Series Review: Daughters of Hampshire by Sandra Byrd

I received this book for free from Library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Series Review: Daughters of Hampshire by Sandra ByrdMist of Midnight by Sandra Byrd
Series: Daughters of Hampshire #1
Published by Howard Books on March 10, 2015
Genres: Historical, Romance, Mystery, Gothic
Pages: 374
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
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Goodreads
four-stars

In the first of a brand new series set in Victorian England, a young woman returns home from India after the death of her family to discover her identity and inheritance are challenged by the man who holds her future in his hands.

Rebecca Ravenshaw, daughter of missionaries, spent most of her life in India. Following the death of her family in the Indian Mutiny, Rebecca returns to claim her family estate in Hampshire, England. Upon her return, people are surprised to see her… and highly suspicious. Less than a year earlier, an imposter had arrived with an Indian servant and assumed not only Rebecca’s name, but her home and incomes.

That pretender died within months of her arrival; the servant fled to London as the young woman was hastily buried at midnight. The locals believe that perhaps she, Rebecca, is the real imposter. Her home and her father’s investments reverted to a distant relative, the darkly charming Captain Luke Whitfield, who quickly took over. Against her best intentions, Rebecca begins to fall in love with Luke, but she is forced to question his motives–does he love her or does he just want Headbourne House? If Luke is simply after the property, as everyone suspects, would she suffer a similar fate as the first “Rebecca”?

A captivating Gothic love story set against a backdrop of intrigue and danger, Mist of Midnight will leave you breathless.

At ALA, I picked up a historical fiction novel (A Lady in Disguise), because the premise sounded awesome and basically if a book is historical and has romance I am here for it. Then, a couple days later, when I was organizing my book haul, I realized it was not only the third book in a series but that it was also Christian. THE HORROR. I avoid Christian fiction like a plague of locusts, and I was not thrilled at this discovery. But, when I looked at the GR page for the first book, I saw that Jessie (Ageless Pages) had read and really liked it, so I decided to get past my prejudices and give Mist of Midnight a go. For the most part, I totally would not have been able to tell this book was Christian fiction if I’d picked it up randomly, and it’s quite an excellent historical novel.

Byrd’s playing very overtly with gothic literature in Mist of Midnight. The heroine, Rebecca Ravenshaw, returns from India following the death of her missionary parents in an uprising, only to find that Rebecca Ravenshaw had died several months before on the family estate in Hampshire. Needless to say, Rebecca’s puzzled, because, like, hey guys I’m right here and I’m me and I’m not dead HI! This is such a fabulous premise for a historical, because man it was easy to fake an identity back in the day.

Rebecca tries to settle back into life in England, but she’s not been home since she was a kid, and her knowledge of etiquette is imperfect. She does such a marvelous job dealing with the drama and suspicion of her arrival. Of course, she gets sucked into the mystery of who the imposter was and how she died. Supposedly, “Rebecca Ravenshaw” killed herself, but it could have been a murder. Perhaps by the super hot Captain Luke Whitfield, the many generations removed cousin who will inherit if Rebecca’s claim isn’t recognized.

Captain Whitfield’s pretty damn cool about the whole thing, and he moves into the guest house and lets Rebecca stay in the main house. Despite everything (everything being the fact that she thinks Luke might have a girlfriend or two and also that he might have killed the imposter, Rebecca really likes him. He’s totally her type, and the girl is totally horny but also she’s super afraid of getting married and losing ALL OF HER RIGHTS because patriarchy is a big bag of dicks. I really like the look at how her mother HAD to go to India because her dad wanted to go. And I love that Rebecca adored India. It’s a complex situation, and the characters are well drawn almost across the board.

This book actually came really close to getting a 4.5 star rating. Byrd does a great job with this historical elements, and the ship is pretty on point. Gothic premises where the dude might be a murderer aren’t the shippiest in general, but these two have a nice light banter and I was getting some feels. Then, right at the end some absurd Christian shit got thrown in for no damn reason, so I docked that half star back off. Up to that point, it had just been the occasional Bible quote, which I would skim and I don’t mind that. But then suddenly View Spoiler »?!?!?!?! WTAF.

Despite that bit of nonsense at the end, Mist of Midnight was a great gothic read, and I’m totally on board for more Byrd books.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

Series Review: Daughters of Hampshire by Sandra ByrdBride of a Distant Isle by Sandra Byrd
Series: Daughters of Hampshire #2
Published by Howard Books on May 22, 2016
Genres: Historical, Romance, Mystery, Gothic
Pages: 372
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
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Goodreads
four-stars

Miss Annabel Ashton is a teacher at the Rogers School for Young Ladies in Winchester when she takes a brief visit to her family home, Highcliffe Hall at Milford-on-Sea. She believes her stay will be short but soon learns that she will not be returning to the safety of the school. Instead, she remains at Highcliffe, at the mercy of her cousin, Edward Everedge.

Annabel protests, but as the illegitimate daughter of a woman who died in an insane asylum, she has little say. Edward is running out of money and puts the house up for sale to avoid financial ruin. He insists that Annabel marry, promising her to a sinister, frightening man. But as the house gets packed for sale, it begins to reveal disquieting secrets. Jewelry, artifacts, and portraits mysteriously appear, suggesting that Annabel may be the true heir of Highcliffe.

She has only a few months to prove her legitimacy, perhaps with assistance from the handsome but troubled Maltese Captain Dell’Acqua. But does he have Annabel’s best interests at heart?

And then, a final, most ominous barrier to both her inheritance and her existence appears: a situation neither she nor anyone else could have expected. Will Annabel regain her life and property—and trust her heart—before it’s too late?

Despite adding the same completely unnecessary, ridiculous Christian plot element that Mist of Midnight had, Bride of a Distant Isle is even better.

So yeah, once again, a particular character (or actually two this time) are stand-ins for god or the holy spirit or whatever (I don’t understand Christianity enough to be able to clearly identify just how I’m supposed to interpret god’s involvement here), and it’s incredibly stupid imo, but it also doesn’t really matter in the larger plots mostly so I just roll my eyes, dock .5 stars, and move on. The other weird thing about these books is that when the heroines remember stuff, they end up zoning out in the middle of interacting with people. I was willing to let it slide in Mist of Midnight but now that both heroines are doing it, I’m a bit wut.

Aside from those things (okay, and also how much people say the word “perhaps”), I delighted in Bride of a Distant Isle. It’s a bit less gothic and a bit more readable (I don’t know why but I always find gothic stuff a bit slow going). There are a couple of cool things just to start with. The first book had a Methodist heroine, and this one is Roman Catholic; it’s pretty cool that this series isn’t espousing a particular flavor of Christianity, and it really does add to the sense of religion as historical and character building rather than foundational element. Another big plus is that both heroine and love interest are half-English and half-Maltese. Diverse characters in historical romance are super fucking rare (unless they’re sheikhs), and it’s a delight when it’s done well.

Annabel Ashton has been living with her cousin Edward, who inherited the family Hall because Annabel was illegitimate. Still, Annabel’s been pretty okay with her life despite the death of her mom in a mental institution when she was young; Annabel does enjoy her work as a teacher. Unfortunately, that life comes to an end when Bride of a Distant Isle begins, because her brother has forced her home to Highcliffe Hall so that he can sell her in exchange for his debts to a mega creep who wants her for his collection. *gags* Before that, though, he wants her to help him woo a Maltese ship captain into trading with him.

The plotting (aforementioned caveat aside) is excellent, and the ship is fabulous. It’s shippier than the first book. Annabel and Marco are completely adorable. I don’t know why I expect Christian fiction to be the opposite of bantery, since I’ve had tons of bantery Christian friends but I do. Byrd has delightful flirty banter between her ships.

Another surprise success, Bride of a Distant Isle is a good choice for readers of historical fiction with romance.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 
We don’t care if you don’t like it, villain

Series Review: Daughters of Hampshire by Sandra ByrdA Lady in Disguise by Sandra Byrd
Series: Daughters of Hampshire #3
Published by Howard Books on March 21, 2017
Genres: Historical, Romance, Mystery, Gothic
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: ALA
AmazonThe Book Depository
Goodreads
four-half-stars

In this intriguing novel of romance, mystery, and clever disguise set in Victorian England, a young woman investigates the murder of her own father.

After the mysterious death of her father, Miss Gillian Young takes a new job as the principal costume designer at the renowned Drury Lane Theatre Royal. But while she remembers her father as a kind, well-respected man of the Police Force, clues she uncovers indicate he’d been living a double life: a haunting photograph of a young woman; train stubs for secret trips just before his death; and a receipt for a large sum of money. Are these items evidence of her father’s guilty secrets? His longtime police partner thinks so.

Then Gillian meets the dashing Viscount Thomas Lockwood. Their attraction is instant and inescapable. As their romantic involvement grows, Gillian begins to suspect even Lockwood’s motives. Does Lord Lockwood truly love her? Or is his interest a front for the desire to own her newly inherited property? And what should she make of her friend’s suggestion that Lockwood or men like him were involved in the murder of her father?

Soon Gillian is convinced that her father has left evidence somewhere that can prove his innocence and reveal the guilty party. But someone wants to stop her from discovering it. The closer she comes to uncovering it, the more menacing her opposition grows. With her life on the line, Gillian takes on an ingenious disguise and takes on the role of a lifetime to reveal the true killer—before it’s too late both for her and for those that she loves.

I am so totally vindicated in picking up a random Christian fiction book three. Yes, this book does have the same stupid flaw of a character turning out to be an angel sent to help the heroine (the book finally explained what was going on), and I’m ignoring that mostly, because this book was so great. I’ve liked each book more than the one before it. A Lady in Disguise is shippy and cute and awesome.

With each progressive book, the subject matter has gotten more lighthearted. The first was straight up Gothic, and they’ve gotten lighter and more bantery with each book. Obviously, if you’re really into Gothic fiction, you’ll like book one the best, but I like Gothic more in theory than in execution typically, since it’s generally not a great place for ships.

Byrd continues the trend of having an atypical romance heroine. Gillian Young, though heir to a Hampshire estate, is in a weird between state, because her Lady mother married a copper and worked as an actress. Gillian’s too high for the lower classes and too low for the upper crust. She doesn’t mind, though, because she loves the theater and her work as a costume designer, making ball gowns for the season and costumes for the Drury Lane Theatre Royal. I loved the bits about the theater and even about costuming. This would make such a great film; I’d love to see the costumes she made.

From the very beginning, I was all about this ship. One thing I like about the Byrd books is that her heroines are, in a chill, historically appropriate way, lusty. Gillian meets Lord Lockwood, and she’s like OH HEY. She finds him a bit presumptuous at first, but part of her wants to lock that wood down. They have such excellent banter and they flirt in Shakespeare and there are some AMAZING little moments where they touch each others hands that were so fucking passionate.

The mystery is probably the weakest of the bunch, since I called very early on what was going on. You can tell my priorities though, since this was still my fave. It was predictable, sure, but I still think it was thoughtfully done and well-constructed. I’m a romance reader, and I don’t mind predictable, as long as it’s not in an eye-rolling sort of way.

So there you have it. Christian fiction can be good (as long as you ignore the interventions of god in some things that are generally not particularly relevant to the larger plot). Also, FYI, if you like the sound of some of them but not others, this series is total standalone companions; nothing interconnects between them at all.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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4 responses to “Series Review: Daughters of Hampshire by Sandra Byrd”

  1. Sarah J. says:

    I understand where you are coming from with not understanding or getting aggravated by a lot of Christian tropes that are common in Christian fiction. Some of them are definitely annoying, but in the case of the Holy Spirit for example, it’s a part of everyday life. To someone who isn’t a Christian, praying daily seems weird, but it’s natural and apart of the religion. The Holy Spirit is something to can be felt while praying or even it times when the Holy Spirit comes into your body through prayer and allows the ability to speak in tongues (the only language the Devil can’t speak). I hope maybe that helped a little. ^_^
    Sarah J. recently posted…This Video is a Hot Mess: My Bookish ThoughtsMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Praying daily doesn’t necessarily seem weird, but The Holy Spirit was part of the trinity I could never really wrap my brain around in my theology classes in college. I grew up without really going to church, so I really just don’t understand a lot of Biblical references. It’s explained in the third book, and apparently it’s not the holy spirit but angels? Anyway, thanks for the information; I learned some new stuff today!

  2. Gillian says:

    “Gillian meets Lord Lockwood, and she’s like OH HEY. She finds him a bit presumptuous at first, but part of her wants to lock that wood down”

    AHAHAHAH

    I’d expect nothing less from a Gillian
    Gillian recently posted…Would You Read a Book for the First Time Again?My Profile

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