Divine Toys Book One
This is a wonderfully entertaining first installment of what promises to be a wholly absorbing saga. The author's erudition and enthusiasms are effortlessly woven into an entirely convincing depiction of just how a troubled child from a hick background, blessed with a God-given talent, rises through adversity to the top of her profession as an opera singer. Its verisimilitude is re-enforced not only by Thistle Brown's acute understanding of human psychology but also her integration of historically sound, properly researched contextual circumstances including the cars, fashions, tastes and mores of the early 20C.
Her fascination with opera and the voice informs both the story and the reader as she steers us through the tribulations of Harriet Clark (aka, for a while, Lolita Cavalieri); she simultaneously manages to weave into the tale her love of words and languages as things integral to the worldview of a singer. I am also impressed by her ability to present a realistic account of masculine thinking and the mental topography of those in the married state - something, I suspect, of which she has profound personal experience!
This is an elegantly written novel for the erudite and cultivated reader which sustains throughout the kind of tantalising tension Jane Austen employs when she dangles before the reader the possibility of a relationship whose consummation is constantly being derailed and disrupted by accidents of fate, yet one hopes and knows that ultimately those obstacles will be overcome.
It leaves the reader hungry for more - and fortunately, that will be forthcoming in the sequel, "Brave White Horses".
From Clarion Review: Thistle Brown writes a smart, sophisticated story steeped in literature and music.
Divine Toys: Book One is a remarkable story steeped in literature and classical music that takes the reader from the poor countryside of Arkansas to the culture and sophistication of Chicago in the early 1900s. Harriet Clark, at only four years old, has a gift: She can play the piano and sing. Delighted when her mother acquires piano lessons for her, Harriet, nevertheless, is confused and pained by her mother’s sudden frigid attitude. At age nine, with skills that transcend even her teacher’s own abilities, Harriet is referred to Jed Thorne, the Episcopal priest, for further development of her talents. For nine years, he gives her lessons in music and culture as Harriet endears herself to his family. When he realizes he has taught her all he has to offer, he finds her a couple in Chicago to live with in order to further her studies, in exchange for teaching their two young daughters.
Chicago, with its sophisticated culture and endless opportunities, becomes an instant attraction for eighteen-year-old Harriet, who is experiencing a world away from home for the first time. Taking to the Norwood family immediately, especially their two daughters, Harriet, still young and innocent, finds herself in a world that is full of challenge, opportunity, and enticement. As Chicagoans meet and fall under the spell of the enchanting singer and pianist, Harriet herself falls under the spell of Paul Marsh—a married father of two—and soon finds her world collapsing around her.
Divine Toys brings a new level of culture to the reader’s bookshelf. A story rich with touches of Latin, German, and Italian, it also explores the world of classical music by way of Mozart, Beethoven, and Schumann sharing information about writers and musicians: “Beethoven’s dear friend Schiller, a poet so revered that there’s a bronze statue of him in Lincoln Park that I bet you’ve seen, wrote a poem called ‘An die Freude.’ In English it’s called ‘Ode to Joy.’” Though the book is filled with such Information, it is interesting enough to maintain readers’ complete attention even as it enhances the narrative.
Thistle Brown, pen name of author Nancy Dent Eckert, writes with thoughtful prose in a novel that demonstrates both a personal knowledge of music and literature as well as a talent for research. She captures her characters vividly: “The Rev. George Craig Stewart was accessible, however prepossessing. At his height, he should have been mildly comical, but his power, and the ability to touch people’s hearts, and his charisma, were undeniable.” Moments such as these make it easy for readers to become immersed in the story.
Despite the plainness of the cover, Divine Toys is a remarkably well-written book. Due to some sexually explicit content, it may be best suited for adults. • Tammy Snyder
Divine Toys Book Two
Brave White Horses Book One
Brave White Horses Book Two
Brave White Horses: Book Two continues with familiar characters, and with more attention to the families Drew, Marsh, and Norwood, their lives entwined with the frailties along wit the strength to enable a certain freedom which brings great joy ...
... and the deepest of sorrows.
Yet the families manage their lives with something resembling valor. And it is this keenly felt, however unrecognized trust, that brings them through disasters large and small.
A Taste for Truth
Fiction/General, a first-person narrative that begins in 1986, Briefly, fat girl makes good. Anne Kinsman has been sewing since she was a toddler. At the age of twelve, she begins designing and sewing for classmates, one of whom said, "If you can sew for yourself, you can sew for normal people." Yes, she is forever reminded that she is not "normal." However, her home business eventually turns into a company that serves only large women, and with flare. When she meets a gentleman, she is thirty-six and a virgin. Moreover, she finds the father she had adored, is a bigot and cannot tolerate her finance because he's a Jew. And he is the catalyst that triggers the coming apart of a family who is middle upper class and reveals their true selves, one by one. "True selves" comes as a surprise to Anne, who tends to believe that her friends and family are "nice." Her taste for truth is not shared by everyone, and an irascible old woman, in her irascible own way, holds many secrets, and let's them appear in her own , never sweet, time.
From Kirkus Reviews: A newlywed uncovers some unsettling family secrets. Anne's strong narrative voice guides the story through WASP family get-togethers, newlywed clashes and office politics, offering pointed observations about relationships. Lively writing, brisk pacing and a likable narrator fill out this promising debut.
From Clarion Review: The juxtaposition of the happiest day of Anne's life against the most tragic of circumstances, coupled with disturbing uncertainties about the man she loves, creates plausible tension from start to finish. The book aptly examines the fragile realities of two people who enter into a marriage with conflicting expectations, a theme that will resonate with women of all ages who are still seeking "happily ever after." Christina Hamlett for Clarion