Review of "A Pursuit of Home" (Haven Manor #3) by Kristi Ann Hunter

Hunter, Kristi Ann. A Pursuit of Home. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2019.

Paperback | $14.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0764230776 | 380 pages | Christian Fiction/Regency Romance

3 stars

A Pursuit of Home, the final book in Kristi Ann Hunter’s Haven Manor series, feels like such a different book tonally to the other two, and, while part of that could be due to its centering on the character of Jess, who appeared in Hunter’s first book in her prior series, which had an espionage/mystery thread to it, and this book sees a reunion between her and the protagonists of that book, it resulted in the story feeling a bit odd.

A major facet to my diminished interest in this book is the fact that Jess wasn’t a character who made an impact on me the same way she did for others, and when Hunter mentioned bringing her back for this one, I scratched my head. To be fair, you don’t have to have read that previous book to understand it, as the backstory is conveyed well here, but while I find myself usually sympathizing with most heroines, I just found Jess hard to connect with.

Derek is better, in that I at least found him interesting in terms of his scholarly pursuits, and his somewhat awkward personality. I also really enjoyed getting his unique thought process, viewing things as art, including his attraction to Jess.

The plot feels a little all over the place, as while there is a decent amount of intrigue, I found my interest flagging in a way I’ve never felt before with one of her previous books (even the conclusion to her previous series, which I also found uneven). A lot of it just seemed a little half-baked, with too many elements in play at once.

This a case of an author having a lot of great ideas, but stumbling a little trying to bring them all together. There’s elements of a good story in here, and for many it may have worked better, so as always, your mileage may vary. I think if you read Hunter’s previous work, especially if you happen to be a Jess fan, you’ll probably love getting deeper insight into her character and seeing her find her HEA.

Review of “A Return of Devotion” (Haven Manor #2) by Kristi Ann Hunter

Hunter, Kristi Ann. A Return to Devotion. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2019.

Paperback | $14.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0764230769 | 396 pages | Regency Romance/Christian Fiction

5 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

A Return of Devotion is a delightful second installment in Kristi Ann Hunter’s Haven Manor series. With much information about what happened to Kit and Daphne given from Kit’s point of view in the previous book, it was heartwarming to read about how the experience impacted Daphne. However, the book is very much a stand alone and you don’t have to read the first book to understand this one, although I do encourage reading both.

I love that Daphne and the experience she has in growing and finding herself again after facing the losses she has of her reputation and her family’s support, through finding a new sense of purpose. I love how the story details how this past experience informs her drive to help both unwed mothers and their illegitimate children. And I love that, on her journey, she confronts all the demons from her past in such a poignant way.

William is a hero I also loved almost immediately, due to his commitment to being a better and more honorable person than his father, and how he had both the period-correct self-importance and the compassion to think of both Benedict and Daphne when their connections to him come to light. I love how both of them are challenged by the superficial nature of Regency society in different ways, and I enjoyed their journeys overcoming that.

This is an emotionally rich story that I would recommend to fans of both inspirational and secular Regency romances, especially those who love romances with depth and growth.

Review of “The Christmas Heirloom: Four Holiday Novellas of Love Through the Generations” by Karen Witemeyer, Kristi Ann Hunter, Sarah Loudin Thomas, and Becky Wade

Witemeyer, Karen, et. al. The Christmas Heirloom: Four Holiday Novellas of Love Through the Generations. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2018. 

I received an ARC in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

As a fan of Kristi Ann Hunter’s almost from the beginning with her first book, I was excited to hear she would be participating in a multi-generational anthology with some other well-known Christian authors. And the results, when as I made my way through it, while varied as anthologies often are, this time even more so, due to the diversity in settings and time periods as well as writing styles. But overall, I like how it all came together in a relatively cohesive sequential series of stories, with there being a history to the brooch that pre-dates its introduction in Kristi’s story, and it coming full circle with the heroine in Becky’s story briefly researching the family history. And, most importantly, it highlights the best part about the holiday season: spending it with those you love.

“Legacy of Love” (Haven Manor 1.5) by Kristi Ann Hunter

5 stars

As the reason behind my being excited to read this anthology to begin with, I found myself fully satisfied with this story. I loved both the heroine, Sarah, a lady’s companion, and the hardworking, but overlooked third son Randall, and felt they had believable chemistry, despite the fact that the story was short. I also loved the grandmother playing the role of matchmaker.

“Gift of the Heart” by Karen Witemeyer

5 stars

This one was a lovely story. While I very much enjoyed the romance between Ruth and Bo, as we see how love lights up the life of a man who has faced past heartache. But Ruth’s daughter Naomi is the one who stole the show, being an equal part in Bo finding a new form of happiness and a new family.

“A Shot at Love” by Sarah Loudin Thomas

2 stars

This is a story I liked conceptually, but I didn’t find it that gripping, in part due to the fact that the 1950s and later can be very hit-or-miss as a setting for me. I think the most fun part was the hunting enthusiast heroine, but I just didn’t feel like the romance was that interesting otherwise.

“Because of You” (Bradford Sisters 2.5) by Becky Wade

4 stars

This one was cute, as I love a good story with unrequited love. Despite the shorter length, I felt the developing chemistry was authentic, but given the fact that she’s been in love with him for years, and he only starts to fall in love with her when they meet up again, I kind of wasn’t sure what to think about the potential longevity of their relationship. However, I did enjoy how this story brought all the pieces from the other novellas together, as I previously noted, and it makes me curious to know more about some of the other members of the family that came in between…perhaps for a future project?

I would recommend this anthology to anyone who loves a good faith-based holiday/Christmas romance, and also is interested in multigenerational stories of families.

 

Review of “A Defense of Honor” (Haven Manor #1) by Kristi Ann Hunter

Hunter, Kristi Ann. A Defense of Honor. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2018. ISBN-13: 978-0-7642-3075-2. $14.99 USD. 

5 stars

I received a free copy of the book in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

With the first installment in her new series, I feel that Kristi Ann Hunter has fully come into her own as a writer. While her Hawthorne House books were mostly good, and did deal with deeper issues, they were fairly sparkling Regencies that focused on the lighter side of society. A Defense of Honor is a move into slightly deeper territory, focusing on the issue of the plight of unwed mothers and other women who were cast out of Society due to being “ruined,” and it does so marvelously.

Quite a few historical romances focus on the growth of the hero from a bored, somewhat self-absorbed person to someone who grows to care about wider concerns through gaining insight into the heroine’s perspective, but Hunter is among the best to work with this trope. I loved seeing how Graham grew to understand the plight of people less fortunate than himself and his circle of acquaintances, and the way he decides to begin helping, in conjunction with working to win Kit’s heart, is one of the most adorable bits of the book.

Kit is also nowhere near perfect, although her motivations are understandable, given the way she and other scorned women were wronged and left with few options to support themselves. She too grows through seeing Graham’s perspective, and I loved how everything was resolved following her ending her crusade of vengeance.

Review of “All for Love: 3 Historical Romance Novellas of Love and Laughter”

Connealy, Mary, et. al. All for Love: Three Historical Romance Novellas of Love and Laughter. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2018. ISBN-13: 978-0-7642-3102-5. 

As a fan of Kristi Ann Hunter’s books, I was dismayed when she initially chose to go the free, ebook-only route for her prequel novellas, but strangely surprised and excited when I heard about the print collection, even if it would involve paying to get something in print that was already available digitally for free. And in the process, I ended up discovering work by two other authors I definitely will be reading more of.

The Boden Birthright (The Cimarron Legacy 0.5, 2016)

3 stars

This was an ok read, but it definitely feels more like setup for the series it’s a prequel to than a story that can stand on its own. While there is nothing wrong with a story that carries over through multiple books, I wish I had known that prior to reading this novella. Not to mention that while the hero, Chance, and his motivations, are easy to understand, I found Veronica hard to like, and found the romance too rushed, especially given everything else the story seemed to try to accomplish to set the stage for the actual novels in the series.

A Lady of Esteem by Kristi Ann Hunter (Hawthorne House 0.5, 2015)

5 stars

There’s nothing quite like going back to the beginning and seeing how two characters who served a central role in a series fell in love, and that is the case with this novella. I already knew I liked the characters of Anthony and Amelia, but going back and exploring the reason for Amelia’s close connection with the servants and the circumstances of her becoming connected to the Hawthornes, and by extension, Anthony, was heartwarming. And it was great to have more insight into Anthony’s own journey as a character as well, given that he had been a rake and is now reformed. And perhaps the most compelling bit, having gone through the novels first, was seeing the circumstances regarding Anthony and Georgina only alluded to in her book play out, and reflecting on how far she has come as a character.

At Your Request (Apart from the Crowd 0.5, 2017)

5 stars

This was a delightful novella and series introduction. While it deals with the common trope of the reversal of fortunes between the hero and heroine who have a shared past, it does so in such a way that feels original and focused more on Wilhelmina and Edgar’s feelings then and now, with them reflecting on the fact that they weren’t mature enough, and thought more about themselves than each other, and how they’ve each grown since then to think of the other’s feelings as well.

Review of “An Inconvenient Beauty” (Hawthorne House #4) by Kristi Ann Hunter

Hunter, Kristi Ann. An Inconvenient Beauty. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2017. ISBN-13: 978-0-7642-1827-9. Print List Price: $14.99.

4 stars

This book was somewhat unusual for me, as oftentimes, when a story sets up the idea of there being a love triangle, the heroine often pales in comparison to her much more beautiful rival. But, as you might assume based on the title, that is not the case, as the heroine, Isabella, is stunningly beautiful, while her cousin, Frederica, who the hero, Griffith, plans to marry, is a plain spinster. This set-up could have worked, but I found Isabella a bit too hard to like. I did admire her for wanting to do anything possible to save her family, but I still had no idea what Griffith saw in her by the end, especially given how much we have come to know him over the past three books.

Like her previous release, An Uncommon Courtship, this story also features a rather unlikable parent/guardian. This brings a sense of authenticity to what it was probably like to be an unmarried woman in this time period, as courtship and marriage was still very much about both families’ mutual advantage.

Hunter also interweaves real historical events, from the events leading up to and succeeding the Battle of Waterloo, to the passing of the Apothecary Act. While these are events that we can look up in a history book or on Wikipedia, she brings a sense of immediacy to these events, so even though you know how things will pan out, you are still surprised by how they affect the characters of the Hawthorne House world.