Born of Persuasion
by Jessica Dotta
Expected Publishing Date: September 1, 2013
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House
Obtained Via: I was sent a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my opinion of the work.
Format Read In: Advanced Reader’s Copy
View from the Traffic Light:
(from back of the book):
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.
Upon first finishing this book, I had to check the back several times to make sure I got the Publisher right. I kept turning the book over, and sure enough seeing Tyndale House listed as the publisher. For those who don’t know, Tyndale is a Christian publisher, and while I knew that going into this book, I will say I am quite confused that this is published by a Christian publisher, because there’s really no more religious elements than I would expect of a historical fiction piece published by any publisher in which one of the main characters is a church official. Sure, religion is discussed some, but the book never feels preachy or forced. I just wanted to state this upfront because really, in my mind, this classifies mainly as just historical fiction, without the religious connotations.
Born of Persuasion is a tightly-crafted novel, and I never felt like a single word was misplaced. Dotta used just enough words to set the mood and atmosphere without being overly descriptive. As far as that atmosphere, it’s by far my favorite thing about the novel. The book was pitched to me as being similar to Jane Eyre in that it is also a Gothic novel, and I think that’s a fair description. I’m a huge fan of Gothic novels, and I want to explore the setting of this book SO much. I like the house more than the characters.
Unfortunately, I’d have to say the characters were the weak point of this novel. They never felt quite real to me. I was halfway through the book before I felt like I had an even decent handle on Julia’s character and the things that drove her. Sometimes Julia managed to annoy me quite a great deal, but her situation was so fragile and delicate that I felt I understood her frustration.
The plot to the book is one where you never quite know who to trust–should Julia trust this man, should Julia confide in him? And the thing is, those gender pronouns can be substituted for pretty much every male character in the novel. There’s a lot of intrigue and deceit going on underfoot, while everything was completely civil on the surface. Every time there was a meal, as I reader I just felt like I could picture all the guest of the house staring at each other, trying to figure out who to trust, like a game of clue. The acerbic dialogue between the characters was spot-on and was perhaps the aspect that really made me invest in the plot.
Final Impression: Despite not quite understanding why this book is classified as Christian historical fiction, I enjoyed the tale. Historical fiction is not a genre I always enjoyed, but I loved the Gothic atmosphere, the setting, and Dotta’s writing. I felt the characterization was slightly lacking in the beginning, which meant I had some trouble getting invested and getting through the first few chapters, but once it took off I was intrigued. 3/5 cupcakes.