Monday, February 10, 2014

Book Review: Born of Persuasion by Jessica Dotta


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.

Tyndale House | August 16, 2013 | 448 pages | ISBN: 9781414375557

My Review

Born of Persuasion, Jessica Dotta’s debut novel and the first in a planned trilogy, is set in mid-19th century England. When young Julia Elliston’s mother passes away and leaves her an orphan, she comes under the care of a mysterious guardian, one who plans to send her to Scotland to work as a servant. But Julia has a plan of her own to escape this fate, and only a few months to achieve it. When her plan falls apart, Julia joins forces with an eccentric dowager who places her in the direct path of a reclusive, but wealthy, gentleman. This gentleman takes an immediate interest in Julia, and she is quickly charmed by him. But there is much more to this gentleman than meets the eye, and Julia soon finds herself caught up in intrigues well beyond her control.

Born of Persuasion is full of secrets and deceptions, some of which are not fully revealed even by the novel’s end. The narrative unfolds slowly, leaving the reader eagerly turning the pages in the hope of uncovering truths and seeing treachery exposed. While Julia is portrayed as a little too meek for my liking, Dotta does a good job of conveying the uncertainty Julia feels as she tries to make sense of events and determine who to trust. Through Julia, Dotta effectively illustrates the powerlessness of 19th-century women, who had few legal rights. Desperate to avoid a life in servitude, Julia agrees to certain things without due consideration to their consequences. When she realizes she’s made mistakes, there is little she can do to change her situation.

An overall engaging novel, Born of Persuasion is sure to appeal to readers who like a heavy dose of intrigue in their fiction. I’m looking forward to reading the second installment in the trilogy.

Note: This review first appeared in the Historical Novel Review (Issue 67, February 2014)
Source: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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