A Most Peculiar Circumstance by Jen Turano

Monday, July 15, 2013

About the Book:
Author: Jen Turano
Publisher: Bethany House
Publication Date: 2013
Series: Ladies of Distinction, Book 2
Genre: Fiction; Historical
Rating: 3 out of 5 
Women’s rights is a popular historical subject and Jen Turano used the upshots of said subject as fodder for a series of books in which each of her heroines are confounding entities to the men in their lives and are products of the era – they find trouble around every corner and grow into a product of the movement rather than an individual. Trouble’s name in this scenario is Arabella Beckett. A young woman ahead of her time whose wealthy family wishes her safe return to New York after travelling with the women’s suffrage movement just to prove she was more than a pretty face – a girl who could survive on her own. Enter private investigator Theodore Wilder – he is one arrogant man whom Arabella cannot escape fast enough.

This was one book that left me anticipating what was inside. Unfamiliar with Jen’s style, the plots sounded “cute” and of course, in true inspirational fiction fashion, the ending of herein is complete and leaves readers in a bubble of happiness. Though that condition is usually “enough” for me, this book tipped the scale on the lower end of being entertaining; there wasn’t enough in the story to captivate me.  
Proper etiquette of the 1800’s escapes me given that I am not a scholar of the era other than what common sense dictates would have been proper, however the habit of using characters formal titles became monotonous, oversharing information that wasn’t necessary – particularly annoying was the frequent use of it in “casual” conversation. It was probably not proper for an unrelated man to call a married woman anything but “Lady Summer” but I found it tedious to continuously read Theodore referencing her as Lady Eliza Summer or being so formal with the likes of Arabella and vice versa. Also seemingly misplaced is the dialogue of a five-year-old; she may be cute as a button but her conversational skills are beyond that of a child. Multiple uses of the same adjectives ("peculiar," "sputter") in sentences was additionally grating.  

Within the first chapter, Theodore and Arabella meet and what could have been a really cute meeting turns out more stilted and well, awkward. Perhaps that is what Jen wished to impart though the result wasn’t fun or investing to read.

Like Arabella believes that women have the right to vote and be heard, Theodore also has some radical beliefs about the purpose of the fairer sex. I found some of his early narratives equally as annoying, same as a female reader I did Arabella’s. There was a meeting point somewhere in their two, separate opinions; sadly it took a LONG time to get there.  
Like any avid reader, I don’t like putting a book down, and feeling… unhappiness. Instead of writing an entire closing paragraph on the specific opinions I had about the female lead – because I have no desire to start a debate on that subject, I will just say that what she so passionately believed in seemed to mold her to a new kind of societies conforming which puzzles and seems a counteractive, moot character element. There is a difference between being an independent thinker and being able to take care of yourself as a single woman, and being foolish. Arabella never did measure up to the former’s standards. I wanted to like this book but three-fourths of the way through, I have to be honest, I no longer “cared” about the characters. Of course, “knowing” things would end fine probably played a factor but the interim left me bored.  

There’s a subtle pre-cursors to what’s coming next in this series and I’ll admit to being curious about it. I won’t say that A Most Peculiar Circumstance is unforgettable… it just didn’t suit. Given its rating on book sites, if you are a fan of the era, any reader will probably enjoy this one! There were some uncommon flaws though had some elements been altered, it could have been a nice story. There is promise, it’s just not fully drawn out.

Synopsis: Miss Arabella Beckett has one driving passion: to help the downtrodden women of America. Naturally, she supports the women's suffrage movement and eagerly attends rallies and lectures across the country. On her travels, she makes a simple offer of assistance to a young woman in need that goes sadly awry and lands both ladies in more trouble than they can manage. An independent sort, Arabella is loath to admit she needs help and certainly doesn't need help from an arrogant, narrow-minded knight in shining armor.

Mr. Theodore Wilder, private investigator extraordinaire, is on a mission. A mission that began as a favor to his good friend Hamilton Beckett, but swiftly evolved into a merry chase across the country. By the time he finally tracks down Hamilton's sister, Arabella, he is in a less than pleasant mood. When the lady turns out to have radical ideas and a fiercely independent streak, he soon finds himself at his wit's end.

When they return home to New York, circumstances force their paths to continue to cross, but the most peculiar feelings growing between them certainly can't be love. When the trouble Arabella had accidentally stirred up seems to have followed her to New York and threatens her very life, the unlikely couple must face the possibility that they might have landed in the most peculiar circumstance of all: love.

Coming Next from Jen Turano: Miss Felicia Murdock firmly believed her destiny was to become a minister's wife. When the minister on whom she had set her sights marries another lady, Felicia is forced to take a close look at her life and comes to a few uncomfortable conclusions. Determined that something needs to change--and soon--Felicia discovers she is finally ready to spread her wings and embrace life the way she's always wanted.

Grayson Sumner--or Lord Sefton, as he's officially known--has had more than enough of spreading his wings and only hopes to settle into the life of a normal, respectable New York gentleman. Prompted by some well-meaning friends to lift the spirits of the disappointed-in-love Miss Murdock, he is surprised to encounter a young lady who seems to have become quite adventurous and quite determined to get herself into all sorts of troublesome situations.

Intent on remaining independent, Felicia is reluctant to accept Grayson's help, especially as she finds herself developing feelings for him. However, just as Grayson decides he's had quite enough of her antics, his past comes back to haunt him and his presence in her life has endangered Felicia. Will Grayson and Felicia decide they want to spend the rest of their lives keeping one another out of trouble? – October 2013

Sincere thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purposes


  1. Oh, it's too bad the book didn't enthrall you, Rissi. Wonderful review, though--very well-written and you hit upon a lot of points I agree with. I enjoyed the book, but then again, I haven't read much in the Christian historical romance genre, so my opinion probably doesn't mean very much. Though I am interested in the next book in the series.

    Excited to read more reviews from you, Rissi! :)

    1. Yes, I felt the same, Rebeka! I wanted to like this one. I wanted to like Jen's writing. At least I got through the book and now know that Jen's books probably aren't for me - although I am probably going to read Felicia's story. Just because. :)

      I don't think time or knowledge of a genre makes an opinion worth less. It's just the opinion of a reader - and like everything, every book is subject to personal opinion. This book has great ratings on review sites and here I was toying with giving it a 2.5 or 3 rating! Ah, well. It is what it is.

      Thanks - right back atcha! Excited to read more of your blog/reviews. :)

  2. I just finished this one last week and was disappointed. I thought the first book in this series was a promising debut (still in need of tweaking) but I grew tired of the characters and their antics in this instalment. Thanks for your honesty Rissi. Very respectful and well written review.

    1. Sorry it disappointed you also, Lydia. Haven't read Eliza and Hamilton's story yet, though now I am a bit skeptical to do so. The antics of Arabella was really my main issue with it also - she was a bit of a contradiction and then, I never really "got" Theodore's conversation from oppressive male chauvinist to a man marrying a feminist.

      Thanks for reading, Lydia! Your opinion is one I highly respect.

  3. Yes, I didn't care for this book so much...I'm sure you're aware of my feminism rants ;) but even more than that I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned there's a line between being a strong woman and being foolish..a lot of times I just couldn't help but roll my eyes and Arabella's antics. And you're right: there did seem to be some overuse of certain words, and the endless scrapes the characters kept getting themselves into became tedious!

    1. Know just how you feel about this one, Hayden - the book just didn't... "click" with me. If a heroine is self-sufficient in "smart" ways, I don't think the whole feminism thing would bug me as much. Women are too much of a contradiction in fiction today - they act as if the are independent and "all-knowing," then they go and do something (sorry!) completely silly and sometimes stupid.

      The dialogue seemed awkward many times and I suspect part of that was an overuse of words. Anyway... I am tempted to read Jen's next book but then again, it'll all depend on the timeframe and what else is keeping me busy reading at the time of its release. :)


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