Ashes and Lace by BJ Hoff

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.
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Ashes and Lace by B.J. Hoff

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

“Wear it to America,” Jane had said of the ring. “Wear it…and remember me and the Claddagh… Remember Ireland. For Ireland is not only where you come from, Terese Sheridan—Ireland is what you are.”

An unlikely group of people are essentially tied together from across the ocean in the mid-1800s. Prejudice, poverty, and seemingly impossible dreams are only some of the challenges they face in an Irish-American saga that continues in Ashes and Lace, a novel by author BJ Hoff.

This second half of the Song of Erin series is fittingly dramatic with characters that make themselves memorable. The story that began in Cloth of Heaven comes into more of its richness here. But I’ll confess that, as was the case in the first novel, much of the reading here felt like a setup for something else, to me. It took me quite a while to reconcile myself to it: “This isn’t a setup leading to a story. This is the story.” There’s a certain redundancy in a lot of it, as the author has a way of saying much at times while barely saying anything new. Still, she’ll say it in such a stirring way that you can’t be too bothered by it.

However, I did eventually become a little bothered by the overuse of italics. And my main concern was with a plot theme that I’ve never much cared for in ChristFic romance: “I’m so in love but can’t marry him/her because he/she isn’t a Christian.” It muddies the characters’ emotions and motives so that I never fully trust them. And while characters may need to get down to the nitty-gritty of their inner darkness to show their need for God, casting them in such a compellingly negative light doesn’t make them prime romantic characters to me. It makes me feel like they need more time to grow and figure out who they are before they turn their focus toward marrying somebody else.

Still, I did enjoy the fitting drama and richness of this moving saga. And given that this author did also write the absolutely magnificent American Anthem, I’ve every intention of reading more from her in the future.

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Here’s my review of the first Song of Erin novel, Cloth of Heaven.

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Cloth of Heaven by BJ Hoff

historical-books-3

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.
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Four Silver Stars

Book cover image courtesy of FictionDB.com

Book cover image courtesy of FictionDB.com

Cloth of Heaven by B.J. Hoff

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Jack had wondered then, and still wondered, how long it would take–what it would take–before the Irish were accepted instead of despised, respected instead of condemned.
Sometimes he thought it would take an eternity to right the wrongs that had been done to his people.

An unlikely group of people are essentially tied together from across the ocean in the mid-1800s. Prejudice, poverty, and seemingly impossible dreams are only some of the challenges they face in the first installment of an Irish-American saga, Cloth of Heaven by author BJ Hoff.

As I read American Anthem by this author years ago, and I found it absolutely magnificent, I’ve had the Song of Erin books on my shelf for quite a while, purposely putting them off, chiefly for anticipation’s sake.

Heart-wrenching, fittingly dramatic, and ultimately beautiful as this first novel is, I thought it moved at a cumbersome pace in places, redundant in a way, taking the long way around to some of its points. I didn’t really connect with most of the characters until more than halfway through the book–though, excluding maybe one or two of them (who gave me little reason to like or root for them), it might not have been the characters’ fault. It just took a while for the story to click for me, and once it did, it mainly seemed like an extended setup for Book Two.

But, to be fair, it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger or anything, and as I recall, the American Anthem novels are much the same way: not cliffhangers, but not books that could stand the best on their own, either.

Now, I don’t wish to make it sound as if I didn’t enjoy this heart-wrenching, fittingly dramatic, and ultimately beautiful novel, because I did. And I don’t plan on putting off Book Two for long.

“As for me, I decided a long time ago I didn’t want my life to be some old throwaway rag. No, sir, I want my life fashioned right out of the cloth of heaven.”

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Here’s my review of the second Song of Erin novel, Ashes and Lace.

American Anthem by BJ Hoff

historical-books

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.
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Five Gold Stars

American AnthemAmerican Anthem by B.J. Hoff

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Absolutely MAGNIFICENT.

This is precisely what literature is supposed to do: live and breathe. The journey from the prologue of Book One to the epilogue of Book Three led not only to the manifestation of a wondrous sound but that of a vision as well. The vision of a blind genius, no less! Oh, I had a qualm or two on stylistic and technical notes (like, why did such an abundance of words, especially when it came to the characters’ dialogue, have to be emphasized with italics? and shouldn’t there have been some explanation or even a word about Caterina’s being nearly as articulate as a preteen at only four years old, unless I missed that detail?), but the SPIRIT of the story was unrushed, satisfying, and triumphant—miraculous without being over the top.

Beautiful book cover as well, though it’s a pity Harvest House got the color of Michael Emmanuel’s eyes wrong, especially when his eyes are such a major part of the story. But, that error is ultimately of little matter.

Aside from works by authors I know personally and John Nielson Had a Daughter (which may always be my favorite book for sentimental reasons), American Anthem may very well be the best piece of work I’ve read thus far by a 21st Century author. Certainly one of the greatest books I’ve ever read, period.

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American Anthem was originally published in three separate volumes: Prelude, Cadence, and Jubilee. I read and loved Prelude and was determined to get the other two books in the series, then Harvest House Publishers came out with the single volume, a great paperback for readers like me who still get a kick out of the feel, smell, and weight (not “heaviness” but, you know, “weight”) of physical books.

Prelude (American Anthem #1) Cadence (American Anthem #2) Jubilee (American Anthem #3)