Review: A Spy's Devotion

Genre: Historical Romance
Subgenres: regency, clean read, faith-based
Author: Melanie Dickerson, @melanieauthor
This is my first read by Melanie Dickerson, an established author whose main focus seems to be
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faith-based/inspirational medieval romances. After reading the acknowledgments at the back of the book, I think this may be her first Regency. If so, well done, Ms. Dickerson. (Even if not her first, it’s still well done!)

I’m not a huge fan of Regencies. (I know! What is wrong with me???) But, I picked this one up because I am always looking for new historical authors whose books favor the sweeter side of romance. Plus, it was available through Kindle Unlimited, so the risk was minimal. I’m still not a huge fan of Regency romances, but I have become a fan of Ms. Dickerson’s.

The story starts out with the heroine and hero running into each other at a ball. It’s not a bad beginning at all, but in this day and age, when we’re used to someone getting shot or kidnapped by page six, it just seems a bit slow. It’s more reminiscent of an old-fashioned Regency, and those of you who miss this genre’s heritage, should like the way this one begins.

For those of you who crave a little more action (in the plot, not between the sheets), this one picks up nicely – as you might expect a spy novel/romance to do. It’s not exactly a spy thriller, but we’re reading romances for a different sort of thrill, aren’t we? The story doesn’t sag in the middle as so many do, and by the end, I really felt for the peril the heroine was in. The best compliment I can give this story is that I stayed up late and started work late to read it. I even considered putting off my Bible study homework so I could finish it.

The heroine in the story is level-headed, and the hero is an honorable man. He’s a soldier on leave from the Peninsular War (fighting Napoleon on the Iberian Peninsula.) This is probably one of the reasons I liked it so much, despite it being a Regency. The hero and heroine felt like real people, with real lives. He is supposed to go back to the front, but gets delayed as he investigates a potential plot to kill Wellington. There were a few loose ends that didn’t exactly get neatly tied up, but they may in the other two books in the series. (I’ve actually already read A Viscount’s Proposal and I am eagerly waiting A Dangerous Engagement, which will be released in September.)

I put this in the sub-genre of “faith-based” as opposed to “inspirational” because I characterize the latter as something which is intended to convert or convince. The heroine’s faith plays some part in this story, but it is downplayed. I think even readers who aren’t yet sure about “Christian romances” will enjoy this one.

Review: Spinster

Genre: Historical romance (England, late 19th century)
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Subgenre: clean read, secular
Author: Suzanne G. Rogers, @suzannegrogers 

One of the things I love about Kindle Unlimited is that I get the chance to read authors I’ve never tried before, pretty much risk-free. The latest on my ever-growing reading pile is Spinster by Suzanne G. Rogers.

This one starts out a tad rough. Although, I am the first one to toss a poorly written book aside, so it’s not THAT rough! Just bear with me a moment.

It has a very appealing premise, but the characters seem a bit touchy. I can understand the younger ones. As a parent of teenagers, that seems realistic. But, even the older ones snap at each other a bit more than seems warranted.

The other challenge is the heroine, Claire, who seems awfully capable given her upbringing. She hurls legalese with ease at her neighbor. Only later in the book do we learn that her father is a noted barrister. But, given the way she argues her point, you might have thought she was, too.

She’s also a quick learner. Once on her own, she seems to just know how to cook, including what ingredients she needs to buy to bake things, even though she’s probably always had servants to do that sort of thing. She has one minor disaster with a loaf of bread, and then everything is smooth sailing. She does have a cookbook of sorts, but still…I’ve been baking for forty years or more, and I often have disasters, minor and major, even though I have modern conveniences such as a mixer and an electric oven.

Now that I got that out of the way, this is a lovely read. It is clean. There is some kissing and a touch of innuendo. (Probably far less than in the average high school hallway, though.) Meriweather (Meri) and Claire are both likable characters, and the animosity between them is understandable. Their relationship progresses at a nice even pace, and nothing seems contrived.

Aside from the teenaged angst, the secondary characters are also likable, especially Meri’s guardian-turned-butler, Franklin. Their relationship has an Alfred/Batman feel about it, and I enjoyed their interaction immensely.

The book takes a turn toward a mystery at the end. It would have been nice to weave that in more at the beginning of the story, but it’s not totally out of the blue and is a nice way to conclude the story.

Favorite line: “Society considers me a spinster, too.” Claire sat next to her [housekeeper] on the stairs. “I’m beginning to wonder, however, if spinsterhood is more about how we view ourselves rather than how others view us.”

Ms. Rogers is a prolific writer, so if you enjoy her work, you will have plenty to read. Just scanning through some of her books, it looks like many of them are also available on Kindle Unlimited. If you’re thinking of springing for a membership, having a good author you can turn to time and again, makes it that much more worthwhile.

Review: The Election of 1800

The Election of 1800: The History and Legacy of America’s Most Controversial Presidential Election is
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an easy read, not too expensive (available on Kindle Unlimited), and a must-read for anyone who thought the “politics of personal destruction” was something that sprang up in the 21st century. Thomas Jefferson might still be the reigning champion if only he had today’s social media tools at his disposal.

There were a few editorial errors in the book, e.g., spots where words were repeated. In one instance, a letter that was supposed to a be a follow up to another letter was the exact same letter. But, given that it’s not designed to be the ultimate reference source, I give anything from Charles River Editions a bit more leeway. If you want a more thorough and intricate approach to the subject, you might try Adamsvs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 by John Ferling. I haven’t read it, but The Election of 1800 referenced it both in end notes and body copy several times. (I bought the audio version with one of my stockpiled credits so it's in my TBR pile.)

For me, the most interesting aspect of the book was that Adams was treated as only a secondary character. Jefferson is the leading man, of course, but there are several in the supporting cast including primarily Hamilton and, later, Aaron Burr. There is even a fairly detailed explanation of how the famous duel came about and various theories on what really happened. It’s all tied to the election, and for me, it’s a plus when an author can connect the dots between historical events. It helps bring things into focus.

As I mentioned, this is an easy read. It only took me about a week’s worth of workouts on my elliptical. The writing is straightforward and easy to follow. If you have a budding political scientist in your household, I’d even recommend it to middle or high-school aged children.