Book Review: Dawn at Emberwilde by Sarah E. Ladd

Posted June 12, 2016 by meezcarrie in historical, mystery/suspense, romance, Sarah E. Ladd / 18 Comments

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about the book

Isabel Creston never dared to dream that love could be hers. Now, at the edge of a forest filled with dark secrets, she faces a fateful choice between love and duty.

For as long as she can remember, beautiful and free-spirited Isabel has strained against the rules and rigidity of the Fellsworth School in the rolling English countryside. No longer a student, Isabel set her sights on a steady role as a teacher at the school, a safe yet stifling establishment that would enable her to care for her younger sister Lizzie, who was left in her care after her father’s death.

The unexpected arrival of a stranger with news of unknown relatives turns Isabel’s small, predictable world upside down, sweeping her and her young charge into a labyrinth of intrigue and hidden motives.

At her new family’s invitation, Isabel and Lizzie relocate to Emberwilde, a sprawling estate adjacent to a vast, mysterious wood rife with rumors and ominous folklore—along with whispers of something far more sinister. Perhaps even more startling, two handsome men begin pursuing Isabel, forcing her to learn the delicate dance between attraction, the intricate rules of courtship, and the hopes of her heart.

At Emberwilde Isabel will discover that the key to unlocking the mystery of her past may also open the door to her future and security. But first she must find it—in the depths of Emberwilde Forest.

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SERIES: Treasures of Surrey #2
GENRE: Historical Romance, Regency, Christian
PUBLISHER: Thomas Nelson
RELEASE DATE: May 10, 2016
PAGES: 320

“For there is a divine plan for each of our lives, and a journey, and you have started yours.”

Whenever I pick up a book by Sarah Ladd, I know I need to make sure I have a few hours carved out to do nothing but read. Why? Because I know I will be unable to do anything but read until I’ve soaked in every delightful word and each exquisite scene. Ladd’s writing evokes Austen or Bronte, a classic British style (from an American, no less) that wraps you in comforting familiarity and may even have you double checking that publication date to make sure it says 2016 and not 1816 😉

Dawn at Emberwilde book reviewDawn at Emberwilde is another such book by Sarah Ladd and may in fact be my favorite so far! I devoured it in one sitting this afternoon and I’m already wishing I had time for a re-read. The countryside setting, the vivid characters, the thread of suspense that tunnels through the plot … all of these elements held me captive.

But, it was Isabel that stood out from the rest. Well… and Colin. *dreamy sigh*

Isabel reminded me partly of Elinor Dashwood, partly of Maria from The Sound of Music (mostly there at the beginning), partly of Jane Eyre and even a little of Cinderella. Yet, Ladd wove all of these complicated facets of Isabel’s personality together into a character distinctly hers. I loved her pureness of heart, despite the difficulty she had endured thus far in life and despite the wrongs she continues to suffer as the novel progresses.

Which brings me to my next point.

This series, y’all. I adore the hidden depth to each story. On the surface this is a lovely Regency romance with a bit of mystery thrown in to add extra intrigue. But if you look a bit farther, a theme emerges that connects the books through more than just Fellsworth – the worth of a person cannot be determined based on outward appearance. This was clearly seen in the first book, The Curiosity Keeper. And it is clearly woven throughout Dawn at Emberwilde as well. Neither Isabel nor Colin are appropriately adorned for their stations, yet they are perhaps the most rich in spirit. On the other hand, several characters who externally are the epitome of propriety are in actuality the most internally impoverished.

“The most important thing to remember is that no experience is ever wasted. It is being used to fashion you into the person you are meant to be, and to move you to the place where you are supposed to go.”

Bottom Line: Dawn at Emberwilde is everything I want in a Regency romance.  Sarah Ladd immerses readers in the setting with her rich descriptions, and the gentle undertones of mystery added an almost gothic feel to the novel. Delicious swoonworthy romance will have you holding your breath and grinning in delight, though the journey is not without moments of angst that will have you holding your breath for entirely different reasons. The theme of treasure – both literal and metaphorical – continues a bit more loosely perhaps than it did in The Curiosity Keeper but with no less poignancy. (I have my theories on what the literal treasure is in Dawn at Emberwilde but I don’t want to spoil anything for you so I’m keeping it to myself for now.)  Though this is the second book in the Treasures of Surrey series, it can absolutely be read as a stand alone with no problems. If you love Jane Austen or Julie Klassen, make sure you put Dawn at Emberwilde at the top of your TBR pile!

(I received a copy of this book in exchange for only my honest review.)

My Rating: 4.5 stars / LOVED it!

KissingBook Level: 3 / May forget to breathe on occasion

Purchase a copy:

See what others are saying: Litfuse

about the author

sarah ladd

Sarah E. Ladd received the 2011 Genesis Award in historical romance for The Heiress of Winterwood. She is a graduate of Ball State University and has more than ten years of marketing experience. Sarah lives in Indiana with her amazing husband, sweet daughter, and spunky Golden Retriever.

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Other Books by Sarah E. Ladd

What about you? What do you look for in a Regency romance?

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18 responses to “Book Review: Dawn at Emberwilde by Sarah E. Ladd

  1. Kav

    Amen and amen to this review. I adored this book. The delicious feel of leaving the 21st century for a while and basking in true Regency splendour. Can’t wait for the next one.

    • Carrie

      “The delicious feel of leaving the 21st century for a while and basking in true Regency splendour.” Oh I wish I’d thought to say it like that – how lovely! And exactly what I was feeling! 🙂

  2. Rebecca Maney

    We are in total agreement, I think this was my favorite, as well . . . . . and I really loved “The Curiosity Keeper”. Sarah is displaying a new depth of skill, isn’t she? Besides, I really wanted to stand at the edge of that forest!

    • Carrie

      She is certainly getting better and better with each new book!! I don’t know that I want to stand on the edge of the forest (i don’t do outdoorsy lol) but I wouldn’t mind living on the estate 🙂

  3. Rachael Merritt

    You are so right about the date. When reading it one would thing an old English treasure was written. Although I love everyone, I think this is ,y favorite…. Or tied with Headmistress of Rosemere. She us definitely an author not to miss!!

    • Carrie

      Oh yes, Headmistress of Rosemere is another fave of mine!!! I need to re-read that one sometime soon too!

  4. Winnie Thomas

    Sarah Ladd is one of my favorite authors. I’ve loved all of her books, although I haven’t read this one yet. It’s sitting on my Kindle waiting it’s turn (big sigh)! Julianne Donaldson and Sarah M. Eden have written Regency era books, also, and they are so delicious and wonderful. If you haven’t read any of their books, you really should put them on your TBR list–immediately! They’re SO good!

  5. Winnie Thomas

    It’s so good! When I first started to read it I wasn’t sure I’d like it, but as it progressed I was so impressed with the deeper meanings and symbolism that were involved, and I ended up loving it. I remember thinking that I really needed to go back and reread it. I think it would make a great book club read, because there is so much more that you can take away from it besides just the surface story. The author kept adding little snippets to the story to show why Kate (the main character) acted and responded the way she did. I felt it was very thought-provoking and not just a “cookie cutter” Regency era novel.

  6. Andrea Stephens

    Love your review Carrie! I went to purchase this book and I found out I already have it! How did I not remember getting it? Who knows, I lost my mind a long, long time ago. Some days I get a fleeting glimpse of it but not often.
    Anyway, I’m moving this up the list. I’m writing it on a post it and sticking it to my kindle right now.

    • Carrie

      Haha!! That actually happens to me a lot lol. Especially the Kindle books. Let me know what you think of Dawn at Emberwilde once you get a chance to read it!!

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