Monday, May 14, 2012

Book Reviews: Daughters of Jared and Dangerous Favor

Can you believe it's Monday already?  That weekend flew by way too fast.  I hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day.  Mine was wonderful---I had all eight kids home with me to enjoy my favorite foods.  And I got some beautiful flowers, chocolates, books, and hand-drawn gifts.  Those are always the best.

But today, I have something special for you.  TWO book reviews!  Because I was a very busy girl last week when I found two incredible books and finished them both in a 48 hr. period.  They were just that good.  So I have to warn you about something.

There is going to be major gushing.  MAJOR.

So prepare yourself.

Daughters of Jared by H.B. Moore

Daughters of Jared is a tightly woven Book of Mormon historical that honestly kept me in my comfy chair long after I should have been up making dinner and doing some other Mom-like things.  (I know it's just after Mother's day and I probably shouldn't admit that.)  But I just had to see how it all ended!

We are introduced to our heroine, Naiva, the long-suffering second daughter of ousted King Jared.  She is level-headed and doesn't have much ambition when it comes to being a royal queen or getting her father's crown back.  She seems to want to have a normal, quiet existence.  Her sister, Asherah, on the other hand has a lot of ambitions.  She wants her father's crown back, she wants to be queen, and she has thought of a cunning plan to do it.  Unfortunately, her plan relies a lot on Naiva's silence and presence which puts Naiva in danger more than once and causes Naiva to have to make a choice---her own happiness or her family.

The relationship between the two sisters was exceptionally well done.  I could completely empathize with Naiva, who has lost her mother, is largely ignored by her father, and is wanting that close sister relationship she's always had with Asherah.  She is forced to make so many hard choices that I found myself wondering what I would do if I were in that position.  The strength of the book for me was that the characters, the sisters, the family, the gray-shaded villains, and our hero, were so real, the royal intrigues so easy to believe and hard to predict, that it was easy to lose myself in the story.

And speaking of losing myself in the story, part of the reason that was so easy was that the setting was well-researched and completed the illusion of getting lost in that time period.  Whenever I read a book by H.B. Moore I really feel as if I were there because she is so thorough as an author in paying attention to the details. 

I couldn't find anything I didn't like about the book.  It is easily one of the best historicals that have come out this year.  Two thumbs up and more.

Click here for a link to the book trailer.  I thought it was well done as well.

Here is the back copy:

 Naiva, daughter of the dethroned King Jared II, lives in the shadow of her privileged elder sister, Asherah. But when Asherah develops a secret plot to return their father to the throne, Naiva's resentment turns to fear. Thwarting the scheme becomes more complicated when Naiva discovers that Akish, the first man who has shown interest in her, is an integral part of the plan. Asherah traps Akish in a ploy to make him marry her, breaking Naiva's heart and leaving her feeling more alone than ever. Somehow Naiva must find the strength to stand against the encroaching evil in the kingdom and a sister who will stop at nothing to become queen. When Akish's wickedness escalates and threatens to destroy the bonds of sisterhood, Naiva must decide between protecting her sister and honoring her new belief in the true God,a forbidden belief that could cost her life.

Dangerous Favor by Joyce DiPastena

When I finished Daughters of Jared, it was late at night and I had that let-down feeling, wishing I had something else just as captivating to read.  There, just staring up at me was Dangerous Favor by Joyce DiPastena.  It was already late, but I thought to myself, I'll just read one chapter.  Wow, was I ever sucked in.  Reading until 2 a.m. sort of sucked in.  The next day I carried that book with me everywhere, desperate enough to read even a paragraph or two while I was at a red light, just so I could see what happened!  I read whenever I had two minutes during the rest of the day and finished by supper time.  (Yes, my kids got a great dinner that night.  I promise.)

This is a medieval adventure romance that had it all---mayhem, massive misunderstandings, medieval jousting, and of course, murder.  It was like an incredible French mille-feuille with all the layers of delicious intrigue mixed in with the cream of romance and love. 

Mathilde, our heroine, is determined to find a man to help her prove her father's innocence since he was accused of being a thief.  She meets Lord Therri and knows from the instant she sees him, after he's accidentally knocked her to the floor, that he is the knight of her dreams.  His friend, Etienne, with his laughing eyes and teasing voice takes a favor from Mathilde to wear on the jousting fields the next day, but Mathilde, an innocent, believes Etienne to be a seducer only trying to make the lovely Lady Violette jealous.  The laugh out loud misunderstandings and hijinks that follow quickly become serious when an assassins' crossbow cuts through the air and murderous demands are dealt with.  Just when I thought I had it all figured out, a new layer was introduced and I was quickly turning pages wondering who could really be trusted and if our fair hero would prevail.

I would highly recommend this book to any historical lover.  The medieval setting is incredible, and the author has given her readers plenty of action, intrigue, and clean romance---all the ingredients of a book that will remain on my keeper shelf.

Here is the back copy:

Her father has been accused of stealing from the king, an allegation that has reduced her family to poverty. She has one chance to find and marry a man who can help her prove her father's innocence. Lord Therri, heir to a rich barony, has the wealth and connections Mathilde needs to delve into the mysteries of her father's past. Furthermore, Therri embodies all her romantic dreams.

Etienne, the younger son of a disgraced family, has neither wealth nor connections, but is smitten with Mathilde at a glance. She finds the knight intriguing, but believes he is only out to seduce her. While she seeks for a way to win Therri's attention, Etienne tricks her into granting him her favor, an embroidered white ribbon, for a tournament, setting in motion a dangerous chain reaction of events. Can Etienne save Mathilde from a nightmare from her past and prove himself the true hero of her dreams?


Heather Moore said...

Thanks for these reviews, Julie!

Joyce DiPastena said...

So glad you enjoyed Dangerous Favor, Julie! Loved your review of Daughters of Jared. I can't wait to read this one.

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Thanks, Heather and Joyce for creating two incredible books. I really really enjoyed them. :)

Jon Spell said...

Regarding Mother's Day, I ended up going with flowers, candy (Raffaelo's), breakfast (Cinnabons) and, of course, the massive book you contributed to.

Hey, how did your talk go?

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Jon, I ended up talking about the women in the scriptures and their strength in the face of trials. Honestly, I was worried about how this would be taken because it wasn't exactly about mothers per se, but more about women and our struggles. I got a lot of nice comments about it afterwards, but the amazing thing was one woman came up to me, crying, and said that she'd held feelings against me for a very long time, but so appreciated my talk because she felt like a failure as a mother and needed to hear what I had to say, and as she listened, the feelings she'd held against me seemed to disappear.

So if nothing else, it was all worth it for that moment.

Thanks for asking. :)

Debra Erfert said...

I've read Joyce's book. Love it!

I have Heather's D Of J book on my Kindle, calling to me.

Julie, it's amazing how mean words from a stranger can jerk you from your happy life and put a stranglehold on your thoughts. But that is what happened last month when out of the blue a woman I didn’t remember called me on a Sunday evening and told me I had hurt her feelings—three years ago.

As I listened, I was amazed at the anger I heard seething in her soft voice as she struggled to remind me of a meeting we had attended together. I only recalled parts of that meeting, and then only vaguely. It was a Relief Society presidency training meeting, and we were in the “break-the-ice-get-to-know-each-other” part. I was very uncomfortable being there to begin with because I’m debilitatingly shy, and, as usual when I am anxious, I joke around to cover up my feelings.

She took a flippant remark about her "being small" too personally (I'm almost 6 feet tall--everyone is smaller than me!) and has held onto this slight in her heart and let it fester.

I apologized to her over the phone. I pretty much begged her forgiveness and tried to explain that I didn’t say it intending to insult her, but it was a stupid mistake on my part if it came across to her like that. I apologized six times. But I could tell she was still angry with me, even after three years when she suddenly spewed out, “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!”

Then she had me in tears . . .

I'm glad your member sister told you she didn't hold anymore hard feelings against you, but I don't think she should've told you she had them to begin with! I can't imagine you had said anything deliberately to hurt her feelings, so whatever problems she had were hers to deal with.

Weaver said...

Both sound awesome and are on my to-read list!

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Donna, they really are awesome. I can't recommend them highly enough!

Debra, I can totally relate. The event this sister described happened seven years ago. I honestly don't think any apology I offered would have appeased her, but some of the things I said in my talk touched her heart apparently and for that I am grateful. I am one of those people who hate it when others are angry or don't like me. It's a blessing and a curse for sure. Thank you, Debra, for believing I wouldn't deliberately hurt someone. *hugs*

Konstanz Silverbow said...

I can't wait to read Dangerous Favors! (It has been on my TBR list for a long time!)

New Follower~

Konstanz Silverbow

Jon Spell said...

Come on Debra, Julie used to be an editor! You think editors leave only happy, lovey feelings in their wake?

(I can say this because I'm married to one.)

I've only met one person in my life who both says he doesn't hold a grudge, and actually doesn't seem to. But, he's kind of odd in general so maybe that's what it takes.

It seems to be worse when it's a fellow church member. I don't know if this is because we hold each other to higher standards of if it's some aspect of pride - people have left the church over the most inconsequential slights. (Oh, they are not without substance, they say.) I'm glad you got some mending there, Julie, and Debra... I'm so sorry. I hope you can find a way to deal with it.

Debra Erfert said...

. . . yeah, me too . . .

PearlsReviews said...

I've been wanting to read these books. Reading your reviews have confirmed my determination to read them! I can't wait to add them to my personal library.

Heather Moore said...

Debra, something similar happened to my sis-in-law. It just floored me . . . she had no idea she'd offended the woman she knew either.

Susan said...

Will definitely be reading Heather's book. She is a lovely person and I'm sure her book is just as lovely.