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What I’ve been reading lately

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a person of sound mind with time to spare must be in want of a good book.

I have had the pleasure of discovering two “new” (new to me) authors this past month. If you haven’t read any of Melanie Dickerson or Julie Klassen’s books, you’re missing out (might I also mention they are both Christy Award winning authors?). After devouring everything they’ve written and putting them on the stalk…I mean…watch list on Amazon so I get alerts whenever something new becomes available, all I can say is that I hope both these women publish 100+ books. I get to the end of one (at 2am) and pick up the next one because I can’t wait.

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen

Missing Downton Abbey? This books swept me right back into the upstairs downstairs world of historical England. But with a delicious twist because the maid in the story is really a lady in hiding in the house of a man who once proposed to her. Here’s the back cover description:

Pampered Margaret Macy flees London in disguise to escape pressure to marry a dishonorable man. With no money and nowhere else to go, she takes a position as a housemaid in the home of Nathaniel Upchurch, a suitor she once rejected in hopes of winning his dashing brother. Praying no one will recognize her, Margaret fumbles through the first real work of her life. If she can last until her next birthday, she will gain an inheritance from a spinster aunt–and sweet independence. But can she remain hidden as a servant even when prying eyes visit Fairbourne Hall?

Observing both brothers as an “invisible” servant, Margaret learns she may have misjudged Nathaniel. Is it too late to rekindle his admiration? And when one of the family is nearly killed, Margaret alone discovers who was responsible. Should she come forward, even at the risk of her reputation and perhaps her life? And can she avoid an obvious trap meant to force her from hiding?

On her journey from wellborn lady to servant to uncertain future, Margaret must learn to look past appearances and find the true meaning of “serve one another in love.”

Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen

Love Austen? This book is a Mansfield Park and Persuasion mash-up. Not just a love story, an amusing cast of characters, to a man with a hook for a hand, and another who marches the poorhouse rooftop, also captured my heart. Here’s the back cover description:

Miss Mariah Aubrey, banished after a scandal, hides herself away in a long-abandoned gatehouse on the far edge of a distant relative’s estate. There, she supports herself and her loyal servant the only way she knows how–by writing novels in secret.

Captain Matthew Bryant, returning to England successful and wealthy after the Napoleonic wars, leases an impressive estate from a cash-poor nobleman, determined to show the society beauty who once rejected him what a colossal mistake she made. When he discovers an old gatehouse on the property, he is immediately intrigued by its striking young inhabitant and sets out to uncover her identity, and her past. But the more he learns about her, the more he realizes he must distance himself. Falling in love with an outcast would ruin his well-laid plans.

The old gatehouse holds secrets of its own. Can Mariah and Captain Bryant uncover them before the cunning heir to the estate buries them forever?

The Healer’s Apprentice – Melanie Dickerson

I’m smitten with Melanie’s books and am chomping at the bit for her third (it comes out this autumn). Each of her stories are retold fairy tales, this one is Sleeping Beauty. The first page pulled me into a medieval world, the sights and smells and rules so well written. I was there. Add a sweet love story, with a heap of danger, and a mystery to solve and it’ll add up to this wonderful page-turning story. Here’s the back cover description:

Two Hearts. One Hope. Rose has been appointed as a healer’s apprentice at Hagenheim Castle, a rare opportunity for a woodcutter’s daughter like her. While she often feels uneasy at the sight of blood, Rose is determined to prove herself capable. Failure will mean returning home to marry the aging bachelor her mother has chosen for her—a bloated, disgusting merchant who makes Rose feel ill. When Lord Hamlin, the future duke, is injured, it is Rose who must tend to him. As she works to heal his wound, she begins to understand emotions she’s never felt before and wonders if he feels the same. But falling in love is forbidden, as Lord Hamlin is betrothed to a mysterious young woman in hiding. As Rose’s life spins toward confusion, she must take the first steps on a journey to discover her own destiny.

The Merchant’s Daughter – Melanie Dickerson

A retelling of Beauty and the Beast, with hints of Jane Eyre, Melanie’s second book had me pulling (another) all-nighter because I couldn’t put this one down. She’s a master of storytelling, because while I know the original fairy tale, this book surprised me with constant unpredictable twists, and compelling challenges. A love story unfolds, but not without the intrusion of danger and a suitable evil villain. If you lean in, I’ll tell you a little secret…I loved this MORE than the real fairy tale. Here’s the back cover description:

An unthinkable danger. An unexpected choice. Annabel, once the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is trapped in indentured servitude to Lord Ranulf, a recluse who is rumored to be both terrifying and beastly. Her circumstances are made even worse by the proximity of Lord Ranulf’s bailiff—a revolting man who has made unwelcome advances on Annabel in the past. Believing that life in a nunnery is the best way to escape the escalation of the bailiff’s vile behavior and to preserve the faith that sustains her, Annabel is surprised to discover a sense of security and joy in her encounters with Lord Ranulf. As Annabel struggles to confront her feelings, she is involved in a situation that could place Ranulf in grave danger. Ranulf’s future, and possibly his heart, may rest in her hands, and Annabel must decide whether to follow the plans she has cherished or the calling God has placed on her heart.

And with all this I say, read on my friends, read on.

Much love -Jess


About Jess Keller

I'm an author, speaker and chocolate eater who's chasing hard after my dreams.

8 responses »

  1. Ooh, I am very curious to read The Merchant’s Daughter! Beauty and the Beast was always the best, I thought, and this looks so interesting! Thanks for the heads up!

  2. christianromancewriters

    Thanks so much for mentioning my books in the same blog post with Julie Klassen! She is amazing and has two Christy Award wins. My first book was a finalist but didn’t win. Still, it was a huge honor and bright spot in my writing career! 🙂

    So glad you enjoyed the books, Jess! I hope you will like my Snow White story, The Fairest Beauty, just as much! 🙂

  3. Oopsies. That was me, Melanie Dickerson. I have trouble with WordPress.

  4. Thanks, Jess! So glad to know you’ve enjoyed my books and count yourself a new fan. I had the pleasure of meeting Melanie last summer–she’s very sweet–and I’m glad people are loving her books, too!


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