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REVIEW:  A Home for Her Heart by Janet Lee Barton

REVIEW: A Home for Her Heart by Janet Lee Barton

A-Home-for-Her-Heart

Love on Assignment

Magazine writer Elizabeth Anderson has sparred with newspaper reporter John Talbot for years. Though they cover similar stories, John thinks Elizabeth’s writing is trivial, and she finds him too boastful. So when they must work together to investigate New York City’s worst tenement houses, they’re surprised by the great team they make.

Despite their professional rivalry, John and Elizabeth begin to trust each other as they grow from competitors, to friends, to something more. But then John makes a startling discovery that would break the story—and Elizabeth’s heart—wide-open. John’s always been driven by his career—can he give up one dream for another?

Dear Ms. Barton,

I enjoy reading the Love Inspired Historicals mainly for the unusual times and settings which are featured in them. There are only so many Dukes I care to read about and even Western gunslingers/sheriffs get too familiar after a while. After watching the PBS series on NYC which mentioned Jacob Riis’s 1890 book “How the Other Half Lives,” it was the tenement investigation in the blurb that caught my attention and made me decide to give this one a try.

While I had hopes for some hard-hitting journalism, the center and focus of the book was mainly on the life at the boarding house where Elizabeth and John both live. It’s a loving, almost family environment with a kindly owner and several very nice but ultimately mainly forgettable tenants. Mrs. Heaton does have her rules and PDAs are mainly limited to engaged couples and exuberance at baseball games while female residents aren’t supposed to be out at night alone.

The details about life there, in NYC and in the tenements are numerous and obviously well researched but there is a lot of repetition. Meals are described in detail, the heat, trolley transport and dinner, and nattering conversation. Some of this was pertinent to the plot while some, alas, was mere filler that I often skimmed.

Elizabeth and John have both had bad past romantic experiences. John got fired from his newspaper job due to the boss’s daughter leading him on while Elizabeth’s fiancé turned out to only want her for her family’s money rather than herself. Both now shy away from romance and have vowed to never risk their hearts again. Lest we forget that, this is mentioned in almost every chapter.

Since this is the second book in this Boarding House Betrothal series, the characters of another of your books are secondary ones here. As such, I expected some background information which I think, for the most part, is sparingly done. Readers who are new to this world, as I was, can start here and not be lost.

The investigative reporting is much more low key than I was hoping for mainly consisting of Elizabeth and John wandering around some tenement buildings, taking some pictures, talking once or twice with people there and then telling each other about searching for information at City Hall. John has one short dust-up with a manager and that’s pretty much all. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed in this. It did serve as a contrast to Elizabeth’s life of wealth but since she’d ditched all that in order to live her life on her own terms, even this part of the plot was dulled instead of hard edged. Eventually the investigation touched closer to home but the brief flare up of emotion and tension soon fizzled out as well.

So mainly this story just sort of drifts along at a leisurely pace. Two perfectly nice people finally really notice each other, begin to get along, have their momentary doubts and then happily fall in love. Some of the tenements are cleaned up, true love is found and lots of good meals are eaten at the boarding house over pleasant conversation. There’s nothing really bad about the book but it’s one I think won’t stick in my mind for long. C

~Jayne

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REVIEW:  Glorious Sunset by Ava Bleu

REVIEW: Glorious Sunset by Ava Bleu

glorious-sunset

African King Taka Olufemi has traveled over four hundred years to find the woman who holds the soul of his murdered queen and he’s a little cranky. With a ruby brooch as his vessel, the former king is forced to grant wishes to ungrateful mortals hoping to one day find, and win, the heart of his lost love. But it will take more than good looks, superior intelligence and an impressive pedigree to earn the love of Violet Jackson.

The ambitious interior designer doesn’t remember Taka or their history. Love—with its inevitable heartbreak chaser—has no place in Violet’s immediate life plan. All the handsome “genie” can do for her is pony up on the three wishes he’s promised and try not to be a pain while he’s at it.

While the arrogant king is praying for his submissive queen and the faithless object of his affection isn’t praying at all, guardian angel, Aniweto, is praying for them both. With Ani’s help, Taka and Violet’s epic love will be rekindled and this royal couple-behaving-badly will finally earn their happily-ever-after through the grace of the Almighty.

Dear Ms. Bleu,

Reading the first sentence of the blurb at our submissions site was what reeled me in and made me want to try this book. In fact, I don’t think I even waited to read the excerpt but went straight to download from there. However, soon after I started it, I almost put it down. In the prologue, Taka’s pain from his loss is enough to cause him to take a pretty harsh stance against the Almighty and in the opening chapter, Violet comes off as a woman who, as another character later says, is as mean as the day is long. But I decided to keep at it – at least for a little while longer – and see where it took me. Well the grade should show that you took these two and turned them around.

At the beginning, Violet is not an easy person to love or even like. The lady has some hard edges but she’s achieved on her own and seems to have clawed her way up to where she wants to be on her own power. I had to admire that even if there were times I was appalled at her actions and speech. At times Taka isn’t much better though he certainly thinks he is. He’s got a lot to learn for someone who has been made to live in a brooch for 400 years and only gets out occasionally. Modern mores for women to start with and how to pull his sulky lip back in when he gets thwarted for another.

Both have troubles, issues and aren’t perfect. But hey, they’re real which means at times they come across as PITAs. We none of us are perfect. Sulky as they can be, and they are, they’re also learning. Through the whole book, in fits and starts and at times false starts, they are making progress. Slowly at first but it’s coming. I would hope that this scene or chapter would be when the light bulb went off and when it didn’t, I’d be disappointed rather than annoyed – which I think is telling. I was invested in these two and really wanted them to overcome the things standing in their way to discovering themselves and each other.

Violet does an honest evaluation of her life, friends, boyfriend and job and what she’s been willing to settle for to avoid pain and disappointment. Taka is realizing that he took his wife for granted and has an overweening arrogance that sees only what he wishes rather than what’s there.

The steps towards self realization are at times painful for Taka and Violet. Humans have an infinite ability to rationalize and dismiss what we don’t want to face about ourselves and these two are no exception. You make them work for it and at times suffer for it – after all, they’ve got 400 years of pain, grief and guilt to work out – but since they’re both strong willed and more than a touch stubborn, that makes sense and in the end, the lessons learned are hard won but theirs.

After the prologue, the religious element of the story took a backseat for most of the rest of the book. But when it surfaced again, it came gushing up. Okay let me confess that Taka’s and Violet’s separate conversations and experiences with the guardian angel Aniweto and, through him/her, with God had me sniffling by the end. It’s hard for me to recall reading a more powerful representation of God’s infinite love for his children – even in the face of them acting stupid – and wish for them to choose wisely of their free will than this book. It’s not preachy at all but full of such acceptance and love that I felt deeply moved even after finishing the book.

To present two such flawed characters and yet manage to also show their fears and frailties while still getting me on their side to root for them is quite a feat. I love that in the end, Violet still has her sass – which Taka adores – and her curves – which he also loves, while Taka still has his pride and intelligence but without a bit of the arrogance. Yes, I had my doubts but in the end they won me over. B

~Jayne

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