Customer Reviews: She Walks in Beauty
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on April 3, 2010
After reading a HOST of mediocre Christian Fiction, Siri Mitchell has once again given me hope in the genre. After a litter of amish and pioneer subjects - Siri does not disappoint when it comes to historical fiction. And once more, her characters are multi-dimensional and interesting! They are not boring and predictable. Oh, Siri I could just HUG you for this book! Thank you!

Clara is a bright, intelligent woman who dreams of going to Vassar College. She lives with her wealthy, but distant and somewhat mysterious father and prickly aunt - an ambitious and socially-driven woman who is determined to help her niece marry the "catch of the ton" - Franklin de Vries. Clara is socially-anxious and is constantly concerned with what she should do and say. A welcome relief to her circle is Harold de Vries, the congenial younger brother. Her lifelong friend, Lizzie, is also a lifeline to her in this foreign land of intrigues and alterior motives.

The supporting characters are just as interesting! How did her father really earn his fortune? Were the de Vries really responsible for ruining the Carter fortune decades ago? Is a marriage between Franklin and Clara for revenge?

My ONLY regret is that I finished this book in one day and now there is no more! Siri Mitchell is a breath of fresh air in Christian Fiction. These characters are fresh, the storyline is unique and ingenuitive. And Siri is a genius. Do yourself a favor. Buy DON'T BORROW this book. You'll want to read it again.
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on April 4, 2010
I'm not a big fan of historical fiction, but I LOVED this book. Normally, I prefer Siri Mitchell's contemporary stories over the historical, but this grabbed me from the first page. The historical facts are blended nicely, giving an accurate lesson of what women and young girls went through to catch a husband. I really would love to see more of Clara - she's now one of my favorite book characters. Highly recommended, even for those readers that care little for historical fiction. Truthfully, I will read She Walks in Beauty a second time, something I rarely do.
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on April 1, 2010
She Walks in Beauty is the compelling story of one girl as she faces the pressures of late Victorian mores and family expectations. This book is for anyone who's looked at the exquisite fashion, decadent parties, lavish balls and gentile manners of the Gilded Age and said, "I should have lived back then." It's eye-opening to discover how the fashion of the day molded society, both figuratively and literally. As an amateur fashion historian I have to say Mitchell gets it right. Her research is flawless. The juxtaposition of the glittering social season against the tenements of the Bowery and the political corruption of Tammany Hall gives the book depth. But more than that, it's a satisfying love story-- a story about discovering that we can be loved just as we are.
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on August 13, 2013
After reading reviews about several of Siri Mitchell' books, I thought this one sounded most interesting, and it had good ratings. After finishing the book, I was completely stunned that it had good reviews by so many people. I typically finish a book in one sitting or as few as possible. This one took me many sittings to finish and wow... what a disappointment to get the end and realize that I had wasted my time.
The concept of the story itself was interesting... a smart young woman is forced to submit to the standards of beauty of the day, which were ridiculous and painful even, as well as to forego actual studies to instead study social graces... all so that she can win a rich heir and continue her affluent way of life. But her aunt was so extreme and overbearing that it wasn't even interesting anymore. She drove me crazy. The story was a circle of Clara and her best friend attending social events and trying to woo a rich heir.
It was a terrible romance, which is what I thought the book was in the first place. I love romance as written by Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, Deanne Gist, and Tamera Alexander. This book was nothing like those so if you like the way that they approach romantic stories, you will NOT be happy with this book. Clara (the main character) ends up with her match without much exchange between the two at all really. One of the things I really detest when reading romance books is when the author writes of a misunderstanding between the two love interests that carries much of the story and doesn't resolve until the very end. That is exactly what happened here. Very annoying to me. And lastly, the tragedy that comes together toward the end was rather out of left field and didn't flow well with the book in my opinion. I can' recommend this book at all and have no plans to read any more books by this author.
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I have extremely mixed feelings about this book. I'm of the opinion that a well-written book will hook you from the first sentence and not let go until the last. So in that regard, the book failed. I didn't truly start to enjoy it until about 3/4 of the way in. It did have some great descriptions, though the dialogue was very stilted and totally unnatural. As far as plot---there was no plot whatsoever until about halfway through the book. Until that point, it was nothing but buying ballgowns, getting fitted for a corset, and learning to be a proper debutante. That's it. It felt like I was reading a novelization of a Victorian etiquette manual! It was all very cliched, too. There was hardly any "Christian" aspect to it, just a few hymns quoted and a few musings about whether God would love her even if she didn't wear a corset.

Historical Accuracy: This is where an author really has a chance to shine. And unfortunately, this is where I had the biggest issues with this novel. The author really should have taken the time to do some research, and I don't mean reading Wikipedia's entry on corsets! Before we even get to the corsets, there's the matter of hoop skirts. The author was misinformed: they didn't wear hoops in the 1890s, which is when this novel takes place. Skirts got big in the 1890s, yes, but they wore starched petticoats for volume, not hoops.

Now, as far as corsets go, the author got it wrong on several counts. This is one of my personal pet peeves, so forgive me if I explain where she went wrong. First, a woman would not be introduced to the corset for the first time at seventeen years of age. They put toddlers in corsets (without boning) and slowly accustomed them to the restriction as they grew up. At the very least, a girl would start wearing corsets at puberty. This trained her figure as she grew and got her accustomed to the corset, so that by the time she was an adult, she was completely used to them. Second, no young lady would ever be seen in public without a corset. They were the equivalent of the bra and it was scandalous to go without one. This applies to upper classes, middle classes, and yes, even lower classes. Every woman wore a corset. Period. She would be considered "loose" and ill-bred if she didn't. Worse than a prostitute, for even they wore corsets! Third, corsets were not as painful and restrictive as the myths would have you believe! Women did NOT die of wearing them. If a corset is well-fitted to you, it's no more uncomfortable than an underwire bra. Yes, it's restrictive. You have to learn to move in a different way. Can you bend at the waist? Certainly. Not as far as you're used to, but it's not like wearing a solid steel cage. Corset bones are very flexible. You can sit, stand, walk, run, dance, sing, and even roll around on the ground in a corset. The only trouble comes when a corset is laced too tightly. THEN it can cause discomfort and pain. So in that regard, the author was correct. If her corset was laced too tightly, Clara would have been in some discomfort. But the impression given was that all corsets were horrible, no matter how tightly they were laced, and to that I protest. Fourth, eighteen inch waists were not common. The size of corset advertisements and existing historical corsets prove this. The misconception comes from the fact that a corset is not meant to be laced entirely closed. There is supposed to be a gap in the back, anywhere from two to six inches wide. This gap is not counted in the corset's measurement, so an 18" corset would fit a woman with a corseted waist measurement of anywhere from 20" to 24". Also, most women did not reduce their waists more than two to six inches in total, just enough to offset the thickness caused by so many layers of petticoats and skirt waistbands.

(Stepping off my soap-box now. Thank you very much for listening!)

One other thing bothered me. The main character faced three choices: becoming a governess, a teacher, or a wife. Yet, in the 1890s, women began branching out and doing other things. Clara should have had a great many choices as far as what to do with her life. Even the clothing of the period reflected the fact that women were entering the workforce and had need of "business" attire. So for her to despair that marriage was her only option, just because she didn't have the training to be a governess or teacher, it was a bit extreme.

All in all, I can't recommend this book or give it a high score. It's just too cliched, and too inaccurate. The main character was entirely too "modern" for the time period, which is another pet peeve of mine. If the author had done some proper research first, it would have made a huge difference. But even without the historical inaccuracies, the book is rife with sentence fragments and poor dialogue.
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VINE VOICEon April 6, 2010

From the very first paragraph, Siri Mitchell had my full attention. I read She Walks in Beauty in two evenings. I could not stop reading it!

Clara Carter is pushed into the social season a year earlier than she expected. Aunt and Father have insisted that she must win only one man's hand, the De Vries heir. No other man will do. No other handsome catch will fix the breach of honor the Carter family has endured.

Clara has difficulty learning all of the rules of the social season. She doesn't understand what her father and Aunt have lost nor why love can't play a part in this high-stake game of marriage matching.

It all comes down to money...and secrets.

Will Clara risk true love and true honor to obey her family's wishes?

The historical references to Victorian high society behaviors fascinated me. Behaviors such as super-tight corset lacing with the ensuing health issues and the desire of debutantes to have the proper, "pouty" lip.

I'm not sure we've come all that far since that era!

Siri absolutely enchanted me in She Walks in Beauty. I loved Clara and how real she seemed. A young girl, thrust into a world she doesn't want or understand, and yet who has no reason to doubt her upbringing or family's confusing demands. It is what it is...isn't it?

She Walks in Beauty is the perfect blend of rich, historical detail and glittering jewels in the ballroom. Loved it!

Check out more book reviews on my blog: thecreativesideofsteph DOT blogspot DOT com
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on February 8, 2014
I had no idea that women had to go through all they did to obtain a husband. The author did a wonderful job showing us the way it was. I fell in love with the characters and storyline. I couldn't Ppl put the book down until it was done. She writes so well one feels as if they are watching it take place instead of reading. I love this author. She also opened my eyes to want to read more about Jacob Rios and the horrible conditions of New York in the 1800's
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on February 16, 2014
I absolutely loved A Constant Heart, and was therefore extremely excited to find another book by Siri Mitchell for free. However, I had a hard time getting into this one - She Walks in Beauty - and I had to force myself through the first several chapters. All the while, I hoped it would get better. I admit, I have not finished the book. But at this point, I have no reason to believe that I will like it. And I would rather not waste my time.

Why? Well, the main thing is that it is rather fluffy, shallow, and lighthearted. With some novels, you feel immersed in the main character's environment and life. With others, you feel more so as though you are listening to someone talk and list things off. (And after a while, that talk becomes boring and hard to pay attention to.) The writing just doesn't have that rich, illustrative quality about it that makes you feel anchored into the environment of the story.

Many of the reviews for this book commented on the historical detail. I suppose this novel does have a fair amount of detail, but it is nothing new to a seasoned reader of Victorian historical novels. We all know about the tight corsets and the ways in which upper-class women were supposed to behave in society, don't we? This book didn't really teach me anything that I didn't already know.

I think this book would be more interesting if it had that sort of gothic flavor to it that A Constant Heart had. The aunt's determination to make her niece a success in society is on what I would consider a morbid level. And there were other parts of the story that could have been used to create a more gothic feel. But the writer chose to go a different direction with what I think could have been a very intriguing gothic novel.

Of course, gothic romance / romantic suspense novels are my favorite. (My favorite writers are Daphne Du Maurier and Victoria Holt.) But I know that not everyone likes that sort of thing. As far as Christian stuff goes, my favorite is probably Judith Pella. Her novels are not particularly gothic nor suspenseful. But her writing still has that exact deep, rich, anchored sort of quality about it that this book lacks. It is a little hard to define exactly what I mean. Just read the first page of Distant Dreams and compare it to the first page of this book. And maybe you'll see what I mean.

Like I said in another review, it seems that most Christian romances are written in such a way that they could be read and enjoyed by either a teenaged girl or a grown woman. But some are a better fit for one audience than the other. This is one of the ones that I think I would have liked better as an adolescent. For example, the way Clara meets with her friend every Thursday - especially the scene in which the two girls recite a promise to never let a suitor come between them - made me feel like I was reading an Alice book by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor or something. And there's nothing inherently wrong with that. I loved Alice books...when I was twelve.

Overall, I guess it just depends on what you like. I think this would be a good book for an adolescent girl who doesn't know much about Victorian society - or for a woman who enjoys lighthearted reading. Of course, I didn't even finish the book, so I can't say anything about the ending. Maybe I will finish it someday when I've run out of options that are more in line with my preferences.
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on September 9, 2012
This book was about Clara whose schoolteacher has been dismissed because her aunt now believes that her niece needs more of a social education then she needs an academic one as she is going to be making her debut in society a year earlier then originally planned. But in this debut season not any respectable man will do, but her father and aunt want her to end up engaged to Franklin de Vries. She quickly discovers that her best friend Lizzie is also scheduled to debut this year as well. Both young girls soon find themselves busy being tied up in all of the different functions and lessons that are included in preparing for the social season which takes place a little before Christmas and lasts until the start of Lent. One of the things that Clara soon learns that she has to do is that she ends up having to wear a corset twenty-four/seven which makes things like sleeping and eating a very complicated task. But unfortunately that was the fashion sense at the time as magazines published pictures of clothes and women with impossible proportions to have and I guess a number of women took that fashion ideal for gospel. This and the fact the newspapers at the time including ones very much like tabloids wrote down many of the things that took place at the differrent balls and other events that took place during the social season just like many magazines, tabloids and entertainment shows still do today with modern celebrities.
While attending the many functions Lizzie and Clara continue to remain friends even though they are both attempting to win the affections of the same guy. But Clara ends up finding herself enjoying the company more and more of not Franklin but instead his youngest brother Harry whom Clara has found hersef a lot more in common. While Clara does find herself getting caught up in the social season she is far from a snob and becomes more and more concerned about other things in the world when she reads a book that describes the plight of the poorer residents of New York City. Which thanks to a mishap later on in the book she discovers to be true as she finds herself in the vicinity of the poorest parts of New York City.
She also discovers her beloved father isn't nearly as great as she thought he was and also discovers the truth behind what caused her mother's early death. And she even finds out the reason why her aunt is so insistent on a social match and not a love match. I really liked reading this book and finding out what both happened with Lizzie and Clara and was satisfied with the ending of the story.
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on April 1, 2015
Clara Carter was a young debutante in New York City. She lived with her father and her aunt. It was the season of coming out, with balls and dinners and operas; the way to be seen by many so as to catch a husband. The family set their sites on the heir of the wealthiest family in high society. The rest of the book basically is Clara and her best friend trying to get his attention so that one or the other could marry him. it took a very long time for the gist the book to be written. At 65% through the book I still couldn't figure out where it was going.
The last few chapters really got going and I enjoyed the conflicts and resolutions.
The book was fairly well written, but not knowing what the book is actually about for so very long was a bother. It was almost entirely about what balls they attended, what restaurant they went to, what opera they were seen at, and about what gowns they were wearing, what they ate, and conversations in between. Friendly competition for the heir seemed to be the only plot.
I appreciate at the end all the things Clara learned and how she turned out . She grew up a lot, She gained wisdom and she faced many things that she needed to face. She turned into the woman she really needed to be and wanted to be.S
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