Sunday, September 8, 2013

Born of Persuasion by Jessica Dotta

I usually don't read historical fiction but I am certainly glad I read this novel. Dotta says she has been working on this novel since she was nineteen. I believe it. It was good. There were a couple of defects, like the abrupt ending, but otherwise a very good debut novel.

Seventeen year old Julia Elliston is mourning her mother's recent death. She is unmarried and orphaned. It is England in 1838 and such a girl is the property of her mysterious, unknown guardian. All she knows of him is that he plans to send her off to Scotland in two months to be someone's maid. A woman offers to introduce Julia to a suitable man to marry – for a price. Julia wants to marry her childhood sweetheart but is devastated to find he is now a vicar. Julia is the daughter of a very vocal atheist and she herself was severely hurt by a man of the cloth. There is little hope of that marriage anyway as it is forbidden by her guardian.

The treachery and deception that were a part of the Victorian society soon envelopes Julia. She has the possibility of marrying a wealthy man. And she is attracted to him, even though he is twice her age. But the rumors about him are of violence. She finds herself in the middle of a deadly game and she does not know who to believe.

And as I read the book, I did not know who to believe either. Dotta did a great job keeping me, the reader, as confused as Julia as to the character of those surrounding her. I really felt for Julia as she is controlled by men who say they want to protect her, yet there is great danger lurking around every twist in the novel. I was unsure how it was going to work out until the very end. And then it ends abruptly! Either Dotta is setting us up for a sequel or, she didn't know how to resolve the remaining issues so just ended the novel.

There are many lies and hidden truths in this book. People felt they were protecting Julia but she concludes, “I have found that those trying to shield us from the truth, regardless of the reason, end up doing the greatest harm. Truth alone sets you free, not lies and omissions.”

There are discussion questions at the end of the book that are thought provoking. This would make a good selection for a reading group.

Jessica Dotta lives in the Nashville area with her family and works as a freelance media consultant and publicist. You can find out more about her at

Tyndale House, 448 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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