Posted in Elizabeth Camden, Reviews

A Daring Venture

I recently glanced through all of my Elizabeth Camden books, remembering the plot of this one or a favorite character from that one. As I compared older books to her latest, I realized why I still do not hesitate to get my hands on each new release. Even though she releases at least one new title – if not two – every year, and even though her writing style and character development have morphed and changed over the years, there has never been a change in the quality of her research, creativity, and quality. Camden’s most recent effort, A Daring Venture, is just as captivating, and her characters are just as rich as ever.

A Daring Venture is unique in Camden’s ventures, however, in that it is a genuine sequel. Although once before Camden has taken a minor character from one book and turned him into a major character in another, nothing in those two books demands that they be read together. A Daring Venture holds its own as far as the story line is concerned, but readers will miss a great deal if they do not first get to know Nicholas Drake’s background through his sister’s story in A Dangerous Legacy.

(Note: This review, by nature, will contain some spoilers for those who have not yet read A Dangerous Legacy.)

Nicholas Drake’s inheritance from his estranged uncle has brought him fortune, but not automatically fame. Despite having vast resources, Nick must still fight a battle for recognition and acceptance among not only the wealthy, but also the political leaders in New York. He is convinced that being named Commissioner of Water for New York will allow him to earn the respect he needs to take care of the growing city, but he has no illusions that it will be an easy task. What he doesn’t expect, however, is the continued family tension that he cannot seem to escape – or that his new role might force him to sacrifice his heart.

Rosalind Werner’s world crashed around her early in life when a deadly cholera outbreak attacked her family. Now an adult, Rosalind has learned that impure water is not her only enemy. Educated as a research doctor in a time when women are not recognized as competent in the scientific arena, Rosalind must not only defend her qualifications, but also her controversial research findings – and even her personal reputation. But she never imagines the fullness of what it will cost her to stand and defend what she knows to be true.

I love the combination of flaws and strengths in Nick, Rosalind, and even familiar characters Lucy and Colin. The relational interactions are vivid and powerful, battling real temptations and struggles. A Daring Venture is not a neatly packaged, every-problem-solved romance. Yet it is satisfying and beautiful at the same time. Camden has beautifully handled the transition from single-story writing to weaving a series, and I felt that the character development from the first novel to the second was well-handled and strongly presented. And, of course, the history reminded me once again why I devour Elizabeth Camden’s novels. The story line explored an aspect of history vitally relevant to each and every one of us, yet one we take for granted and do not truly even think about. I love diving into these historical glimpses, and I love the way they urge me to research on my own. Camden does a great job of merging fictional and historical characters and exploring the impact events and decisions made on real people.

Elizabeth Camden continues to succeed, providing my teen daughters and I yet another book to read and reread. And, the story isn’t over yet! I am already counting down to next year’s release of book three, A Desperate Hope!

This book was sent to me by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Elizabeth Camden, Reviews

A Dangerous Legacy

Recently, I’ve come across a few books I thought I’d reviewed, but realized I never actually did! So, over the next few weeks, I’ll be fitting them in between reviews of current books.

The first in the list is A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden. As a long-time Camden fan, it has been fun to read each new title and see how she has evolved – and stayed the same – as a writer. Her job as a research librarian seems to keep her creativity flowing as she discovers new and fascinating tidbits of history to combine with her delightful imagination, weaving engaging stories that combine historical facts, intrigue and mystery, engaging characters, and genuine romance.

In A Dangerous Legacy, Lucy Drake and her brother Nick have poured their lives and resources into a single goal: regaining rightful control of their grandfather’s invention. Unfortunately, their opponents have seemingly unlimited resources and influence to keep Lucy and Nick stuck on the losing side of the legal battle. Lucy’s job with the Associated Press provides her a secret weapon in the fight, but will it be enough?

Matters complicate even further when Lucy meets Sir Colin Beckwith, the new man in charge of Reuters, Britain’s news agency and rival of the Associated Press. The two agencies share a building and certain resources, at least for the time being. The partnership leads Lucy and Colin into a tentative friendship that cannot help but grow in depth. But, each one carries burdens, responsibilities, and secrets that no amount of friendship seems capable of breaching.

Every aspect of the story in A Dangerous Legacy reinforces Elizabeth Camden’s skill as a storyteller capable of weaving history and fiction, romance and real character development. But something felt different as I read this particular novel. It seemed that there was not enough room for the depth of development Camden usually manages to pull off. Lucy and Colin are, to be sure, explored beautifully. Their characters deal with life and issues that have no clear solution, and the resolution of their story fits with the reality that sometimes the answer arrives from a completely unexpected direction. There was something delightfully unexpected about the way events twisted and turned to their final conclusion.

But, then there was Nick Drake. As I read, I could not help but feel that I was supposed to be getting to know him better. That his story was there, waiting to be exposed and explored. That his interactions were essential, not to the immediate plot of A Dangerous Legacy, but to becoming known. The feeling intensified as I read the epilogue and realized that new information was being presented – information that could not possibly be resolved in a few pages. Sure enough, Nick’s story will continue in A Daring Venture, releasing in 2018. This is part of what shows Camden’s skill as an author. Instead of trying to cram too much into this one novel or glossing over the additional story begging to be told, she allowed the glimpses to shine through and lay the groundwork that would allow a sequel to follow.

As with other Elizabeth Camden books, I recommend this for older teens through adults who love history and intrigue interwoven with some romance.

This book was sent to me by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Elizabeth Camden, Reviews

From This Moment

If you’ve read my reviews in the past, you probably know that I’m not a big “fluff” kind of reader. I love fiction, and I enjoy a good romance. But, I do not enjoy just reading a love story. I want more – real issues, historical depth, something.

The Historical Component

That’s why I enjoy Elizabeth Camden, and her latest novel did not leave me disappointed. As is the norm for Camden, the events in From This Moment tie into a specific historical event. In this case, the event is the building of the first subway systems around the world at the close of the 19th century, with specific focus on the electric system in Boston.

From This Moment is full of scientific concepts, technicalities regarding the subway system, and an interesting historical summary of events surrounding the development of the subway. As is frequently the case when I finish an Elizabeth Camden book, I found myself wanting to go dig further and learn more about the historical setting for this novel.

And the Love Story

But, the prominent story cannot be forgotten in the midst of fascinating history. There are actually two stories bound into one. By her own admission, what was originally intended to be the primary focus of the novel turned into a sub-theme, while a supporting character, Romulus White, took the center stage.

After reading From This Moment, I can definitely see the alteration in the plan to have been a wise one. Romulus White, a flashy but very insecure magazine publisher, finds himself entangled with Stella West, an artist he has been pursuing professionally for years. Romulus is convinced that Stella’s art could catapult his magazine to the peak of popularity, but Stella is only concerned with solving the mystery of her sister’s questionable death.

Obviously, From This Moment is a love story with complications. That is to be expected. But, it’s also so much more. In addition to being historically fascinating, this is a story of a battle against pride, triumph in adversity, perseverance even when the worst happens, the debilitating impact of hidden insecurity, and the wisdom necessary to choose between preservation and abandon.

I have loved Elizabeth Camden’s style of writing from the start. But, her characters have become more compelling, more real, and more captivating with each new story. If you are looking for a new read, I definitely recommend From This Moment. And, go ahead and check out her earlier books while you’re at it!

Check her out for free!

Get a feel for Elizabeth Camden’s writing style by snagging her two free novellas, Toward the Sunrise and Summer of DreamsAlthough both novellas tie into her most recent full novels, these stories stand alone and are great samples of her writing style.

Posted in Elizabeth Camden, Reviews

Book Review: Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden

Just when I thought I’d gotten to know and love Elizabeth Camden as an author, along comes Beyond All Dreams.

Elizabeth Camden is my favorite sort of author – the kind who only follows formulas of her own making. By her own admission, she loves “writing books about fiercely intelligent people who are confronted with profound challenges.” In that sense, Beyond All Dreams fits the mold. And, like her other novels, this latest effort delves into a period of history in which women still struggle to truly live out their dreams.

But as I read Beyond All Dreams, I had to keep reminding myself I was reading an Elizabeth Camden book. The characters felt different. The intrigue and romantic development did not fall neatly into her familiar formula. But the quality did not diminish in the least. If this talented author would like to mess with her own formula, I am definitely not one to argue with her!

Set in the months leading up to the Spanish-American War, Beyond All Dreams explores the worlds of a late nineteenth-century congressman and one of only a few female librarians working in the Library of Congress. Elizabeth Camden’s love for research presents itself in these pages as readers dive into life at the Capitol at the close of the nineteenth century. Even the political climate was fascinating to me, and I am not one to enjoy politics.

But what stands out most to me in Beyond All Dreams is the spiritual thread. Elizabeth Camden beautifully weaves history, faith, and romance together with great depth. Side plots explore the concepts of friendship, bullying, teenage angst, parenting choices, abuse, alcoholism, pacifism, and forgiveness. Tough decisions are made. Failure is experienced. Consequences are faced. And not every desire is fulfilled. Real life is still felt between these pages. And that real life is enveloped in growth that can only come from a relationship with Jesus Christ. In her bio, Elizabeth Camden states that writing provides her the best outlet for sharing her faith with others. She definitely accomplishes that in Beyond All Dreams, clearly expressing a life of faith and the truth of salvation without compromising quality in her writing.

I usually try to find something negative about each product I review. Something that could have been presented better. Something that might have made the story clearer or more captivating. Something that felt stilted. And perhaps there are aspects of forgiveness that were left undeveloped or characters who might have been explored a little more deeply. But, in all honesty, I wouldn’t change Beyond All Dreams one bit. Well done, Elizabeth Camden!

Posted in Elizabeth Camden, Thoughts, Thoughts from Others

Crying out Hope

I love fiction. Although non-fiction is great and purposeful, I must confess that my brain processes stories much better.

My current fiction selection is entitled Into the Whirlwind, written by Elizabeth Camden. It opens with the great Chicago fire of 1871, giving readers a close-up view of what it must have been like to watch the city go up in flames, destroying everything in its path.

One scene struck me with particular force. As a miraculous rain fell and finally ended the raging of the fire, homeless refugees surged back into the city to find whatever shelter they could. In the novel, just as the main character is plummeting toward despair, she hears a man’s voice calling out in the midnight darkness. He is speaking words of encouragement. Words of strength. Words that remind the people to not despair. They will rebuild! They will survive! God is their strength!

According to the author, there is no historical evidence that a town crier went around calling out encouragement in the middle of that very dark night. But, the words he speaks in the novel are taken from historical records of signs put out by people all over the city. Words of hope.

I love that picture of hope. And I love the reality behind it. That hope was born out of an abiding relationship with the only One who can give such hope: Jesus. It was born out of a love for Him and a trust that His love would continue, no matter how dark the circumstances. The town crier might be fictitious, but the hope is not. It truly existed for God’s children in those dark days.

But there’s something else that strikes me from this story. The town crier could have kept that hope to himself. He could have rested on that dark night, finding a place for himself and his wife to hole up and sleep so they could tackle the hard days ahead. Instead, he walked around the city crying out, strengthening others.

Now, I know that this man is fictional. But, don’t you know people who would do this? Haven’t you heard true stories of people who share their hope with others, lifting the hearts of those around them? I have. I know people like this.

And I am convicted by them.

I live a life rooted in the knowledge that Christ is my hope. Not a hope that someday, something I desire will come to be. But a biblically rooted hope that what He has promised WILL come to pass. But what do I do with that hope? All too often, I just rest in it myself. I draw strength from it and allow it to build me up.

But I forget to share it. Ouch!

Oh to be the type of person who shares the hope I know inside my own heart. Oh to be selfless, not thinking about how I need encouragement, but instead thinking about pouring into others what has been poured into me. That is the kind of person I want to be.

Lord, make me one who pours hope into others!

Posted in Elizabeth Camden, Reviews

The Lady of Bolton Hill by Elizabeth Camden

I almost don’t want to write today’s book review. It isn’t Bolton-Hill-Coverthat I didn’t like the book – it’s more that I don’t want to give a single thing away! I have read many great books, but it isn’t very often that I come across a truly surprising book. First-time novelist Elizabeth Camden has succeeded in presenting just such a novel with The Lady of Bolton Hill.

Daniel Tremain is a brilliant young man trapped in the poverty-stricken world of a Baltimore steel mill life. Clara Endicott is the daughter of a wealthy and extremely influential minister. Their two worlds collide when Daniel’s passion for music leads him to Clara’s doorstep. A deep, fast friendship develops over the next few years as they pursue music together, their friendship becoming the sanctuary from the demands of their separate lives. But Clara’s father has great plans for his daughter, and he is determined that nothing stand in the way of her success, including young Daniel Tremain. Twelve years later a very different Daniel and Clara are reunited, finding their friendship as strong as ever. But, bitterness threatens to ruin their relationship in a way separation never could.

That is where the similarity to a typical Christian fiction romance ends. The Lady of Bolton Hill is full of intrigue and unexpected turns. Just when it begins to seem to fall into a predictable pattern, a new twist is introduced. Yet through it all, a very foundational and natural faith is present. Admittedly, at times Clara’s faith seems rather idealistic, but before the book’s end, both her idealism and faith are challenged in a very powerful way.

Because of the complexity of the plot as compared to the length of the book, there were some intricacies and personalities that were not explored as fully as they could have been. Occasionally that led to some confusion as to how different components fit together. But, Camden’s skill as a storyteller truly does compensate for those few flaws. The Lady of Bolton Hill is undoubtedly a remarkable debut, and I will definitely be watching for future releases from this new author.

This book was sent to me for review by Bethany House.