Saturday, March 21, 2020

The House at the End of the Moor by Michelle Griep #BookReview

Review: The House at the End of the Moor by Michelle Griep

Book Description:

Opera star Maggie Lee escapes her opulent lifestyle when threatened by a powerful politician who aims to ruin her life. She runs off to the wilds of the moors to live in anonymity. All that changes the day she discovers a half-dead man near her house. Escaped convict Oliver Ward is on the run to prove his innocence, until he gets hurt and is taken in by Maggie. He discovers some jewels in her possession—the very same jewels that got him convicted. Together they hatch a plan to return the jewels, clearing Oliver’s name and hopefully maintaining Maggie’s anonymity.

My Thoughts:

The relationship arc between Oliver and his father, as well as the redemption thread throughout, sets this story apart. I enjoyed seeing the mending of hearts and souls, the hope that underscores the whole book. Also, the themes of mercy, justice, and redemption are woven nicely into each character's arc. 

Narrative Style:

I enjoyed the heroine's first person, present tense narrative, even though I usually prefer second person, past tense. I thought this was a creative approach and though I struggled reading her portions as quickly as the others at first, by the end of book, the flow became familiar.

Historical Aspects:

Michelle Griep's historical details are transportive and woven seamlessly into the story. Her historical notes at the end of the book are fascinating.

Faith Thread:

The spiritual aspect is constant, well thought out, and permeates all aspects of the story. In some places, the information felt dumped or wedged in, so a little smoothing of the sentences/thoughts/gestures surrounding the spiritual mentions might have helped. Overall the theme is portrayed well and supported by all the main characters.

Romance Thread:

The romance between the hero and heroine felt natural, except maybe one line of the hero's introspection during the midpoint where he thinks of her in terms of love, which seemed too early based on what he knew about her (see pacing notes below about sharing backstory). Their relationship is built on shared values and admiration, and I think Oliver's grand gestures at the end of the story were particularly sweet. Maggie's boldness to encourage Oliver in his spiritual change arc shines a light on the deeper issues in the novel and moves him to address his relationship with his father, while Oliver's persistence in kindness and restraint where she is concerned endear him to her and the reader. The understated mention of Maggie's calling the barrister "father"  at the end was touching as well.

Pacing & Character Motivations:

Maggie's motivation for meeting with her manager around the 70% mark was a little hard for me to believe. I could more easily see her motivated by a fear for her father's safety, rather than fear of being followed by the man she was going alone to meet. Also, it seemed the guardians at that meeting, having witnessed her manager's actions, would have taken legal action immediately, and I was left wondering why they didn't. 

The hero/heroine's backstories are kept secret until 65% or after, when they might have helped with believability if they had shared those histories with one another or the reader at the 50% mark or earlier. Sometimes I see this in novels--and have done this myself--when the motivations themselves aren't overly strong, so the author leaves the reader to imagine much worse until the last possible moment. Maggie's paralyzing fear of Ambrose from across the room before she is supposed to sing was hard to believe as well. She isn't afraid to meet her manager alone even though she's felt the brunt of his cruelty, but she freezes across a crowded room at the sight of Ambrose, who propositioned her, but never physically hurt her or her father. 

The hero's dressing as a footman for a disguise might have come across more believably if Maggie had helped him with stage makeup, but as is, the outcome of that scene was easily foreseeable.

Overall Impression:

The reader in me delighted in Barrow's arc, and I'm hoping to see him in another book or two. The set up definitely allows for subsequent stories, maybe even featuring the lost Marquis. The story is interesting on the whole, but feels like the polishing stage was rushed. The book might have benefited from a few astute beta readers with an eye for smoothing dialogue, strengthening motivations, and rounding out characters. Michelle Griep holds a deep knowledge of English Regency culture, and I look forward to reading more from her.

Quotes from the Book:

"True justice starts with repentance. How can we ask God to show justice in the world while willfully nursing our own hidden prejudices, selfishness, lusts, greed...our own broken relationships?"

"I'd say there is much hope for you both, for God yet softens the hardest of hearts."

"Wonderful scents take me back years. The somewhat greasy smell of ink. The slight mustiness of dust collecting on the highest shelves. The unique aroma of old books that comforts like a gentle spring rain, as ancient as time itself."

"The written word taught me I was not alone, that hardship comes to all, and connected me to the heroes and heroines who conquered those hardships, ultimately giving me courage. Indeed. Books are light and air."

Enter to win the book on Goodreads, where the author is giving away 100 copies! 
Ends March 24 at 12:00 a.m.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley and have provided my honest opinion.

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