Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"Shattered" by Dani Pettrey - great mystery and great relationships

Shattered Dani Pettrey writes another intriguing suspense in her Alaskan Courage series.  Shattered picks up pretty much where Submerged leaves off, with the focus shifting to Piper and Landon and introducing Piper's brother Gage and the reporter Darcy St. James (the main characters of the next book, Stranded). 

I do like that Pettrey introduces the secondary viewpoints in her novels - first Piper and Landon in Submerged and then Gage and Darcy in Shattered.  It allows one to get a feel for the characters (who seem to star in the following book, making it a smoother transition from book to book) while still moving the plot of this novel along.  The relationships seem more developed - Piper and Landon are very sibling-like in how they bicker and meddle with each other in the beginning of Submerged, but the reader gets a feel as to how their relationship starts changing enough that they actually fall in love in Shattered.   Shattered has laid a groundwork for why Gage and Darcy even know each other, let alone may possibly develop into something more.  This style of writing gives the relationships the stronger foundation of time - they are not confined to 320 pages to meet, get thrown together in some crazy experience, and fall in love and marry all in the same novel. 

One small thing still bothers me, unfortunately - Pettrey's use of two familiar names: Meredith Blake and Darcy St. James.  Meredith Blake, the prosecutor and Gage's ex-girlfriend, is the name of the evil, gold-digger girlfriend in Disney's 1998 The Parent Trap (perhaps this reference is a little obscure, but I still remembered it).  The other, Darcy St. James, is the heroine of fellow Christian suspense author Dee Henderson's True Honor.  Of all the possible semi-typical American name combinations, it seemed odd that Pettrey hit on two that I knew from other works.  Granted, the personality of Meredith Blake from The Parent Trap suited my image of the unpleasant Meredith Blake in Shattered rather well, so it was actually fitting to picture the actress in my mind when reading Meredith's parts in the novel.

I feel that Submerged has stronger Christian themes than Shattered; Submerged deals a lot in redemption, forgiveness, and living new life in Christ (the old has passed away!), whereas Shattered more lightly touches on Landon's return to Christ.  I would not have minded a little more development to that aspect of the story, but what Pettrey includes is still solid.

A highly enjoyable novel, with strong romantic tension and high adventure - I look forward to the next book in the series! 

Alaskan Courage
0.5: "Shadowed" (Sins of the Past romantic suspense novella collection)
1. Submerged
2. Shattered
3. Stranded
4. Silenced
5. Sabotaged

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Julie Klassen's "The Tutor's Daughter" - suspense, history, and a healthy romance!

The Tutor's DaughterThe Tutor's Daughter is Julie Klassen's best novel yet.  Not only is it a puzzling suspense rich in historic detail, but also a believable love story.

Klassen addresses several common practices of the regency era - education by a tutor, wreckers scavenging and profiting from shipwrecks, and sending away handicapped children to foster families.  Her note at the end of the novel adds additional detail about Cornwall's history of shipwrecks and Jane Austin's own family - one of her older brothers was sent to a foster family due to his mental or physical affliction. 

One of the things I like best is that there is no sudden, inexplicable attraction that Emma feels toward Henry, like in so many novels where the hero and heroine are at odds from the start.  While Henry appears to have been attracted to Emma from their first meeting  nearly a decade ago (and promptly showed it in typical schoolboy fashion through insults and practical jokes),  Emma's attraction is based on slowly getting to know him as a man who cares for people and his home.  Yes, she is incredibly suspicious of him at first - and who wouldn't be after years of practical jokes? - and as long as she suspects him of his old tricks, she really does not feel any attraction toward the man.  However, as he proves himself time and again to be a mature and compassionate man, her heart changes toward him.  It is a much sweeter and more realistic (and healthier!) love story than most romantic novels can boast, be they secular or Christian.

While the book is not full of scripture quotes or zealous characters, Klassen still weaves in a good message.  Throughout the book Emma grows from a very regimented girl who prefers to order her life in the safest and most predictable way possible to an open woman who refuses to let fear and order imprison her.  In opening her heart to Henry and God, she opens her heart to pursuing her own dreams.  I especially liked that Henry cares enough about Emma's spiritual state to make sure Emma turns to God with her whole heart, and that it is not just in the heat of the moment because she is about to die.  

Five out of five stars!