Monday, November 11, 2013

Jessica Dotta's Born of Persuasion ~ Reviewed

By Jessica Dotta
Published by Tyndall
427 Pages

Back Cover:  The year is 1838, and seventeen-year-old Julia Elliston’s position has never been more fragile. Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.

With two months to devise a better plan, Julia’s first choice to marry her childhood sweetheart is denied. But when a titled dowager offers to introduce Julia into society, a realm of possibilities opens. However, treachery and deception are as much a part of Victorian society as titles and decorum, and Julia quickly discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother’s mysterious past. Before she knows what’s happening, Julia finds herself a pawn in a deadly game between two of the country’s most powerful men. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own. But sometimes truth is elusive and knowledge is deadly.


All right. I’ll admit it. I LOVE the villain in Born of Persuasion. Mr. Macy is the most suave and endearing creepy character I’ve ever met…hence my honorary title of President of the Macy Fan Club. No, really. When you’ve finished reading the book, check the acknowledgements.

Author Jessica Dotta has penned quite a memorable novel debut—not a light and fluffy read. The writing is exquisite, with danger and intrigue shadowing every scene. A strong undercurrent of who to believe and what to believe runs throughout. This is the kind of book to curl up with on a dark, windy evening with a cup of tea and candlelight.

Julia is the heroine. Sometimes you’ll ache for her, other times you’ll want to shake some sense into her. Either way, she will evoke emotion in you. Hers is a haunting story, sad and forlorn, yet glimpses of love and hope are sprinkled in at times.

Other characters step directly off the pages of an Austen novel or appear to be from Downton Abbey. Nancy, the say-it-like-it-is lady’s maid. Mrs. Windham, a Mrs. Bennett wannabe. Lady Foxmore, conniving and underhanded. All of them are an unforgettable cast. The settings are just as spectacular, think Bleak House mixed with Jane Eyre.

Do not expect all your questions to be satisfactorily answered by the end of this first book. In fact, you’ll likely have just as many questions as when you start—which will make it all the more exciting to devour books 2 and 3 when they come out. This is a series that has earned a permanent place on my bookshelves. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by: Michelle Griep

Bonus Review:  I’m thankful for a review copy of a book that plunged me into the middle of the Victorian Era and captivated my mind, and emotions. I agonized with main character Julia Elliston’s challenge. Her world turned upside down by the death of her mother. “She is orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands and/or guardians, Julia would soon discover she is at the mercy of an anonymous guardian, one who planed to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.”

 Julie goes to Am Meer to be with her Aunt and cousin. The only family she had. There she meets a woman who’s a match maker. She tells Julie she can find her a husband before she’s shipped off to Scotland for a nice price, decisions, decisions.

I hung on every word as the drama unfolded for the reader at the same time the main character learned her fate. Just when I thought I had things figured out the tale would morph into something I hadn’t expected. I was drawn into this authors’ world through her writing style, description, and emotion, I lost all track of time.

Julie thinks after she arrives at Am Meer, “Secrets I had kept. Lies I had told. All to protect two people who had ended up betraying me in every possible manner. My very flesh recoiled at the thought of being considered a frivolous youth, and it wrought a change in my countenance.

You gravely mistake me, then.” I said in a hard voice, ready to gather my shirts and leave.” Later on in the story Julie says,

“…I realized how much we’d lost over a simple misunderstanding. I have found that those who try to shield us from the truth, regardless of the reason, end up doing the greatest harm. Truth alone sets you free, not lies and omissions.”

I was hooked from the first page, you will be too. It says, “Later, when I allowed myself to confront the memories, to dwell on the particulars, I realized my arrival at Am Meer marked the beginning.

Not the mysterious letter that drained the life from Mama. Not her suicide….For those happenings were not my story. I was sinless there. They were the end result of events set in motion long before I arrived at the cottage. I could no more have stopped their unfolding than I could have prevented my own birth.”

This book is absolutely entertaining and brilliantly written, with lovable flawed characters. Full of witty dialogue that opened windows into a world of intriguing mystery as this author explores love, faith and honor. Jane Austen fans will love this instant classic that dropped me into all the richness of the Victorian Era. I highly recommend this book for a great read and it’s a definitely book club pick. You’ll have to leave extra time to talk about all the drama inside these pages. Jessica Dotta’s debut novel is a must read and this author is one to watch.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!

Yet Another: 

Jessica Dotta has clearly invested heart and soul into her debut novel. The historical richness shines through her skill as a storyteller giving me a peek into a very different time and place. A place when women were at the mercy of the men in their lives. A time when a young girl could find herself without resources, a future, kindness or hope. 

Julia finds herself exactly there. Her mother has died and Julia carries a horrible secret about her mother's death. A guardian has stepped in, but anonymously, and with plans for her to away to Scotland to serve as a hired hand. Julia had other plans for her future that included the handsome young Edward who's parents could not consider her as a worthy match. As Julia discovers she can possibly have one more chance to claim his heart she finds that he has betrayed her by becoming a clergyman. Her father had been anti-religion and anti-God. Julia can't marry a man of the cloth. And Edward, knowing full well that she won't embrace his God won't have her after all. 

A dashing wealthy man offers protection to Julia and a way for her to avoid Scotland. But at what cost?

As Julia agonizes over the choice she must make, and make quickly as her departure to Scotland looms, pieces of a very bizarre puzzle began to fall all about her. Each decision she ponders and ultimately makes ends up turning over more pieces until she has no hope of picking one that won't leave her in a difficult situation and might very harm the very few dear ones she has left in her life. 

Dotta's writing is an artist's brush and with it she paints murals. I think she works in oils because the work is pungent with realism and all sense awakening descriptions. A heavy melancholy hangs over the work like an anemic British sun that fights to bring light through the shroud of doom. Those who love the works of the greats of the time period such as Austen should find much to love in this novel. 

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

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