Book Review: Born of Persuasion, by Jessica Dotta

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BornofPersuasionMy copy of Born of Persuasion has a very interesting history. I ordered it before I left for the ACFW conference in Indianapolis last fall and read the first several chapters on the plane. I set it on the desk in my hotel room once I arrived, intending to read it on the way back. Unfortunately, in the jumble of books and clothing and all around madness of packing up to leave, one of my roommates packed it in her suitcase and took it home to Arkansas, where it waited until I realized I couldn’t find it and she realized that she had it. When she sent it back to me several months later, I was in the middle of a tight editing schedule and shoved it onto a shelf.

Fast forward another four months. I’m browsing Lifeway Books and come across the second book in Jessica Dotta’s series—the cover of which is just as gorgeous as the first—and wonder, “What did I do with the first book? I really liked that and I never finished.” Found it abandoned in my TBR bookshelf (read, floor to ceiling shelving in my living room), opened it, and didn’t put it down until I finished it. How did I not read this before? First of all, I should say that I’m not a Regency purist. I can take or leave Jane Austen. But I am a huge fan of Victorian literature, particularly the Gothic romance. Born of Persuasion is the perfect melding of Regency manners and restrictions with the creepy, dark, and mysterious. Let’s take a quick checklist of required elements:

  • Young woman with dim prospects for marriage – CHECK
  • Mysterious neglectful guardian – CHECK
  • Creepy manor house – CHECK
  • Brooding, attractive master of the house – CHECK, CHECK, AND CHECK AGAIN

And really, let’s face it, the character of Mr. Macy has charisma I can only liken to a black hole: no matter how hard you, the characters, and the story elements try to resist his pull, he drags everything in with the sheer force of his irresistible broodiness. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, he steals the show.

That, I think is why the story works so well. Normally, I’d be irritated by a protagonist who is this wishy-washy and constantly changes loyalty, but Dotta draws her plight with such realism and intensity, you almost can’t blame Julia for not knowing which end is up. I’m suspicious of everything in a Gothic novel, and even I didn’t know who to trust. Throw in Macy and his black hole personality, warping light and dark until you have no idea if he’s a hero or villain, and I can’t at all fault Julia for her bad decisions.

So, bottom line: if you love Gothic novels, if you clutch your battered copy of Jane Eyre to your chest on your twentieth reread, or you just want a good, engrossing tale, pick this one up. My copy of Mark of Distinction is on its way to me now, so I’ll be back with a review of that one soon.

About Born of Persuasion

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.

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