Though written with some skill, Atwell’s novel lacks the lighthearted sparkle, wit, fun and true period flavor that defines...



To save her life, the young heiress of Ambersley is disguised as a boy and raised by servants, but when she and the unsuspecting new Duke eventually become close, complications arise in this Regency-era romance.

After 4-year-old Amber Johanna Vaughan barely escapes the suspicious fire that kills her parents, the gardener and his wife take her in and disguise her as a boy (they call her “Johnny”) to keep her safe from rapacious relatives. Once tracked down, the next-in-line heir, Derek Vaughan, proves himself a good master of Ambersley, making improvements and thwarting his villainous stepmother Rosalie’s plans. He takes an interest in bright little Johnny, now 7, and gives her an education. When jealous Rosalie engineers a duel between 17-year-old Johnny and Derek, the girl’s secret emerges and she reenters society as Johanna, Derek’s ward. Despite their mutual attraction, true love is threatened by misunderstandings, secrets and Rosalie’s machinations. Atwell (Lying Eyes, 2010) has an intriguing premise, and her craftsmanship shows in solid descriptions, smooth dialogue and observations, as in: “No wonder men thought ladies were such trivial creatures—they had nothing but trivialities to entertain them.” Historical accuracy adds greatly to the pleasure of the Regency romance, and while Atwell gets many details right, Lady Jersey would never be called Sally Jersey, and few if any Regency aristocrats would christen their children Amber, Derek or Curtis. More troubling, though, is the inconsistency of the characters. Rosalie’s son, Curtis, is a nasty, mean child; as a teenager, he colludes at a false rape charge; yet later on he becomes kind and helpful to Amber and Derek, with no simple explanation for the change. Derek is somber, morose and serious when we first meet him, a soldier who’d distinguished himself, yet he has a hair-trigger temper and jumps to the farthest conclusions. He’s furious with Johanna for “lying” to him with her disguised identity, even though doing so was the opposite of self-serving. It’s strange, too, that Johanna feels so deeply ashamed for a disguise that wasn’t, after all, her idea. And what exactly does Johanna see in Derek? He disdains women, thinks they’re all liars and tells Johanna so (as Johnny). His lighthearted, funny, sweet friend Harry seems a much better bet. Too many contrivances and almost willful misunderstandings drain interest from the love story.

Though written with some skill, Atwell’s novel lacks the lighthearted sparkle, wit, fun and true period flavor that defines a Regency romance.

Pub Date: June 18, 2011


Page Count: -

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2012

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.



In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Mary's Song

From the Dream Horse Adventure Series series , Vol. 1

A novel tells the story of two spirited girls who set out to save a lame foal in 1952.

Mary, age 12, lacks muscle control of her legs and must use a wheelchair. Her life is constantly interrupted by trips with her widower father to assorted doctors, all of whom have failed to help her. Mary tolerates the treatments, hoping to one day walk unassisted, but her true passion involves horses. Possessing a library filled with horse books, she loves watching and drawing the animals at a neighboring farm. She longs to own one herself. But her father, overprotective due to her disability and his own lingering grief over Mary’s dead mother, makes her keep her distance. Mary befriends Laura, the emotionally neglected daughter of the wealthy neighboring farm owners, and the two share secret buggy rides. Both girls are attracted to Illusion, a beautiful red bay filly on the farm. Mary learns that Illusion is to be put down by a veterinarian because of a lame leg. Horrified, she decides to talk to the barn manager about the horse (“Isn’t it okay for her to live even if she’s not perfect? I think she deserves a chance”). Soon, Mary and Laura attempt to raise money to save Illusion. At the same time, Mary begins to gain control of her legs thanks to water therapy and secret therapeutic riding with Laura. There is indeed a great deal of poignancy in a story of a girl with a disability fighting to defend the intrinsic value of a lame animal. But this book, the first installment of the Dream Horse Adventure Series, would be twice as touching if Mary interacted with Illusion more. In the tale’s opening, she watches the foal from afar, but she actually spends very little time with the filly she tries so hard to protect. This turns out to be a strange development given the degree to which the narrative relies on her devotion. Count (Selah’s Sweet Dream, 2015) draws Mary and Laura in broad but believable strokes, defined mainly by their unrelenting pluckiness in the face of adversity. While the work tackles disability, death, and grief, Mary’s and Laura’s environments are so idyllic and their optimism and perseverance so remarkable that the story retains an aura of uncomplicated gentleness throughout.

A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

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