You can’t judge a book by its title…but it is the first thing you’ll notice to give you a hint at the story.
You can’t judge a book by its cover…but you should be able to get a sense of what the book is like or where it’s set.
And you can’t judge a book by its first page…but hopefully it should intrigue you enough to keep you turning pages!
For our two August releases, I wanted to give these theories a little test. As you read, think: what were my first impressions of this book? What questions did the author make me ask? What sort of story am I expecting? Then see if your answers match mine.
The Potter’s Lady by Judith Miller
Rose McKay stared out the narrow window of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. Her gaze darted between passing buggies and wagons before perusing the pedestrians traversing Broad Street. Where was Ewan? Her brother said he’d be here by two o’clock. If he didn’t hurry, they’d miss their train.
“Why don’t you sit down, Rose? Staring out the window isn’t going to make your brother appear any sooner.” Mrs. Fisk, director of the school, nodded toward one of the perfectly arranged chairs in the sitting room.
Inimitable paintings and sculptures, all of them fashioned by students who had attended the school, adorned the entry hall and sitting room where visitors were received. To have a creation displayed in either place was considered the most prestigious award any student could achieve. Each year, one student received the Excellence in Design Award. Along with the plaque came the honor of having one piece of work on display. Rose’s heart warmed at the thought of her own work joining those of the previous students. This year, she had been the award recipient. Though Rose had been honored by the announcement, her fellow students had resented the choice and had been quick to make their feelings known to her.
Rose had never been truly accepted into their ranks. She was, after all, an Irish immigrant who never would have gained entry into the prestigious school had it not been for the influence and money of Frances Woodfield, Ewan McKay’s mother-in-law. Still, the harsh comments of the other students when she’d received the commendation, as well as during the remainder of the year, had been painful.
(Continue reading the excerpt here.)
Amy’s Impressions: Love the attention to detail, especially the historical feel to the setting and language. Right away, I felt sympathy for Rose and her outcast status and was interested to know where she and Ewan were headed. Clearly, from the cover, Rose is going to be using her artistic talents in pottery, and I want to know what kind of conflicts she might encounter (and maybe learn a thing or two about pottery—it’s not a common trade for a woman in a historical novel, which is an aspect about the novel that I love).
Not by Sight by Kate Breslin
Grace Elizabeth Mabry stood in her flowing green costume on the steps outside the grand London home of Lady Eleanor Bassett, Dowager Countess of Avonshire, and clutched a tiny gold box to her chest. She knew the “gifts” she was about to bestow on the unsuspecting cowards inside would ruin Patrick Mabry’s hope that his daughter would ever gain acceptance into polite society.
All those months at finishing school, destroyed in a single act.
“Are you ready with your feathers, miss? No second thoughts?”
Grace tightened her grip on the gold box and glanced at the costumed sprite beside her. “I am committed to this cause, Agnes. ‘For King, For Country, For Freedom.’ Didn’t Mrs. Pankhurst say those very words at our suffrage rally yesterday?”
Agnes nodded. “And for Colin?”
Grace smiled. Agnes Pierpont was more a friend to her than lady’s maid. “For my brother most of all,” she said. “And the sooner we get inside and complete our task, the quicker we’ll help to win this war. Then Colin can come home.”
And Mother would have been so proud, had she lived. Grace blinked back unexpected tears. The year since Lillian Mabry’s death from tuberculosis had been difficult. Colin’s enlistment had only aggravated their gentle mother’s condition. Yet Grace was proud of her brother. He did his duty for Britain. Just as she must do hers, in any way possible—including today’s scandalous act.
(Continue reading the excerpt here.)
Amy’s Impressions: The tight pacing of the opening scene and the mention of some scandalous act (that the author lets us wonder about for a while) makes me think this book will have a hint of mystery and suspense. The era isn’t immediately obvious from the cover, but this puts it in WWI in Britain. There was a sense of glamour from the description of the dress (also pictured on the cover—fun visual connection), and I immediately got an impression of Grace’s personality—bold and determined.
I hope these quick “first impressions” tempted you to read more! Sometimes a trip back in time is just what we need in a good book.
Question for you, readers: what era of history would you most like to live in besides this one?