A cornfield emerges. Walking through its stalks, hands touching the emerging silks, eyes closed–bliss. The silks change to crisp-edged papers. A voice whispers, “If you write it, she will read.”
I doubt that happened to J’nell Ciesielski–or ever will. Still, there’s truth in them thar words! If she writes it, I will read.
Ever since I saw the cover of Among the Poppies (whose title I totally meshed with this one in my interview with J’nell) I’ve been intrigued by J’nell’s books. After reading them, well, I became a rabid fan. Can you blame me?
When I signed up and requested a free review copy of Beauty Among Ruins, I had no idea I’d be chatting with J’nell Ciesielski about her book before it even released.
And folks, have I got stuff to say.
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What Happens When Favorite Authors Take Me to Dream Destinations
I fall in love. Not just with characters and stories, but with the places that stir the imagination and make those stories come alive.
Oh, yes. with her signature style, J’nell Ciesielski leads the reader through more prosaic places like America and London and up into craggy heart of Scotland. Nestled there in a crumbling old manor, WWI soldiers’ minds and bodies are repaired by nurses and aides. And one broken laird will be mended or destroyed in the process.
It just takes a plucky American to nudge him in the right direction.
Seriously, I felt like I was in Scotland throughout the whole book.
Not once did I feel smothered by the heather, crushed by the crags, or blown off the page by the wind whistling through the moors, but I felt as though I were among them! A story rich in layers, depth, and understanding with just the smallest hint of a Jane Eyre-ish tone to parts of it, Beauty Among Ruins does not disappoint in any respect.
Well, it doesn’t now that I understand something. As I said in my blog post that goes with the Because Fiction podcast episode, now that I know the goal and purpose behind Thomas Nelson’s reduction in overt Christian content in their books, I am not as bothered by the lack of it. Would I prefer to learn those lessons alongside Lily and Alec? Yeah!
But knowing that the publisher has made a deliberate effort to provide more subtle Christian content to gently reach an audience that otherwise wouldn’t pick up that book makes me have fewer expectations of them. So, where I’d usually be grumbling about the change in Ms. Ciesielski’s fiction style with her new publisher, now I can acknowledge there’s a purpose to it instead of a lack of purpose in it, so to speak.
Aside from that…
This book is artfully constructed, beautifully written, and it lingers in your mind until you can’t help but reach for it, pick it up again, and reread bits here and there. Be warned, though. The moment you do, you’re likely to find yourself flipping back to the first page of chapter one and starting all over again. You’re likely to lose yourself in this multi-layered story of personal sacrifice, sabotage, and restoration.
Recommended for lovers of historical fiction, exceptional writing, and Scotland. Not recommended for those who are looking for strong, overt Christian content. This book stays subtle but true. So glad I requested a review copy. Even more thrilled to be able to honestly say that I loved it and it’s my favorite of 2021… so far.
About the Book
Book: Beauty Among Ruins
Author: J’Nell Ciesielski
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: January 12, 2021
American socialite Lily Durham is known for enjoying one moment to the next, with little regard for the consequences of her actions. But just as she is banished overseas to England as a “cure” for her frivolous ways, the Great War breaks out and wreaks havoc. She joins her cousin in nursing the wounded at a convalescent home deep in the wilds of Scotland at a crumbling castle where its laird is less than welcoming.
Alec MacGregor has given his entire life to preserving his home of Kinclavoch Castle, but mounting debts force him to sell off his family history bit by bit. Labeled a coward for not joining his countrymen in the trenches due to an old injury, he opens his home to the Tommies to make recompense while he keeps to the shadows. But his preference for the shadows is shattered when a new American nurse comes streaming into the castle on a burst of light.
Lily and Alec are thrown together when a series of mysterious events threaten to ruin the future of Kinclavoch. Can they put aside their differences to find the culprit before it’s too late, or will their greatest distraction be falling in love?