Title: Born of Persuasion
Author: Jessica Dotta
Narrator: Amanda McKnight
Series: Price of Privilege Trilogy, #1
Print Publisher: Tyndale House
Audio Publisher: Oasis Audio
Genre: Gothic Romance, Inspirational
Published: September 2013
About the Book (from the Tyndale House Publishers web site):
The year is 1838, and seventeen-year-old Julia Elliston’s position has never been more fragile. Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.
With two months to devise a better plan, Julia’s first choice to marry her childhood sweetheart is denied. But when a titled dowager offers to introduce Julia into society, a realm of possibilities opens. However, treachery and deception are as much a part of Victorian society as titles and decorum, and Julia quickly discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother’s mysterious past. Before she knows what’s happening, Julia finds herself a pawn in a deadly game between two of the country’s most powerful men. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own. But sometimes truth is elusive and knowledge is deadly.
My Thoughts on the Story:
Absolutely fascinating. I’ll admit I hadn’t expected to encounter classic Gothic horror in an Inspirational title. I think that’s part of this book’s charm. Born of Persuasion is so different from much of what I’ve read in Christian fiction so far, it took me delightfully by surprise. Mystery, romance, and an undercurrent of danger abound in this novel full of unexpected plot twists, Victorian sensibilities, and uncertain loyalties.
With her own past shrouded in mystery, and with the recent death of her mother under suspicious circumstances, our heroine and first person storyteller, Julia Elliston, begins her tale with a very incomplete picture of her own situation. She quickly finds herself adrift among people with competing agendas, some wanting to help her, and others wanting to manipulate her for their own gain. The challenge for her, and for the reader, is determining which is which.
Who can be trusted? Edward, Julia’s longtime beau who she feels has betrayed her by becoming a vicar, despite knowing how, as an atheist, she feels she’s been mistreated by others in the name of religious fervor? Her mysterious guardian who intends to send her off to Scotland to work as a Lady’s companion? Mrs. Windham, the mother of a friend, who offers to provide Julia a small dowry and help her find a husband, albeit not a very prestigious or wealthy one, rather than be sent away? Lady Foxmore whose lofty connections and questionable methods could procure her a socially desirable husband… for a hefty fee? Or the wealthy and charming Mr. Macy who has an admittedly sketchy and mysterious past, but who promises Julia safety and security, not to mention social status, if she marries him?
Here’s a favorite quote from the book (Chapter 26, pages 170-1), a conversation about faith between Julia and Edward:
“How can you believe in a God who is so cruel?” I asked.
Edward’s countenance took on an aching look. He did not have to ask what I meant. Though the ground was cold and wet, he joined me. And because he did not rush to answer, because he took the time to consider my viewpoint, I listened when he finally began to speak.
“Imagine the kindest, gentlest man you can. A man who reaches out to the most wretched and works to restore the undeserving. No injustice is tolerated, no snobbery, no bickering.”
I eyed Jacob Turner, predicting where Edward was going.
“Now, imagine him a general,” Edward continued, “and off to war. During this time, all sorts of horrible rumors and distressing reports have reached his home country and his family’s ears. And while these reports may be true, those who know and love him best can only tell others to keep faith. There are explanations; surely there are a myriad of reasons that have not yet been revealed.” He pointed at the cottager. “Men like him are like that family. He keeps faith that this isn’t the full story.”
I cocked an eyebrow at him.
“Wait for the ending,” Edward said.
Such a great analogy! There aren’t very many passages like this, delving into theological issues, but the ones that are included in this book are brief, feel natural, and leave an impression. Well done.
I loved how the author kept me guessing with complex characters and unexpected plot twists. And I am intensely curious to learn how Julia’s character and beliefs might develop over the course of this series. This book ends on a bit of a cliffhanger with plenty of questions remaining unanswered and secrets yet to be revealed. Jessica Dotta has crafted a page-turner of a book that leaves me with the feeling I MUST KNOW what’s next. And just to compound my already intense curiosity, there’s the fact that I know several bloggers who’ve read this series through and been incredibly vocal about how amazing it is. So yes, I’ll be seeking out Books 2 (Mark of Distinction) and 3 (Price of Privilege) post-haste.
Fans of the works of Austen and the Bronte sisters will likely eat this story up. As will many readers interested in trying something a little different from the usual Inspirational fiction fare.
Thoughts on the Audio Edition:
I absolutely adored listening to the narrator’s British accent. Amanda McKnight’s gentle, melodious voice fits the voice I imagine for Julia Elliston, with her sweet and unassuming character, perfectly. And since this novel is told in Julia’s first person point of view, as though she’s relating her own story, that fit between narrator and character is absolutely essential. What a great pick to play the role, and what a lovely performance! I’m a big fan of the poetic quality of Victorian style language, and this narrator’s reading highlights that quality in this text to beautiful effect.
Thank you to Oasis Audio for providing a complimentary electronic copy of this audiobook for review purposes.