I will continue with the rest. Perhaps.

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