Saturday, August 6, 2016

An Elegant Facade by Kristi Ann Hunter

Lady Georgina Hawthorne has worked tirelessly to seal her place as the Incomparable for her debut season. At her first London ball, she hopes to snag the attention of an earl.

With money and business connections, but without impeccable bloodlines, Colin McCrae is invited everywhere but accepted nowhere. When he first encounters the fashionable Lady Georgina, he's irritated by his attraction to a woman who concerns herself only with status and appearance.

What Colin doesn't know is that Georgina's desperate social aspirations are driven by the shameful secret she harbors. Association with Colin McCrae is not part of Georgina's plan, but as their paths continue to cross, they both must decide if the realization of their dreams is worth the sacrifices they must make.
This novel was an excellent read. It is the second novel in the Hawthorne House series, and it actually starts about halfway through the first novel, a Noble Masquerade, only from Georgeanna's perspective. It was really interesting to see her from her own point of view, especially since she puts on a completely different front with the rest of her family. So having read the first novel, I was quite surprised to see her actual character. The plot of An Elegant Facade was entertaining and thought provoking as Georgeanna had to work through what it meant to love someone, to actually be a lady, and what it means to follow after God. I really enjoyed seeing her relationship with Collin grow from hatred to indifference to confusion to something more. Collin was also an excellent character that I already appreciated from the first novel, and I enjoyed watching his interactions both with the characters from the first novel in this book and from Georgeanna. Overall, I really enjoyed the new take on the first novel, plus the continuation into Georgeanna's own story, and I liked watching both her and Collin's growth throughout the story.

I received this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Delilah by Angela Hunt

Life is not easy in Philistia, especially not for a woman and child alone. When beautiful, wounded Delilah finds herself begging for food to survive, she resolves that she will find a way to defeat all the men who have taken advantage of her. She will overcome the roadblocks life has set before her, and she will find riches and victory for herself.

When she meets a legendary man called Samson, she senses that in him lies the means for her victory. By winning, seducing, and betraying the hero of the Hebrews, she will attain a position of national prominence. After all, she is beautiful, she is charming, and she is smart. No man, not even a supernaturally gifted strongman, can best her in a war of wits.
Delilah by Angela Hunt was a fascinating look into the story of Samson from the perspective of Delilah. Instead of Delilah being portrayed as basically a witch out to destroy Samson, instead we see a woman who has suffered much and is just as confused and sinful as the rest of us apart from God. The storyline is told in third person, but it alternates between Delilah and Samson's perspective. The plot holds pretty true to the biblical story, but I enjoyed how the author wove the back story of Delilah: her past, her thoughts, and her changes in character. I have always wondered about what kind of person Delilah was to be so conniving and manipulative, but after reading this perspective of how her life might have been like, I was able to understand her possible point of view and how she was just trying to live and survive. I thought the author's portrayal of Samson was very believable, and I love how Samson's servant was really probably an angel or the Holy Spirit sent to guide Samson. I liked how both characters were flawed but yet at the end both received some measure of forgiveness, redemption and hope in a future, unflawed Savior.

I would highly recommend this novel, and I received this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

When Death Draws Near by Carrie Stuart Parks

Death has always been part of Gwen Marcey’s job. But when faced with her own mortality, everything takes on a different hue.

Forensic artist Gwen Marcey takes a temporary case in Pikeville, KY to attempt to draw a serial rapist. However, as soon as she arrives on the scene she finds that no one wants her there and that this latest victim has mysteriously left town just like all the others. Instead, the sheriff grudgingly takes her help in sketching an unidentified body that had been killed by a rattler. What she discovers is that this the latest in many snake deaths and that they all seem to be related to a Pentecostal serpent handling church. Since serpent handling is illegal in Kentucky, this church has gone underground, and the city's leading politician gives Gwen a hefty reward to go undercover and find out who is behind the church and these deaths. What Gwen quickly discovers is that multiple persons seem to be trying to kill her and that there might be more to both the serial rapist and the serpent related deaths than she thought. As the death count rises and as her teenage daughter joins her, Gwen is in a race against time to save both herself and her daughter from the unknown evil threatening to take over Pikeville. 

When Death Draws Near is suspenseful and well written novel that is brimming with mystery, danger, and even a little romance. This a Gwen Marcey novel, but it can be read as a standalone novel. I thought the plot line was interesting and contained enough twists and unexpected developments to keep me glued to the pages. I liked how there were multiple people what could have been behind the disappearances and deaths and that the reader was left in the dark with only slight glimpses until the very end. I also thought the author's take on the Pentecostal church was interesting and thought provoking, even though I did not agree with the church's literal interpretation of parts of the Bible. I also thought that while God and Jesus were mentioned, it was often from an extremist point of view or when Gwen was trying to bargain with God instead of a more biblical representation. I think that Gwen's end turning point to God should have been more about redemption and less about trying to bargain her way out of a struggle. However, in the end, Gwen did seem to turn to God less for what He could do for her and more because of who He is. 

I thought the characters, particularly Gwen, were interesting and fairly well developed. Most of the characters remained fairly flat with little development, only secrets. However, Gwen was a more rounded character who did experience growth during the story. I thought the other minor characters added to the suspense of the story if not necessarily to its depth. The little romantic aspect of the story was intriguing, but seemed a little contrived and forced due to the speed of its development. However, at the end of the story it slowed down and looked to be an interesting development for future Gwen Marcey novels. Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and its plot line was both suspenseful and thought provoking. 

I received this novel from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for an honest review.