Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Tour Book Review: The Writing Desk, by Rachel Hauck



The Writing Desk
Rachel Hauck
Hardcover, 352 pages
Zondervan
July 10, 2017
Christian Fiction, Contemporary Fiction,
Contemporary Romance, Historical Fiction,
Historical romance




From the New York Times bestselling author of The Wedding Dress comes a new, captivating novel of secrets, romance, and two women bound together across time by a shared dream.

Tenley Roth’s first book was a runaway bestseller. Now that her second book is due, she’s locked in fear. Can she repeat her earlier success or is she a fraud who has run out of inspiration?

With pressure mounting from her publisher, Tenley is weighted with writer’s block. But when her estranged mother calls asking Tenley to help her through chemotherapy, she packs up for Florida where she meets handsome furniture designer Jonas Sullivan and discovers the story her heart’s been missing.

A century earlier, another woman wrote at the same desk with hopes and fears of her own. Born during the Gilded Age, Birdie Shehorn is the daughter of the old money Knickerbockers. Under the strict control of her mother, her every move is decided ahead of time, even whom she’ll marry. But Birdie has dreams she doesn’t know how to realize. She wants to tell stories, write novels, make an impact on the world. When she discovers her mother has taken extreme measures to manipulate her future, she must choose between submission and security or forging a brand new way all on her own.

Tenley and Birdie are from two very different worlds, but fate has bound them together in a way time cannot erase.




Note
I received a complimentary ARC from
the author in exchange for an honest review.

This most unusual plot, in which two women from very different eras are somehow tied to each other through the process of writing, was a delightful read, in spite of its rather bittersweet ending.

Birdie Shehorn and Tenley Roth are both strong women, both New Yorkers, both writers, both dealing with personal issues related to romance. And they also share the same writing desk, although years apart.

I was immediately drawn to this story, thanks to the vividness of the characters, their dilemmas, and their individual settings. Birdie, who lived at a time in which women were still expected to conform to their families' and society's expectations, yearned to write, to have her work published. Tenley, who lives in the present, with its more improved opportunities for women, must still struggle with her identity as a writer. Ironically, she finds it harder to follow up her initial success with a second one, whereas Birdie, struggling with the limitations of her time, somehow finds it much easier to write.

The narrative switches back and forth from one timeline to the other, and I wondered at first what the exact connection was between Birdie and Tenley. Only toward the end of the novel does the author reveal just what this connection is, and it's a rather poignant, as well as ironic, one. 

I enjoyed going back and forth in time, and seeing the differences in the way these two women lived. Birdie's life was a very sheltered one, and she was totally controlled by her mother, who wanted to force her into a marriage that would be advantageous to their family, even if Birdie was not in love with the man selected for her. In contrast, Tenley is living with her boyfriend, Holt, who is a screenwriter. She was abandoned by her mother at the age of 9, and her father, a famous writer, has recently died.

Eli is Birdie's true love. His inner strength of character is revealed through his unfailing support of Birdie's writing. In contrast, Holt fails to support Tenley's decision to fly down to Florida to help her mother as she undergoes chemotherapy. Not only that, but he goes off by himself to Paris, instead of accompanying Tenley to Florida. Although he's apparently supportive of Tenley's writing, he doesn't stay the course with her. If she's not at the top of the literary world, he's no longer interested in her.

Jonas, the man Tenley meets in Florida, is totally different. Like Eli, he appreciates Tenley's talent, and in addition, cares about helping her mother right along with Tenley. He has the same quiet strength possessed by Eli, the same passionate love for a woman whom he also admires. Holt, in contrast, is very shallow, easily seduced by fame, and therefore, fickle. Of course, I totally adored both Eli and Jonas!

Secondary characters are always important in a novel. Sometimes they can either make or break the book. In this particular instance, I especially loved Blanche, Tenley's mother. She was the principal secondary character in the plot. I was totally prepared to dislike her, since she had abandoned Tenley and her dad years before. However, Hauck actually made me love her, and I grew to appreciate her just as much as Tenley eventually did. In fact, I ended up forgiving her, just as Tenley did, too. To her credit, Blanche made up for lost time with her daughter, and a beautiful relationship developed between the two of them, one that was very touching, as well.

Although he had already passed on when the narrative opened, Conrad Roth, Tenley's dad, was another great secondary character. He was in the same category as Eli and Jonas, and was a wonderful role model for Tenley. He never spoke a word against his errant wife, fully forgiving her for her abandonment. And, he never stopped loving her, either. His influence on Tenley was enormous, and enormously positive.

I really liked the interweaving of a Christian world view throughout the novel. It's a gentle interweaving, too; one that is never judgmental, never rigidly righteous. For example, not once does Jonas bash Tenley over the head with his beliefs. He very simply and lovingly lives them, and they are actually part of the reason she falls so deeply in love with him.

Although I've lived in Florida myself for many years, I had never heard of Cocoa Beach before reading this novel. The passages dealing with this city were wonderful, evoking that mellow, although very hot, summer mood. Jonas and his family lived very close to the beach, and it was actually relaxing to read about their family get-togethers and games, right on the beach. Blanche's house, which was located not far from the Sullivan house, evoked the same mellow mood, and I suddenly began to appreciate the life here in Miami, in spite of the heat!

While I did love and enjoy this novel, there were a couple of things that bothered me. For instance, I didn't like the way Tenley ultimately handled her writer's block; her actions just seemed completely out of character to me. 

Another problem I had concerned Blanche herself. I won't say more so as to avoid spoilers, but will say that something related to her was not resolved satisfactorily. I wasn't expecting this, either, and it totally floored me. 

Because of these objections, I have given this novel four instead of five stars. However, I still enjoyed it tremendously, and would definitely recommend it to all readers who love compelling stories whose female protagonists courageously face personal and societal obstacles. 

This was my first Rachel Hauck novel, and I am definitely interested in reading more of her books! 

MY RATING:





Purchase Links





New York Times, USA Today & Wall Street Journal Bestselling author Rachel Hauck writes from sunny central Florida.
A RITA finalist and winner of the Romantic Times Inspirational Novel of the Year, she writes vivid characters dealing with real life issues.
She loves to hear from readers. She also loves to encourage new writers and sits on the Executive Board of American Christian Fiction Writers.
A graduate of Ohio State University with a BA in Journalism, Rachel is an avid OSU football fan. She hopes to one day stand on the sidelines in the Shoe with Urban Meyer.
An avid Diet Coke fan, she is caffeine free. Sometimes you just have to compromise.
She's never skied or jumped out of an airplane. She leaves such hijinks to Jason Bourne.





To access the complete tour schedule, just click on the button below!



http://tlcbooktours.com/2017/05/rachel-hauck-author-of-the-writing-desk-on-tour-julyaugust-2017/




12 comments:

  1. Great review Maria.

    This sounds different and creative.

    I have been reading a lot of Victorian Literature lately and the idea of arraigned marriages, sometimes pushed on people comes up a lot. Even if the participants had some choice, they were often very young and very susceptible to pressure. The thought of entering into a marriage like that is inconceivable. It sounds like this book delves into these issues.

    Have a great week!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Brian!

      Thanks so much for the compliment!! <3 :)

      Yes, this is indeed an original and creative plot. The lives of these two women are contrasted and paralleled in very interesting ways, and I really enjoyed reading this novel, in spite of the objections I mentioned in the review.

      The whole idea of forcing people to marry was indeed very popular in the Victorian age. In fact, it has been pretty popular throughout much of history. It's only been in recent times that people have come to realize that this just doesn't work. It's a HORRIBLE thing to do to people.

      This book does indeed deal with this issue, and it does it very well! That was one of the things I liked about it! Thankfully, "all's well that ends well"! True love wins out in the end! YAAAAY!!!

      Thanks for the nice comment!! hoping you're having a great day!! <3 :)



      Delete
  2. I have never read a book by Rachel Hauck nor have I ever heard of this book but I'm glad that you enjoyed it! It sounds really interesting and I might have to check it out.

    Thanks for sharing,
    ~Brittany @ Brittany's Book Rambles

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Brittany!

      This was my very first book by this author, and I would certainly like to read more! I thought the paralleled and contrasted lives of these two women were very well handled, and they kept me turning pages.

      I recommend this book to you, even with the objections I mentioned in my review!

      You're very welcome for the sharing! Thanks for the nice comment!! Hope you're having a great day!! <3 :)

      Delete
  3. I love books like this--dual time lines connected by a person, place or thing. I am glad you enjoyed this one, Maria. I admit it being Christian Fiction gives me pause. I am glad to hear the religious aspect doesn't come across as preachy. Thank you for your insightful review, Maria.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Wendy!

      Yeah, me, too!! They are really fascinating!! And yes, I did enjoy this one!

      Regarding the religious aspect of the plot, this book was very mellow. The Christians portrayed here were very gentle, loving folks, nothing at all like the stereotype -- which is unfortunately based on fact -- of Christians as rigidly self-righteous people who actually seem to be more hateful than loving. None of that was present here! In fact, NO ONE in this novel is judgmental -- AT ALL. The view of God in this novel is also a gentle one. And, at no time did anyone try to convince anyone else to become a Christian.

      I think you would enjoy this novel, Wendy! It's very well-written, and the characters -- especially Eli and Jonas -- are TOTALLY WONDERFUL!! If you do decide to read it, you will come across the two things I didn't like. I STILL loved the book, though!

      You're very welcome for my review! And thanks to YOU for such a lovely comment!! HUGS TO YOU AND MOUSE!!!! <3 <3 <3 :) :) :)

      Delete
  4. I'm a big fan of dual storylines so that aspect of this book really appeals to me.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Heather!

      I think a LOT of us readers actually LOVE sudh stories! they certainly are fascinating!! :) :)

      You're very welcome for my participation! Thanks for letting me know about this beautiful book!! <3 :)

      Delete
  5. Dual storylines when done well are so good. SO good! I like so much that this is about writing, and about a writing desk.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Verushka!

      I see that there are a LOT of fans of the dual storyline type of plot! They're SO interesting, aren't they?

      When I was notified about this novel, I LOVED that it was about writing, and that there was a writing desk in the story! GREAT that you liked this, too!!

      Thanks for the nice comment!! <3 <3 <3 :) :) :)

      Delete

THIS IS NOW AN AWARD-FREE, AND TAG-FREE BLOG. Thanks for the compliment, though! : )

Thanks for your thoughts on my posts! I always reply here, as well as comment back on your blog. Have a WONDERFUL day!! :)