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Nov 11, 2015

The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz

The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz
Revell, September 2015
$14.99, pb, 400 pages
Review copy provided in exchange for review for Historical Novels Review
Burton Book Review Rating: 4.5 stars
The American Revolution is finally over, and Sophie Menzies is starved for good news. When her nearest neighbor, General Seamus Ogilvy, finally comes home to Tall Acre, she hopes it is a sign of better days to come. But the general is now a widower with a small daughter in desperate need of a mother. Nearly destitute, Sophie agrees to marry Seamus and become the mistress of Tall Acre in what seems a safe, sensible arrangement. But when a woman from the general's past returns without warning, the ties that bind this fledgling family together will be strained to the utmost. When all is said and done, who will be the rightful mistress of Tall Acre?

Triumph and tragedy, loyalty and betrayal--readers find it all in the rich pages of this newest historical novel from the talented pen of Laura Frantz. Her careful historical details immerse the reader in the story world, and her emotional writing and finely tuned characters never cease to enchant fans both old and new.

There comes a time when I regret choosing a novel to review for another review outlet when I need to hold my thoughts for months on end when I would prefer to just shout SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE.

When I review for another "professional" type of outlet, I feel limited with my word count restraint, I pay more attention to the words I choose, I re-read and proof my review and take thoughts out, and then I am left with a shell of a review within the word count limits and I don't feel like I get my point across.

Such as this was, with The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz. Reading this in June, when the review cannot post till the fall, and I feel sad that I cannot just simply tell everyone immediately how much I loved this novel with its many facets.

Firstly, it was my first Laura Frantz novel, though I do own some of the others due to other reviewers' recommendations, I rarely get around to reading a book simply for pleasure, meaning when there is not an expected review attached to it. When I was chosen to review this one for HNR, I was eager to finally get my chance to see what all the clamor was about for inspirational novelist Laura Frantz. And I was not disappointed.

Secondly, this novel features an era that inspirational publishers tend to shy away from, though I have no earthly idea why. They have published Frontier novels, Amish novels, Civil War novels, Regency novels. But they skip the American Revolution, and there are so many stories to be told! Please, I BEG YOU! Start publishing more novels on the Revolutionary War!

Frantz does well with the setting of the aftermath of the war, but this is not a novel with details about the war. She shows it as part of the character's past, and demonstrates how royal sympathies conflict with those of the colonials. I am dying for more of the era.

If you are wondering why I only gave the novel four and a half stars as opposed to five, it is because I would have preferred just a touch more of the actual events of the era- or the allusion of, although the era was adequately portrayed as a whole in reference to the social classes and stereotypes. When I read hist-fic, I do like to learn a bit of something along the way, which is why I got so caught up in "royal" historicals. I also admit to having a dry spell where I didn't pick up the book for a couple days in the middle of reading it, so I guess it had started to be just a bit too slow at some point. But again .. I obviously still definitely recommend this one for lovers of the inspirational fiction genre; I see no reason why many readers won't give her the five star prize for this.

Anyway, here's to the actual review I submitted to HNR:

As Sophie Menzies waited patiently for her brother to return safely from the American War of Independence, her home was in the process of being seized by the government. Her neighbor General Seamus Ogilvy did return as a war hero and was sympathetic to Sophie who was alone at Three Chimneys. Needing a helper for his young daughter, he was kind to Sophie and offered a reprieve from the anonymous threats aimed at Sophie's once-Tory household. Daughter Lily Cate was an integral character to the story as the budding romance between Sophie and Seamus blossomed and she was adored by them both. A refreshing twist was that the woman who managed to save the day was a colored woman whose integrity ultimately secured Seamus's and Sophie's marriage, allowing Sophie to remain Mistress of Tall Acre. But when tragedy strikes, the couple needed to overcome both emotional and legal obstacles in order to remain together at Tall Acre.

Kindling a slow paced romance allowed the reader to feel the tension and become fully invested with the story which included several sub-plots. As the story arc progressed, the moods would change as we experienced grief, loneliness, fear, hope and joy alongside Sophie and Seamus. The tense setting of the post-American Revolution was shown as an uneasy time with unregulated government and progressive ideals; a country of colonists struggling to adapt to its new found independent status where sympathies between neighbors range from loyalists and Tories to colonial settlers eager for a new beginning. The novelist includes quotes of faith to guide the unforgettable characters' path and they turn to Him to lighten their load, making this novel a beautiful blend of inspirational and historical romantic fiction. It is no surprise that Laura Frantz is a favorite of the genre.

And here is where I tell you that if you haven't gotten to read Frantz's previous works, feel free to start here. Her latest works were her Ballantyne Legacy series, and I tend to stay away from series as a personal choice (until I know I have all the books and the time to read them close together). This stand-alone is perfect to get introduced to Frantz, though her earliest novels are also stand alone. And definitely moving up in my TBR list.