4 1/2 stars, Joanna Barker, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Low Violence

Charades

My family and I are currently living in a state of displacement. We sold our current home rather quickly, consequently our next house isn’t quite ready for us. So we are living off the generosity of those who will let us impose on them until it is.

We are vacationing and visiting family and trying to make it more of an adventure for our kids. With each person we impose upon and with so many people under one roof, I rather feel like we’re going from one house party to another.

I think maybe I’ll convince the kids to play charades, or lawn bowls with me tomorrow. Though if we played it as they do in Joanna Barker‘s Miss Adeline’s Match, according to the regency era’s use of the word, they might wonder why they were hearing riddles instead of acting something out.

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Miss Adeline Hayes is the perfect lady’s companion: pleasant, conversational, and unceasingly proper. But when her closest friend, Charity Edgeworth, breaks off her arranged marriage without explanation, even Adeline’s superior skills are put to the test. Charity’s father banishes the two young women to the country, sending Adeline with a charge to find Charity a husband—or suffer dire consequences.

As Adeline takes on the role of reluctant matchmaker, she discovers more than one obstacle in her path. Not only does Charity prefer escaping in books to socializing, but Adeline soon finds her own attentions distracted by the standoffish—and irritatingly handsome—Mr. Evan Whitfield. Amidst an eventful foxhunt and the unexpected arrival of Charity’s former betrothed, Adeline simply doesn’t have time for a battle of wits with Evan. But the two are continually drawn together until Adeline begins to question her tightly guarded convictions about love and marriage.

However, when secrets are revealed and truths made known, Adeline must face her most fearsome obstacle yet: herself.

I loved how Joanna developed Adeline’s character. Even though the story was from her point of view, so often she was acting a charade, that the reader was slowing learning about as she was learning about herself.

Often when you have a book written in first person the personalities of the other characters is over shadowed by the emotions and thoughts of the main characters. I didn’t get that feeling in this book. Even though you’re reading from Adeline’s point of view, the other characters clearly have their own tone and voice. It added depth to not just the characters, but the whole plot.

I love Joanna’s stories, the story lines are always unique and unpredictable.  They fall under what I like to call realistic fairy tales. They have all the magic of a romance, while being wholly realistic about human nature and failings. The hero and heroine are people you can relate to and root for.

There was a point where I wanted to shout, “Duh, Adeline! The answer is staring you right in the face”… and I loved it! I had gotten so entrenched in the story and the characters that I was attempting to have a persuasive conversations with fictional characters. Having that kind of pull over a reader is some awesome writing my friends.

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4 1/2 stars, Joanna Barker, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Low Violence

Rags to Riches

Joanna Barker is a relatively new author that I can’t get enough of! Her first novel showcases the excellent writing voice she has for a debut author.

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Governess Juliana Ashbourne has dreams reaching far beyond the confines of her current position, hoping to someday establish her own school for girls. When she inherits a fortune from her late grandfather, she is shocked to learn that “someday” may soon be within reach. However, there is one condition: she must spend a month at the estate of Havenfield–with the very family who disowned her mother. Intent on securing the money she needs to start her school, Juliana accepts the invitation, vowing to guard her heart against those who shunned her all her life.

But Havenfield is far from what she expects. She discovers a grandmother seeking forgiveness, a cold and disapproving aunt, and a painfully shy cousin. And then there is Mr. William Rowley. Though the heir to the estate is a merciless tease, Juliana finds in him a friend and confidant–and perhaps something more. As she struggles to make sense of her new place in the world, her stubborn independence clashes with a yearning to belong and the even more confusing desires of her heart.

This rags to riches story has an enchanting heroine and an endearing hero with just the right amount of wit. I seriously loved William’s teasing. I enjoyed him so much as a character that it was a little difficult for me to understand her frustration with his teasing at times. His humor was dry and adorable.

I Loved the story line she gave to the aunt and the depth that added to the family dynamics. It blended well with the beautiful concepts of home and family she develops in the novel.

The story of redemption and forgiveness was beautiful. With how dotting the grandmother and her desire to treat her as family, I didn’t quite understand the dress situation. I kept thinking, you would have thought they would have gifted her at least one new gown?

Then I thought of the character Joanna Barker has created in Juliana. The refusal to accept a gown if it was offered, and wanting to be taken seriously, reflect her twice mended dress and her frustrations with William. I love when a character is well reflected in even the little subtle things.

Joanna’s second book was released just this week and is also a Rags to Riches story!

Beauty and the Baron: A Regency Fairy Tale Retelling

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Rose Sinclair has run out of options. With her father in prison and their bookshop sold to pay his debts, she has no choice but to turn to Henry Covington, the Baron Norcliffe. But the baron has more than earned his harsh reputation, and Rose must face his wrath in order to save her father—and herself.

Since the deaths of his parents, Henry Covington has isolated himself from society, ensuring the solitude of his estate with his deliberate callousness. However, when the beautiful Miss Sinclair appears on his doorstep, begging for a chance to repay her father’s debt to him, a moment of weakness finds him offering her a position—as a maid in his own house.

They both soon learn that first impressions are not to be believed. Henry is surprised—and intrigued—by Rose’s optimistic charm, while Rose slowly uncovers Henry’s true self, his compassion concealed behind the pain of loss and betrayal. But when a shadow from Henry’s past returns, their newfound hope is tested. They must decide for themselves who to trust and what they will risk for their happily ever after.  

Beauty and the Baron is a Regency retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and is Book 1 in a series of Regency retellings.

As a retelling Joanna Barker incorporated portions of the traditional tale making it obvious is was a beauty and the best retelling, but not overly cliche. Unique enough to stand out. The relationship was well developed for a novella with a good blend of misunderstanding, friendship, and attraction. She created tender moments and an engaging plot. The plot twists added excitement, but my favorite part was that the plot twists did not make them misplace their trust in each other. It’s a really sweat, clean read.