Monday, July 29, 2013

A Most Peculiar Circumstance - A Book Review

From the Back: Miss Arabella Beckett, defender of the downtrodden women of America, is returning from her travels in support of the women's suffrage movement when she suddenly finds herself in a spot of trouble.  Arabella, always loath to accept help, is particularly reluctant to receive assistance from the arrogant, narrow-minded knight in shining armor who shows up just in time.  Private investigator extraordinaire Mr. Theodore Wilder is on an assignment that began as a favor to his good friend Hamilton Beckett but swiftly evolved into a merry chase across the country.  When he finally locates Hamilton's sister, and she turns out to have radical ideas and a fiercely independent streak, he's at his wit's end.  Much to their chagrin, Theodore and Arabella's paths continue to cross when they return to New York.  When the trouble Arabella accidentally stirred up in her travels follows her home and threatens her very life, the unlikely couple must face the possibility that they have landed in the most peculiar circumstance of all: love.

Synopsis: Arabella Beckett is an independent woman out to change the world - or at least women's place in the world.  Her travels take her all across the country and in one stop she finds herself in jail - arrested in a bit of a misunderstanding while trying to rescue another woman from two traffickers.  Theodore Wilder is a private investigator who's been hired to find Arabella and bring her home in time for her brother's wedding.   Theodore manages to show up in time to bail Arabella out of jail and they make their way back to New York City.  Once back in New York, Arabella continues her women's suffrage work, getting into even more sensitive situations and requiring Theodore's help to disentangle her from trouble.  Arabella's risk-taking ends with her kidnapped and Theodore leading the way to find her and bring her home safely.

My Review:  I wasn't familiar with Jen Turano's work but I was intrigued by the subject matter and I could see a little of myself in Arabella's character.  The story is your standard girl-meets-boy fare but with the added twists of women's suffrage and female trafficking (back before that's what it was labeled).  It was refreshing to have a character in the late 1800's who spouted such progressive ideals in a novel.  I hated that she still ended up "needing to be rescued" but that's typical for that time period.  This is a cute story and you could see Arabella's character growing and changing as the novel progressed.  I liked Theodore's character too - he was your typical hero but at least tried to understand Arabella's point of view.  Turano has written a simple love story with a bit of mystery twist to it.  The book moves along quite quickly - I think I finished it in a single day (I was on vacation though).  This is definitely an author I'll be checking out again.

Score:  3.5 bookmarks out of 5.

Note: Bethany House Publishers gave me a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Sweet Mercy - A Book Review

From the Back: When Eve Marryat's father is laid off from the Ford Motor Company in 1931, he is forced to support his family by leaving St. Paul, Minnesota, and moving back to his Ohio roots.  Eve's uncle Cyrus has invited the family to live and work at his Marryat Island Ballroom and Lodge.  Eve can't wait to leave St. Paul, a notorious haven for gangsters.  At seventeen, she considers her family to be "good people," not lawbreakers like so many in her neighborhood.  Thrilled to be moving to a "safe haven," Eve soon forms an unlikely friendship with a strange young man named Link, blissfully unaware that her uncle's lodge is anything but what it seems.  When the reality of the situation finally becomes clear, Eve is faced with a dilemma.  Does she dare risk everything by exposing the man whose love and generosity is keeping her family from ruin?  And when things turn dangerous, can she trust Link in spite of appearances?

Synopsis: Eve Marryat and her family are being forced to leave St. Paul Minnesota and for Eve, it can't come quickly enough.  She views St. Paul as a hotbed of sin - plagued by gangsters who are violating the Prohibition laws of the land.  She is eagerly looking forward to life in Ohio at the lodge her uncle Cyrus owns and operates.  As her family settles in, Eve begins to form friendships with those around her including Jones, the strange step-son of her uncle and Link, a bum who lives in a camp by the river.  Life is wonderful until one night when Eve discovers the man running the service station across from the lodge is actually running liquor from Cincinnati.  She turns to her father and they go together to report the legal violation.  This report leads to a raid that finds nothing but in turn, shatters the fragile relationship Cyrus and Eve's father had.  As time goes on, Eve discovers her uncle not only knew about the service station, he was a willing participant.  A climactic ending follows and changes Eve's life forever.

My Review:  I'm a fan of Ann Tatlock's work and had eagerly been waiting on this book.  I have to say, on the surface, I was a bit disappointed and I can't really put my finger on why.  The book isn't bad by a long-shot, I'm just used to more from Tatlock.  I thought Eve was a holier-than-thou teenager who couldn't see past the sin in people.  She just didn't strike me as likable through most of the book.  I know it's a coming of age story and I see the growth that happened in Eve's character - I just wanted something more.  The story itself is really enjoyable; there was enough intrigue to keep me turning the pages and there was a nice twist at the end that I didn't see coming.  One thing I do like about Tatlock's writing, and it's evident here, is that her stories are a bit more complex.  They are true fiction, not romance and I enjoy the way she intersperses back story with the telling of her character's story.  I also learned a little about gangsters and gained insight into the silliness of the Prohibition laws this country used to have.  Even though I was disappointed in this one compared to other work by Tatlock, it was still a good book and I would recommend that you put it on your  "to be read" list.

Score:  3.75 out of 5 bookmarks.

Note:  Bethany House Publishers gave me a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.