Book Review: Crown of Beauty by Cecily Wolfe (Cliff Walk Courtships #2)

Happy Friday y’all!

Today I get to share with you a review of another fun historical romance! This is the second book in the Cliff Walk Courtships trilogy (find my review of book one here!), which I am really enjoying.

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Title: Crown of Beauty (Cliff Walk Courtships #2)

Author: Cecily Wolfe

Genre: Historical Fiction (18th c), Christian Romance

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Catherine has everything she needs and all of what she wants. Or does she? Raised in opulence in New York City and the beautiful shores of Newport, Rhode Island, she has never wanted for anything, but when her parents begin to pressure her about marriage, she insists that she doesn’t want one arranged for her. She would much rather stay home and read than socialize or, worse, select a husband who might not approve of her reading habit. Her father insists that she spend time helping at her brother’s homeless shelter to understand how privileged she is, and her wariness of love and marriage is tempered when a mysterious young man with intense blue eyes is brought, cold and wet, to the shelter doorstep one night.

Will wakes up in a strange room with vague memories of being caught in a thunderstorm as he began to search for shelter for the night after making his way to Newport from New York City. A beautiful girl sits beside him, but she leaves his care to another in what he assumes is shyness. The shelter offers assistance in ways he could only dream of, and as he searches for work and a home of his own, he finds himself drawn to the girl who ran from him when he first woke up. The two are drawn to each other, sneaking glances in spite of her brother’s disapproval, but Will’s secrets will test the love that grows between them.

Book two of the Cliff Walk Courtships series features Arthur’s sister Catherine in her own discovery of faith, love, and hope against the backdrop of gorgeous turn of the century Newport, Rhode Island.

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My Thoughts:

Much like the first book in the Cliff Walk Courtships series, Crown of Beauty contains more than a hint of whimsy and fairy tale-like qualities. Spoiled but responsible Catherine Davenport has never paid much attention to anyone outside of her social circle, but she did not mean to snub them, either. However, due to some of the events in the first book, she now finds herself thinking about and even interacting with some of the very people of whom she was previously ignorant. Her outlook and attitude start to change when her parents decide she should volunteer regularly at the shelter her brother runs, and this is where her unlikely romance begins to unfold.

There is much about this story that I find very unlikely, but not so much so that I was unable to get into it. Still, falling in love with someone who does not remember who they are but turns out to be rich and influential really is something that would only happen in a fairy tale or story book – but aren’t these kinds of things exactly what we expect in a romance book?

Unlike Josie and Arthur from Throne of Grace, Catherine does not have a solid understanding of faith or Christianity. Instead, she has a only a vague idea of such things, but she is eager and willing to learn more. Despite Catherine’s lack of knowledge, prayer is an influential part of her journey. The faith aspects in Crown of Beauty are more subtle than in Throne of Grace, but are appropriately portioned for the story being told.

It was a bit more difficult for me to get to know these characters than it was with the first book. We have a new (but already mentioned) protagonist who narrates most of the story, and her unfamiliar voice seems almost guarded at times. Catherine is more naive than Josie or Arthur, so her narration tends to be light. She is simply a little more difficult to get to really know, which isn’t bad, just different!

I did not agree with a lot of Catherine and Will’s (her love interest) decisions. The way they handled things is, again, naive and impulsive. Their relationship basically boils down to love at first sight, which is fine in a book, but in reality would not stand on its own. I was disappointed that they never really got to know one another; they spend so much time being infatuated, and Will must deal with so much besides their relationship, that I worry a little about their ultimate compatibility and ability to remain happily together. However, *MINOR SPOILER ALERT* the book does not end with a proposal, but rather a kiss and revelation, so perhaps they will allow time to develop their relationship into something that can persevere. *END OF SPOILER*

Catherine and Will really do have a lot to deal with from an emotional perspective. From family responsibilities (vastly different ones for each), to discovering truth, to figuring out their true identities, there is always a lot going on in their heads! I would have liked to see them confide in one another and learn to be supportive with this. Each is separately called out on their selfishness, and this could have been an ideal opportunity to set it aside.

The Verdict:

Crown of Beauty is a fun, lighthearted, clean romance. I enjoyed reading it, but I did have to set aside my logic and suspend quite a bit of reality in order to be fully behind the romance. I recommend it for fans of Christian Historical Romance with a heavy dose of fluff but a Biblically solid core.

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Reviewing books in a series that can also stand alone is always interesting. There is a ton of overlap from the first book in the Cliff Walk Courtships to the second, and definitely some spoilers if you read the second before the first, but they also contain significant differences. Even though they are related the protagonists are so different, which impacts many things.

I liked the way that Biblical messages are sprinkled throughout Crown of Beauty without always being obvious. This, I felt, is one of the more realistic aspects. Catherine and Will learn to pray the same way we must: by hearing about it and trying it often. At the same time, there are a lot of things left unaddressed. The Will we meet is nothing like the one we hear about from his past, and there is no real transition between the two: there is simply the Will we know now, and the stories we hear about him. I found this a little incongruous. If he really was as reckless and disgraceful as is implied, I would expect even more hesitancy from Catherine’s parents to permit their acquaintance.

Side note: I feel rather sorry for the Vanderbilt boy Catherine’s parents try to marry her to. He is never given a name or allowed any direct action in the story, and I have to wonder if he even knows that his parents are trying to arrange his marriage to Catherine. At one point Mrs. Davenport mentions that he might look favorably on Catherine’s uncommon desire to spend so much time reading, and he is always spoken of positively. I have to wonder also how he and his family deal with Catherine’s quick rejection of him. Perhaps in a later book we might get his story?

Overall, I enjoyed reading Crown of Beauty very much, even if I did not anticipate or agree with the ways that Catherine and Will’s relationship is navigated!

Have you ever read a book that you loved, even though you had to suspend reality frequently? Which is more important to you: an engaging plot, or a realistic one? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Until the next chapter,

Jana

*I received a complimentary copy of this book and happily provided my review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

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