Friday, August 31, 2012

Unwrapping: Review of BURNING EMBERS by Hannah Fielding

A few weeks back an author new to me - Hannah Fielding - wrote me to tell me about her new book, BURNING EMBERS from Omnific Publishing. She asked me to read and review. I was so intrigued by the nature of the this romance that I purchased the book rather than asking for a review copy. I'm still going to give Miss Fielding her honest and unscripted review.


Coral Sinclair is a beautiful but naïve twenty-five-year-old photographer who has just lost her father. She's leaving the life she's known and traveling to Kenya to take ownership of her inheritance--the plantation that was her childhood home--Mpingo. On the voyage from England, Coral meets an enigmatic stranger to whom she has a mystifying attraction. She sees him again days later on the beach near Mpingo, but Coral’s childhood nanny tells her the man is not to be trusted. It is rumored that Rafe de Monfort, owner of a neighboring plantation and a nightclub, is a notorious womanizer having an affair with her stepmother, which may have contributed to her father’s death.

Circumstance confirms Coral’s worst suspicions, but when Rafe’s life is in danger she is driven to make peace. A tentative romance blossoms amidst a meddling ex-fiancé, a jealous stepmother, a car accident, and the dangerous wilderness of Africa. Is Rafe just toying with a young woman’s affections? Is the notorious womanizer only after Coral’s inheritance? Or does Rafe’s troubled past color his every move, making him more vulnerable than Coral could ever imagine?

Set in 1970, this contemporary historical romance sends the seemingly doomed lovers down a destructive path wrought with greed, betrayal, revenge, passion, and love.

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BURNING EMBERS is Hannah Fielding's debut novel and you all know how I love a debut author and their first novel. I was drawn to this one because of its unique setting, year, and because I thought there might be a mystery lurking in the background of this African set story.

Coral Sinclair has returned to her first love, her first home, Kenya after the man she planned to marry cheated on her and after she learned of her estranged father's death. All of her years in England with her mother and stepfather had not thwarted her desire to return to her beloved Kenya. Upon arrival, she realizes that although her memories of Kenya had not changed, Kenya had and so had her beloved African home, Mpingo. Her thoughts of the past were only pushed aside by the thoughts that now plagued her regarding the attractive stranger that she met on the boat. There was something about him that would not allow her brain or her body's awakening desires to forget him. The last thing she expected to discover was that he was her neighbor and had been a good friend of her father, a lover to her stepmother, and an artist who had painted her without ever meeting her.

Rafe de Montfort is a wealthy, charming, womanizing, and tortured man. He knew Coral Sinclair the moment he saw her on the boat because he'd painted her image so many times that he was unable to not recognize every detail of her face. His attraction to her drives him crazy with want of her yet he believes himself to be the last man worthy of her, her innocence and her trust.

BURNING EMBERS by Hannah Fielding is one of those books that as you're reading it, you're not wholly sure that you're enjoying it. It starts out slow - almost too slow. The first chapters are filled with too much backstory. It's information that we need to know but I think it could have been spread out a bit throughout the story. Once I was into the real story, I relaxed and tried to get to know the characters. The characters, although not as endearing as I'd like them to be, were interesting. They fit the era of the book and they were believable. Coral, was a tad too immature for a woman of twenty-five and it wasn't just because she was a virgin. She was, as Rafe referred to her, spoiled and immature. Rafe, on the other hand, was difficult to see as a mature man of thirty-five considering the era. Just as I had to remind myself that Coral was not a young debutante, I had to remind myself that Rafe was not a young twenty-something man.

I was also disappointed that the mystery that was hinted at in the first chapters of the book was never actually realized in the latter part. I never quite connected the mystery of the secret basement rooms - other than the portraits - to the warnings by the mishiriki or witch doctor and her yaha, Aluna's great dislike and distrust of Rafe.

The real star of BURNING EMBERS was the setting. Hannah Fielding created a backdrop for this story that held me spellbound. Using her travel experiences, she is able to weave a wonderful written image of Kenya and the time period so that I felt as if I was truly in Africa. It's her talent here that tells me that since this is her debut novel, she will grow as an author and I fully expect her next novel to be uniquely more intriguing. As a debut author, Hannah Fielding has won me with her imagery even as her storyline and characters were the weak points of her novel.  I am confident, having experienced her ability to use the written word to paint such a scenic backdrop, that she will only get better with her next novel. I will eagerly look forward to reading her next endeavor.

I recommend reading BURNING EMBERS by Hannah Fielding not because it's an expert work of literature but because it's a work that will capture you with its unique time setting and its beautiful imagery. It's a romantic book without exception and whereas you may not necessarily fall in love with the characters, you will surely fall in love with the setting.

Happy Reading Everyone!

BURNING EMBERS by Hannah Fielding, Omnific Publishing, available now in print and ebook formats.


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