The Violets of March by Sarah Jio – Book Review

The Violets of March by Sarah Jio
Published by Plum, an imprint of Penguin

When Emily’s marriage falls apart, she doesn’t cry, and she doesn’t rage. In fact, her best friend is a bit worried about the degree to which she is repressing her feelings and Emily quite clearly isn’t actually dealing with her divorce. As a novelist – and a stalled one at that – there is no 9 to 5 job where Emily must clock in, so she finally decides to visit her Great Aunt Bee on Bainbridge Island in Washington for a change of scenery. While there, she runs into an old boyfriend from her youth summering on the island, as well as a slightly mysterious yet handsome neighbor. Even more compelling to Emily than the men she meets, though, is the red journal she finds in the room she is staying in. Did Aunt Bee try her hand at fiction, or is this really the diary of a woman named Esther? And, if so, what happened to her, and what does any of this have to do with the unhealed schism between Aunt Bee and Emily’s mother?

The Violets of March was simply a lovely book. Jio clearly loves her characters dearly, and her fondness for them makes them irresistible to the reader. This may sound like a setup with the potential to be saccharine, but Jio has a great sense of balance and narrative that prevents her story from turning campy or emotionally manipulative, while allowing it to be genuinely moving. Both Emily’s modern story and the mystery of the diary were well drawn, and Jio did a masterful job weaving them together in a way that detracted from neither story.

This was a beautiful and well-written story of redemption, hope, and starting over. I can’t wait to see what Jio has for us next. Highly recommended.

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Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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Under the Mercy Trees by Heather Newton – Book Review

Under the Mercy Trees by Heather Newton
Published by Harper Paperbacks, an imprint of Harper Collins

When Martin’s brother Leon disappears without a trace, Martin is forced to leave his, admittedly not very happy or successful, life in New York to return to his family’s home in North Carolina. Having the family – obviously excepting Leon – back together again forces the Owenby family members to confront both their past and present secrets.

It is difficult to do justice to “Under the Mercy Trees” in a synopsis, as it is very much a discovery of who the characters are in the present, and what past events have shaped them. Newton draws her characters in a way that makes them immediately compelling. Martin, who is sure that he cannot live as a gay man in a mountain town of North Carolina, Ivy, who sees the ghosts that surround any family and any place, the rest of their friends and family, all of them are fascinating, even when they are being petty or unlikable.

Although I wouldn’t classify this as a mystery, precisely, I was engrossed the entire time reading this by the question of what happened to Leon, as well as the lesser mysteries of what exactly happened in the lives of the families all those years ago.

A fabulous read and a haunting debut, I think that “Under the Mercy Trees” has a fairly wide appeal, and it is a book I definitely recommend.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*

Source: publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

The Princeling by Cynthia Harrod Eagles – Book Review

The Princeling by Cynthia Harrod Eagles
Published by Sourcebooks

Third in the Morland Dynasty series, I have previously reviewed the first two books. This review contains no major spoilers for the previous two books.

Set against the backdrop of Elizabeth I’s reign, this could alternately be titled: The one in which I lose interest in the Morland Dynasty series.

Don’t get me wrong, “The Princeling” is no mid-series slump (and, frankly, it is not even mid-series, there are at least 30 of the Morland Dynasty books). Harrod Eagles still does a fabulous job walking the line of getting across what is happening in England at the time these particular Morlands are living and not making it seem that she has forced them into every single event in English history. The events in which they do take part happen naturally and absolutely work as a consistent story. Even what I know she glosses over works for me, because it is simply not what was concerning the Morlands at that time.

Additionally, it is nothing short of amazing how many characters Harrod Eagles can help the reader keep track of, without sounding condescending about it. I very rarely had to stop and ask myself, “now who was that?” A major feat indeed, with so many generations passed since the events of “The Founding” and Eleanor’s descendants so spread out. Clearly she is a very skilled storyteller and does epic history very well indeed.

However, I find that the farther removed I get from Eleanor, the less I personally care about any of her progeny. In “The Dark Rose,” I attached myself to Nannette as my main character of interest but, although she reappears in this book, she is seen a great deal less. It seems as if the story is more fractured in general, paying more attention to more different characters with less of a single, sympathetic protagonist to give anchor to the book. On one hand, this technique broadens the amount of England’s story at this given time that can be told by this one family, but on the other it left me without much of a connection to the book, although that was a purely personal response and may not be shared by others reading this series.

I was also quite put off by the suggestion that one of the boys and his mother had a (never acted upon) love that went beyond that of mother and child. Here is a passage regarding the two of them from page 18, when he would have been a young boy:

“It is John,” Elizabeth exclaimed, and got up and went to the window. She looked down and her face coloured as she waved to the person below, smiling with a tenderness that would not have looked strange on the face of a lover.

This, along with a Morland girl deeply in love with the husband who made her his with rape and whom she great fears, coming so close on the heels of the creepily passionate uncle to half-niece love from “The Dark Rose” really just turned me off. Yes, they are relatively minor parts of the book, but they really stuck with and bothered me. Enough that, in addition to my relatively lack of interest in the characters has probably decreed that this is my last Morland Dynasty book.

Even though I wasn’t completely enamored of this iteration, I would still absolutely recommend that fans of British historical fiction check out this series. Since it is simply the story of a family, you can really start or stop from anywhere, although there is some continuity of the story from book to book, but you aren’t emotionally manipulated by cliffhangers to continue if you do happen to lose interest as I did.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*

This review was done with a book received from the publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

The Founding by Cynthia Harrod Eagles – Book Review

The Founding by Cynthia Harrod Eagles

Eleanor is an orphan, but she’s a gentlewoman, the ward of Lord Beaufort and companion to his wife. With no dowry, she doesn’t really expect to ever marry. Edward Morland, however, sees an advantage in Eleanor. Morland is no more than a wealthy sheep farmer, but his son Richard is somewhat educated and he wants to bring social cache into their family to mix with their riches and create a powerful family dynasty. Although Eleanor was chosen for her connections and the fact that her lack of dowry makes her attainable for a sheep farmer, but Edward could not have chosen a better bride for his son. Not only is Eleanor very fertile, bringing numerous healthy children into the family, but she is also incredibly strong-willed and savvy. It is her influence, more than anything else, that continues to catapult the family’s fortunes during the tumult of England during the War of the Roses.

The Morland Dynasty series is one I’ve been hearing about for years now, so I was quite excited about reading “The Founding,” which is the first book in the series. I was also a bit hesitant, however. What is my expectations were too high? At 500+ pages that would be a lot of disappointment. Luckily, “The Founding” absolutely lived up to the hype for me. From what I know about this series, it is set against hundreds of years of English history. I enjoy these sorts of books, but sometimes it seems that they simply try too hard to insinuate the main characters into every monumental event covered. I did not find that to be the case with “The Founding,” the events seemed to occur naturally, although when the characters did not experience the events first hand they occasionally had to engage in some slightly unnatural expositions.

I’m really not sure whether or not to be happy about discovering the Morland Dynasty series. On one hand, great new way to experience English history; on the other hand, huge series of big fat novels when I already have more I want to read than I could ever get to.

The Morland Dynasty series could be very hazardous to your TBR piles, but if you’re up to the challenge and a fan of English historical fiction then I would certainly recommend this series, I will definitely be reading more.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound

This review was done with a book received from Danielle at Sourcebooks.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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