Monday, May 25, 2015

Review | The Academie by Susanne Dunlap

The Academie by Susanne Dunlap
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publish Date: February 28, 2012
Source: Publisher
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon 

When Eliza Monroe - daughter of the future president of the United States - discovers that her mother is sending her to boarding school outside of Paris, she is devestated. But Eliza is quickly reconciled to the idea when she discovers who her fellow pupils will be: Hortense de Beauharnais, daughter of Josephine Bonaparte; and Caroline Bonaparte, youngest sister of the famous French general. It doesn't take long for Eliza to figure out that the two French girls are mortal enemies - and that she's about to get caught in the middle of their schemes.

Loosely based on fact (the three girls really did attend finishing school at the same time), Eliza's coming of age provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives and histories, loves and hopes of three young women against the backdrop of one of the most volatile and exciting periods in French history. (Goodreads) 

The Academie by Susanne Dunlap

My Thoughts:  In The Academie, Susanne Dunlap has taken real people (and a few imagined characters) and married real events and imagined events - this story is loosely based on actual history. What we have is an American girl that arrives at a French boarding school to find that two of her fellow students are closely connected to Napoleon Bonaparte - one is his sister, one is his stepdaughter - during a time of big political tension in France. As the girls become friends and as the American girl learns the refined ways of French society, there are shenanigans, there are some major politics, there is some romance, and there is plenty of drama. 

The main players are: 

-Eliza - daughter of future US President James Monroe
-Hortense - stepdaughter of Napoleon
-Caroline - sister of Napoleon
-Madeline - mixed-race actress at a local theater, not a student at the school
There are three alternating points-of-view telling the narrative - Eliza, Hortense, and Madeline. Caroline is the only one not telling the story, but she is a key player in it


Okay, so here's the deal: overall I liked the story, but there are things that I liked and things that were merely okay. 

Setting. I liked the boarding school feel in the beginning of the book, and I wish it would have carried more seamlessly throughout the entire novel. Because the second part of the book feels so differently than the first part and because there plenty of long scenes that took part elsewhere, I feel a little hesitant to call this a "boarding-school book" although I'm sure others would still categorize it this way. 

Characterization. I like all of the characters, I genuinely like them - even the ones that are supposed to be less likable were enjoyable to me. However, there are so many of them that it was tough for me to get to know them as well as I like to. Also, there were instances where the author would call some of the characters by first name, and then sometimes use the last name for the same character - this was confusing to me and it took quite a bit of flipping back and forth (which sadly was not the most fun on an ereader). 

Romance. I get that the young girls during this time were already thinking ahead to marriage, I do. And I get that they often had to consider marrying according to what was best for their family, I do. But there were so many romances in this story because there were so many girls! There was some effort in keeping up with who loved who - and there was also some I guess I like him more than I thought and I misread his intentions, doggone it. I kept having to remind myself that the romance portion of the story was likely in keeping with the maturity level of the girls and with the time period in history. Honestly, though, with this particular set of flat-ish characters, the romances felt a little flat too. 

History. I love historical fiction and I absolutely LOVE history. Even so, I was not up-to-speed enough on the history of this time and place with regard to everything mentioned in this story. I stopped to research some of the phrases used and a couple of the people mentioned in the book, and the reading was a little easier after that. A brief explanation of these phrases (or use of context?) or indication of who these people were would have been so helpful! But the biggest thing that would have helped me regarding the historical part of this book would have been if the Author's Note had been included BEFORE the book rather than at the end. That way, I would have learned which parts were real and not real, etc. and this would have honestly made the book a little more enjoyable for me. 

The Academie by Susanne Dunlap, I think, fits best with a younger-young adult reading crowd. I say this because I think that my young girls would love this one because they would buy into all of it without question, where I was questioning things [and having to suspend my belief that 14-year-old girls would do some of the political things that these girls did]. At any rate, this was a fun read, but honestly not my very favorite YA historical fiction. I would recommend The Academie by Susanne Dunlap to a younger-YA reading crowd, to readers that enjoy French Revolutionary historical fiction, and to readers that enjoy a boarding school setting.


The Academie will appeal to fans of:

Young Adult Historical Fiction
Romance: Several romances!
Great Setting: Boarding School in France, 1799
Alternating POV's

The Academie by Susanne Dunlap
is currently available for purchase.


Isn't this cover SO PRETTY? 

Do you love YA historical fiction?
Do you have a favorite?

I seem to have better luck with adult historical fiction. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Review | No Better Man by Sara Richardson

No Better Man by Sara Richardson
Series: Heart of the Rockies #1
Published by 
Publish Date: May 26, 2015
Source: Publisher
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon 

When it comes to business, Avery King always comes out on top. So after a very public breakup, work is the perfect excuse to flee the Windy City for the gentle breezes of Aspen, Colorado. Her mission: acquire the land of a rundown mountain ranch. Avery expects an easy win . . . until she meets the rugged and irresistible rancher who won't give up his property without a fight.
Bryce Walker is stunned by the stubborn beauty determined to get what she wants. But what she wants is his last connection to the life he used to have. Bryce has plans to return the ranch to its former glory and no way will he sell his family home. Yet the more time he spends with Avery, the more her sweet touch makes him forget his painful memories. Now Bryce must decide whether living in the past is worth losing his future . . .  (Goodreads) 
No Better Man by Sara Richardson 

My Thoughts:  With a great setting and an enjoyable cast, the Heart of the Rockies Series seems to be off to a great start. I loved No Better Man, featuring Bryce Walker and Avery King. 

Bryce is about to lose the family land. The ranch is in debt and has fallen into disrepair after he was away for a few years following an accident for which he carries tremendous guilt and shame. Bryce has trouble seeing the bright side of things in the recent past and works nonstop to earn back what was lost while he was away. He doesn't want to lose the land, which is his family's legacy, but the bank and potential investors are watching as the date nears for him to turn over tons of money that he doesn't have. 

Avery has just been humiliated publicly by her ex-boyfriend after she refused his proposal. She has been sent to the ranch to assess the land and make an offer, and she believes that she can make the deal. However, when she arrives, she is surprised to see that Bryce is not entertaining offers. She is also surprised by his temperament, which is gruff and unreasonably grumpy. Determined to figure out the connection to the land, to change his mind (and complete the task her father has assigned her), and to see what is going on with Bryce, Avery begins investigating. The more she finds out, the more she likes both the ranch and Bryce. 

The longer she stays, the less she wants to leave. The longer she is around Bryce, the more she likes him. The more Bryce is around Avery, the more he feels again for the first time in years. 

Bryce and Avery have an instant attraction, which I can get behind. I love good chemistry and these two have it. I love the connection that Bryce has with his ranch, with his community and his friends there, and with his mother. Bryce is sexy because he likes to work with his hands, he has the support of people that have loved him through his tougher times, and he loves his mother without being too attached. When the story begins, he has already made some progress in working through his issues, but he still has some work to do. I'm glad when he allows himself the room to do this and I enjoyed reading how he fell for Avery through this process. It was not easy for him to open himself up to her, so I was happy for him when he finally found happiness. 

Avery has always been successful, I think in part because she wants to make her father proud. After her mother died, this became more difficult because her father retreated into himself a bit. Avery her never fully spread her wings and she has always sort of catered to her father, but I'm not sure that it ever occurred to her that she was not completely happy until she made it out to the ranch. I loved seeing her in this environment, in a slower-paced life. She embraced the community and Bryce's friends, partly because she loved it out there and partly because they're such great people that they befriended her right away. I loved the way she was able to look beyond her career objective to see the heart of the ranch, and the heart of Bryce and his mother - why the land was important to them - and she used this information to help her determine how she wanted to move forward with her own life. Watching other people with a sense of community and love made her want to have the same. It took guts and determination for Avery to step out and make some big life changes, but she did, and good for her.

In the process of all of these changes - Avery changing her life goals and the path she was taking and Bryce opening his heart to love again - these two quickly fell in love. While their falling seemed fast, it took a little while for the two to get it together and come up with a workable relationship. 

I love the setting and I enjoyed the secondary cast as much as I love this romance. I'm looking forward to continuing with the series to read about Bryce's friends (and Avery's too, hopefully). 

Bryce is a quiet hero and I like that. His strength is not diminished and he is not weak. I love his development over the story, and I love that it was tough for him. Avery is not quiet at all, but I love that she learned to live a quieter life. Her development is enjoyable as well. I recommend No Better Man by Sara Richardson for readers that enjoy romance stories with happy endings, small town romances, and books with great friendships. 


No Better Man will appeal to fans of:

Adult Contemporary Romance
Romance: No triangle. 
Great setting: Aspen, Colorado
Great secondary cast.
Happy ever after! 

No Better Man by Sara Richardson
is currently available for purchase.


Heart of the Rockies Series: