Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Illuminations of the Heart by Joyce DiPastena

I first met Joyce DiPastena when her book, Loyalty's Web, was up for a Whitney Award in 2007. I like to read all the Whitney Finalists, and I thoroughly enjoyed Loyalty's Web—even though it was a romance. Medieval romances don't bother me as much as modern-day romances. In fact, I kind of like them. (Shh, don't tell Julie.)

So when Joyce asked if I'd like review her newest book, Illuminations of the Heart, I jumped at it. I started reading it as soon as it arrived from her publisher, Walnut Springs Press.

Promo Info:
Her heart is lost in that first embrace, her world shaken to its foundations. There is just one problem: her name is not Clothilde. It is Siriol de Calendri.

Trained in the art of illumination in the far-off city of Venice, she is directed by her late brother's will to the county of Poitou in France, where she enters the guardianship of her brother's friend, Sir Triston de Brielle. Once in Poitou, Siri hopes to find employment in an illuminator's shop -- until Triston unexpectedly snatches her heart away with a kiss.

Triston is a man of quiet honor and courage, but the guilt he carries for the death of his late wife, Clothilde, has left him numb and hesitant to love again. Worse yet, Siri bears an uncanny resemblance to his lost love. Or does she? Her merry laughter and twinkling eyes are very different from his late wife's shy smiles and quiet ways. Yet when he gazes into Siri's face, all he sees is Clothilde.

Then Triston's past returns to threaten them both. Will his tragic life with Clothilde be repeated with Siri? Trapped between the rivalry of the king's sons on the one hand and a neighbor out for vengeance on the other, Triston realizes it would be safer to send Siri away. But how can he bear to lose her again?

Siri is determined not to be cast off and not to live in another woman's shadow. She has illuminated many a priceless book with pen and paint. But can her own vibrant spirit illuminate the darkness in Triston's soul and make his heart beat for her alone?
This is one hefty book. At 425 pages, it's a longer read than I usually enjoy in a romance, and sometimes I thought the personal issues could have been resolved a little faster, but overall, I hardly noticed the length of the book because I was caught up in the story line and the historical aspects.

For me to really recommend a historical romance like Illuminations, it absolutely must meet certain criteria:
  • A believable, self-assured, strong-spirited heroine, who is likely to take matters into her own hands—Siri definitely fits the bill.
  • A hero/love interest that is compelling for reasons other than his good looks—it took a while for me to warm up to Triston, but he won me over.
  • A plot line that is more than just falling in love—there's some mystery, mistaken identity, some politics. Plenty more than just two people trying to get together.
  • Well-written, well-researched and historically accurate—this was amazing. I felt like I was actually there.
  • Some twists and turns that I didn't see coming—I'm not going to tell you what they were because that would ruin the fun. But it was great to be surprised.
  • I must get lost in the story and forget what time it is in my real-life—uhm, yes. I was late for a doctor's appointment because of this book.
  • Clean—no details from the bedroom—I could recommend this to my mother and my daughters with no hesitation.

Illuminations of the Heart met all my criteria—and more. I give it a 4 out of 5 for a romance.

You can purchase the book at Amazon.com or DeseretBook.com

You can read more about Joyce and her projects at her website. And if you're interested in medieval vocab or you want to read other reviews of this book, be sure to visit her blog.

And for all of you who actually read all the way down to the bottom, there's a CONTEST! Joyce is the queen of online contests (I just won a bunch of books from her. Thanks, Joyce!) For this contest, four awesome prizes are up for grabs:
An autographed copy of Illuminations of the Heart or one of three $10 gift certificates to go towards a purchase of one of Joyce's books.

To enter to win, simply leave a comment on this post. Yep, it's that easy. To earn more chances to win, visit the other stops in the Illuminations Blog Tour and leave comments there too. All comments on all Blog Tour posts will be thrown into a pot—the more you comment, the better your odds of winning!

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