Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book Review: The Heiress of Winterwood by Sarah Ladd

Darbury, England, 1814

Amelia Barrett gave her word. Keeping it could cost her everything.

Amelia Barrett, heiress to an estate nestled in the English moors, defies family expectations and promises to raise her dying friend's baby. She'll risk everything to keep her word-even to the point of proposing to the child's father-a sea captain she's never met.

When the child vanishes with little more than an ominous ransom note hinting at her whereabouts, Amelia and Graham are driven to test the boundaries of their love for this little one.

Amelia's detailed plans would normally see her through any trial, but now, desperate and shaken, she's forced to examine her soul and face her one weakness: pride.

Graham's strength and self-control have served him well and earned him much respect, but chasing perfection has kept him a prisoner of his own discipline. And away from the family he has sworn to love and protect.

Both must learn to have faith and relinquish control so they can embrace the future ahead of them.

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Usually when I’m reading historical fiction set in early 19th Century England, Miss Jane Austen is somehow involved. With The Heiress of Winterwood, I ventured into entirely original territory. Sarah Ladd brings us to the English moors of 1814, with all the aspects of genteel society that we Janeites have come to love.

The Heiress of Winterwood
was a delightful story, with characters who were well-drawn and likeable, and with a villain or two who were quite the opposite! Sarah Ladd’s Amelia is as brave and caring as she is beautiful (think Kate Winslet), and Captain Graham Sterling is an excellent romantic lead, with a heart of integrity (a la Hugh Jackman).  Right from the outset, these two are thrust together through unfortunate life events, and the tension not only between them but in their circumstances remains high throughout the novel.  While I wouldn’t consider this a taut thriller, there is rarely a dull moment, and I found my attention fully engaged at all times.

Like most Christian fiction, the novel works into issues of faith throughout the story.  The characters struggle with doubt, surrendering pride and trusting the Lord to see them through some fairly tough moments.  Captain Graham’s struggles in particular were ones with which I would identify.  He endures regret over past mistakes, and he literally has physical scars on his body to remind him of those poor choices.  He also fights with a past tendency to self-medicate.  In his case, he struggles with overindulging in alcohol.  In my case, I struggle with the tendency to self-medicate with food, and I have the extreme stretch marks to prove it.  And while alcoholism and food struggles are not identical, Sarah Ladd’s description of the war going on in his heart were very familiar.  One could “plug in” any Pauline thorn to this situation and relate:

“The ale taunted him.  The old vice knew its strength and mocked his weakness. He had ordered [a drink] for show and would drink in moderation. But his desire was to drink it and as many more that it took to dull the pain of his past and present.” (p.248)

Not only do I struggle with wanting to overindulge each day, but when I see the skin on my body that was ruined due to my poor choices, I have to fight back the tendency to beat myself up about it.  Ladd gives us a comforting thought in this regard, showing us that our scars can be a part of our life story:

“Instead of succumbing to guilt every time you look at that scar, you can be reminded of God’s forgiveness.” (p.251)

This is so true—I have asked for and received God’s forgiveness for those past indiscretions. I can now walk forward in freedom, victory and forgiveness, available to be God’s instrument in the world.

Regardless of philosophy, The Heiress of Winterwood was a sweet, romantic, entertaining novel.  The content is decidedly chaste, definitely written for adults, yet PG in nature.  Curse words are referred to but never printed.  And while I found the plotline to be incredibly predictable, I thoroughly relished these characters and enjoyed going along for the ride.  It seems that this title will be the first in a series, and I certainly hope that I have the opportunity to delve into Sarah Ladd’s world once again.  There is an incredible back story that could be told with Captain Sterling and his deceased wife Katherine, as well as the journey he took in coming to be a man of faith.  It’s my hope that future titles will include a prequel to The Heiress of Winterwood,  as I would love to spend more time with not only the Captain, but also his doomed wife, as their stories seem to hold much promise, even in the past.

Sarah Ladd has written a pleasant, enjoyable title in The Heiress of Winterwood, and I can heartily recommend it to my audience, as well as anyone who enjoys Christian or Regency-era fiction.

Sarah Ladd is celebrating the release of The Heiress of Winterwood
with a Downton Abbey Kindle Prize Pack Giveaway!

One winner will receive:

A brand new Kindle Fire
Downton Abbey, seasons 1-3

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 30th. 
Winner will be announced on 5/2/13 {HERE}.

Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

In exchange for an honest review, I was given a free copy of this title.

As much as I enjoyed The Heiress of Winterwood, I cannot keep in it my personal library. I simply do not have the shelf space. If you would like my review copy for yourself and are willing to pay the postal costs, please contact me so that we can arrange shipment. I'll remove this paragraph if an agreement has been made with someone. Sorry I couldn't offer this in a free giveaway--I'm really pinching my pennies these days.

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Blog post comments are always relished and appreciated, but if you'd like to enter the Kindle Fire/Downton Abbey contest, be sure to click one of the giveaway links above!


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