Saturday, April 10, 2021

Book Review: The Indebted Earl by Erica Vetsch

Warning: There are some very minor spoilers in the following summary. While not inappropriate, the details shared could easily go unknown to the reader and abstaining from them could enhance the enjoyment of the story. If you would like to take that course of action, skip to the next dividing line below. My review will offer fewer specific details.


Captain Charles Wyvern owes a great debt to the man who saved his life—especially since Major Richardson lost his own life in the process. The major's dying wish is for his love to be relayed to his fiancĂ©e, and for the captain to look after her needs. But along the way, Charles learns of another obligation that has fallen on his shoulders: due to a death in the family, he is now the Earl of Rothwell.

His new role includes an estate in need of a leader and a trio of orphaned girls, all wards of the former earl. Wyvern understands war; young ladies and properties he does not. As a solution, Charles proposes a marriage of convenience to the late major's betrothed, the bereaved Lady Sophia Haverly.

Sophie is surprised to find she isn't opposed to the idea. It will help her care for Richardson's elderly mother, and she's already fallen in love with the wayward girls on the Rothwell estate. This alliance is a chance to repay the captain who has done so much for her care, and a distraction from her grief. When Wyvern returns to his commission at sea, she'll stay behind to oversee his property and wards.

It sounds so simple. Until the stalwart captain is arrested on suspicion of smuggling, and Sophie realizes how much he's come to mean to her. Now she must learn to fight, not only for his freedom but also for his love.




The Indebted Earl
is the concluding volume in the Serendipity & Secrets trilogy by Erica Vetsch. Like the preceding titles The Lost Lieutenant and The Gentleman Spy, this final tale is one of adventure, romance, and unexpected entitlement. As implied prior to the book’s summary above, I hesitate to offer too many details about the overall storyline. For my part, I began reading the novel with very little knowledge of what lay ahead. My enjoyment of The Lost Lieutenant and The Gentleman Spy was strong enough that I agreed to read and review this novel solely based on my experience with those earlier titles. The assumption was made that The Indebted Earl would be a good match for me. Fortunately, that small gamble paid off.

Similar to the main male character Evan in The Lost Lieutenant, Captain Charles Wyvern is the lead here. He too is returning to his home country from war, although he does not struggle with memory issues as Evan did. He does carry an emotional burden however, and he works through that encumbrance through most of the story. The debt he feels that he must discharge is related to Lady Sophia Haverly, sister of Marcus Haverly from The Gentleman Spy. When they meet she is grieving the loss of her fiancĂ©, the man who saved Charles’ life in battle, Major Richardson. 

While paying a visit to Sophie (in part to deliver the deceased Major’s sea chest of belongings), events begin to transpire which rapidly change the lives of the characters. This leads to major life choice decisions emerging on a fairly regular basis. Both Charles and Sophie find themselves in positions they never expected to hold, with their hearts pulled in multiple directions simultaneously.

In the latter portion of the novel, a feeling of uncertainly and subterfuge begins to emerge. Questionable details in the lives and manners of particular characters lead the narrative into an area of intrigue that I did not expect. The story builds to an exciting climatic scene at sea that was positively riveting. Captain Wyvern at the helm made for very compelling reading, and a quiet scene after that perilous episode truly brought tears to my eyes.

Erica Vetsch has produced a fine trio of family-friendly novels in her Serendipity & Secrets series. Not only in The Indebted Earl, but in all three titles she has brought to her readers compelling characters, exciting adventure and intrigue, as well as sweet romance. While these works do have Christian themes that emerge from time to time, discussions of faith are not heavy-handed and involve issues that believers face on a regular basis. Many of us sometimes find ourselves in challenging situations, wondering what God must be up to in our crazy lives. We face murky seas in life, and we ask God for direction, for a heading on our journey. We laugh, we fall in love, but we also face unexpected storms that can test our faith but also prove our mettle. Charles and Sophia are on a similar journey in The Indebted Earl, and it was a pleasure to follow along that odyssey with them. Congratulations to Erica Vetsch, and I am pleased to recommend this series to anyone.








As a part of the release of The Indebted Earl and accompanying blog tour, readers can enter to win a Kindle Fire HD 8! All you have to do to enter is to fill out your name and email address in the widget below, but there are lots of ways to earn BONUS entries. It's completely up to you how many you want to do. You can even do a daily Tweet!








About the Author

Erica Vetsch is a New York Times best-selling and ACFW Carol Award–winning author. She is a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota with her husband, who she claims is both her total opposite and soul mate.   

Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks. A self-described history geek, she has been planning her first research trip to England.

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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Book Review & Giveaway: The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen by Shannon Winslow

What if the tale Jane Austen told in her last, most poignant novel was actually inspired by momentous events in her own life? Did she in fact intend Persuasion to stand forever in homage to her one true love?

While creating Persuasion, Jane Austen also kept a private journal in which she recorded the story behind the story - her real-life romance with a navy captain of her own. The parallel could only go so far, however. As author of her characters' lives, but not her own, Jane Austen made sure to fashion a second chance and happy ending for Anne and Captain Wentworth. Then, with her novel complete and her health failing, Jane prepared her simple will and resigned herself to never seeing the love of her life again. Yet fate, it seems, wasn't quite finished with her. Nor was Captain Devereaux.

The official record says Jane Austen died at 41, having never been married. But what if that's only what she wanted people to believe? It's time she, through her own private journal, revealed the rest of her story.




Like many Janeites, Pride and Prejudice is my favorite of Jane Austen’s main writings. However, coming in a close second is her posthumously-published Persuasion. The tale of unrequited love, finally resolved after many years has captured my attention for quite some time. In my opinion, Captain Wentworth’s letter to Anne Elliot is by far the best literary epistle in the English language. When author Shannon Winslow published The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen almost seven years ago, I added it to my TBR list, but was not able to read it until recently. Even so, it was read in small installments, as I am also in graduate school with other reading assignments. However, there were many nights when I would enjoy a chapter of this title before bed, or I’d listen to a few minutes of the audiobook version while driving around town.

Although it took me a while to read, that is not an indication of any lack of interest. In fact, as I neared the end of the novel, I was ensconced in writing a term paper, unable to write this review just yet. I honestly didn’t want the story to end, it was so delightful. I dragged out its completion, both wanting my thoughts to be fresh for this critique, but also desiring to enjoy the book as long as possible.

I don’t want to offer any spoilers, but given the general premise of the novel, it’s a given that author Shannon Winslow has taken some literary license with the life of Jane Austen. However, she has done so in a way I truly didn’t expect. I suppose if I’d been paying closer attention to certain details when the book was first published, when it was being promoted online, I would have picked up a particular plot device. I’m glad that I did not— The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen was more of a treat than I had anticipated. Even up to the final chapters, Winslow kept me guessing as to the outcome of the story. The conclusion was satisfying and believable. 

I also appreciated Mrs. Winslow’s ability to write as a Christian author. She incorporates her faith into the narrative in a way that doesn’t feel forced. It’s more subtle, while still potent. The main characters are certainly in love and so exude that passion, but the story is written in a way that is appropriate for all audiences. I could recommend this title to anyone.

Shannon Winslow has given a fine gift to Janeites and lovers of Persuasion. I appreciated the manner in which she interwove the fictional source material into the novel, making Jane’s story very much Anne’s story too. Many fans of Miss Austen have often wished for a different ending to her life, and in The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen we are granted just such a wish. In my mind I’m going to pretend that it’s all true. Shannon Winslow has merely revealed it to us all to enjoy.



About the Author

Shannon Winslow claims she was minding her own business when an ordinary trip to Costco a dozen years ago changed her life. That was the day a copy of the ’95 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice fairly leapt off the shelf and into her oversized shopping cart. She has been hopelessly hooked on all things Jane Austen ever since, her obsession ultimately inspiring her to begin writing her own stories a la Austen.

Winslow's 2011 debut novel, The Darcys of Pemberley, quickly become a best seller, praised for its authentic Austen style and faithfulness to the original characters. Eight more novels and a Jane Austen Devotional have since followed, with no end to her creative output in sight! Her next novel, Fitzwilliam Darcy: In His Own Words is scheduled for publication in May 2021.

Her two sons now grown, Shannon lives with her husband in the log home they built in the countryside south of Seattle, where she writes and paints in her studio facing Mr. Rainier. Visit Shannon at her website/blog:  Shannon Winslow’s “Jane Austen Says…” and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.


GIVEAWAY!

Shannon has graciously offered a copy of The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen to one of our US readers! You may choose between a signed paperback or Kindle copy. The contest is open to those with a US mailing address. Please fill out the Rafflecopter widget below to be eligible to win. The only required element for entry is an email address so that we may contact you if you are the winner. Entries accepted until 12am EST on April 22, 2021. Best wishes to all the entrants!


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