Many thanks to Rachel Poli for her post “How to Write a Book Review That Matters“. Very helpful, Rachel! Thank-you!
Title: Dawn at Emberwilde
Series: Book #2 in The Treasures of Surrey Novels.
Author: Sarah E. Ladd
Publication Date: May 10, 2016
Genre: Romance Fiction
*Rating (out of 5): ⭐⭐⭐
I decided to place this book on hold at my local library after reading 2 other books by Sarah E. Ladd. (The Heiress of Winterwood and A Lady at Willowgrove Hall, both of the Whispers on the Moors series.)
I tried to read The Curiosity Keeper, which was book #1 in The Treasures of Surrey Novels series. I didn’t finish it because the story did not hold my interest. So I wasn’t sure what to think of this second book of the series. But it looked promising. It had that deep, spooky mystery about it that I couldn’t wait to explore.
The overall plot of this book centers on Miss Isabel Creston. About her past, her strange new life at Emberwilde and the mysterious “Black Forest” that seems to be calling her name. She attempts to unravel her past while planning for her uncertain future. What exactly happened to her mother all those years ago? And who will be the lucky gentleman to whom she can give her heart and hand?
The first 6 chapters I thought were rather slow and I had difficulty getting into the story until talk of the Emberwilde Forest began in chapter 7. Other than that, the book moved at a fairly good pace. Parts of the story I expected and others were a welcome surprise.
I found it a bit odd that Isabel has 2 suitors and yet Colin (or Mr. Galloway) has more limelight. It automatically predisposed me to favor him, so the ending did not suprise me. I saw this as a bit of a weak point in the plot. It was an interesting love triangle but Isabel’s interest in Mr. Bradford did not convince me as he seemed shallow from the start.
“We do not find ourselves in new situations by accident. Oh, no! Remember, with each new dawn to seek guidance, and with each night give gratitude. For there is a divine plan for each of our lives, and a journey, and you have started yours.”
Dawn at Emberwilde, Chapter 7, by Sarah E. Ladd
I thought the main characters were likeable and believable. There seems to be more depth to Mr. Colin Galloway than to Isabel’s character. Perhaps because of the emotions he secretly has and the details of his past that seem to be absent in Isabel’s life. Isabel doesn’t have a lot of depth, but enough to be likeable. I found I wanted to know more about her past and her parents than the book provided.
Colin was my favorite character but I also liked Mr. Robert McKinney. He had that burly angry Scotsman persona about him that I found funny.
I thought the villians were carefully constructed. It was easy to dislike them and Mrs. Margaret Ellison especially raised my ire. She was oddly likeably dislikeable. Her character was so overbearing and selfish that it was remarkably easy to dislike her from the moment she was introduced.
I did not especially like Lizzie Creston (Isabel’s younger sister) or Miranda. Lizzie I felt was whiny much of the time and often got into trouble. Miranda’s character seemed sly and manipulating. Her character did add interest to the story but I didn’t care for her.
I really love Sarah E. Ladd’s writing style. It isn’t as detailed as Julie Klassen’s writing style, but it isn’t lacking in detail either. There is a good balance of description and conversation. I liked it that the chapters were generally shorter and centered on one character at a time (mostly) instead of going back and forth within the chapter. This made it easier for me to focus on the story.
Overall, I really loved this book. Ladd is quickly becoming one of my favorite Regency romance authors. Although the beginning of the book was slow, the remainder did not disappoint with more than a few mysteries and various interesting challenges for the character(s). I liked some characters more than others, but none of them “spoiled” the book for me. A lovely novel. I look forward to reading the next one in the series.
*After mulling it over, I decided to switch my initial rating of 4 stars to 3. There were parts I loved but a lot of parts that I did not enjoy/had issues with.