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2018 Whitney Awards Finalists: Historical Romance

By Jessie Christensen

Although this year’s Historical Romance finalists for the Whitney Awards have similar covers and similar settings, they still offer a variety of storylines. You can read about love that develops quickly, love that builds slowly over years, first love, second-chance love, love that overcomes dysfunctional family histories, and even love that comes after marriage. There are many LDS writers in the field of historical romance fiction, and this year’s finalists showcase some of the best.

My Sister’s Intended by Rachel Anderson

For years, everyone in both family’s has assumed that Prudence’s sister Sophia would marry their neighbor Lord Knave. However, now that they are of age and beginning to court, things are awkward between them and their relationship is struggling. As an aspiring romance novelist, Prudence steps in to help her sister, but instead find some unanticipated consequences from meddling in the lives of others.

This was a light, quick read that I finished in just a few hours on a quiet afternoon. Unfortunately I  kept feeling distracted because the Regency setting was very much in the background and the protagonist felt much too modern to really fit into the time period. Many of the historical romances I read have this problem, but this book was particularly egregious. If you aren’t a stickler for a strong sense of setting or historical accuracy, this book is a lot of fun. Prudence is a spunky character and I loved reading about her.

 

The Truth About Miss Ashbourne by Joanna Barker

Juliana Ashbourne is shocked when she learns that she has received a large inheritance from the grandfather she never met. The only condition is that she has to spend a month with her mother’s family at their estate. Although Juliana arrives at Havenfield wary of spending time with the people who disowned her mother, she gradually learns to let love into her heart, both from her newfound family and an unexpected suitor.

One of the things I like in romance books is a sense of real growth in the characters; this book did an excellent job showing Juliana’s gradual change from being guarded and defensive to opening up to the love and care of others. I really liked the relationship between her and William, and I loved all of family members and wish I could spend some time with them on their estate.

 

Promises and Primroses by Josi S. Kilpack

After losing his wife, Peter Mayfield is not ready to fall in love and marry again; he is simply looking for a governess to care for his two daughters. Julia wasn’t looking for love either and is happy with the independence she has as a governess, but she fits so well into Peter’s life that they soon realize their relationship is becoming less professional. Unfortunately, further complications arise with their families, and Peter and Julia must decide whether they truly want a future together.

Josi Kilpack can always be counted on to create memorable characters. Peter and Julia are both so delightful that it’s easy to root for them from the beginning. This was, unfortunately, a bit of a weakness for the book, since neither character needed to grow or change much. The conflict in the book was fairly low-stakes, and I kept waiting for something more dramatic to happen.This book was a pleasant read and I had a good time with it, but I wish it had been a bit more substantial. There are going to be more books about the Mayfield family, and I look forward to reading them.

 

Flame and Ember by M.A. Nichols

Simon is tired of being unattached and still pining for the woman who turned him down several years previously. Mina is nearly thirty and resigned to living the rest of her life helping her brothers with their households. When Simon proposes a marriage of convenience, Mina decides to take a chance on him. Despite Mina’s initial feelings of attraction for Simon, falling in love with your spouse after marriage proves to be more difficult than either of them planned on.

This book’s unique plot kept me reading and I finished it quickly. I particularly loved Mina’s character, and although at first Simon really irritated me, as he grew and changed, I grew to like him as well. My only two quibbles with the book were that the ending was too abrupt and that it needed one more good pass with an editor to clean up some of the awkward phrasing and repetitive word choices. Other than that, I think M.A. Nichols has a lot of strengths as an author and I look forward to seeing more from her.

 

Seeing Miss Heartstone by Nichole Van

Belle Heartstone is doing a fine job running her father’s business after his death, but her mother won’t stop trying to match her up with possible suitors. In an attempt to take control of her life, Belle proposes marriage to Colin Radcliffe, since she knows he is short of cash. To her surprise, Colin turns her down. Instead, Belle arranges to use her fortune to secretly become his business partner, and as they exchange letter through the years, friendship blossoms between them. However, when Colin returns to England, they have to decide if their relationship can continue to grow after her secret is revealed.

I discovered Nichole Van a few years ago through the Whitney Awards and have enjoyed every book of hers that I’ve read. This book had some great twists and turns as the romance between two headstrong people wound its way to a satisfying conclusion. Although it dragged a bit in a few spots, this was mostly an excellent book. I loved the many little details in the story and Van’s talent for turning a clever phrase, but more than anything I loved read a book that showed two imperfect people learning how to communicate, forgive, and grow into real love.

About Jessie Christensen

Jessie served a mission in Spain and graduated from BYU with bachelor's degrees in Spanish Translation and English, as well as a master's in Spanish Literature. She currently works full-time at a university library and nurtures her three children, one cat, and a fluctuating number of fish. She relaxes by reading, baking, canning fruit, and putting together jigsaw puzzles.

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