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#TuesdayBookBlog AN UNLIT CANDLE by Caren J. Werlinger An inspiring and beautiful story about second chances and finding your true love #RBRT #LGTB

Hi all:

I told you recently when I shared the review of In This Small Spot, that the author was working on another story with the same setting and some of the same characters, and here it is.

An Unlit Candle by Caren J. Werlinger

An Unlit Candle by Caren J. Werlinger

The long-awaited follow-up to In This Small Spot

Patricia Horrigan is the eldest daughter of a family determined to gain entry into the upper echelons of Rochester society as the 1950s give way to the turbulence of the 60s. Born of an Irish father and a French-Canadian mother, Pip inherited the stubborn pride and fierce determination of both. With her life in the family business all planned out, she is most definitely not interested in throwing it all away to become a nun. But some calls will not be ignored, no matter how hard she tries. Fifty years later, she can’t help but wonder if her choices and sacrifices were worth it.

In present time, Lauren Thackeray has managed to put her life back together—in a manner of speaking. She has her weaving, her home, her chosen family, and she has the monastery and the lasting friendship of the nuns there. The one thing she doesn’t have, she doesn’t want. She won’t open her heart again after she barely survived the last time.

Gail Bauer is questioning her own vocation as an Episcopal priest. How can she minister to others when she’s not sure she believes anymore? In desperation, she flees, hoping to find answers.

In the shadow of St. Bridget’s Abbey, three very different women will need one another—to come to terms with their demons, to heal, and to rekindle the light that life has all but snuffed out.

https://www.amazon.es/dp/B09FQBKR9V/

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09FQBKR9V

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09FQBKR9V

Author Caren J. Werlinger
Author Caren J. Werlinger

About the author:

Bestselling author Caren Werlinger published her first award-winning novel, Looking Through Windows, in 2008. Since then, she has published sixteen more novels, winning several more awards, including the 2021 Alice B medal. Influenced by a diverse array of authors, including Rumer Godden, J.R.R. Tolkein, Ursula LeGuin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Willa Cather and the Brontë sisters, Caren writes literary fiction that features the struggles and joys of characters readers can identify with. Her stories cover a wide range of genres: historical fiction, contemporary drama, and fantasy, including the award-winning Dragonmage Saga, a fantasy trilogy set in ancient Ireland. She has lived in Virginia for thirty years where she practices physical therapy, teaches anatomy, and lives with her wife and their canine fur-children. 

Check out her blog: http://cjwerlinger.wordpress.com

https://www.amazon.com/Caren-J-Werlinger/e/B002BOI2ZI/

 My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.

I have read and reviewed several of Caren Werlinger’s novels (this is the fifth), and recently reviewed In This Small Spot, which also takes place, at least in part, at St Bridget’s Abbey and where we meet two of the protagonists of this story, As I loved it, I was eager to see what would happen here and who the novel would centre on, as there were a lot of characters I would have liked to learn more about.

As was the case in the previous novel, the action in this one is divided up between two timelines, both narrated in the third person, but from the point of view of the protagonists. One of the stories works, partly, as a prequel, as we learn the background story of one of the most important people in the Abbey, the Abbess herself, Mother Theodora (or, as we soon learn, Patricia, “Pip”, Horrigan), from the time she leaves school, determined to bring new ideas to her father’s business, in the 1950s, until the present day of the story. Her life is totally thrown into turmoil when she visits the abbey with Sister Ruth, a friend, and she is unable to ignore her vocation to become a nun. Once she enters the abbey, against her family’s wishes, she has to confront many things, about herself and those around her, and her story is also that of the abbey over the next fifty years. We get to follow not only what happens inside its doors, but also how the order and the people inside are affected by what goes on in the world and society at large, and also by the changes in the Catholic Church. The rest of the novel takes place a few years after the end of In This Small Spot, and we catch up on Lauren, a nun who had left St. Briget’s to live with the love of her life. She has settled into her new life, also pretty quiet, but a new person comes to disrupt her peace, Gail, an Episcopal priest whose own vocation is being sorely tested by several losses in her personal life that she finds extremely difficult to accept. How can she advise and console others in similar circumstances when she does not truly believe what she has been taught?

Some of the subjects that played a big part in the previous novel are here again: loss, grief, vocation, faith, but also the difficulty reconciling diverse calls, loves, vocations, duties, and deciding what is most important, reconnecting with your family, combining old traditions and calls to innovate, knowing when it’s time to move on, and giving yourself a second chance.

I loved getting to learn more about Mother Theodora. She is the guiding light of St. Bridget’s, and it was fascinating to get to learn how she got to be the person she is, and the hard times and difficulties she had to face to get there. I won’t go into details, but we get a good overview of life in the convent over the years and meet more of the nuns and learn about their roles and their stories. Her story exemplifies how much weight we can confer on other people’s words and opinions, and how sometimes people around us can inspire us and help us in unexpected ways, without expecting anything in return. I also came to understand quite well why Mickey, the protagonist from the first book, and Mother Theodora became fairly close friends so quickly, as there are evident similarities between the two women, their experiences, and their outlook on life, even if they eventually chose a pretty different path.

Lauren’s story turns, partly, into a second chance romance, both for her and Gail, although rather than a story of passionate young romance, this is more of a story of soul mates meeting and realising they are better together. Both have to change the way they think, and this is particularly difficult for Lauren, but I can say, without revealing too much, that this time I’m sure everybody will be happy with the ending. Although this is not a laugh-a minute story, not by a long chalk, it is a moving and ultimately uplifting story about finding your own place and your own family, wherever and whoever they might be.

I have mentioned the beauty and lyricism of Werlinger’s writing, and that is in evidence here again. I always feel sorry when I get to the end of one of her stories, as I love the time I spend with her characters, in the wonderful communities she creates and reading her gorgeous and moving prose. This time, the two stories and timelines complement each other well, flowing from one to the next and eventually converging in the present, at a pretty momentous point.

Many of the comments I made about the first novel apply here as well, and I won’t repeat them again. One doesn’t need to be Roman Catholic to enjoy the novel, and although some aspects of the story might appear very alien at first sight, quite a few of the experiences and turmoil the characters go through are pretty universal. Although I think the story can be read and enjoyed independently of the first, as one of the reviewers has said, the two novels feel like the two halves of a story, and I think they work better together, being read in the order of publication.

So, I will repeat my recommendation, with a few added notes. I recommend this novel to people who enjoy beautiful writing, reading about enclosed communities (particularly of women), those who might feel curious about monastic life, and anybody interested in characters going through major changes and crises in their lives. There are sad moments, there is talk about passion and desire, but nothing too explicit, and there are characters facing crises of vocation and faith, and getting over loss and grief. If any of these sound interesting, check a sample of the book, and if you like what you read, start with In This Small Spot and keep going. You’ll thank me later.

Thanks to Rosie and her whole team for their support, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to enjoy every minute, keep safe, and always smile. 

Categories
Book launch Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview FIND WONDER IN ALL THINGS: PERSUASION REVISITED by Karen M Cox (@karenmcox1932) Beautiful writing and a #romance with a timeless quality

Hi all:

I bring you an Austinesque romance by an author I’ve featured a few times (and she’ll be back, no doubt):

Find Wonder in All Things by Karen M. Cox

Find Wonder In All Things: Persuasion Revisited by Karen M Cox

“There could have never been two hearts so open… Now they were as strangers”
—Persuasion

Mountain Laurel Elliot is like her name—she blooms best in the cool comfort of shade, hidden in the Kentucky foothills of Appalachia. Alone on her mountain, she lives a private existence with only her pottery—and her regrets—for company.
James Marshall had a secret dream and Laurel was part of it, but dreams sometimes lead to unexpected places. James’s heart broke when Laurel cut him loose, but he moved on—and became successful beyond his wildest dreams.
For one glorious summer, James and Laurel had each other, but life has kept them far apart.

Until now.

“a magnificent modernization of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.” -Austenesque Reviews

Winner of the Independent Book Publisher’s Award 2012: Gold Medal in Romance and
Next Generation Indie Finalist in Romance 2013

https://www.amazon.com/Find-Wonder-All-Things-Persuasion-ebook/dp/B082725KR7/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Find-Wonder-All-Things-Persuasion-ebook/dp/B082725KR7/

https://www.amazon.es/Find-Wonder-All-Things-Persuasion-ebook/dp/B082725KR7/

Author Karen M. Cox
Author Karen M. Cox

About the author:

Karen M Cox is an award-winning author of five full-length novels accented with romance and history: “1932”, “Find Wonder in All Things”, “Undeceived”, “I Could Write a Book”, and “Son of a Preacher Man”, as well as a companion novella to “1932” called “The Journey Home”. She has also contributed stories to four anthologies: “Northanger Revisited 2015”, in “Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer”; “I, Darcy”, in “The Darcy Monologues”, “An Honest Man” in “Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes and Gentlemen Rogues”, and “A Nominal Mistress” in “Rational Creatures”.
Karen was born in Everett WA, which was the result of coming into the world as the daughter of a United States Air Force Officer. She had a nomadic childhood, with stints in North Dakota, Tennessee, and New York State before finally settling in her family’s home state of Kentucky at the age of eleven. She lives in a quiet little town with her husband, where she works as a pediatric speech pathologist, encourages her children, and spoils her granddaughter.
Channeling Jane Austen’s Emma, Karen has let a plethora of interests lead her to begin many hobbies and projects she doesn’t quite finish, but she aspires to be a great reader and an excellent walker – like Elizabeth Bennet.
Connect with Karen:
Website: www.karenmcox.com

Visit with Karen on several of the usual social media haunts:

https://www.instagram.com/karenmcox1932/

https://twitter.com/KarenMCox1932

https://www.facebook.com/karenmcox1932

https://karenmcox.tumblr.com/

https://www.pinterest.com/karenmc1932/

If you would like periodic bits of authorly goodness delivered to your inbox, be sure to get Karen’s News and Muse Letter. Updates, sales, book recommendations, etc. are yours for the asking.

News and Muse Letter

My review:

I have read several stories and books by Karen M. Cox, both set in and out of the Austen universe, and have enjoyed her beautiful writing, so I did not hesitate when I was offered the opportunity to review the new edition of this novel, which was well-received a few years back. Although this is a retelling of Austen’s Persuasion, I can confirm that it is not necessary to have read that novel to enjoy this one, as I could barely remember the plot of Austen’s original, and it did not detract from my appreciation of the quality of the writing. Fans of Austen will have the added enjoyment of comparing the two, but the rest can be assured that the novel works as a romance in its own right.

I have commented before that this author’s writing has a timeless quality, and even when she sets the action in the present (or very close), there is something that makes one feel nostalgic, and I experienced this very strongly at the beginning of the book, when the male main character, James, recalls his summers at the lake, the time he spent there with his best friend, Stuart, and ends up falling for Laurel, the sister of her friend’s on-and-off girlfriend. The author’s description of the Kentucky foothills of Appalachia made me experience a weird sense of longing, as I’ve never visited but I felt as if I had. It is evident that the author knows and loves the area and can transmit her affection to her readers, who get to understand why Laurel feels so attached to it as well.

The story is narrated from the two main characters’ point of view, and the author clearly separates the two, with the first part (and intermezzo) written from James’s point of view; the second, set several years later, from Laurel’s; and the third alternating both. This allows readers to experience their doubts, frustrations, confusion, and mixed feelings, while at the same having a greater understanding of what lies behind some of their behaviours, words, and actions. If you love stories of the “will they/won’t day” type, you’ll have a field day here because there are many close encounters, lost opportunities, misunderstandings, and numerous occasions when you’ll wish you were there to tell them to just get on with it and talk to each other. But we all know what they say about the course of true love.

The novel is about second opportunities. James and Laurel fall in love when they are quite young, and although he tries to convince her to move in with him when he goes to Nashville to try to make a living in the music business, she’s just started college and decides to follow her family’s advice, carry on with her studies and stay at home. He makes it big —although not exactly how he expected— and seems to have moved on, but he still thinks of her. And it’s mutual. In this retelling of Austen’s story, the characters don’t challenge traditional gender conventions upfront as is common these days, and therefore the book stays closer to the spirit of the original (well, not in all aspects, and the subtlety of the author’s touch is perhaps what most reminded me of Austen). It might be frustrating for those who look for a heroine with a more modern outlook, but, personally, I liked Lauren, understood her plight and her reasoning, and felt her choice of priorities marked her as a very strong woman. James is the one who leaves home and tries to become a success by going wherever the opportunity arises, while Laurel remains close to home, helping her family, and become an artist, living fairly isolated in a mountain cabin, in touch with nature and needing that inspiration to grow into herself. The novel is also about identity, strength, courage, and belonging. We might think we know these qualities and concepts, but they are ultimately very personal and there is no one definition that fits all. The novel also reminds us that we might get to regret the decisions we make, but we’ll never know how things would have been if we’d chosen another path, and we have to live our life now and not get stuck on what may have been.

I enjoyed the setting of the story and the little community of friends and relatives that develops around the two protagonists. I liked the secondary characters, although some of them only appear for a brief period of time, and I was particularly touched by Laurel’s mother and her plight. There is no great emphasis on social mores and the wider world around the main characters (as there would have been in Austen’s novels), and I wouldn’t have minded a bit more on Laurel’s art and James’s music, but this is pretty much a romance focusing on the two characters’ relationship, and very romantic at that, so I’m sure fans of the genre will be more than happy with the story arch. Ah, there are sex scenes (three), which are not extremely graphic, but as somebody who doesn’t care for erotica, I thought I’d better warn you about them. Although it could have been done in other ways, these scenes go some way to challenge the status quo and the way we see the characters, and also exemplify the different phases of the relationship.

I thought I’d share a couple of samples from the novel to give you a taster.

James remembers the summers he spent at the lake with his friend Stuart.

Mrs. Pendleton had said they were eating dinner at the marina restaurant that night, and then there’d be more walking around the dock and maybe some fishing as the sun set. The next day, it would all start again. It seemed as if days on the lake lasted forever and ran one into the other, as the long, lazy days of summer should.

Here Laurel is talking to her sister, Virginia.

“Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.”

“Yes, I know. You’re always fine. I just wish you could be happy too.”

This is a novel for romance lovers, especially those who enjoy stories about second chances, and also for fans of Austen. It is beautifully written, and it would be a great choice for book clubs interested in romances and Austen. It includes a number of questions at the end that would help get the discussion started as well. I am pleased to say I have another one of the author’s novels waiting to be read, and I hope they’ll keep coming.

I received an ARC copy of this novel. This has not affected my review, which I freely chose to share.

Thanks to the author for this opportunity, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click (the book is being published today, so it should be available already), and keep reading and reviewing. And I hope 2020 brings you lots of love and romance!

 

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