My Last Five Books // From Regencies to Pennsylvania.

Get this thought out of your head right now: I wasn’t sure how to title this post, as it may be my next blog series for the summer. It doesn’t mean that these are the last five books I’ll ever read. Quite the opposite. It means I’ll use this series as an opportunity to share with you all what I’ve been reading, a few thoughts on them, and where to get them yourselves.

While my reading interests do vary from time to time, my current reading rut has been with Cornwall historical fiction, ladies in borrowed ballgowns, and devilishly handsome men. So if those, erm, genres(?) don’t appeal to you, then perhaps you’ll enjoy a future Last Five Books post.

When I find a book in a series I want to try out, I usually read that one first, rather than the first book first. Sounds crazy, I know. But I’ve found that, unless the author’s been writing a long time, books which come later in a series are often more polished than the first.

Of course I’m well aware that’s not really a proper gauge. Usually it’s because that book’s premise is far more appealing than the first. And many times, I’ve found, that book can be read as a stand-alone. A book or two in today’s post turned out to be capable of just that, and it made me want to read those characters’ stories. So you see? It all worked out in the end!

Blogger’s note: I have never read anything by Jane Austin. I know some of these titles have been compared to the themes in Austin’s writing; I wouldn’t have any clue! So take my feelings about these books with a grain of salt.

5. ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT by Tara Johnson

  • Publication Date: Jan. 5, 2021
  • Publisher: Tyndale House
  • Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Lit

ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT follows the perspectives of Cadence Piper and Joshua Ivy as they navigate the gruesome realities of the American Civil War. Can they learn to be just as helpful and dynamic together as they are apart? Both main leads are very well developed, but not so developed that they don’t have room for growth. I also appreciated that their journey is neither “insta-love” or “enemies-to-lovers,” but somewhere in between.

One of the biggest reasons I enjoyed this book so much is not the main characters themselves, but the fact that it takes place over a long period of time. This allowed for the aforementioned character development to take place.

What I did find a bit awkward, even as a Christian myself, was how Cadence came to her faith. It seemed quite random in some parts, and thus I was a bit disappointed in the ending. It was as though it was an added requirement for the publisher, and all the buildup didn’t end in a way that was satisfying. Perhaps it could be, if that’s what you’re interested in. However, I didn’t know it was Christian lit until it came about in the prose.

While I read plenty of faith based stories, I was hoping for more of an epic adventure with ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT. That aside, it is a very well written story and Ms. Johnson certainly addresses some difficult topics. Give this a read if you’re fond of Civil War lit.

4. SCANDAL’S BRIDE by Pamela Gibson

Regency romances. I’ve got a love-hate relationship with this genre, if I’m being completely honest. It’s the only genre I’ve found I really need to be in the mood to pick up (usually when I’m feeling quite lonely, which is a lot of the time as of late). The biggest reasons for this love-hate relationship are as follows: the lady is a bluestocking trope, and the male lead is a second son trope.

SCANDAL’S BRIDE follows the circumstances which bring Lady Gwendolyn Pettigrew and John Montague together. The pacing for this story is quite slow and, in all honesty, I did end up skipping several parts. There were several “exciting incidents” one might expect in a Regency which gave the story a much needed added element of mystery.

This is one of the books where there’s this weird mix of character growth yet no character growth and I can’t put my finger on why it feels that way. Not only that, but Montague’s hesitations about everything, and how they affect everything, is frustratingly evident.

All in all, SCANDAL’S BRIDE was just an okay, quick read for me.

3. THE GREAT BOOK OF PENNSYLVANIA by Bill O’Neill

  • Publication Date: August 12, 2019
  • Publisher: N/A
  • Genre: Historical Geography eBooks

Moving on to book no. three. One would think that I, a Pennsylvanian, would learn something new from this book. I did, in fact, learn perhaps two new things about my state; most of it I’ve known since childhood.

Do you know someone who just moved to this state? Give them this book. It’s part of an eleven book series called A Trivia Nerd’s Guide to the History of the United States. So far it’s covered Texas, New York, California, Florida, Alaska, Ohio, Hawaii, North Carolina, Michigan, Colorado and, of course, Pennsylvania.

The thing is, Pennsylvania’s history is so vast that it really can’t be condensed down into a single book. It needs its own encyclopedia, or full aisle in the Library of Congress. I suppose I’m just disappointed that it didn’t take a deeper dive into its subject matter.

Eh, who am I kidding? I should’ve known it would have what’s already known. I shall have to look elsewhere to satisfy my unhealthy need for Pennsylvania content.

2. AN ARRANGEMENT OF SORTS by Rebecca Connolly

  • Publication Date: June 15, 2015
  • Publisher: Phase Publishing
  • Genre: Regency Historical Romance

Ah yes. Another Rebecca Connolly book I almost didn’t finish. Is that a harsh statement? Perhaps. But this is the second novel of hers I’ve tried – truly tried – to like. (This blog post isn’t going all that well, is it?) The other tale I tried to finish is A ROGUE ABOUT TOWN.

Everybody has authors they absolutely love, some whose stories are hit or miss for them, and others they just cannot stand. For me with Ms. Connolly, I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t get behind her writing style. While much of the conversation between AN ARRANGEMENT OF SORTS’ two MCs is very well written, the pacing was incredibly slow.

This is exactly why I’m always on the fence about Regencies in general. I’ve yet to find one with a balance of action and talk that I know I’ll enjoy reading again. With a somewhat predictable ending, AN ARRANGEMENT OF SORTS was not the tale for me.

1. THE BARON’S ROSE by Mindy Burbidge Strunk

  • Publication Date: August 15, 2019
  • Publisher: N/A
  • Genre: Historical Christian Romance

THE BARON’S ROSE is the second book in the Unlikely Match series. Let’s just say that Strunk definitely knows how to write a completely unlikable female lead. Despite this being a redemption story, I still couldn’t get behind Rose. That aside, I really liked Oliver’s character. He made the most effort of the two MCs.

What gets under my skin the most is how those who were affected the most by Rose’s words and actions were quick to forgive. Especially considering what happened in Book One. THE BARON’S ROSE is not a stand-alone novel. I suggest reading AN AMERICAN IN DUKE’S CLOTHING first.

If I had to make a case for any of these titles, the one which jumps to mind first is ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT. With its familiar settings in Washington D.C., season of intrigue and high emotional stakes, it’s the most adventurous of all. Perhaps my next five reads will have more than Romance!

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