Book Review #6: Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander

Random Books and Coffee Reviews: Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander


Welcome to the latest installment of Random Books (and Coffee) Reviews.  Sorry for time gap between reviews, personal issues and having to change the book to review at the last minute due to procrastination/boredom got in the way.  But I’m back, and today I’ve got a new addition to my Book Cave I’m eager to share with my fellow Book Creatures.

Today’s book is Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander, a small-town mystery centered around murder and baking, so have food nearby or else the urge to bake will be upon you, expanding your waistline and coating your flesh in flour.  This is the first book in a series which I intend to add to my ever growing TBR pile, and not just because I want to make some of the food mentioned in this one.

The story is told in first person POV by Juliet Capshaw, a cruise ship chef who has returned to the Shakespearian tourist town Ashland, Oregon to work at the family bakery with her mother after leaving the cruise ship and her husband, in the hopes of figuring out what she should do with her life.  There have been few changes since she left, including the arrival of Nancy, the snobbish, cruel, and sadistic member of the theatre board who failed to make any friends since she arrived.  When she’s murdered inside the bakery, the suspect list is staggering.  It doesn’t take long for the murder to complicate things in Ashland, not to mention how everyone in town seems to be hiding something, including Juliet’s mother.  Discovering the killer leaves both the reader and Juliet suspecting everyone until the big reveal, suspense and sweets abound.  With the little addition of romantic complications sprinkled around the fluffy sweetness that is the story, this is a great book to read curled up with a warm blanket and spice-scented candles.

Juliet is a likable protagonist with understandable and relatable issues while still being an interesting and active main character.  The reader finds sympathy with her as she debates where she wants her life to go, feels conflicted with her feelings toward her husband and the fresh sting of his betrayal, and wanting to help the investigation and everyone who is struggling from the aftereffects of the murder.

As the story is told from Juliet’s perspective, the reader gets to know the town based on her reintroduction to familiar faces.  Her mother is as sweet as snickerdoodle, caring and considerate to every customer, guiding Juliet through her reintroduction to working in the bakery.  Juliet’s high school sweetheart is now a deputy working on the murder investigation, yet he maintains a friendly connection to her, not to mention the residual feelings that may still linger on both sides.  He wants Juliet to stay out of solving the murder on her own, but Juliet dives into the case, if only to help the bakery.  The suspect list, however, leaves many questions and very few answers from the start.  The entire theatre crew has a motive thanks to Nancy’s desire to change the way things work, resulting in many toes being stepped on thanks to her craving for power.  Nancy’s boyfriend is not much better than her, being a vain and greedy business owner wanting to buy out the homestyle family bakery to turn it into a commercial branch for his business, which includes cheap and lackluster food.  There’s a teenage girl who was recently fired by an intoxicated Nancy in a public and humiliation manner, her nervous actions failing to make her seem innocent.  All these suspects have Juliet on edge while trying to keep her life afloat.

It’s hard to pick what was my favorite part of the novel, but if I had to choose it would be the recipes at the back of the book.  Thanks to the hunger-inducing descriptions of baked goods and tasty treats, the recipes are an invaluable source of new food to try and a jumping point for experimentation.  If the recipes didn’t exist, then the skilled words weaved by an experienced cook and writer, which the author thankfully is, will leave readers analyzing the words to make the food for themselves, or scouring the internet for the closest recipe they can find.  As this is the first book in a series the ending is open enough for a sequel but contained enough for a satisfying conclusion.

As any Book Dragon will tell you, not every book is right for every reader.  As the small town is so famously known for the Shakespeare plays, I lost count of the references to the bard and his work.  While many won’t mind these quotes, it can oversaturate the wrong readers quota of Old English literature for the year.  Most of the chapters are short, which is fine for food breaks and unwanted pulls back into reality, but at times it can get more than a little irritating.  As with any mystery novel where the protagonist is not a member of law enforcement, there will be readers who are against the idea of Juliet working to solve the murder since she is a civilian, especially when she is working on her own.

The short chapters and the reveal were the only issues that I could find with the novel, but for those looking on how to improve their own writing and are using this book for inspiration, I’ll offer some advice.  While the short chapters are fine at times, for those chapters that feel cut off too soon can be lengthened by adding in details such as memories, what if thoughts, or other aspects that can add more to the tale.  Also, combining chapters or slowing down the pacing of said chapters to keep the reading from being too fast or to keep the book from feeling too short.  While the reveal of the murderer was good in my opinion, it felt like the killer came out of nowhere.  Perhaps it’s because I wasn’t paying attention to the clues or not, having non-obvious clues to the murderer’s identity could have been helpful, such as earlier mentions of the true motive, or the hints of suspicion planted by the killer towards other people and vice versa.  Still, I enjoyed the book.

To tie everything up, this book is worth reading for those looking for a cozy read.  I’ll admit that reading this alleviated the irritation at the slow grog that was the original book set up for review, but now I best work on choosing the next book.  The growing number of unread books has begun to collect dust but choosing which to review is a bit of a problem.  So, for those who want to have some say for the next review, at the end of the post is a vague idea of what I’m thinking about for next time.  Looking forward to hearing your suggestions.


Rating: 4 out of 5 coffee cups

Recommended Readers: lovers of cooking and baking, mystery lovers, small town tales lovers, those looking for a series to binge, those looking for food inspiration

Coffee Recommendations: Medium roast, paired with sweets, preferably like the ones in the book, rich, butterscotch or salted caramel, chocolate, café blend, pecan, Mexican Mocha, espresso, caramel macchiato, baking spice


List of books to review next

  • Current read,
  • Book that induces rage
  • YA novels
  • Graphic novels
  • Fantasy books
  • Collection of awesome women with artwork and research

Book Review: The Lady and The Bandit

Book Review #5: The Lady and The Bandit by Adelina Rodriguez

Welcome to the latest Random Books and Coffee Review.  Today I’ll be reviewing The Lady and the Bandit by Adelina Rodriguez.  This is going to be a special review as I am a fan of the author’s artwork and this is her first novel.  I’m looking forward to her next endeavor in the realms of literature, but until then her artwork will have to sate my hunger for her (sometimes twisted) comedy.

The tale is set in Spain during the 1800’s, where our female lead, Pepita Worthington, is forced to wed a rich, cringey old man thanks to her shrew of an aunt, a haunting yet hilarious figure sure to instill fits of laughter just as well as shivers crawling up one’s spine.  Pepita herself wants a marriage based on love and devises ways to get out of the marriage during the journey to the chapel dressed in an abomination of a wedding dress.  Thanks to a jinx brought on by religious things such as being in a church, Pepita flees the wedding, but ends up lost, injured, and in the path of a bandit that puts romance novel covers to shame.  Said bandit, Rafael, has his own problems to deal with in the form of evading death at the hands of an old nemesis, The Mouthcutter.  The pair must deal with raging passion for each other and conflicting personalities as well as mutual stubbornness while The Mouthcutter chases after them, as the to-be husband and aunt are willing to drag Pepita down the aisle at any cost.

The story is a hilarious satire of historic bodice-ripping tales but with an adorkable, feels-filled romance that readers will adore and ship like crazy.  Several times I was out of breath from laughing so hard, unable to put the book down for very long.  Outside forces conspire to bring the pair closer as well as create chaos in the lives of everyone involved, specifically a festival that sets off Pepita’s jinx.  As a precaution, I should warn you that the book is filled with naughty scenes that should not be experienced in a public space for your emotional safety, lest you be plagued with confused stares once the scenes reveal themselves and your book or device is set ablaze as a result.  I won’t spoil the ending, but karma is delivered in wonderful fashion by the last page.

The characters in this historical romp only partially adhere to the common tropes, the rest of their personality being more human and at times relatable.  Our glorious “lady” Pepita is described as a “curvy beauty,” which is a plus in my book of positive character traits.  She’s a stubborn gal, determined to avoid marriage and get back home to England at any cost, all while holding an adoration for dirty books and dreams of true love.  Rafael, known as The Curly, probably due to his glorious hair, is a smuggler trying to survive one day at a time thanks to the resurrection of his thought-dead nemesis.  His noble character is shown in his love for his sister and her family, who he wishes to protect at all costs, resulting in limited visits with them.  His comrades are treated as brothers, his allies with respect, and his enemies as vermin.  I won’t spoil the tortures of his past, but the brooding is earned, yet it doesn’t overpower his other virtues.  Combined, the couple duel with words, their burning passion growing with each passing day, misunderstandings and awkwardness bringing up the fully feels and cries of “Kiss already!” from the reader.  The other characters are wonderfully entertaining, from the comedic like the Three Franciscos (Paco, Cisco, and my personal favorite Francisco), the ruthless sadism of The Mouthcutter, the awkwardness of the ginger muffin that is the priest dealing with feuding churches, any of which are sure to be a favorite of any reader.

As with any book, there are things about this one that will limit readership.  There are moments when modern language are used, but that is a part of the comedy, so historic fiction purist might not enjoy these moments.  There’s a chance that there will be readers that won’t at first understand that this is a comedy as well as a satire, in which case they will be frustrated with certain events, dialogue, and the overall tone of the novel.  As stated before, there are some steamy scenes, so certain readers might not appreciate the, ahem, details.

For me there was only one issue that I had while reading.  Due to the book being translated from Spanish, there are a handful of typos.  Those can be fixed in later versions, as the book is, as far as I know, self-published.

To conclude our review, this is a guaranteed recommended read for its amusing banter, adrenaline-fueled hijinks, heated romance, and side-killing comedy.  Hopefully there can be an audiobook developed, and read by someone with an attractive Spanish accent.  A specific phrase on page 303, at least of my paperback, needs to be on a shirt, or a mug, basically anything I can see or wear in my Book Cave.  I’m certain that there will be no shortage of fun to be had by new readers, and no lack of interest for the next creation by this wonderful author.


Rating: 5 coffee cups out of 5

Recommended for: Anyone who needs a good laugh, historic romance lovers looking for some humor, devourers of hilarious satire, romance-addicts

Coffee Recommended for Reading: Dulce de leche flavored, a dark/medium roast, cinnamon flavoring or added in, a coffee with a flowery and/or fruity scent/flavor, something with hints of wine, rich, a little bold, whatever takes you to Spain

Interested in this book? Get it here.

For anyone who wants to participate in choosing my next review, here’s a photo of some books I’ve recently acquired for my Book Cave (sorry about the surroundings), as well as some books I’ve had for a while and one in particular that I haven’t been able to finish due to…reasons.  If you want to torture me, you can choose that book.  Feedback and critiques are appreciated.


Book Review: Vassa in the Night

Random Books and Coffee Reviews #4: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

 Welcome to the forth installment of Random Books and Coffee Reviews.  Today I’ll be talking about a book I received from a monthly subscription box a while back.  Seriously, those are wonderful was to get new books and it’s like a present every month.  Plus, there could be other goodies added in like bookmarks, snacks, and other book-themed stuff depending on what subscription you choose and the month’s theme.  I would highly recommend them and I’ll be reviewing plenty of books from subscription boxes I’ve gotten in the past.  Anyway, onto the review.

The book is called Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter, and like my last review it’s a retelling of a classic tale.  Unlike my last review this is a retelling of a Russian fairy tale “Vasilissa the Beautiful” set in modern-day New York.  While I’m not well versed in Russian fairytales, I thoroughly enjoyed the story, grateful I was able to get a copy in my subscription box.

The story is an urban fantasy surrounding a girl, Vassa, who lives with her stepmother and sisters in Brooklyn where the nights are getting longer for a mysterious reason.  The relationship with her sisters is complicated, made more so by her enchanted wooden doll Erg constantly stealing from them and getting Vassa in trouble for it.  Vassa is sent out on a deadly mission to get lightbulbs as a convenience store, BY, is the only one open at night and is known for beheading shoplifters and perhaps others for pure entertainment.  Accused of stealing, either due to Erg stealing a candy bar or having one planted in her pocket by one of two disembodied hands, Vassa is able to keep her head thanks to a loophole in the punishment logic. With the help of Erg, Vassa must last living inside BY and working for three magically long nights.  In addition, Babs throws impossible tasks in order to get Vassa to slip up as well as a mysterious figure circling around the store piquing her interest.

Now for the positives while I still have coffee.

The writing reflects the magical atmosphere going on in the story with great descriptions and a narrator just as lost in the fantastical convenience store as the reader is.  The story’s plot is full of twists and turns of magical wonder and nail-biting events along with fantastical characters of human and non-human varieties.  The emotional impacts are built up from the beginning and have a feels-worthy crescendo that’ll have you clutching the nearest fluffy item.  Just make sure it’s not your cat, for your own safety.  (Spoiler: I danced the No Unnecessary Romance Dance at the end End Spoiler).

Vassa herself is an introverted, snarky character who cares deeply for her sisters despite the complex relationship she has with them as well as her wooden doll Erg.  Erg is a sassy kleptomaniac but her heart is in the right place regarding Vassa, although she has a sadistic streak with a bottomless stomach.  Older step-sister Chelsea is a mother figure to the girls as the step-mom doesn’t really do much in the story.  Stephane is the half-sister who seems to hate Vassa, enough to send her to BYs where she might be killed.  I should note that Chelsea and Stephane have same mother, Stephane and Vassa have same father.  Babs, the Baba Yaga of the story, is a convenience store owner of regular and odd things who is (spoiler) stealing pieces of Night and placing them in a mannequin of a motorcycle and its rider (end spoiler).  She looks frail but is stronger than she looks, appears as an old senile woman, sadistic, doesn’t care about human life.  Babs has two disembodied hands who work for her: Dexter and Sinister, show care for each other and devotion to Babs

Although I can’t make a definite case for Easter eggs in the story as I am not familiar with Russian folk tales, those who are unfamiliar with these stories won’t be isolated and I’m sure those who are will find things that the recognize.

I hate to admit that I struggled with the way the story was written early on in book.  While the writing is good it is a bit surreal at times, which had me getting lost in places.  I felt like the story only needed to have a bit more of a ground in reality, perhaps a news report in the paper or on TV to show how the world treats magic to keep readers engaged from the beginning without giving up due to the confusing abstract concept.

In spite of this, the book is a roller-coaster of emotions, magic, and humor to the very end.  If the issues with the beginning didn’t scare you away then I’d recommend getting a sample from your ebook provider or go to your local library to see if its available or download a library app to borrow the book, read the first few chapters, and decide if its right for you.

The next book I’ll be reviewing is going to be from a writer whose humor and artwork I admire.  I was able to get her blessing for the review and I will be posting a link to the website where I follow her work before or after the review and I hope I can do it justice.

  • Rating: 4 out of 5 Coffee Cups
  • Recommended for: Russian fairy tale lovers, readers looking for unique read, fan of urban fantasy,
  • Coffee Recommendation: European blend, dark roast, something bold and strong, semi-sweet.

Before I go, I have a quick question: are there any coffees you’d like me to review sometime?  Feel like I need to expand my tastes a bit and would like to eventually do coffee reviews as well.  I already ordered a specific coffee I’d like to review, so if I’m comfortable with how it turns out I’ll post my first coffee review before the next book review.

Interested in this book? Get it here.

Question from a Writer: Different Versions of Stories

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, so I’d like to know if anyone has the same idea, or if readers want/don’t want this sort of story, I’d like to know before writing and publishing on Amazon.

As a reader, I yet to experience (thankfully) the heartbreaking death of the pairing I’ve been rooting for since the moment the characters met from actual death or my NOTP becoming canon.  Still, I’ve seen the remnants of shippers’ hearts plastered all over the internet, tears staining the pages of their fanfiction.

For those who play otome/moe/dating simulators, there is the tragedy of having a character who’s story you are dying to know, the attractiveness, humor, dialogue, and overall appeal creating the craving of a route for them to exist, but for whatever reason will take a minimum of months to be created at best, at worst will remain nonexistent.

At least in those game’s there’s the benefit of reading a story with a variety of romances and perspectives, or reading a new story but in the same universe.  I’ll admit that I’ve had my share of experiences with those games, as they have their own addictive story lines and characters that leave you swooning every time they are on screen.

So, here is my question: what do you think of a single story, but different versions based on who the MC ends up with being published as well?  These stories will be separately published as the pairings change, creating an alternate reality based in the same universe.  I understand that there will be readers who think this is lazy, but I’m curious as I wouldn’t mind experimenting with my writing a little bit.

Also, are there any experiences you’ve had where your pairing in either a book, series, movie, or other fandom don’t end up together?

I look forward to reading your comments.

Book Review: The Dark Wife

Welcome to the third issue of Random Books and Coffee Reviews.  I don’t know how many of you have reviewed books before, even e-books, but I’ll admit both come with their own set of struggles.  Perhaps my Book Dragon brain is used to turning the pages rather than tapping a screen or misplacing my E-reader.  Looking at the looming pile of unread books collecting dust in my Book Cave doesn’t help.  Anyway, on to the subject of today’s review.

The book I’ll be reviewing today is The Dark Wife by Sarah Diamer.  It’s a retelling of the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone but as a lesbian romance filled with the soft, fluffy, and squishy things readers and members of any fandom refer to as “Feels!”  You can practically feel the emotions as you read the story, fingers clutching your reading device as your eyes hungrily devour the words before you.  Seriously, it’s practically pomegranate in literary form it’s that good.  I can’t count the amount of times I was craving the juicy sweet and sour fruit while I was reading this book.  I’ll try not to drool on my keyboard as I write this, so I’ll get to the review.

The book tells an alternative story behind the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone and how the seasons came to be.  In this telling, Persephone lives with her mother in the Immortal Forest where she falls in love with a nymph, Charis.  I won’t spoil what happens for those who haven’t read it and wish to after this review, but the relationship ends with heartbreak.  In addition to this, Demeter, Hera, and Aphrodite are involved in a competition in order to make their daughter’s the next generation’s queen, turning Persephone into pawn in a grand immortal game of politics.

Instead of the more known idea of Hades kidnapping Persephone, she runs away from home in order to avoid the Olympian expectations placed upon her and becoming just another plaything for Zeus.  The story continues with Persephone and Hades falling in love and changing the Underworld while dealing with Zeus doing what he can to create chaos in the Underworld and bring Persephone back.  Yep, he’s a tool in this interpretation, too.  I don’t know if there are any retellings that don’t have him as a pervy creep who only cares about what he wants.

I can’t remember where I found this, but apparently the “original” tale goes something like this: Hades asks Zeus’s permission to marry Persephone, which he gives, so Hades brings her to the Underworld.  Demeter, not told of this or asked if it was ok with her, gets upset and refuses to do her job of being the goddess of the harvest until her daughter comes back.  The thing is, Hades offers equal power and half of the Underworld if Persephone will marry him, which she accepts, so they end up married.  Persephone going to and from the Underworld still happens, but I prefer this version as it focuses on what the ladies want and it doesn’t have the squicky-ness of the kidnapping and, ahem, other issues.

Now, onto the good stuff.

Puppy Cerberus, enough said.

If that’s not enough of an incentive for you, then maybe the rest of the review will help.  Other than offering a different perspective of the well-known myth, Persephone is a great active character who changes as the story progresses.  You can tell that she and Demeter have a loving mother-daughter relationship, despite the complications of being immortal gods and, again, Zeus being a jerk.  Persephone doesn’t want fame or power, instead wanting the freedom to choose the direction her life goes, which in this case is to help the souls of the Underworld and be with Hades.  Hades herself is awesome: she’s a kind and just ruler who clearly cares for her subjects, she’s sweet and affectionate with Persephone, she wants the best for everyone more than herself, and doesn’t hold onto animosity that would make her into an angst-ridden cliché (there’s so much brooding you can take before you want to punch a character in the face).

The romance between Hades and Persephone is well-written and, as I’ve stated earlier, full of fluffy feels.  The romantic moments are sweet yet genuine, making you root for the couple as their trials push them past their breaking point and affect those close to them.  Both are aware that the stories told about them will be less than romantic, saying Hades kidnapped Persephone and kept her as a prisoner.  Yet they persevere, fighting for their love and the freedom to choose each other and be together.

Their allies and friends, Pallas and Hermes, are intriguing characters as well.  Both are rebels who do what they can to help the couple, Pallas serving as a peacekeeper for the dead and Hermes as a bearer of news from the world above.  Pallas is a strong, caring character who’s devoted to her friends and unflinching in her belief that Persephone and Hades can change the Underworld as well as the established order of their world.  Her humor and bright personality are infectious but can be stern and strong when need be.  Hermes is playful and rebellious, but he clearly cares for his friends, advising Persephone as she struggles with her fate and reminding her what she’s fighting for.

For my fellow Greek Mythology fans there are various little nods to other myths and characters.  There’s Pallas’s story, of course, and the ferryman of the Underworld, Charon, gets his own story arc.  There’s also mention of Zeus switching genders of the other deities in the human’s tales just for the fun, an example being that, in this story, Cupid is said to be a female.  This is one explanation as to why Hades is referred to as “Lord” of the Underworld, the other to be brought up later in the review.

As with any piece of literature, there are things that will limit readership.  The queer relationship is obvious as well as the story being an e-book.  There is one part, however, that could trigger readers, so I’ll warn you right now: there’s a scene of sexual assault in the book.  I’ll understand if you choose to skip this read if such things make you uncomfortable or triggers any illnesses or anything else.

Finding things that I felt needed improvement was difficult, mostly because I enjoyed it so much.  However, I did feel that the book could have been longer.  Checking Goodreads I discovered that the book is less than 300 pages, so its shorter than most books I’ve read.  To be honest that could be fixed by adding more to the story, which I’ll discuss more when I talk about what could make the book better.  The fact that Hades is referred to as “Lord” of the Underworld due to her preference for women doesn’t make sense since the goddess Athena is openly with women, Pallas being a past lover.  Thankfully those were the only issues I found while reading.

It took me a while to think of what could lengthen the story while improving it as well.  I thought having more details of the political reasons behind having Persephone or one of the other young goddesses becoming queen were needed, as it’s not mentioned after Persephone leaves for the Underworld.  I would have liked to have Thanatos, a character in Greek mythology who isn’t often in stories even though he’s the actual god of death, have his own story like Charon did.  It also would have been nice to hear about Hades’ past relationships, as there’s a nymph in mythology Hades was with before Persephone and it was mentioned that Hades prefers women.

In conclusion, this is an addicting book that I’d highly recommend for a shorter can’t-put-down read.  For those of you who are die-hard physical book fans, this just might show you the benefits of e-books.  Even if you refuse to buy an e-reader, phones, computers, and tablets are good substitutes for those who’d rather reserve their funds for adding to their own book hoard.


Rating: 4.5 Cups of Coffee out of 5

Recommended for: Those who like retellings of well-known stories, Greek mythology fans, Readers looking for lady-loving romance

Coffee Recommended for Reading: A rich, strong dark or medium roast with hints of pomegranate.  Or Death Wish Coffee (might do a review on this coffee in the future).  Recommended with pomegranates or pomegranate-flavored snacks.


I’m still debating on what to review next, so here’s the list of options I’d like my readers to vote on:

  • Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter
  • Mentor: a Memoir by Tom Grimes
  • Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
  • 3 Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
  • Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen
  • A Mercedes Lakey novel that I have in my TBR pile
  • The Crusader Road (Pathfinder Tales) by Michael A. Stackpole
  • Surprise novel that I’ve avoided for several reasons (recommended if you want to be sadistic with my sanity)
  • A reader recommended novel (leave in comments)


I’ll pick at random if there’s no response or you don’t mind any of the stated options.


Interested in this book? Get it here.

Working on next review, curious about what you want me to review after.

Hello readers, humans, and fellow book dragons.  As the title suggests, I’m working on my next review and I’m curious about what book you want me to review after I post the next one.  I have a list of books I’ve been thinking of reading so I’ll post them here.  If you have a specific recommendation for a future review then I’d like to hear it.

Here’s the list so far:

  • Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter
  • Mentor: a Memoir by Tom Grimes
  • Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
  • 3 Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
  • Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen
  • Mercedes Lakey novels that I have in my TBR pile

Thank you for reading, my fellow book hoarders, and I wish you good coffee and great books.

Book Review: Courting Trouble

Welcome to Random Books (and Coffee) Reviews.  Hope I didn’t leave you waiting too long.  Having a sadistic and capricious muse doesn’t help with these sort of things.  Neither do house panthers and deciding on what other things to post about besides book reviews, which takes more time than I expected.  Any suggestions will be helpful in growing this blog.

Anyway, I’ve got a new book up to review.  Today’s offering is Courting Trouble by Deeanne Gist.  This is stated as a Historical Christian Romance, so off the bat there are going to be things that people are not going to agree with in terms of fiction, the theme, or meaning.  If that’s the case I won’t hold it against you if you’d rather skip this review.  If that doesn’t bother you, then I hope you enjoy your stay.

The book is about Essie Spreckelmeyer, a thirty-year-old woman in the late 19th century South taking her romantic future into her hands and begins pursuit of a husband.  As she’s not the typical woman society expects her to be, the chances of marriage are not that great.  Having her father be a judge in a small town makes societal expectations higher than usual for the average woman, which further adds to her disappointment in her spinsterhood, hence the husband-chasing.

The story itself is interesting, with Essie going about courtships with different men with different results.  The situations that she gets in, either on her own or due to others, has their own humorous charm, such as when mice are let loose in the general store where Essie works.  While the novel is labeled as a romance, I have to say that it doesn’t read like one.  I won’t go into spoilers right now, but I will say that it doesn’t take away from the quality of the novel.

Essie herself is an interesting and complex character, being both feminine and a tomboy. She’s a rebel of society as she rides a bicycle, catches snakes, and wears big fancy hats while still wanting to be a wife and mother.  She’s also suborn, forward, intelligent but without concern for social propriety, not to mention naïve in love, lonely, and with a strong faith in humanity to a fault.  Combined, these result in a variety of complications in her courtships and her life.

As with any novel there are things that will limit readership.  Like I said, the Christian aspect of the novel, even if it doesn’t become more prominent until halfway into the book, will limit readers.  What will further limit readers is that there are moments that are, ahem, less than squeaky clean.  No graphic details, don’t worry, but there are suggestive moments.  The most prominent example is Mrs. Lockhart: churchgoing woman and unashamed reader of dirty books such as Only One Sin.  I’m not even joking.  It’s a given that descriptions of clothing will confuse people as it’s a historical novel, so that might be a problem for readers.  Also, readers will more than likely dislike Essie for the simple fact that she is desperate for a husband and children to the point that she would accept a proposal from any random man, at least early on in the book.

Like any novel there are things I didn’t enjoy about the book, and not because I found this book during my historical fiction phase of reading years before.  The book has its moments of tedium, making it feel annoyingly long.  As I’ve mentioned, it doesn’t read like a romance.  It’s more like a coming-of-age, which I don’t mind except that its labeled as a romance.  I have a sinking suspicion that it was called a romance in order to boost sales.

And now for the spoiler part of the review.  Oh boy.

Essie’s actions through the story, specifically with the well-driller Adam, are frustrating, but not because of poor writing, but because the reader knows what’s coming and she doesn’t.  Said actions result in a, shall we say, less than spotless outcome.  Yep, she gave in to temptation because she thought Adam loved and would marry her.  Not a smart move, as I’m sure you’ve guessed already.  Adam skips town to avoid marrying her, and Essie is heartbroken and views herself as tainted.

What does come from this experience is a stronger bond with God and her parents and self-acceptance.  Essie realizes that sacrificing what makes her who she is isn’t worth a husband who doesn’t love those parts of her.  Her relationship with her mother changes from a battle of how Essie should live her life to a more loving friendship where they bond over Essie’s bicycle club.  This shows how relationships, even between family, are meant to be based on trust and acceptance of the other, which doesn’t occur in any of Essie’s courtships.  With Hamilton he doesn’t appreciate her outgoing personality, preferring a more demure and proper lady.  With Adam she sacrifices her morals in an attempt to keep him.  With Ewing she would be forced to tone down her personality and what she enjoys in life in order to be a pastor’s wife.

End of spoilers for those who skipped that part.

Now for what would make the story better.  Taking away “Romance” from the genre description will vastly improve the story’s message and the story itself.  To keep the “Romance” genre as a part of the book, the novel and sequel (yes, there is one) should be put together as a Part 1 and Part 2, since the sequel seems more like a romance than the original.  Also, shortening the story will hopefully take away the tedium of reading it, or at least take out what isn’t necessary to the plot and message.

The novel itself shows that there is no one-size-fits-all to happiness and life fulfillment, a message I personally enjoy.  It shows the dangers of wanting to be in a relationship to the point that you change yourself in an attempt to keep the relationship going.  In the end one can be happy doing what they love and being with family and friends.

Thank you for visiting my Book Cave, and hopefully I’ll have a new post soon, whether it be a review or something bookish or coffie-esque.


Rating: 3.8 Coffee Cups out of 5 as a Coming of Age, 2 Coffee Cups as a Romance

Recommended For: Readers of Historical Fiction, those who want to read a coming of age from an older woman’s perspective

Coffee Recommendation for Reading: Hints of brown sugar and cinnamon, light to medium strength, recommended with Cinnamon Roll, Sticky Bun, or Apple Fritter creamer


Interested in reading this book? You can purchase it here