Monday, September 28, 2015

The Curiosity Keeper (The Treasures of Surrey)

Title: The Curiosity Keeper

Series: The Treasures of Surrey (Book #1)

Year: 2015

Author: Sarah E. Ladd

Summary: “It is not just a ruby, as you say. It is large as a quail’s egg, still untouched and unpolished. And it is rumored to either bless or curse whomever possesses it.”

Camille Iverness can take care of herself. She’s done so since the day her mother abandoned the family and left Camille to run their shabby curiosity shop on Blinkett Street. But when a violent betrayal leaves her injured with no place to hide, Camille has no choice but to accept help from the mysterious stranger who came to her aid.

Jonathan Gilchrist never wanted to inherit Kettering Hall. As a second son, he was content working as a village apothecary. But when his brother’s death made him heir just as his father’s foolish decisions put the estate at risk, only the sale of a priceless possession—a ruby called the Bevoy—can save the family from ruin. But the gem has disappeared. And all trails lead to Iverness Curiosity Shop—and the beautiful shop girl who may or may not be the answer to his questions.

Curious circumstance throws them together, and an intricate dance of need and suspicion leads the couple from the seedy backwaters of London to the elite neighborhoods of the wealthy to the lush, green Surrey countryside—all in the pursuit of a blood-red gem that collectors will sacrifice anything to possess.

Caught at the intersection of blessings and curses, greed and deceit, two determined souls must unite to protect what they hold dear. But when a passion that shines far brighter than any gem is ignited, each will have to decide how much they are willing to risk for their future, love, and happiness.
(from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Camille Iverness
~ Jonathan Gilchrist

Review: I'm always on the skeptical side of the argument when it comes to picking up books like this. I am looking for a great range of books to fill KiriBeth with, but I don't always enjoying reviewing the so-called "Christian Fiction" or "Christian Romance." Usually, I find those novels full of fluff, cliche, and just awful. When I read the synopsis for this one, though, I thought I'd give it a chance. Truth be told, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. There were times I was reminded greatly of Dickens (Curisoity Shop, anyone?), and that itself made me so happy. 

First of all, the heroine Camille is quite a believable heroine. She's stubborn - but not outlandish - enough of a lady for her time period, brave in her own right, passionate about what she loves, with some common sense on the side. I enjoyed reading about her. Most girls in novels nowadays, when thrown in the same circumstances that Camille faced, would have gone limp, whined, moped, and all manner of other incredibly boring and useless flop. Camille, however, didn't. She was scared, yes, but she also wasn't afraid to take action. She knew her limits, and even though fate seemed against her, she used the brain the good Lord gave her. 

The host of characters was really quite marvelous in all. I have to admit being partial to old Mr. Gilchrist. Even though he was cranky, obstinate, and - let's admit it - a little off his nut, he was one of my favorite characters. I loved his interaction with Camille. The shared love they had of curious items and antiques and the like was just fun to read about. 

The mystery was wonderfully done. Even though the pacing was a little slow for me (there were some scenes that I got a little lost in all the setting descriptions), the author had just enough for me to predict some things that happened and yet still managed to surprise me with certain plot twists. All in all, I wouldn't peg this as an absolute favorite book, but it was most enjoyable to read. 

Advisory: Some violence; Camille comes into contact with some less-than-savory characters at her father's shop. And as Jonathan is an apothecary, you can expect some blood and illness as he tends to different characters in the novel. 

And I did want to take a moment to look at the romance. Yes, there is some of that in here. But I didn't feel that it was overdone, which is why I gave this book 4 stars. There is one kiss, but for the most part, our romantic pair doesn't brood about the majestic physical qualities of their beloved. Their interaction is believable and as proper as can be for the Regency time setting. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Click here to buy a copy of The Curiosity Keeper on Amazon!

*Please note that I received a free copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.*

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Young Visiters

Title: The Young Visiters: Or, Mr. Salteena's Plan

Series: None

Year: 1919

Author: Daisy Ashford

Summary: A short “society novel” written by Miss Daisy Ashford at the age of nine. The notebook containing the novel was rediscovered by her in adult life and sent by a friend to Frank Swinnerton, the English novelist, critic, editor and essayist. Published in 1919 by Chatto and Windus, with its original misspellings and an arch introduction by “Peter Pan” author J. M. Barrie, it was an immediate bestseller. Its child's view of high society (dukes and earls having ‘levies’ and residing in the ‘Crystall Pallace’) and its heavily romantic plot make it an engaging and enduring popular work. (from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Mr. Alfred Salteena
~ Ethel Monticue
~ Bernard Clark  

Review: My family watched the 2003 BBC adaptation of this book a few years ago, and finding it rather fun, I decided one day to read the book. Lo, and behold, Amazon offered it free on Kindle, and so... well, I needn't say, for you can guess the rest.

Daisy Ashford wrote this entire book when she was nine. NINE! Am I the only one in such astonishment? The publishers kept all her original work in the novel, altering nothing. All of her dear little grammar mistakes, spelling errors, and lack of punctuation are exactly as little Daisy herself put them down. When I first heard of that, I was concerned that the book would be difficult to read, but no ma'am! Daisy has a clear and rather comical hand when it comes to giving us the adventures of our hero, Mr. Alfred Salteena.

I love way too many quotes in this book. Right off the bat, we read, "Mr. Salteena was an elderly man of 42 and was fond of asking people to stay with him." His current visitor happens to be the lovely Ethel Monticue, a young girl of 17 who "had a blue velvit frock which had grown rarther short in the sleeves." Things of importance begin to happen when Mr. Salteena's friend, Bernard Clark, invites Mr. Salteena and "one of his young ladies whichever is prettiest in the face" for a grand visit. 

And so our friends go off on the adventure. Another favorite quote, "When the great morning came Mr Salteena did no have an egg for his breakfast in case he should be sick on the journey." *grins* They all have a lovely time with Bernard Clark, until one day Mr. Salteena decides he must marry Ethel because he loves her. And so he pops off to the "Crystall Pallace" to become a gentleman for her. The trouble is our other friend, Bernard Clark, is rather in love with Ethel, too.

As a young girl's view on society and its workings, this book is nothing but a good read. It isn't very long, but I enjoyed myself muchly between the pages.  

Advisory: A child's view of romance leading to a kiss -- but that's about it. Just clean, good fun in all.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Click here to buy a copy of The Young Visiters on Amazon!
And yes, it's free for the Kindle!