Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Blog Tour: "Bleeding Heart" by Amber Stokes--Book Review

I am honoured to be part of the blog tour for Amber Stokes' debut novel, Bleeding Heart. Make sure to check out all the stops along the tour to learn more about this amazing young author and her wonderful novel! You can enter for chances to win her book as well. At any time, drop by the Blog Tour HQ to see the blog post schedule. Now, onward....

About the Book

Five bleeding hearts. One profound journey. 

Summer 1886

Sally Clay’s livelihood has been snatched away, but in its place arises an opportunity to escape from her sordid past and an unrelenting, unwanted suitor. Boarding a train with a heartsick rancher and an enigmatic miner, she leaves Virginia City behind and heads to Northern California, waiting for the chance to make right what went wrong three long years before.

But the road to revenge is far from smooth. Sally soon learns that the jagged pieces of a broken heart can far too easily wound the hearts of others – and hers isn’t the only heart that’s broken. Tragedy and fear dog her steps as she flees from the redwood forests to the high desert and back again. Will her bleeding heart ever find a way and a place to heal?

A desperate soiled dove. Three men who come to care for her. One man determined to claim her. 

All on a journey that will show them what true love really involves.

Inspirational Historical Romance

About the Author

Amber Stokes has a Bachelor of Science degree in English and a passion for the written word - from blogging to writing poetry, short stories, and novels. After her brief time at college in Oregon, she is now back home among the redwoods of Northern California, living life one day at a time and pursuing her passion via freelance editing and self-publishing her debut novel, Bleeding Heart.

My Review

Bleeding Heart by Amber Stokes is self-published. There is huge stereotype against self-published works, but I want to go out there and say that Bleeding Heart's writing outshines many traditionally-published books in the world. Amber is a master of her craft, and each beautifully-worded sentence shows how much time and effort she has put into her novel. I loved her careful, vivid descriptions of the wild natural beauty of the setting, and how her characters related to it.

One thing I particularly loved was how she sprinkled allusions to actual historical events and people throughout the book. She didn't explain them, but left it to the readers to research it and discover for themselves. This book was told through the eyes of people who lived in that time; and realistically, what's history to us was life to them. Would they, in their thoughts, replay certain events that they would already know by heart and which would be as day-to-day to them as taking a shower is to us? So I enjoyed Amber's challenge to her readers to go out and explore history for themselves through the dropping of interesting name and hints at certain events.

Another aspect that was well done was the curve away from the usual historical romance novel in the Christian market. Many of those are humorous and lack any thought-provoking events. There are sweet moments in this novel, but it is definitely darker and more for those who realize and understand that life isn't one big cupcake. Christians love and lose and doubt. I can't tell you how many times I've wondered in real life why God would 'allow' a good Christian man to be ripped away from his wife, or a little girl to be murdered. These characters struggle with real-life challenges; and, while not necessarily finding answers, they find some sort of peace. And it is this peace that is integral to a relationship with God--the knowledge that, no matter what insanity happens here on earth, no matter how much injustice is done, "it is well with my soul". Because, as Amber shows in this novel, the one thing evil cannot rip away from you without your letting it is the condition of your soul.

This book ripped my heart to shreds for its characters, and sewed it up again. Certain ones I loved more than others, such as the immigrant Myghal and the quiet cook, Zachary Taylor. (Amber, PLEASE let them have their own stories!!!) At times I felt I knew them, and at others, I realized how little I knew them at all. While in other books this might be a cause to accuse the author of character inconsistency, one of the themes in this story is how little the characters know about EACH OTHER. They make assumptions and turn out surprised when they turn out wrong. As we, the readers, get into the heads of almost all the characters, why wouldn't their assumptions become our own, and therefore, their surprise as well?

However, this novel is very short, clocking in at just over 50,000 words, according to Amber's website. While the story is self-containing, there were times when huge time-skips of several months would go by. This did not allow for a lot of relationship-building in regards to the romance; everything went fairly quickly, at least in terms of reading it. I would have enjoyed more tender moments for me to become accustomed to the relationship that happens by the end of the book. As well, I think adding another couple-thousand words would have given readers the chance to dig even deeper into the heads of the characters and connect with them. I would have liked more time with Myghal and Zachary Taylor and Sally and Seth and Joe and even Rufus, who turned out to be quite the conflicting villain himself. I wanted to know MORE about them, to know all their likes and dislikes, outside of how they felt about love and heartbreak.

As well, in the copy I read, there were a few typos, and a mention of an "Annabelle" that Sally supposedly met and who was important to her, but whom I don't remember. Perhaps someone from an earlier draft?

All that being said, if you're looking for a fresh, original historical novel to sink your mind into, go for Bleeding Heart. If you're looking for a book that will make you think and ponder and cry and stare at your ceiling and think some more, get your hands on Bleeding Heart. And then promptly join me in a rally to get Amber to write more about Myghal and Zachary!

I received a free review copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for the opportunity, Amber, and best wishes on many successful novels to come!


“Journey to the West” Giveaway! One U.S. resident (randomly drawn) will receive a signed copy of Bleeding Heart and a collection of items from the story’s settings, handpicked by the author.