Friday, August 19, 2011

The Lady of Bolton Hill by Elizabeth Camden

This was an interesting read; maybe a bit hard to classify topic wise. Even though the book's cover might indicate a purely romantic nature, I'd say it's a mixture of action, mystery, and politics with a dose of love story to soften things up. Those are pretty substantial themes to conquer in a little over 300 pages but, for the most part, it works.

We start out with a little back history into the relationship between our protagonists, Daniel and Clara. Their friendship as teenagers, built upon a mutual love for music and composition, has flourished despite social class barriers until an unexpected tragedy forces them apart. Twelve years later, Daniel and Clara find themselves brought back together yet not under the best of circumstances. She has just left prison and he is embroiled in legal/business dilemmas that threaten to undo his company's hard earned profits. No longer poor, Daniel still feels the need to prove himself to Clara while also holding onto a long held vendetta from the past. So caught up in his anger and need for vengeance, he is not the same man Clara remembers from her childhood. But can she uncover the Daniel she knew before it's too late?

I love historical fiction and The Lady of Bolton Hill is a nice addition to the genre. The writing was excellent, descriptive without being wordy, and has a certain finesse that speaks of intelligence. I also found the bits of humorous dialogue sprinkled throughout delightful, without being annoyingly cliched. The only thing that seemed a bit heavy handed was the biblical aspect. Clara came across too preachy at times, spouting off scripture at every turn to anyone who would listen. (Or even those who did not want to listen.) A few times, I wanted to yell across the pages for her to back off and tone it down so as not to further irritate those she was addressing. An incident that comes to mind is right while Daniel's house is being destroyed, Clara can't just let him come to grips with the horror of it unfolding before his eyes. Instead, she gets in his face to lecture him some more and then has the nerve to tell him it's only things he is losing, despite the fact some of those "things" are quite meaningful to him. Not the best time to be saying something like that if you have any trace of sensitivity. It was so obnoxious, my mouth was gaping open. If someone ever did that to me, I would be furious. Talk about adding insult to injury!

In short, I suppose Clara was the weakest link in the story for me. I just found her attitude holier than thou quite a bit of the time which ultimately made it hard for me to root for her. I actually enjoyed the few times Daniel, or anyone else, managed to put her in her place...until she slipped her way out again to bible thump some more. However, despite all of Clara's pressuring, I liked that Daniel didn't immediately convert his views to placate her but that it was a gradual process, a dawning of sorts. That seemed realistic, which is what I appreciate most in inspirational fiction. The character of Bane was one of the more interesting ones and I was intrigued to learn what made him tick. By the end of the story, I was pulling for him and wishing for more details about his life pre and post Clara. Possible sequal for Bane? Hint hint...

Despite a few quibbles, I look forward to reading Mrs. Camden's next story and think The Lady of Bolton Hill was a very good debut novel. The author is definitely talented, with an engaging style and wittiness that shines through.

Many thanks to Bethany House Publishers for my review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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