The Bracelet

Book Review:
The Bracelet, Dorothy Love, Thomas Nelson 2014

The Bracelet is an historical fiction novel set in Savannah, Georgia in 1858.  Dorothy Love beautifully combines family drama and romance with mystery in a book that compels the reader to reach the end and learn the secrets of the Browning family.

Many years ago, the Brownings suffered two tragedies in their home, followed by weeks of gossip.  Now an opportunistic newspaper reporter dredges up the scandal in hopes of selling newspapers and books.  Hurt by the judgment of her society friends, and hoping to protect her father and cousin, Celia Browning begins her own search for answers.

Our lives are rarely occupied by a single issue and The Bracelet certainly reflects that.  The tensions that were building in southern Georgia just three years before the outbreak of The Civil War must have overshadowed every relationship and every decision in 1858.  In that cauldron of stress, Celia welcomes home the man she’s loved for years and hopes to marry.  She continues charity work and social engagements while alternately ignoring the coming storm and resolving to live normally despite it. 

According to the author’s note at the end of the book, each character was based on a real historical person and I believe that authenticity resounds in each one.  However, there are no slave characters in the book and Love explains that not all Southerners owned slaves or made their living on cotton plantations.  The big Browning town home is kept by a single, Irish housekeeper while a freeman serves as their driver.  Since the Brownings are listed as one of the wealthiest families in Savannah, it seems unlikely that their home would be so scarcely furnished with servants and that they would not have owned even one slave.  I couldn’t help but feel the treatment of the slave issue was more twenty-first century political correctness than it was historical accuracy.  While Mr. Browning may have held a personal conviction against the institution of slavery, he seems to have made a fortune shipping cotton from slave-holding plantations and that discrepancy is never addressed.

The novel wraps up very nicely.  It is a happy ending, especially since is ends still two years before the war.  Just as we rarely experience in the real world, not every question from the Browning family mystery is answered, still every storyline is very nicely resolved. I would have enjoyed more details about the future of Cousin Ivy, but perhaps that would be addressed in a future novel. 

I would certainly recommend The Bracelet to you and am happy to give it a four-star review.

Thomas Nelson, publisher of The Bracelet, supplied a copy of this book for the purpose of this review.

Book Review:  Where Trust Lies

Janette Oke has sold millions of copies of dozens of book titles and I have enjoyed many of those titles.  Most of her work that I’ve read in the past has been set in nineteenth century western North America.  She writes Where Trust Lies along with her daughter, Laurel Oke Logan, and sets it in 1920’s Eastern Canada.  The change of setting was a pleasant surprise when I began the book because sometimes when an author that writes exclusively in the same era and area their work can begin to feel formulaic.  Oke and Logan did a good job portraying the time period, affectively capturing the cultural change of the era and the cross-generational conflict it sometimes caused. 

The book opens with Beth Thatcher’s train ride home after teaching in a small, western town for a school year; she’s returning to her wealthy Toronto family having left a new love behind.  Her family has planned a coastal cruise for vacation.  Beth is conflicted about leaving with them because her beau has promised to telephone her and she also wants to wait for correspondence that will invite her to return and teach the school again in the fall.  Ultimately, she does travel with her family where she becomes re-acquainted with her sisters comes to truly know her mother for the first time.  They share the cruise with a trio of opportunistic criminals who ultimately prey on the Thatcher family.

While Beth Thatcher is the protagonist, a fair amount of the drama ultimately involves another sister so that the focus of the book is not the dramatic criminal activity, but rather Beth’s reaction to it and her growing relationships as the drama unfolds.  Again this was an unexpected approach, but pleasantly so. 

As we’ve come to expect in Mrs. Oke’s books, her characters are well developed and captivating.  You can see the story building and sense that a twist to the plot is approaching long before she unveils the details of it. She and Mrs. Logan present the criminal element so thoroughly that I had an uneasy feeling in every scene where they were present. 

The only distraction to this well written novel is the complex setting.   The Thatcher family cruises along the St. Lawrence and the eastern coast of Canada and the United States.  It was fascinating to imagine making such a journey and Oke and Logan give rather detailed descriptions of many of the landmarks and ports.  I really enjoy books that give me details of the setting, I enjoy building that mental image of the characters interacting there.  However, in this case I found it a bit overwhelming to envision each new port of call, hotels they stayed in and attractions they visited. It was unlike a journey by train or stagecoach in which the changing landscape is viewed and perhaps described as the characters pass through it while the story unfolds within the confines of the car or coach.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed Where Trust Lies and am happy to recommend it to you.

The publisher supplied this book in return for a fair review.

Where Trust Lies, Oke & Logan, Bethany House Publishers, 2015

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