Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog! You may not think you know me, but I have a feeling we are very much alike. I am the woman in the long skirt and bulky sweater sitting cross-legged on the library carpet reading the hardback vintage classics one can only find on the bottom shelf, back row. You will also find me searching through the online catalogs of publishing companies and chatting with authors on forums. I love the smell of fresh paper in a new book, and the smell of dust on a vintage classic. I love the classics, Christian fiction, short story collections, and those unique finds that keep me up until the early hours of morning when I finally fall asleep with the book still open on my chest. I am, however, a careful reader. I notice missing details, glaring plot flaws, and characters who suddenly have drastic personality changes halfway through the novel and I do not hesitate to discuss these issues in my reviews. I am honest and believe I am fair so please don't take my criticism personally and don't hesitate to contact me about your next book. I also enjoy a good, long chat with other readers and often learn from these experiences. Comments are always welcome. You will find more about me in the right hand column and more about what I look for in books in the left. I hope you enjoy your time here! --Darla Sue

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Book Review: Duchess by Susan May Warren


Rosie Worth has finally achieved her dream. She is a film star. Beautiful, glamorous, famous...and mentally and physically exhausted. She is emaciated, losing her hair, 
and headed for a breakdown. 

I first met Rosie Worth in the novel Baroness. In Baroness, Rosie was a wealthy heiress determined to corrupt her cousin, Lilly, and avoid an arranged marriage to the handsome Rolfe Van Horne, the Belgian Duke of Beaumont. Rosie's quest for freedom brought nothing but heartache when her beloved husband, Guthrie, was murdered by the mob. 

Unable to cope with her loss, Rosie abandoned her child, Coco, and returned to Hollywood. Readers cannot read Baroness without continuing on to the next novel, Duchess, to discover what happens to the pretty, young girl with big dreams and a broken heart.

Duchess

Duchess opens in 1929, and Rosie, a widow and former showgirl, has now attained star status. Her secret marriage to Dashielle Parks, a friend from her youth, is one of convenience, for business purposes only, though they are obviously intimate as she has a miscarriage. 

Dash invests all of their money in their film production company, Palace Studios, then shoots himself on Black Friday when the stock market crashes. As he lies dying, Rosie discovers Dash was secretly involved with his business secretary, Irene, who is also pregnant. Rosie wanted drama and excitement and that's exactly what she's found.

Lessons Learned

Yes, it is tragic, and beginning a romance novel with one tragedy after another would seem to break the rules, but Rosie is a character who needs to learn a lesson, and change is inspired by suffering. To her own surprise, Rosie learns that she is capable of showing deep affection and compassion for Dash's true love, Irene, and their son, Sammy.  

Now it is time for Rosie's transformation. She has learned her lesson about herself and her relationship with God, now it's time for her to open her eyes to the world and learn about those around her. One of the first things she learns is that Irene is also surprisingly capable of forgiveness and compassion. She then learns that the man she rejected so many years before, Rolfe Van Horne, is not the snobbish wealthy aristocrat she assumed he would be, but a true hero, using his wealth, reputation, and the excuse of making a film to help Jewish people in Europe escape to America.   

Rosie Worth, or Roxy Price, does not live the life of glamour she dreamed of in her younger days, but she does pay the "price," as her surname implies, for mistakes she made along the way and the many people she harmed, intentionally and by accident. As the novel draws to a close we realize that Rosie has learned the lesson of forgiveness. Most of all, she has learned to forgive herself.      

Recommendation

The beginning of Duchess has much of the excitement and thrill from the previous novel, but it appeals to the reader in a different way. It holds the reader in its grasp, leaving us hoping and praying that something will happen to save Rosie Worth from the mistakes of her past. The first few chapters of Duchess are filled with sorrow, but it is an honest emotion. This character has earned her sorrow. She has suffered. 

Duchess is a bold book with themes that are rarely discussed in Christian fiction, and I found this very appealing. The characters and conflicts are honest, believable. The beginning was a bit challenging as I tried to remember the events and character connections and I believe these could have been explained a bit more effectively for the reader increasing the appeal of the novel for those who have not read the first two books. Nevertheless, I have to say I was impressed by the writing, the story, and the research.

Daughters of Fortune Series

This is Warren's third novel in the Daughter's of Fortune series following the lives of the ancestors of wealthy and powerful August Price. The novels--Heiress, Baroness, and Duchess--follow a theme, one that fits well with wealthy families. According to author Susan May Warren, the theme of the Daughter's of Fortune series could be described as "What a true inheritance is when a person puts their faith in the Lord."

The books in this series follow the pattern of Bildungsromans, or coming-of-age stories, following the psychological and moral growth of the protagonists from their youth to adulthood. Each of the heroines in this series learns an important lesson based on The Beatitudes in the Bible.

For instance, in Heiress, the protagonist, Esme, learns that true wealth comes from a relationship with God, or "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven," Matthew 5:3. In Baroness, Lilly, Esme's daughter, learns to cope with her loss and the stages of grieving, and to accept the comfort of others, as "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted," Matthew 5:4. And finally, in Duchess, Rosie discovers that her acting career, her desire for applause, was not what she needed after all. She needed to surrender to God's love. "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth," Matthew 5:5.

Now that I have finished these books I find myself wanting more. I would still like to know about Lilly's life in Montana, saving the buffalo, starting a family, and raising Rosie's child, Coco. I would like to know more about Coco, Rosie's daughter, and how she copes with the knowledge that her mother abandoned her to become a Hollywood star. This is, of course, the sign of a great author, when readers beg for more books in the series! 

Susan May Warren

Resources:
  • Warren, Susan May. Duchess. Summerside Press. New York: 2013.
  • Warren, Susan May. Personal Website. Accessed July 13, 2013.
I received this book free from the publisher through the Litfuse Publicity Group. However, I was not asked or required to write a positive review. The opinions I express are my own and in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."