Review: Beauty Among Ruins by J’nell Ciesielski

Last year I read one of J’nell Ciesielski’s novels and fell in love. She writes such wonderful historical fiction and when I saw this book was coming out, I cracked it open the second it arrived.

The cover is absolutely stunning and I thought this one sounded so good. I love WWI romances and Downton Abbey and that’s basically what this book sounded like…..a nice little war romance for fans of Downton Abbey!

As soon as I started it I couldn’t put it down! It was such a great read and for the most part read fairly quick. I loved the characters and of course the romance! I also have to admit that even though this book wasn’t out until now (2021) I read it in 2020 and it definitely made my top 10 list of 2020! Such a great book!


In Ciesielski’s latest sweeping romance, an American heiress finds herself in Scotland amid the fallout of the Great War, and a wounded Scottish laird comes face-to-face with his past and a woman he never could have expected.

American socialite Lily Durham is known for enjoying one moment to the next, with little regard for the consequences of her actions. But just as she is banished overseas to England as a “cure” for her frivolous ways, the Great War breaks out and wreaks havoc. She joins her cousin in nursing the wounded at a convalescent home deep in the wilds of Scotland at a crumbling castle where its laird is less than welcoming.

Alec MacGregor has given his entire life to preserving his home of Kinclavoch Castle, but mounting debts force him to sell off his family history bit by bit. Labeled a coward for not joining his countrymen in the trenches due to an old injury, he opens his home to the Tommies to make recompense while he keeps to the shadows. But his preference for the shadows is shattered when a new American nurse comes streaming into the castle on a burst of light.

Lily and Alec are thrown together when a series of mysterious events threatens to ruin the future of Kinclavoch. Can they put aside their differences to find the culprit before it’s too late, or will their greatest distraction be falling in love? (summary from Goodreads)


I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed this one! Alec stole the show for me. He was dashing, honorable, loyal, and under all that anxiety about his estate and stubbornness, he was incredibly romantic. While he was serious and sometime a little grumpy, I thought Lily brought out the romantic in him and gave him hope in so many ways. Lily was hysterical without really trying to be. She endears herself to readers easily and readers will find themselves smiling at her optimism and charm. She reminded me of an adult Pollyanna with her ability to see the positive in any situation. I adored her and it made sense that she and Alec would fall in love with one another.

The romance between the two felt epic and full of challenges for each character. There was nothing forced or out of character for them and I enjoyed watching them overcome their own insecurities independently as well as together as a couple. My heart did break a couple of times as things came up and came between them but I loved watching them return to one another and work out their issues. There was so much growth that happened between both Alec and Lily which I really enjoyed watching unfold.

In addition to the characters and romance, the castle took on a life of its own and I felt like the author really captured the state of the ‘upper crust’ during WWI. I find WWI so fascinating not just on a military level, but the social shift that happened as result of the war was unparalleled and in this book the author really showed that with the castle. So many estates during the war struggled without staff to maintain them not to mention the financial ramifications of the upper crust. In this book, the castle is literally falling apart and there are no funds or even people to keep it up and it fell into a massive state of disrepair. Add the dramatic backdrop of the war and you have a wonderfully heartbreaking tale of social change and struggle. I think the author did really well highlighting this.

The only thing I struggled with was the kind of out of left field epilogue. I won’t give anything away but I just felt that Alec’s return left things too opened ended for me. I personally didn’t feel like the epilogue was needed, or maybe to that degree. What should have been a nicely wrapped up ending felt like it opened a door for more questions at the very end. If you have read it then perhaps you noticed it too and we can discuss but if not then I won’t spoil it. The overall story though was strong and this minor thing wasn’t enough to make me drop my rating at all. I still went with 5 stars because it was so wonderful. If you love historical fiction do not miss this one!

Book Info and Rating

Paperback, 416 pages

Expected publication: January 12th 2021 by Thomas Nelson 

ISBN0785233563 (ISBN13: 9780785233565)

Free review copy provided by publisher, Thomas Nelson in partnership with the HFVBT book tour, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.

Rating: 5 stars

Genre: historical fiction, war romance

Available for Pre-Order

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

About the Author

With a passion for heart-stopping adventure and sweeping love stories, J’nell Ciesielski weaves fresh takes into romances of times gone by. When not creating dashing heroes and daring heroines, she can be found dreaming of Scotland, indulging in chocolate of any kind, or watching old black and white movies. Winner of the Romance Through the Ages Award and the Maggie Award, she is a Florida native who now lives in Virginia with her husband, daughter, and lazy beagle.

Learn more at You can also find J’nell on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, January 6
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Thursday, January 7
Review at Read Review Rejoice

Friday, January 8
Review at The Green Mockingbird

Saturday, January 9
Review at Reading is My Remedy

Monday, January 11
Review at Jorie Loves A Story

Tuesday, January 12
Interview at Books & Benches

Wednesday, January 13
Review at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals

Thursday, January 14
Excerpt at Heidi Reads

Friday, January 15
Review at The Lit Bitch
Review at Amy’s Booket List

Saturday, January 16
Review at Nursebookie

Monday, January 18
Review at Books, Cooks, Looks

Tuesday, January 19
Guest Post at Novels Alive

Wednesday, January 20
Review at Novels Alive

Thursday, January 21
Review at Hallie Reads

Friday, January 22
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books


We have 5 paperback copies of Beauty Among Ruins up for grabs!

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on January 22nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Beauty Among Ruins

2 thoughts on “Review: Beauty Among Ruins by J’nell Ciesielski

  1. Thank you for such a wonderful review! And thank you for realizing how romantic Alec is, not just broody which he totally is 🙂 It just took the right woman to bring out the Romeo in him. I’m so so glad you enjoyed it!

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