Here are two other previously posted reviews of Advanced Reader Copies that I received as Goodreads giveaways. The first was this Christmas-titled romance from Summerside Press, which is a division of Guideposts.org.
By Deborah Raney
Summerside Press, 2013
Having had a magazine subscription to Guideposts for many years (thanks to my mother), I was not surprised when I started reading this novel. I had flipped through the book previously and saw that Summerside Press was a division of Guideposts. From that moment on, I knew that there would be a spiritual or Christian-themed basis to it; however, having said that, I was pleasantly surprised by this romance. Unlike many Christian novels that I have read in the past, this romance was more realistic. Often, Christian romances are overly simplistic even to the point of ‘do I dare kiss?’ and ‘if I kiss him/her, will it lead to immorality?’ so that neither party is true to the realities of life, at least in my opinion.
Set in the period of the Seventies, Silver Bells is the story of a small town girl, Michelle Penn, who returns home after several years of college. While she has not completed school, she has taken a job as a reporter for a weekly newspaper. In order to become more independent from her parents, she has her own apartment that is also closer to her job. She is protective of her feelings since her heart has been broken once when her sweetheart, Kevin, decided to enlist and go to Viet Nam in order to end their relationship.
On her first day of work, she meets Rob Merrick, who helps her get settled into the job. Unbeknownst to her, he is also the son of the owner-editor of the paper, and their first meeting sets the tone for the novel. Working together, they form a fast friendship as they head out to investigate a breaking story of an abusive husband being arrested, his wife, and their toddler daughter. The photographs Rob takes are too revealing: the wife battered, the forlorn child clinging to her mother. Michelle convinces him not to put any of them in the paper since it is such a small town and may destroy this already fragile family. In fact, she ends up befriending the woman and child as well as bringing some fresh insight into the stories they print.
All this sudden closeness between the two work cubicle mates is offset by warnings from his father that Michelle will be terminated for fraternization with Rob. Trying to keep a polite distance from Rob while still sharing a workspace, Michelle continually walks a tightrope of what is work and what is not. His father never warns his second-in-command: he just threatens Michelle. Add to that other workplace personnel issues, and there is enough real life conflict to not make this story sappy sweet.
Michelle does pray for guidance; she does have a spiritual side so it definitely is a Christian-based romance though. The tension between her boss’s warnings, Rob’s interest in her, and her growing interest in him drives the story as they slowly discover each other. There are also family and romantic conflicts as well as some humorous moments that kept this reader’s interest and desire to know what happens to these characters as the time slips ever closer to Christmas.
All in all, it is a decent romance that also deals with some social issues of the times. Until I read Silver Bells, I had never read anything by this author; however, I will be reading more of her in the future.
The other Advanced Reader Copy (or ARC) was The Pink Suit by Nicole Mary Kelby. She is the author of several other novels as well.
The Pink Suit
by Nicole Mary Kelby
Published by Little, Brown and Company, 2014
To those of us who were born prior to November 22, 1963, we remember the events of that date. Like the events of September 11, 2001, people have never forgotten where they were when they heard the news of Kennedy’s assassination. The events of that era as shown on the films from the parade, while in black and white and a bit grainy, are indelibly etched in most people’s minds. That includes the clothing that Mrs. Kennedy wore that day in Dallas. In this case, it was a Chanel-inspired raspberry pink suit and pillbox hat.
This novel is the story-behind-the-suit, the story-behind-the-story. The history of the suit is presented as the fictionalized, but true story of the seamstress who quilted and stitched the iconic suit together. The story of the suit and the seamstress are intertwined.
Kate, the Irish-born immigrant, came from the same county (County Cork) in Ireland as Jacqueline Kennedy’s family. Like them, Kate had left her home and came to the United States for a better life. Here she was hired as a back room girl for the New York couture house, Chez Ninon. A back room girl was an employee who did meticulous stitching on the haute couture outfits produced, but was not allowed to be out front dealing directly with the customers. In many ways Kate was considered a second-class citizen of the business, yet it was her work that produced the quality garments that clothed The Wife as Mrs. Kennedy was called. In particular, she was involved greatly with the Chanel suit, and even to the point where she produced a nearly identical suit for herself.
Kate’s time and talents were rewarded at Chez Ninon, which was owned by two elderly women, Miss Sophie and Miss Nona. They spent much of their time going to Paris to fashion shows to discover, and ultimately “borrow” the newest styles from the large houses of fashion such as Chanel and Dior. Since The Wife was accused of not wearing American-made clothing by the media, this partnership with the couture shop helped her improve this image. Further, it gave the shop a higher profile as they produced high-end clothing for her and others.
The novel highlights all the behind scenes and actions of this shop. It describes all the fabulous fabrics and is particularly descriptive of the day-to-day workings of those fashioning clothes of this quality.
Yet, more than that, it is Kate’s story during a transformative time in America, a time of innocence followed by tragedy. Her history of being an Irish immigrant and those like her shows the differences in class that existed. Kate is not allowed to associate with The Wife directly. Only a few people within the shop ever have that opportunity.
Kate is a working class woman, and yet a dreamer. She dreams of meeting Mrs. Kennedy; she dreams of the glory of having her own line of clothing, but more than that, the novel tells of her interactions with other Irish immigrants in Inwood, the section of New York where she lives. This working class neighborhood becomes a large part of the story. Her relationship with Patrick Harris, the butcher, is a love story that comes from their shared roots of Inwood.
Throughout the novel, Kate walks a fine line between her life in the shop and the life that includes her sister Maggie, her nephew Little Mike, and Patrick. Ultimately, it is a story about America—all the Americas that are seen and unseen, those people who make the headlines and those who don’t, those who make a difference even if they are never known or acknowledged. All of this America is seen through the eyes of Kate as she becomes deeply involved in making of the iconic pink suit during the early Sixties.
This novel is a recommended read especially for those who love historical fiction. It brings back the time period of the Sixties when Camelot was in flower and the Kennedys were its King and Queen.