Review: The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered

Genre: History (non-fiction)
Heat level: Spicy (The French Revolution was most definitely R-rated at the very least!)

Buy it on Amazon
Earlier this week, my hairdresser asked me where I get my ideas from. I know plenty of other authors who gain inspiration by reading novels in their own genre. I get mine from the history books. Truth is, history is often more unbelievable than fiction, and in the hands of a good writer, it really comes alive.

The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered by Laura Auricchio (@Auricchio_Laura) fits the bill. Granted, the Marquis de Lafayette’s life story needs no embellishment to be exciting, but I’ve read plenty of history books that manage to drown the drama in a sea of names, dates, and places. Ms. Auricchio tells the story of the man, starting with his upbringing, which I knew almost nothing about, all the way through to his death. 

I’m fascinated by the American and the French Revolutions. How could two conflicts that started with seemingly similar goals have followed such completely different paths? Following Lafayette’s career helps us see that vast difference between the goals of these revolutions in a much clearer contrast.
Lafayette started out as a young man interested in glory much like other young aristocrats of the time. However, he has an idealistic spirit that rather quickly, if not immediately, wins him the admiration of George Washington – a man not easy to impress. After the Revolution ends, he goes home to France where his early role in the French Revolution earns him a reputation as “the hero of two worlds.” Unfortunately for Lafayette, it doesn’t last.
Lafayette would probably be what we call a moderate today (never a popular stance when tensions are high), and his failure to emphatically join either side eventually makes him persona non grata in a time when that could be quite deadly.
Buy it on Amazon
Unbelievably, he appeals to the United States for what must be one of the first cases of political asylum. He had been granted citizenship by one of the states (Connecticut I think), but that was not honored, and his request was denied. Actually, I’m not sure it was outright denied so much as it was just caught up in Congress. (Think it’s bad today? You haven’t ready enough history books.)
I’m always amazed that Lafayette didn’t lose his head (literally) in the French Revolution, but to an odd stroke of “luck” or divine intervention (you decide), he ends up sitting out some of the worst days of the reign of Terror in an Austrian jail.
While Lafayette never relocates to the United States, in what seems to me as a magnanimous example of “letting bygones be bygones,” he comes back for a 14-month tour of the now-24 states in his adopted country in 1824. He dies ten years later and is buried in Picpus Cemetary in Paris, France. I’m not ashamed to say, I got a little teary eyed while reading about his funeral.
For those of you who are fans of the marquis, I’ve got a couple of related posts about Lafayette and the secondary role he played in my very first novel: Le Chevalier that you might enjoy:

Review: A Defense of Honor

Amazon link
Genre: Historical romance
Subgenres: Inspirational; Regency
Heat Level: Sweet

This is the first book I’ve read by Kristi Ann Hunter, but it won’t be the last. She might be relatively new on the scene, but she has several titles to her credit. I didn’t realize I already had a couple of them in my TBR list until after I finished A Defense of Honor and looked up the author’s background for this review.

Before I get to the good stuff, first a disclaimer. I received an ARC copy of A Defense of Honor from Bethany House.

I am going to give A Defense of Honor one of my rare five stars. In my view, three means worthy effort but not my cup of tea, four is I liked it; five is I loved it. I never write reviews for anything I can’t at least give a three. On the other side of the spectrum, I’m not saying a five is on par with Middlemarch, Jane Eyre, or Pride and Prejudice. I’m not even saying the story was perfect. It simply means I loved it, and I think others will, too.

(Actually, I’ve only managed to read one of those aforementioned classics all the way through. The others weren’t my cup of tea.)

I hesitate categorizing this as “sweet.” It fits, but the storyline also deals with the underbelly of Regency society and how it dealt with unwed mothers. There’s a certain amount of grittiness to it that I found appealing. Given the time period and how horrendous it could be, I always wondered how so many Regency-era writers could set that aside. (If you’ve read either Fierce Convictions or Amazing Grace, you know what I mean.)

Nevertheless, Ms. Hunter does not lose sight of the fact that this is a romance. Her Heroine (Kit) and Hero (Graham) have a definite chemistry that manages to stay above the line for a sweet romance while not losing any of the sizzle we’re looking for when we pick up a historical romance novel. (Even sweet ones!)

The theme, as I mentioned before, has to do with Regency society’s attitudes and actions (or lack thereof) toward unwed mothers. Arguably, Kit is responsible for her best friend Daphne (a bit of a wallflower) finding herself in the family way. Not willing to abandon her friend, and feeling more than a bit of guilt about the whole situation, Kit joins Daphne when her father disowns her. With Kit’s dowry, which her father gave her with the promise that she disappear, they start a program rescuing women in a similar situation.

Most of the character growth is on Kit’s side. She has to learn to deal with her guilt and accept forgiveness. Her effort to save others also leads her to make questionable decisions. She has to learn to trust God and let him lead her in a different direction.

Those who aren’t familiar with the underlying theology of “trust God” might find this a bit of a “beam me up Scotty” sort of approach to the second half of the story, but let me translate the Christianese for a moment. In secular language, it can be seen as “the ends do not justify the means.” By making the choices she does, Kit has become what she’s been fighting against. That ought to resonate with believer and non-believer alike.

Graham’s growth is less dramatic. It’s more akin to what most people go through when they struggle to find their purpose. I won’t dwell on him, but let me just say he is an incredibly likeable man. And a real hero.

The Inspirational aspect of the story is high, but considerably higher in the second half of the story than the first. In fact, I was even thinking the story seemed more mainstream until I got to the black moment. I suppose that’s when many of us create our first real relationship God, so it shouldn’t surprise me that her characters waited until then as well.

The secondary characters in this story are perfect for a series. There were a couple of small twists that I expected, but which never happened. I’m hoping Ms. Hunter is saving those for the sequels.

The Easy Way to Write More Book Reviews

If you’re an author like me, you probably often think, “You know, I really should write more book reviews.” It’s kind of a karma thing. If you’re a reader (again like me), you’d probably love to write more reviews so you can encourage the authors you like most.

But writing reviews can be hard. Even if you just want to write a short paragraph, you may not get to it right away, and even the best books can fade from memory as whatever book your currently reading takes over.
Here’s a trick I learned that has really helped me. (Although, I still don’t write as many reviews as I should!)

Take Notes!
While you’re reading, add notes to the book about things you might mention in your reviews. I do my reading on my iPad, usually in the Kindle app. All I have to do is highlight a passage, then click on it again to bring up a pop-up menu. It also brings up Wikipedia, Translate, and Dictionary functions, but don’t let yourself get distracted. The icon you want is the one that looks like a paper and pencil in the strip above that.

If you do that as you read, you’ll have all sorts of notes when it comes time to write a review, but don’t make it harder than it has to be. Authors are happy with one paragraph or even one sentence reviews. Remember, Amazon’s magical fifty review threshold (that determines which books get promoted) doesn’t care how long your review is.

You could take this same approach with physical books, but that either requires carrying a notebook and pen around while you read or writing in the margins. If it’s a library book or one you borrowed, obviously the latter isn’t an option. Plus, not only do I have writing in my books, I can never seem to decipher my handwriting later!

Goodreads Can Make You Even More Efficient!
I just discovered a way to use Goodreads to make the process even more efficient. You need to have automatically linked your Amazon account to your Goodreads account. If you aren't getting a pop-up message asking you if you want to do that, here's a link you can use - 

If that's still not working for you, add a note below and I'll see what I can do to help you figure it out. As you can probably tell, I'm a bit of a technophile.

Once you have your accounts linked, go to the books you are currently reading. These should be showing on the left-hand side of your home screen. (I can’t be the only one who has four or five going at a time!) Just below the author’s name, you should see clickable text that says “X notes & X highlights.”

Clicking on that brings you to a page that lists all your notes and highlights. Below is a screenshot from my reading of Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas. These happen to only be highlights, but if I had taken a note in the early portion of the book, it would show up here.  

Note that you can also choose to make your notes and highlights visible and add comments to them. This seems to me to be a great way to promote your favorite authors and perhaps start some interesting dialogue with other readers. (I wonder if others can add comments to my visible highlights.  If anyone is up for testing that, I’d love to know!)

Have a Favorite Tip?
Do you like to write book reviews either professionally or just for fun? I’d love to hear more tips for getting more reviews done in less time. I’m shooting for twenty-five book reviews this year, so any suggestions you can provide would be welcome!