Thursday, September 03, 2009

Book Review: "Illuminations of the Heart" and a Contest

By Nichole Giles

Hello friends! I'm going to take a break from my regular-scheduled writing blog to introduce you to a really good book I'm sure all you romance fans will just love, especially if you like historical stories. Stay tuned next week for more about writing from yours truly. (That's me.) Next week I'll be discussing...well, actually, I have no idea. You'll have to stop by to find out.

Back Cover Blurb:

“Clothilde.” He spoke the name on a breath like a prayer. Then he lowered his head and kissed her.

Her heart is lost in that first embrace, her world shaken to its foundations. There is just one problem: her name is not Clothilde. It is Siriol De Calendri. Trained in the art of illumination in the far-off city of Venice, Siri is directed by her late brother’s will to the county of Poitou in France, where she enters the guardianship of her brother’s friend, Sir Triston de Brielle. Once in Poitou, Siri hopes to find employment in an illuminator’s shop—until Triston unexpectedly snatches her heart away with a kiss.

Triston is a man of quiet honor and courage, but the guilt he carries for the death of his late wife, Clothilde, has left him numb and hesitant to love again. Worse yet, Siri bears an uncanny resemblance to his lost love. Or does she? Her merry laughter and twinkling eyes are very different from his late wife’s shy smiles and quiet ways. Yet when he gazes into Siri’s face, all he sees is Clothilde.

Then Triston’s past returns to threaten them both. Will his tragic life with Clothilde be repeated with Siri? Trapped between the rivalry of the king’s sons on the one hand and a neighbor out for vengeance on the other, Triston realizes it would be safer to send Siri away. But how can he bear to lose her again?

Siri is determined not to be cast off and not to live in another woman’s shadow. She has illuminated many a priceless book with pen and paint. But can her own vibrant spirit illuminate the darkness in Triston’s soul and make his heart beat for her alone?

My Take:

Once again, Joyce DiPastena has outdone herself. I absolutely loved her first book, Loyalty’s Web, and wondered how she would ever write another one with so much depth, so many plot twists and turns, and let’s not forget the heart-melting love story (the kind that doesn’t make you cringe). But how could I have thought such a thing? Of course, Illuminations was up to par! I absolutely loved it.

Okay, first I have to warn you. I’m a sucker for a good romance. Really. But I’m also extremely picky about what I read, especially since I started writing myself. Other than Loyalty’s Web, it’s been quite a while since I found a sweet romance that I just couldn’t put down. But this one was definitely packed full of heart-pounding romance. The downside is that I’m going to have to wait for probably a year or more to read another book by Joyce. (Frown. That’s a long time!) The point is, Illuminations of the Heart has sealed the deal. I’m a fan for life!

My Nitpicks:

I have issues with this section of my reviews. There are those who think a nitpick section is uncalled for or unnecessary. And in most cases, that’s probably true. However, I feel that it’s important for my readers to understand that I will be honest in my review process, and if I end up reviewing a book I wasn’t fond of, that I’ll kindly let them know that, while pointing out the things I did like.

That said, I have a really hard time finding anything to nitpick in this book. Seriously! Oh wait. I got one. (Joyce, we already had this discussion.) After reading Loyalty’s Web, I’d grown very fond of all the characters—except Clothilde and Helen’s extremely EVIL mother—and so was sad to discover Clothilde’s death in Illuminations. Seriously, every time Triston thought of her, I got sad too. So, I guess my nitpick is that I got teary in several places, which can be embarrassing when you’re sitting in the orthodontist’s office waiting for your kids, or waiting in line to meet teachers at the school or something. But worry not. I grew to love Siri as well, and found the ending very satisfying.

So now I’m left wondering who’s story Joyce will tell next. Perhaps Acelet? Ettienne? Hm. Only Joyce herself knows.

I give Illuminations of the Heart a five on my diamond scale, and recommend that you run out and grab a copy as fast as you can so you can start reading it too.

Wait, running out would require leaving the computer. I’ll make it easier. Click here to order yours from Deseret Book or here to order from Amazon.

Oh, but that’s not all! Leave a comment here and be entered to win an autographed copy of Illuminations of the Heart or one of three gift cards. The best part is that this tour goes until September 15th, and you can leave comments on as many tour stops as you want, and each one counts as a new entry. (Tip: I’ve posted this blog in two places—comment on both for two entries.) Good luck! I believe the winners will be announced on Joyce's blog at the end of the tour.

I've done a short interview with Joyce. To read it, click here.

To read more about the author, click here or here.

Joyce DiPastena will be touring many Costco locations in Arizona. Watch her blog or website for dates and locations.


Elizabeth Morgan said...

I loved the book and like you said she always has tons of plot twists.

Krista said...

I am intrigued. I wonder, do you need to read the first book to appreciate the second one? I may have to start with the first. Thank you for the review!

Joyce DiPastena said...

Thanks for the review, Nichole! I'm not sure I've ever made anyone teary before. That's a compliment, though I'm sorry about poor Clothilde.

Krista, I wrote Illuminations of the Heart to be a "stand alone" book, so I think you can enjoy it without having to read my first book first. (Not that I don't want you to read my first book, mind you! But if you wanted to start with Illuminations, I think you'd be okay. :-) )

Nichole Giles said...

Joyce, you're so welcome! I'm always glad to review a great book.

Krista, as Joyce said, you could read Illuminations as a stand alone and be fine.

I truly enjoyed reading them back to back. I think it gave me an even more in-depth look at the characters, and let me spend more time in that world. But if I hadn't read "Loyalty's Web" first, I still would have loved "Illuminations."

Happy Reading!