17 June 2013

Review: A Most Peculiar Circumstance by Jen Turano

A Most Peculiar Circumstance has an excellent beginning, as Miss Arabella Beckett finds herself in jail for the first time in Gilman, Illinois, in November 1880 (I particularly liked the ‘first time’ line—it implied that jail was a surprise, not perhaps not an unexpected one, given her involvement in the women’s suffrage movement and her beliefs around the rights of women (not to mention her habit of travelling without a companion or chaperone).

Arabella prays that God will help her out of this predicament, and almost immediately is visited by a Mr Theodore Wilder. Mr Wilder introduces himself as a friend of her brothers and a private investigator, who has been asked to locate her and return her home to New York, which he does, but the pair argue constantly, even though the reader can see that they share many of the same beliefs. We also see Mr Wilder’s beliefs about rights for women change as the story progresses. Arabella also grows as a character when she gets the opportunity to meet and talk with the women she is trying to reform and protect.

The early scenes were excellent, but things become a bit more confusing when Theodore and Arabella return to New York and we are suddenly introduced to an entire cast of characters that it seemed like I was expected to know—parents, siblings, friends and parents of friends. I assume these are characters from the earlier stories in the series (free Kindle download Gentleman of Her Dreams and A Change of Fortune).

Although we didn’t actually get to see Arabella as an active suffragette, it was good to have this background to her character, and to get an understanding of how long the fight for votes for women took (as an aside, New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women the vote, in 1893, and American women nationally didn’t get the vote until 1920). It was also good to be reminded that some of the ideals we hold as true were not always seen that way… which makes me wonder which of today’s ‘truths’ will be seen as wrong and outdated in the decades to come. I enjoy a novel that can challenge my thinking.

While I enjoyed the story, and particularly the historical, suspense and faith elements, parts of it were difficult to follow because I hadn’t read the earlier book, and I wasn’t entirely convinced by the romance between Arabella and Theodore. Recommended for those who enjoy Christian historical fiction by authors like Karen Witemeyer and Mary Connealy.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Jen Turano at her website.

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