Besotted By Jody Hedlund
In a land where being the fairest maiden is a curse . . .
A young queen trying to stay alive until she comes of age to rule, and a prince turned into a pauper.
Queen Aurora of Mercia has spent her entire life deep in Inglewood Forest, hiding from Warwick’s Queen Margery, who seeks her demise. As the time draws near for Aurora to take the throne, she happens upon a handsome woodcutter. Although friendship with outsiders is forbidden and dangerous, she cannot stay away from the charming stranger.
Only two months away from completing his royal testing, Prince Kresten of Scania is ready to be finished with the poverty and hardships of being a woodcutter. When he meets a beautiful peasant woman, he doesn’t plan to fall in love, especially when he must soon leave and return to his homeland.
As Queen Margery’s forces close in, Aurora finds herself in mortal danger. Kresten knows a future with Aurora is impossible, but he is desperate to save her and bring an end to the queen’s threat. To do so, he joins the ultimate battle against the evil queen, risking everything, including his chance at true love.
Both Aurora and Kresten are much more outgoing and open to people than I am. The skeptical side of me of course was thinking, “You just met each other and you’re telling each other all this? Especially after Aurora was almost killed by her aunt?” But it quickly quieted. The author did a fantastic job of taking character’s with very different personalities than mine and making me understand and like them despite that.
I also love that Aurora and Kresten think about each other. Yes, they’re cute and in love and everything. But they actually think about how their actions will affect each other—a rarity in romance.
I was warned before I started reading that the ending wasn’t as out-of-nowhere-awesome-plot-twist as Beholden. But this is still my favorite book in the series. While the ending wasn’t exactly unheard of for a Sleeping Beauty retelling, it was still a beautiful ending. If anyone ever tells you that tropes don’t work . . . Plus, it was just so satisfying to see all the threads from across the trilogy come to a close.
Besotted finishes out the trilogy with a sweet familiarity for fans of fairy tale retellings.
The Bookworm's Tag
I'm back with another blog tag! I saw this one on Jehosheba's blog (the link is in the graphic above!). If you'd like to participate, go ahead and have a blast!
Thank and link to the blogger who nominated you
Include the tag graphic in your post
Answer the ten questions the blogger asked
Nominate between five and ten bloggers
Ask your nominees ten book-related questions!
Don’t feel bound to these rules
(Most importantly) Have fun!
What’s the most recent book you’ve read?
The Paris Dressmaker by Kristy Cambron. It’s actually a re-read, because this book was just that good. Before that, I just finished Wayfarer by K. M. Weiland, Dreams of Savannah by Roseanna M. White, and The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron.
What’s a common theme you’ve seen in all of your favorite books?
Characters who are hurting in one way or another. Finding hope in the darkness.
What’s the funniest book you’ve read?
*shrugs* So many of the books I read aren’t really humorous. I do find Johanna Berglund's sense of humor in Amy Lynn Green's Things We Didn't Say pretty relatable and smile-worthy.
How often do you read new books?
Anytime I find one that seems interesting and can afford to buy it. (Luckily, our church has a library.)
Do you prefer reading fiction or nonfiction?
*cringes* Definitely fiction. There’s something about a story that draws me in and illustrates a point deeper to me. But nonfiction reading is something I definitely wish I did more of. I just have to take it in short doses so I can still focus.
Who is the last fictional character you related to?
Uh . . . good question. I tend to relate more to aspects of a character than finding a character that is a carbon copy of me. I’m going to go with Evelyn Brand from When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin. However, some other notable mentions before that would be Margot de Wilde (The Number of Love by Roseanna M. White), Thomas Fawkes (Fawkes by Nadine Brandes) and Johanna Berglund (Things We Didn’t Say by Amy Lynn Green).
What’s the saddest book you’ve ever read?
Healer’s Bane by Hope Ann. THAT ENDING! Otherwise, I have many books that I have sad scenes in . . . Shadow by Kara Swanson would come pretty close.
Where’s your favorite place to read?
What’s the last book that inspired you?
Oh, goodness. Many books inspire me in their own ways. The Illusionist’s Apprentice inspired me to not think worse of myself because of my differences from others. The Paris Dressmaker and Shadow both inspired me that there was still light in the darkness. (Especially Shadow, may be the most inspiring book I read this year.)
Have you ever gotten to meet an author?
Yes, at conferences and such, and I will probably not remember all of them. I got books signed by DiAnn Mills and remember attending some of Michelle Medlock Adams’ sessions. I also have traded emails with Amy Lynn Green.
My Questions (Yes, I know it only looks like 7, but if you add in all the why questions, it's really 10.)
What is your favorite book and why?
Who is your favorite male character and why?
Who is your favorite female character and why?
What was your favorite book as a child?
Who is your favorite author (s)?
What is the oldest book you’ve ever read?
What is your favorite genre?
Beguiled by Jody Hedlund
In a land where being the fairest maiden is a curse . . .
A princess rejected and hunted by her mother, and a prince who lives as a shunned outcast.
Princess Pearl flees for her life after her mother, Queen Margery, tries to have her killed during a hunting expedition. Pearl finds refuge on the Isle of Outcasts among criminals and misfits, disguising her face with a veil so no one recognizes her. She lives for the day when she can return to Warwick and rescue her sister, Ruby, from the queen’s clutches.
Amidst his royal testing on the Isle of Outcasts, Prince Mikkel of Scania has kept his identity a secret. Captured by a warring band of outcasts and condemned to die, he finds himself making friends with an intriguing but feisty young veiled woman. Intending to win her trust and gain her help to escape, he soon finds himself coerced to wed her.
Mikkel reluctantly agrees to the union to save his life, and Pearl hopes the marriage will provide protection for her and Ruby. But the queen is more determined to kill her daughter than either Pearl or Mikkel realizes and has a sinister reason neither expects—one that could rip their new love apart forever.
Pearl’s love for her sister really touched me. She was willing to risk everything to get Ruby back. As an older sister, I related a lot.
The misfits were a very interesting reimagining of the dwarves. I loved how they all hung together and worked together. It wouldn’t have been good for the rest of the book, but I’m almost sorry I didn’t get to see a little bit more of the Isle of Misfits. The worldbuilding of the tensions between the two groups was very interesting.
I have come to the conclusion that there is no perfect ratio of arguing in an enemies-to-lovers romance. I personally got a little tired of Pearl and Mikkel arguing in this one. It could have maybe been cut back by a couple scenes and not seemed as repetitive. As it was, it continued up to the climax and I wasn’t quite sure if they were ever going to get started on the climax mission.
They also seemed to fall in love very fast. Considering Mikkel was in jail, and Pearl was trying to use him for her devices, when things got lovey-dovey, I got a bit skeptical. Maybe I was supposed to. The book did awesome, though, in making them test those feelings of attraction later on in the book.
I also personally am not a huge fan of the “they are forced into marriage to save themselves” trope. Not to say it wasn't pulled off brilliantly here, just tends not to be my jam.
Out of the three Fairest Maidens, Beguiled wasn’t my top favorite. But don’t let it fool you—it’s still an amazing book and more than worthy of being read. After all, don’t judge a book by its cover. Or its review. Or . . . I think you get the idea.
Beholden By Jody Hedlund
In a land where being the fairest maiden is a curse . . .
A beautiful noblewoman with a terrible secret, and a prince subjected to slavery.
Upon the death of her wealthy father, Lady Gabriella is condemned to work in Warwick’s gem mine. As she struggles to survive the dangerous conditions, her kindness and beauty shine as brightly as the jewels the slaves excavate. While laboring, Gabriella plots how to avenge her father’s death and stop Queen Margery’s cruelty.
Prince Vilmar of Scania enslaves himself in Warwick’s gem mine as part of a royal test to prove himself the most worthy of three brothers to become the king’s successor. Amidst the hardships, he doesn’t anticipate his growing compassion for the other slaves, especially tenderhearted Gabriella.
As the annual summer ball looms nearer, Gabriella sets into motion her plan to end Queen Margery’s evil. When Vilmar learns of Gabriella’s intentions, he resolves to come to her aid and fight against Warwick’s queen. But doing so may require him to give up his chance of becoming Scania’s next king, perhaps even cost him his life.
This is a very different and unique Cinderella retelling. I had an extremely vague idea of the twist from my sister reading it, but when it came around, I was still surprised. It became kind of a game to pick out the Cinderella elements in this story. And I was definitely turning pages to figure out if it would end like a Cinderella story . . . or not. (Or have some twist that I could have never seen coming.)
Another thing I really loved about it was how Gabriella and Vilmar sacrificed for each other. In a lot of romance plots, especially in young adult fiction, the couple don’t do anything for each other. They simply kiss a few times, flirt ALL the time, and declare it a love story. It was nice to see two leads who, while they had their own struggles, were kind to the people around them and to each other.
On the topic of those struggles—those were strong and relatable as well. Gabriella’s need for revenge was an interesting quality to hand to a Cinderella character. Vilmar’s struggle to best his brother as well also packed the emotional punch needed. The author did a good job making me feel the emotions, even if their emotional responses weren’t quite the same as mine would be.
But who will truly become king? And how much is this like a Cinderella story? You’ll have to read to find out.
Evelyn Brand is an American foreign correspondent as determined to prove her worth in a male-dominated profession as she is to expose the growing tyranny in Nazi Germany. To do so, she must walk a thin line. If she offends the government, she could be expelled from the country--or worse. If she fails to truthfully report on major stories, she'll never be able to give a voice to the oppressed--and wake up the folks back home.
In another part of the city, American graduate student Peter Lang is working on his PhD in German. Disillusioned with the chaos in the world due to the Great Depression, he is impressed with the prosperity and order of German society. But when the brutality of the regime hits close, he discovers a far better way to use his contacts within the Nazi party--to feed information to the shrewd reporter he can't get off his mind.
My favorite thing about this book was how she depicted Evelyn’s struggle in the journalism world as a woman. The “jokes” that Evelyn lived through brought to mind some teasing and not so teasing remarks I have received. Not only did this have me rooting for her character, but it encouraged me as well as I watched Evelyn excel at what she did and prove them all wrong.
The plot was brilliantly done. It never got boring between their missions of espionage, the threat of being expelled if they spoke the wrong word, and their escape from Germany. (Several times I found myself wondering how the author had crafted such a smooth plot.) The inclusion of Peter as Evelyn’s informant drew me in even more.
I loved how much Peter had to sacrifice throughout the book. So many stories (I’m looking at some of my drafts, too) leave that element out. It really does make for a brilliant book when the characters have to give up something they love dearly to make a better choice.
While handled extremely tactfully, those teasing remarks I mentioned above are still cruel jokes about a woman nonetheless.
I was slightly confused by Peter at the beginning. At first, he just seemed like a guy with a lot of hurt in his past he was struggling to overcome. Then it seemed like I was smacked with the fact he bought into Nazi ideology in the next chapter he appeared in. But, to be fair, first chapters aren’t easy, and there was a lot of ground to cover. Meaning this could have easily been pushed to the next chapter. The important thing was I did figure out his beliefs early in the story and it didn’t confuse me for long.
Truly, my only real complaint is . . . the title has nothing to do with the story. Unless I missed something. But I asked someone who is an even greater fan of Sarah Sundin than I am, and she was confused as well. It is a beautiful title, though.
All that to say, When Twilight Breaks still remains a shining star in World War II fiction.
Hi there! Rachel again. Check out this section for book reviews and cover reveals of some of my favorites!