12 Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep

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. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to write a review.

12 Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

Clara’s family fortune was stolen nine months ago, so she’s compelled to accept an invitation to spend Christmastide at Bleakly Manor. If she remains for all twelve days, she’ll receive five hundred pounds. Yet, besides bringing her face to face with the former fiancé who jilted her, there’s something more mysterious, even dangerous, about this whole setup in 12 Days at Bleakly Manor, a tale by author Michelle Griep.

Well! As the first book of the Once Upon a Dickens Christmas series, there’s certainly something Dickens-esque about this Victorian holiday mystery. It’s cold and dreary but with drafts of light and humor that slide in, and it features an eclectic cast of distinct characters with a range of personalities and motives. What first drew me most into this story is its style, with excellent imagery and rare turns of phrase—a classic touch that’s refreshing to find in a modern read.

I was fairly enthralled through the first third of the book or so, and though I didn’t remain as gripped through the rest of it, my interest wasn’t lost. Now, there are bits of backstory that seem belatedly thrown in to help make sense of everything. I think “bringing it all together” works better when the right details are mentioned earlier in the book, instead of popping up suddenly to assist a late explanation or event. Also, there’s a slur in the book that I find culturally offensive and am sure the story could have done without.

Nevertheless, fellow fans of historical Christmas ChristFic should enjoy this tale, and I hope to read the second book in the series when it comes out next year.

 

The Captive Heart by Michelle Griep

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. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing for an honest review.

the-captive-heart

The Captive Heart by Michelle Griep

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

An escape from a brutish employer in eighteenth-century England to a new life in America is supposed to be the saving of Eleanor Morgan. But this escape may not be so safe when a debt forces her to marry Samuel Heath, a widowered father (and rumored murderer) in The Captive Heart by author Michelle Griep.

Besides the author’s rather lyrical style, Samuel may be my favorite aspect of this novel. Though he turns out not to have the thick beard I was expecting, he’s mysterious, gruff, protective, and impish, falling in love in a way that isn’t starry-eyed or sappy. And I liked Eleanor as well, a good mixture of fire and vulnerability. She isn’t a tiresome weakling, but neither is she so terribly sharp that she cuts up everyone around her. The story’s romance is intense but not overdone, and the passion here doesn’t feel “plastered on” just for sensational effect. It feels gradual and earned.

Now, the last third of the book started to lose me. I didn’t quite get a grip on the British/Native American politics, and I was a little disappointed once I saw that the building tension there wouldn’t be resolved in this novel. It allowed more time for Eleanor to turn a bit into the type of jealous and somewhat bratty character I don’t find as interesting.

Also, her reasons for the sudden, “180 degree” kind of decision she makes toward the end don’t feel like strong enough reasons for a turn that drastic, then and there. It’s almost as if the story just needed a final big problem from which to create an ending.

Nevertheless, it’s a nice, healthy helping of historical fiction that I think many other ChristFic fans should enjoy. I’ll be on the lookout for the sequel I’m sure must be coming.