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Book Reviews of the Month: Miss Austen by Gill Hornby, The Orchard House, Shielded, and More

New book reviews for this month include Miss Austen by Gill Hornby, The Orchard House by Heidi Chiavaroli, Shielded by KayLynn Flanders, Ladies of the House: A Modern Retelling of Sense and Sensibility by Lauren Edmondson, Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunsmore, and The Quantum Weirdness of the Almost-Kiss by Amy Noelle Parks.

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning we may earn a commission if you choose to buy through our links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read our disclosure for more information.


Our latest book reviews include Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Clean Romance, Steampunk/Gaslamp Fantasy, YA Fantasy Romance, and YA Contemporary Romance.

ABOUT REVIEWS OF THE MONTH

The feature, Reviews of the Month, publishes one to two times a month on The Silver Petticoat Review. In one post, we will share movie and TV reviews (monthly), and in the other, we will share book reviews every other month (bimonthly).

The feature is a roundup of both new shorter reviews posted on this page and full standalone reviews linking to other pages. By creating this feature, it will give us extra time to share more recommendations and reviews! Enjoy.

To read the book reviews, you can scroll down or click on the title that interests you in the links below.

(Note: The full reviews link to separate pages). 

BRIEF BOOK REVIEWS: 

FULL BOOK REVIEWS: 


Book Reviews of the Month


REVIEW ONE

BRINGING DOWN THE DUKE BY EVIE DUNSMORE

Bringing Down the Duke Book Cover

Genres: Historical Romance, Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Chick Lit

Publication Date: September 3, 2019, by Berkley

Official Synopsis:

England, 1879. Annabelle Archer, the brilliant but destitute daughter of a country vicar, has earned herself a place among the first cohort of female students at the renowned University of Oxford. In return for her scholarship, she must support the rising women’s suffrage movement. Her charge: recruit men of influence to champion their cause. Her target: Sebastian Devereux, the cold and calculating Duke of Montgomery who steers Britain’s politics at the Queen’s command. Her challenge: not to give in to the powerful attraction she can’t deny for the man who opposes everything she stands for.

Sebastian is appalled to find a suffragist squad has infiltrated his ducal home, but the real threat is his impossible feelings for green-eyed beauty Annabelle. He is looking for a wife of equal standing to secure the legacy he has worked so hard to rebuild, not an outspoken commoner who could never be his duchess. But he wouldn’t be the greatest strategist of the Kingdom if he couldn’t claim this alluring bluestocking without the promise of a ring…or could he?

Locked in a battle with rising passion and a will matching her own, Annabelle will learn just what it takes to topple a duke….

REVIEW (BY AUTUMN):

Set during the British suffrage movement, Bringing Down the Duke takes the historical romance genre by storm by including women’s rights as a central part of the novel. But it’s also a passionate story about a penniless Vicar’s daughter who falls in love with the icy Duke of Montgomery.

With wit and sweeping romantic moments, Dunmore is sure to please the Bridgerton crowd looking for something else equally addictive. And this is highly addictive.

Sure, sometimes the inner thoughts of Annabelle and the Duke grate because they verge too often into lust, and that’s not something I personally enjoy reading. It’s also way more explicit than I typically read.

Not to mention, Annabelle had no real sense about her reputation. Still, Bringing Down the Duke is a fantastic romance novel that is both romantic and well-written.

In short, with fabulous banter, excellent historical detail, likable characters, and swoon-worthy romance, Bringing Down the Duke is an outstanding read for anyone who loves delving into Victorian Historical Romance.

Adaptation Recommendation: This should be a TV show like Bridgerton as it is a series of books following new characters. It has a lot of romance and stories that would best fit in a television show.

Content Note: This is not a wholesome read and includes some explicit scenes, although it is not throughout.

OVERALL RATING

“Hello, Gorgeous.”

ROMANCE RATING

“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My

feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me

to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

REVIEW TWO

LADIES OF THE HOUSE: A MODERN RETELLING OF SENSE AND SENSIBILITY BY LAUREN EDMONDSON

Ladies of the House Book Cover

Genres: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Retellings

Publication Date: February 9, 2021, by Graydon House

Official Synopsis:

No surprise is a good surprise. At least according to thirty-four-year-old Daisy Richardson. So when it’s revealed in dramatic fashion that her esteemed father had been involved in a public scandal before his untimely death, Daisy’s life becomes complicated—and fast.

For one, the Richardsons must now sell the family home in Georgetown they can no longer afford, and Daisy’s mother is holding on with an iron grip. Her younger sister, Wallis, is ready to move on to bigger and better things but falls fast and hard for the most inconvenient person possible. And then there’s Atlas, Daisy’s best friend. She’s always wished they could be more, but now he’s writing an exposé on the one subject she’s been desperate to avoid: her father.

Daisy’s plan is to maintain a low profile as she works to keep her family intact amid social exile, public shaming, and quickly dwindling savings. But the spotlight always seems to find the Richardsons, and when another twist in the scandal comes to light, Daisy must confront the consequences of her continued silence and summon the courage to stand up and accept the power of her own voice.

REVIEW (BY AMBER):

If you’re familiar with Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, then you’ll recognize the structure Edmonson uses in her debut novel. It’s the spirit of the same story with a contemporary political spin – showing just how much time doesn’t change after all. The social commentary is smart, most of the characters are likable, and it’s a thoughtful, entertaining read.

Still, the use of strong language sometimes (particularly within an Austen retelling) didn’t sit well with me. And a few of the storytelling choices (like having the daughters call their parents by their first names) slightly detached me from the characters’ emotions. Although this probably comes down to personal taste.

Overall, it’s a well-written story and may appeal to some Janeites more than others. If you don’t mind the politics and the modernness, then you’ll likely enjoy this debut novel from Lauren Edmondson, especially if you love Women’s Fiction set in the world of politics. I liked the read, but I didn’t love it. I did, however, love the ending as well as seeing the powerful bonds between women.

Adaptation Recommendation: I think Ladies of the House would make for a charming TV movie – whether on cable or streaming. It has the perfect beginning, middle, and end told in a relatively brief amount of time to fit nicely into a lovely romance film on Netflix or Lifetime.

Content Note: The overall feel of the book is PG-13-like. However, there is some strong language, including some f words.

OVERALL RATING

“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful

friendship.”

ROMANCE RATING

“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My

feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me

to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

REVIEW THREE

MISS AUSTEN BY GILL HORNBY

Miss Austen Book Cover

Genres: Historical Fiction

Publication Dates: Published January 23, 2020, by Century and April 7, 2020, by Flatiron Books

Official Synopsis:

Whoever looked at an elderly lady and saw the young heroine she once was?

England, 1840. Two decades after the death of her beloved sister, Jane, Cassandra Austen returns to the village of Kintbury and the home of her family friends, the Fowles. In a dusty corner of the vicarage, there is a cache of Jane’s letters that Cassandra is desperate to find. Dodging her hostess and a meddlesome housemaid, Cassandra eventually hunts down the letters and confronts the secrets they hold, secrets not only about Jane but about Cassandra herself. Will Cassandra bare the most private details of her life to the world, or commit her sister’s legacy to the flames?

Moving back and forth between the vicarage and Cassandra’s vibrant memories of her years with Jane, interwoven with Jane’s brilliantly reimagined lost letters, Miss Austen is the untold story of the most important person in Jane’s life. With extraordinary empathy, emotional complexity, and wit, Gill Hornby finally gives Cassandra her due, bringing to life a woman as captivating as any Austen heroine.

REVIEW (BY AMBER):

Gill Hornby creates a powerful historical fiction novel that will stay with you long after closing the final page. Moving back and forth between the older Cassandra and the young “Cassy,” is the story of Jane Austen’s beloved sister. We follow her heartbreaks, triumphs, and ultimately, her version of a happy ending.

Appealing and heartwarming, Miss Austen is a novel that is both thought-provoking and fun to read. Filled with humor, persuasive historical research, and imaginings, Cassandra Austen tells her story in a delightful, must-read novel for every Janeite and everyone who believes everyone has a story to tell and not just the young.

While there are compelling love stories within the pages, nothing is more powerful than the bond and love between women. And that’s what makes this story so memorable. It will make you re-think what it is to have a happily ever after.

Adaptation Recommendation: Miss Austen would make a lovely period drama movie fans of the genre would be sure to enjoy! I could envision it on the big screen like Becoming Jane or even on a streaming site like the Guernsey movie adaptation

Content Note: Mild content. Nothing shocking.

OVERALL RATING

“The stuff that dreams are made of.”

ROMANCE RATING

“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My

feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me

to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

REVIEW FOUR

THE ORCHARD HOUSE BY HEIDI CHIAVAROLI

The Orchard House Book Cover

Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Genres: Christian Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction, Time-Slip

Publication Date: February 9, 2021, by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Official Synopsis:

Two women, one living in present day Massachusetts and another in Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House soon after the Civil War, overcome their own personal demons and search for a place to belong.

2001
Abandoned by her own family, Taylor is determined not to mess up her chance at joining the home of her best friend, Victoria Bennett. But despite attending summer camp at Louisa May Alcott’s historic Orchard House with Victoria and sharing dreams of becoming famous authors, Taylor struggles to fit in. As she enters college and begins dating, it feels like Taylor is finally finding her place and some stability . . . until Victoria’s betrayal changes everything.

1865
While Louisa May Alcott is off traveling the world, Johanna Suhre accepts a job tending Louisa’s aging parents and their home in Concord. Soon after arriving at Orchard House, Johanna meets Nathan Bancroft and, ignoring Louisa’s words of caution, falls in love and accepts Nathan’s proposal. But before long, Johanna experiences her husband’s dark side, and she can’t hide the bruises that appear.

2019
After receiving news of Lorraine Bennett’s cancer diagnosis, Taylor knows she must return home to see her adoptive mother again. Now a successful author, Taylor is determined to spend little time in Concord. Yet she becomes drawn into the story of a woman who lived there centuries before. And through her story, Taylor may just find forgiveness and a place to belong.

REVIEW (BY AMBER):

Louisa May Alcott fans will love this poignant story about forgiveness, overcoming abusive situations, and facing the future with optimism.

As someone fascinated with all things Concord writers, including Alcott, I went into this read with much excitement! I also happen to love novels that go back and forth between contemporary and past time periods and Concord (a place I love to visit).

RELATED: The Little-Known Romances of Louisa May Alcott and How They Impacted Her Stories

Thankfully, this novel did not disappoint as Chiavoroli successfully switches between narratives with ease. Sure, at times, I found myself engrossed with one time more than another, but that’s because I wanted to find out what happened next. There is a page-turning element to this novel, so be prepared.

Overall, this is an uplifting and powerful read fans of inspirational novels should enjoy! If you love Louisa May Alcott, Women’s Fiction, Historical fiction, or books about writers, I recommend giving this book a try.

Adaptation Recommendation: This would be a complicated story to adapt, but if done well, it would make a great movie in the same style as Possession.

Content Note: There are some abusive situations, but it is not overly graphic.

OVERALL RATING

“Hello, Gorgeous.”

ROMANCE RATING

(You’re not always supposed to root for the romances, so this rating is positive for the intents of the novel.)

“Happiness in marriage is entirely a

matter of chance.”

REVIEW FIVE

SHIELDED BY KAYLYNN FLANDERS

Shielded Book Cover

Genres: Young Adult Fantasy, Teen Romance

Publication Date: July 21, 2020, by Delacorte Press

Official Synopsis:

For fans of Sorcery of Thorns and Furyborn comes a thrilling new fantasy about a kingdom ravaged by war, and the princess who might be the key to saving not only those closest to her, but the kingdom itself, if she reveals the very secret that could destroy her.

The kingdom of Hálendi is in trouble. It’s losing the war at its borders, and rumors of a new, deadlier threat on the horizon have surfaced. Princess Jennesara knows her skills on the battlefield would make her an asset and wants to help, but her father has other plans.

As the second-born heir to the throne, Jenna lacks the firstborn’s–her brother’s–magical abilities, so the king promises her hand in marriage to the prince of neighboring Turia in exchange for resources Hálendi needs. Jenna must leave behind everything she has ever known if she is to give her people a chance at peace.

Only, on the journey to reach her betrothed and new home, the royal caravan is ambushed, and Jenna realizes the rumors were wrong–the new threat is worse than anyone imagined. Now Jenna must decide if revealing a dangerous secret is worth the cost before it’s too late–for her and for her entire kingdom.

REVIEW (BY AUTUMN):

Shielded weaves together a lovely blend of fantasy, romance, sibling relationships, adventure, and magic. The settings of Hálendi and Turia are well developed. Indeed, the familiarity of favorite fantasy tropes will comfort anyone who enjoys Princess stories, Robin McKinley books, or the recent, Sorcery of Thorns.

While the story starts slow, once betrayal hits (I won’t say more than that), Shielded transforms into a fast-paced adventure with a sweet romance that is sure to entertain anyone looking for an enjoyable read. Overall, Shielded is a satisfying page-turner (with a fantastic ending), and I’m looking forward to book two!

Adaptation Recommendation: As this is a series of two books (the second one premiering this summer), I think Shielded would make great feature films following the two books. It would look fantastic on the big screen.

Content Note: Some mild fantasy violence. Nothing extreme.

OVERALL RATING

“You had me at hello.”

ROMANCE RATING

“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My

feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me

to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

REVIEW SIX

THE QUANTUM WEIRDNESS OF THE ALMOST-KISS BY AMY NOELLE PARKS

The Quantum Weirdness of the Almost-Kiss Book Cover

Genres: YA, Contemporary Romance, Realistic Fiction, Rom-Com

Publication Date: January 5, 2021, by Abrams Books

Official Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Evie Beckham has always been too occupied with her love of math and frequent battles with anxiety to want to date. Besides, she’s always found the idea of kissing to be kind of weird. But by senior year, thanks to therapy and her friends, she’s feeling braver than before. Maybe even brave enough to enter a national math and physics competition or flirt back with the new boy.

Meanwhile, Evie’s best friend, Caleb Covic, has always been a little in love with her. So he’s horrified when he is forced to witness Evie’s meet-cute with the new guy. Desperate, Caleb uses an online forum to capture Evie’s interest—and it goes a little too well. Now Evie wonders how she went from avoiding romance to having to choose between two—or is it three?—boys.

REVIEW (BY AUTUMN):

For those readers who love best friend romances, this YA rom-com is a delight. With brainy characters, several almost-kisses, and a friendship that’s sure to make you swoon, The Quantum Weirdness of the Almost-Kiss is a quick read for all the romantics out there.

While a romantic comedy, the novel is also a contemporary romance with some contemporary problems. For instance, Evie suffers from a social anxiety disorder, and her mother does some not okay things in this book related to her condition.

What’s great about the story is how developed Evie is as a character and how supportive Caleb is as a friend. Sure, he’s completely in love with her while she remains oblivious, but he’s still there for her no matter what. And that’s beautiful to read.

As I don’t read contemporary romances all that often, the pacing and high school relationships were not always my thing. I also wanted a little more ‘something’ going on with the story.

Nevertheless, if you like character-driven stories and sweet romances about best friends falling in love, check out The Quantum Weirdness of the Almost-Kiss.

Adaptation Recommendation: This book would fit well into the Netflix YA rom-com library!

Content Note: Some language and some kissing. It is between PG and PG-13-like.

What books sound intriguing? Have you read any of them? Let us know your thoughts on these books in the comments below.


*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning we may earn a commission if you choose to buy through our links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read our disclosure for more information. The Silver Petticoat Review owners chose every item.


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By on March 9th, 2021

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