Book Reviews: In the Shadow of the Storm by Anna Belfrage & The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand

It’s been a long time since I’ve talked about books here that weren’t my own, so today I thought I’d share my thoughts on two wonderful, very different books that I’ve just finished over the weekend.

Shadow of the StormIn the Shadow of the Storm by Anna Belfrage – ****
If the author’s name sounds familiar, it may be because she kindly read my first two Guinevere novels and gave a blurb for each. Or maybe because she was the winner of the 2015 Historical Novel Society Indie Award. Either way, she’s a fabulous writer.

In the Shadow of the Storm is set in 13th century England, a time of great political unrest, due in part to a weak king who is enthralled by one of this favorites, Hugh Despenser, an evil man bent on violence and revenge, who exacts a strong toll on the hero and heroine of this book, making it one part dark history. The other part is a solid love story. The main protagonists, Kit and Adam, are forced together into a marriage based on deception, one he soon learns of, but they both keep it up to save their lives and their marriage. When Adam’s lord rises against the king, Adam has no choice but to follow, even though the act is treason. His unwavering loyalty leads to many trials for the newlyweds, and for me, this was when the book became a page-tuner, racing toward an end that was satisfying in many respects but left the path wide open for the rest of this new series.

This is very much a character-driven book, as a lot of it sets up the rest of the series, so the plot is really showing the reader the relationships between the characters and the political realities of the time. I have to admit to being captivated by the love story in this book. Kit and Adam were worthy protagonists, believable in their actions and reactions as they grew to get to know and love one another. We all know I love strong female characters, and Kit delivers in spades, so much so that a few points, I wanted the male characters to grow a pair and stand up to her! Hugh Despenser is the the most scum-sucking low-life villain since…well, Father Marius in my own books. I think that’s why I hated him, but also secretly couldn’t wait to see what depravity he would stoop to next.

Anna has a talent for really taking you back in time, evoking sights, sounds and sometimes unpleasant scents you may not otherwise have associated with the period. As a reader, I felt like I was there amid the dirt and grime, the stinking river water and unwashed bodies. That’s one of the marks of great historical fiction for me. All in all, I highly enjoyed this book and am interested to see where this series goes, especially since I’m not familiar with the history of the time period.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The rumorThe Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand – *****

If you’re looking for a fun beach read that will transport you to the shores of Nantucket where the filthy rich live lives you can’t even begin to imagine, The Rumor is the right indulgence for you.

Told from multiple viewpoints, The Rumor does exactly what the title promises by showing how a few innocent situations can get misconstrued and exaggerated to the point where they begin to wreak havoc on lives…but even they can’t compare with the dark reality hiding behind the truth. Not all is as shiny and perfect as it seems on this idyllic island, as it’s residents deal with money problems, marital issues, teenage rebellion and career-ending betrayal. But for all that, this isn’t a dark book. In fact, it’s as sunny as the beach or Grace’s garden.

Hilderbrand is a master of voice in this light women’s fiction, seamlessly switching from a teenage girl’s POV to a failing middle-aged male real estate broker and a frustrated author with writer’s block who may just stab her equally (sexually) frustrated best friend in the back with the plot for her next novel. And that’s only the beginning. The characters are well drawn for all of the seeming cliché of their situations, and Hilderbrand manages to have you both rooting for and despising each character, depending on who is doing the narrating at the time.

This book is a fun diversion from daily life and I’m glad I discovered this author. I have two more of her books on my phone (I listened to The Rumor in audio format) and I look forward to seeing if her other books live up to this one.

Have you read either of these books? If so, what did you think? Are you interested in either of them?

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