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Born of Persuasion by Jessica Dotta

About the Book:
Author: Jessica Dotta
Publisher: Tyndale House
Publication Date: September 2013 (ARC Book)
Series: Price of Privilege – book 1
Genre: Fiction; Historical, Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5

Let's start with a confession. As a girl who hasn’t read “Gothic” fiction – or had very little exposure to it, the most prominent name in the genre that comes to mind when calling to mind its singular style are the Bronte sisters. Between the three of them, the genre was proudly represented – albeit often with a tragic outcome. Debuting in the fiction market – and her first novel, this year, Jessica Dotta is bringing a fresh voice to the genre lending a unique perspective and narrative to the young heroine. The story opens with the 17-year-old Julia Elliston arriving at Am Meer, the simple estate is home to Julia's best friend, Elizabeth and her mother Mrs. Windham who attempts to socially control Julia under the guise of  being her “chaperone.” Under the protection of a mysterious “guardian” who is planning to place Julia in a service position in Scotland, Julia make plans of her own in order to rid herself of this faceless stranger but before that can see reality, she is soon caught in the middle of a power struggle she doesn’t understand and becomes a pawn of a woman of the aristocracy – a fragile position that could be her undoing.

During the first fourth of the novel, I have to be honest, I struggled through this. The overview of the book is excellent, it begs a new kind of curiosity and demands attention, yet nothing seemed to go anywhere whereas Julia was a predicament of a character – instead of using the history of Julia’s past to purposely drive the premise, the character seemed never to fully “reveal” herself. Ironically, the first person narrative should facilitate better knowledge of the heroine if no one else, yet Jessica seemed to keep her character’s verbal emotions close, even as her thoughts play across each page – she shifts from sorrow, anger and scared reactions rapidly in those thoughts, but expressing them never verbalizes – it feels like she’s always on the cusp of reacting, but no more. Here is the real – and possibly the only significant failing of the novel, there is a lot of disappointment in repeatedly experiencing Julia’s mute, uninspired reactions. Time and time again, the narrative reads more as if its protagonist were the narrator (sometimes veering off from being “in the present” and suggesting Julia is thinking back on her life instead of living it) rather than a present part of the conversation.

In Jessica’s author note, she recounts her journey to finally publishing this book; it was a story that she branded as “insisting” to be told and really, it’s a grand one. Skillfully written, I was impressed by the period detail and the subtle intrigue – everything we learn is on dubious ground and begs to be questioned. Each subject vacillates between “good” and “evil,” nearly every character is called out by their peers to question their intentions and as a reader, our own trust of these players experiences highs and lows. While reading I wanted to like Julia’s dalliance with Macy – he seemed kind and loving of her in several expressions, then his temper inspires distrust and everything encouraging is torn down. Somewhere between his deceptive charm and tender care of Julia, I wanted to believe there was a good man inside. Considering the end of the book, there are many things to be unresolved and it’ll be grand fun to see what comes next over the spanned trilogy. Readers who enjoy a taste of classic stylized fiction will enjoy this historical tale of intrigue. There was rarely a passage that went by in which I didn’t recognize elements of Jane Austen deftly transitioning into similarities of Gothic Bronte. Jessica cleverly managed this feat – impressively so, any fan of the genre should expect a memorable debut.  
Find the review elsewhere:

Synopsis: 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. - Goodreads

Coming Next from Jessica Dotta: Synopsis unavailable, coming Summer 2014

Learn more about Jessica Dotta.

Sincere thanks to author Jessica Dotta for providing a complimentary copy of this book. 
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  1. Rissi, thank you SO much for reviewing Born of Persuasion!

    1. Thank *you* for the opportunity, Jessica! Enjoyed your first novel very much. Now, I am *dying* to know what's next for Julia and Edward, and Macy, too. :)

  2. It looks like it could be interesting. I can't think of any "Gothic" fiction books I have read, so I don't know if I'd like it... Still, I might give this one a try.

    Thanks for the review!

    1. This was an excellent read, Grace - the author kept her reader guessing and that takes a talented pen.

      Wising you happy reading if you give this book a shot. :)

  3. I like Gothic fiction, but it can be a leeetttle creepy. I loved Jane Austen's "attempt" at Gothic fiction through Northanger Abbey :)

    I think I'm going to put this book on my reading list. And the cover of the one following it looks lovely!

    1. I don't recall ever feeling creeped out while reading this book. The villain is quite the character though - he's charm personified (to the point of me almost liking him) then he does something horrible. Given its first person narrative (Julia's), Jessica alludes to his potential illegal acts instead of showing them which helps.

      Aw! I started reading Northanger Abbey way back when, Hannah; I liked what I read and really enjoy the newer British adaptation.

      Yay! Let me know what you think of Born of Persuasion if you ever read it. All of Jessica's novel covers are pretty. :)

  4. This book was seriously one of the best I've read in ages. I am so glad that something new and fresh has been brought forth in a Christian fiction genre that is full of light, fluffy stories. I can't wait for the next book! Great review, Rissi. :)

    1. Agree. It may have been "darker" than the average Christian fiction but Jessica has skill. Love the concept even if the narrative seemed "off" at times. For sure, I admire this book and Jessica for writing it - CANNOT wait to continue with Julia, Edward and Macy. *bites nails*

      Thanks for reading the review, Renee; keeping an eye out for yours, too. :)

  5. A great and thoughtful review, Rissi. I've noticed Dotta's books, and I do love the Bronte stye. :-)

    1. Hey, Gwendolyn! Thanks for reading this review! :)

      I think you'd like Jessica's books; this debut was SO unique and cutting edge really - especially when considering the Christian fiction market. It's always refreshing to find a new voice.

  6. Oooo, and you intrigue me even more! Cannot wait to read this one! I wouldn't normally be interested in a gothic story, but something about this one just calls for me to read it. Hopefully I can in another month or so! Excellent review, Rissi. :)

    1. ...and I hope you end up liking it, Kara! When I write a review, it's always difficult to know how much to "gush" over regarding the pros (and cons) since every reader is different. That being said, each reader has to decide on their own if a book is worth their time - I certainly hope you end up feeling satisfied if/when you read Born of Persuasion. For a debut book in a "new" genre, I LOVED this story.

      Thank *you* for reading. :)

  7. Great review Rissi, you've made me very curious with your mentions of the classic style and the similarity to the Brönte's works!

    1. Even being a girl who hasn't read Bronte, there were many examples that *screamed* of that "classic" style, Birdie. Obviously the narrative is more "contemporary" but it was still present in my humble opinion.

      Hope you enjoy the book if you ever read it. :)

  8. How come girls on book covers get such pretty dresses?

    1. ...good question!? I wanna' know the answer to that also, Jack. :)

  9. Awesome review Rissi. You have such a beautiful talent for writing reviews! This novel sounds so good. I've loved all the Bronte sisters books I've read so if this is anything like theirs I know I'll love it too! : )

    1. As any reader will expect, the narrative is more "contemporary," Cathy but while reading the book, I noticed several similarities and was struck by how well Jessica wove everything together in this debut novel. Enjoy if you read the book!

      Thank you for reading - and your kind words! :)

  10. Well, I'm interesting in reading this one. I'm glad you think it's quite good. 'Skillfully written' novels are usually a pleasure to read. Thanks for sharing, Rissi!

    1. That they are, Ganise - the better the skill, the more compelling the novel. :)

      Will be anxious for your thoughts once you read this one! :)


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