#119 A Review of Head in the Clouds by Karen Witemeyer

7794600When I learned that Karen Witemeyer had a third novel that I had not yet read (the others being Short Straw Bride and To Win Her Heart), I was excited to say the least.  A fun and engaging writer, Witemeyer’s works have always been a delight to read, and I was expecting no less than another gem when I dove into Head In the Clouds.  Fortunately for me, this prediction came true and I’m happy to report that Witemeyer has done it again, with another solid addition to her repertoire.

Adelaide Proctor is the victim of an unfortunate failed attempt to find a husband, and decides to bury her shame by applying for a live-in governess position on a central Texas sheep ranch.  She decides to forgo the affections of all men in order to recover from her ordeal and make a new start.  Meanwhile, we are introduced to Gideon Wescott, a Briton who has attempted to make it rich in the American wool industry and the owner of the very ranch that Adelaide has decided to make a new home in.  Gideon has a five-year old daughter named Isabella, who sadly has not spoken since her mother’s tragic death during the crossing from England to America.  Although he is concerned about Adelaide’s less than conservative ways in taking care of Isabella, Gideon has larger problems as Isabella’s uncle arrives to claim her and her inheritance as his own.  Gideon and Adelaide must work together in order to save Isabella from her uncle’s intentions, and in doing so they begin to discover a growing attraction between them.  Will Adelaide’s past prevent her from acting on her feelings?

No matter how many books I read by Karen Witemeyer, I seem to always say the same things: she writes amazing characters and plots that you can’t help but become engrossed in.  In this instance, Adelaide and Gideon’s love story acted like a magnet that drew me in right from the beginning.  The way in which Adelaide is able to eventually bond with Isabella despite what happened with her mother’s death was heartwarming and made me instantly feel a kinship with Adelaide.  To see her slowly put down her defenses and decide to give Gideon a chance was another moment that made my heart melt.  I couldn’t help but root for the two of them as they fought Isabella’s uncle, and any small victory that they made had me jumping for joy.  I guess the best explanation for why I was so invested in these characters is that they are so relatable.  Every time Witemeyer makes a character I feel as if she is writing a separate story for me, one which I will become intimately involved in. I feel his/her losses and successes just as much as the character feels them.  In this way, the plot can flow seamlessly from the characters, and the whole unit comes together as one excellent work.  I can’t wait to try A Tailor-Made Bride, as well as Stealing the Preacher coming out soon in 2013!

5 out of 5 Stars

Head in the Clouds by Karen Witemeyer
Bethany House (2010)
eBook: 324 pages
ISBN: 9781441213235

#6 A Review of Becoming Elizabeth Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen

Becoming Elizabeth DarcyAll too often it’s easy to get caught up in the romanticism of the Regency era.  Jane Austen’s novels make us crave for a time filled with proper manners, fancy ball gowns, and stolen kisses in the moonlight.  Getting lost in this time period makes it easy to forget all of the modern marvels that would not have been available back then.  In Becoming Elizabeth Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen, we get to see what happens when a modern woman is thrown into Austen’s era, and how these modern marvels changed people’s lives when they were introduced.

Elizabeth (Beth) Hannigan has the swine flu, and a fever so bad it’s caused her into fall into a coma.  It is in this state that she follows a boy through a bright tunnel, awakening in the body of Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy.  She is at first astounded that she’s somehow time traveled to Pemberley, and secondly scared that she’ll never return.  When Darcy comes home from a weekend hunting trip, she quickly realizes that all is not well with her favorite literary duo and that helping them solve their marital woes might be her ticket out of the Regency era.  Beth realizes she must convince Darcy that she is not his Elizabeth in order to begin solving the problems of the Darcy marriage; problems that her modern-day knowledge of medicine can help with.  After speaking with Darcy, Beth learns of the multiple miscarriages Elizabeth has suffered and her depression caused by the unfortunate death of their only child.  Will Beth be able to give Darcy the knowledge he needs to save his marriage to Elizabeth?  Will Beth be able to get back to 2010 and beat the swine flu?

Becoming Elizabeth Darcy is the darkest JAFF novel that Simonsen has written to date, but that does not mean it is in any way diminished from her other works.  On the contrary, it is better than ever!  Simonsen gives us a believable scenario in the sense that even the happiest of marriages can go through extremely dark times.  After reading so many JAFF novels that picture Elizabeth and Darcy in the happiest of circumstances, it was refreshing to read a novel unafraid to tackle such dark issues as depression and postpartum.

Simonsen’s humor does however still get an opportunity to shine through as she opens our eyes to the reality of what the Regency era was like.  The lack of flushing toilets, absence of anti-bacterial soap, and prevalence of unhygienic situations, offer Beth’s character ample amount of material to freak out over, making us laugh.  These satirical sections of the novel help to level out the darker and more complex remainder of the storyline.  That being said, I feel that Simonsen has a great balance between these themes of humor and seriousness, and this makes the novel an exciting and fulfilling addition to he fan fiction world.  Simonsen has once again shown that she can tackle any JAFF genre and is a force to be reckoned with.  I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next!

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my fifth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Becoming Elizabeth Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen
Quail Creek Publishing (2011)
Paperback 324 pages
ISBN: 9780615568676

Special thanks to Mary for sending me my review copy!