A Lady’s Guide to Marvels and Misadventure

Bethany House. Feb. 2024. 384p. ISBN 9780764242137. pap. $17.99. CF
DEBUT Bell’s debut novel turns The Nutcracker into a Christian-fiction romance set in 1860 London. Her once adventurous spirit broken by betrayal, Clara Stanton finds herself battling the rumors that her ex-fiancé has spread about her family. With a grandfather who creates strange automatons, a mother who rescues wild animals, and an eccentric uncle, Clara has her work cut out for her. When Grandfather Drosselmeyer takes off via flying owl, leaving a trail of clues across the continent, his mysterious apprentice Arthur, Clara, her mother, and a menagerie of animals follow. Suspicion and acrimony abound, as Arthur refuses to reveal his last name. He views himself as little more than a faulty spare part, but his unique skills may save the day. Wound tighter than her grandfather’s automaton due to Victorian societal expectations, Clara slowly begins to see the wonder and adventure around her.
VERDICT Full of whimsy and laugh-out-loud adventure, Bell’s novel will appeal to readers who like period romances with zany characters and surprising depth, similar to those from Mimi Matthews and Carolyn Miller. She is an up-and-coming author to watch.
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