I am thrilled to be sharing another of Mysti Parker’s works! I fell in love with her writing last year after reading her Tallenmere series. If you wanna know more about those books, you can read my reviews here, here, and here. Hearts in Exile really got to me. Mysti has also appeared on the blog a couple of times (here and here). She’s a much loved author in the Land of 1000 Wonders.
I was excited when she asked me out of the blue if I would read her newest work, A Time for Everything. I knew nothing about it, but I didn’t need to! Right now A Time for Everything is on sale! It is such a wonderful read with a lot of character growth. It’s a lot of warm fuzzies. 🙂
Title: A Time for Everything
Author: Mysti Parker
Publisher: EsKape Press
Release Date: July 2015
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Historical Romance
After losing her husband and only child to the ravages of the Civil War, twenty-five-year-old Portia McAllister is drowning in grief. When she sees an ad for a live-in tutor in another town, she leaves everything behind in hopes of making a fresh start. But as a Confederate widow in a Union household, she is met with resentment from her new charge and her employer, war veteran Beau Stanford.
Despite their differences, she and Beau find common ground and the stirrings of a second chance at love—until his late wife’s cousin, Lydia, arrives with her sights set on him. Burdened with a farm on the brink of bankruptcy, Beau is tempted by Lydia’s hefty dowry, though Portia has captured his heart.
In another time and another place, his choice would be easy. But love seems impossible amid the simmering chaos of Reconstruction that could boil over at any moment into an all-out battle for survival. Will Beau and Portia find their way into each other’s arms, or will they be swept away by raging forces beyond their control?
***** Review *****
Grief-stricken Portia “Po” McAllister needs a fresh start. She can’t keep relying on her late husband’s family to care for her, so she answers an ad to tutor a young boy. She makes the move and quickly realizes she is not as welcomed or sure about this idea. As a Confederate widow going into a Union household, there was a lot of disdain over differences of opinions in a time when they were highly volatile…and could get one killed because of them.
But Portia is there to teach young Jonny. Education is something that Portia values strongly, and she sets to work immediately with her charge. There’s just a few problems that are snags in Portia’s well-laid plans, which she takes in stride. She quickly becomes Jonny’s confidante and champion. His isn’t the only heart she’s stolen, but things all change when young, buxom Lydia Stanford waltzes back into town with her eyes dead set on marrying Beau.
Beau’s late wife, the war, and the aftermath at home all play pivotal roles in the novel that affect Beau’s and Portia’s decisions.
Portia – She is a young widowed woman who is at the end of her rope. Answering the Stanford’s ad for a tutor is her saving grace. She is outspoken, determined, and capable. Despite coming from a Confederate household, she by no means believes in the tenets of the Confederacy, and welcomes the opportunity to teach black children. She begins to heal in her work with Jonny, and has the best of hearts and intentions.
Beau – Beauregard Stanford is a middle-aged man who suffered gravely due to the Civil War. Like Portia, he lost his dear wife during the war, and as a result he lost it. This has impacted all around him, and caused a great rift between him and his son. He is struggling emotionally, mentally and physically. He works incredibly hard to build up the horse farm business to what it was before the war.
Jonny – Jonny is only ten, but he has seen ugliness of the world. He has not spoken since his father returned from the war and lost his mind, as Bessie puts it. He is a bright, kind boy who yearns for the love of his father. He blossoms under Portia’s TLC and teaching.
Ezra – Ezra, or Pa, is Beau’s father. Despite his age, he is very much involved in the running and upkeep of the place. He has been known to meddle and try to set Beau up with a new wife, however, Portia’s hiring is all for Jonny. Ezra is hands-on in the work under Beau’s directions, but has no problem asserting his authority.
Bessie & Isaac – These are a beautiful married couple, “the help” around the place. They are free, but stay with the family. Bessie and Isaac raised Beau like their own son, right alongside their own. Bessie’s role is largely compromised as an unofficial mother.
Harry – Harry is like a brother to Beau and quite a charmer. They grew up together, went off to war together. They come home together, but Harry never recovered from his injuries. Instead, he has found a way to numb them, and it is a nasty business he gets mixed up in, and he tries Beau’s patience many times.
Lydia – The little cousin of Beau’s late wife, she is the spitting image of Claire, but not at all the same. Where Claire was kind and gracious, Lydia is not. Both women come from monied, socialite families. Lydia can bat her eyelashes like an angel and whisper cruelties in her next breath.
Beau and Harry have a complex life, intricately woven around the vestiges of the war.Whereas Beau came home and grieved and locked it all away to recover, Harry found other, unsavory and dangerous, means of dealing with his pain. It is something that Beau does not condone, but also does not put a stop to, and it comes at a price. A very high price.
Portia and Jonny develop a beautiful and loving relationship once Jonny accepts Portia. Jonny blooms under Portia’s loving care, because Jonny requires that before he can let her in. They become each other’s companions as Jonny grows and confides in Portia.
Bessie and Portia also develop a beautiful friendship. It is stunning how much growth occurs in their relationship, from the cold hatred in Bessie’s voice, eyes and manner when Portia first steps into the Stanford home, to the tears of pain and heartache when she leaves it.
I’ve read Mysti’s work before, and there is always a beautiful love story seamlessly weaved within. I knew I could expect that, but I didn’t know much more.
The cover looks like a typical romance read, right?
The book is SO much more than that. It’s a complex web of societal constructs in a very important historical time.
There is definitely the statement of equality stated, given the context of the setting, but I think the more overarching theme of the novel was acceptance and love. Accept those for who they are – judgement free – and simply love them. No one is not worth love.
Portia highly values education, and is in the minority in her thoughts that black children also deserve an education – as a right. She is challenged to teach a black child, and she does rise to the occasion. Despite all of the Stanford household’s first opinions of Portia, she has a heart that is wide open to love. She doesn’t have one bad bone in her body.
There is not a dull moment in Portia’s new life. Something is always happening, and as volatile as the war was, so is the Stanford household and the emotions Portia feels. Beau opens up to her slowly, but once Lydia arrives to stake her claim, things quickly go downhill. I wouldn’t say they regress – but there is a serious decline in their relationship.
Lydia Clemons. Pure evil smothered in blonde curls and a dress. Although Lydia does show character growth, and has a memorable exit, I still couldn’t really get behind liking her. She complicates so much in life when she comes back into town with her parents, and her father further complicates the lives of Beau and all those he loves. The backlash of the time is evident, and the threats on life are real.
Portia is such a beautiful character. She is ready to walk away from what she has come to love in order to give Beau the space he needs to do what he needs to do for those he loves, and for what is right.
***** About the Author *****
Mysti Parker (pseudonym) is a full time wife, mother of three, and a writer. Her first novel, A Ranger’s Tale was published in January, 2011 by Melange Books, and the second in the fantasy romance series, Serenya’s Song, was published in April 2012. The highly anticipated third book, Hearts in Exile, came out in June 2013. The Tallenmere series has been likened to Terry Goodkind’s ‘Sword of Truth’ series, but is probably closer to a spicy cross between Tolkien and Mercedes Lackey.
Mysti’s other writings have appeared in the anthologies Hearts of Tomorrow, Christmas Lites, and Christmas Lites II. Her flash fiction has appeared on the online magazine EveryDayFiction. She serves as a class mentor in Writers Village University’s seven week online course, F2K. Currently, she’s working on her first historical romance and has two children’s books in the hands of a hard-working agent.
When she’s not writing, Mysti reviews books for SQ Magazine, an online specfic publication, and is the proud owner of Unwritten, a blog voted #3 for eCollegeFinder’s Top Writing Blogs award. She resides in Buckner, KY with her husband and three children.