I am so grateful to those readers who have taken the time to write reviews of my story on their own book blogs, Goodreads.com, Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, Kobo.com, iBooks, and other websites and print publications. Thanks!
Clara Hargraves is a clever and spirited young girl with red hair to match her fiery personality. She has just turned fourteen years old and her step-mother expects her to start behaving like a proper young lady. This is quite vexing for Clara as she loves to swim in the pond near her home; and, in her estimation, riding side-saddle is entirely ridiculous. It doesn’t help that Clara resents her step-mother (her mother’s sister), for trying to take on the role her mom once had. To make matters worse her step-mother is now with child.
A Great Book for Family/Book Club Reading
A Buss From Lafayette was so different than I anticipated. Never dull nor dragging, this historical fiction was a complete delight to read!
The Story unfolds on Clara’s fourteenth birthday. She was so angry not even her father remembered. If her mother were alive she would have remembered. This is just one reason she did not have high esteem for her former school teacher -pregnant – aunt who was so different from her mother. Still grieving over her mother’s death and angry that her father married her mother’s sister just one week after her mother’s death, Clara was full of resentment and feelings of rebelliousness.
Although Clara appeared to be introverted, this unruly young woman held strong opinions and determination within herself. She refused as much as possible to be the “proper young woman “Prissy” tried to make her into. She had “pumpkin head” red hair which brought her much grief and she would do almost anything to get rid of it. Why could she not have chestnut colored hair like her father and brother or blond like her mother and aunt?
Clara has many plans and is unnaturally interested in news events. During the course of events which unfold. . ., Clara makes new discoveries about herself, her family, and the famous General Lafayette. She becomes aware that life isn’t all that it seems and discovers strengths within herself she never knew were there.
Many points were brought up – some factual, some fictional – which causes the reader to reflect and contemplate self, life, historical events.
At first I felt the Book Cover and title were not the best, but after reading the story, they were a great fit and eye-catching enough to entice the “browser”. The characters were so real. one felt as though he/she were there associating with them. The Scenes were equally portrayed and drew the reader into the story plot.
A great book for family/book club reading. Older elementary age will surely enjoy this book! 5 Stars
– Lu Ann Worley, rockinbookreviews.com
A Lovely Story about Family, Determination, and How Perspective Can Change Everything.
A Buss From Lafayette is a historical fiction novel that takes the reader through a week in the life of 14-year old Clara. The year is 1825 and Clara lives in the small town of Hopkinton, New
Hampshire with her father, stepmother, and brother. The story centers on the town’s excitement surrounding the upcoming visit from General Lafayette, a hero and famous French aristocrat from
the Revolutionary War.
The book is written from quick-witted Clara’s perspective, and each new day’s adventures are prefaced by an entry from her diary, which provides a clever preview of the events to come. Clara feels life is unfair because of her family life, her lack of traditional schooling, and her red hair, which she is plotting to try to change to “a beautiful shade of black.” Weaved through her story are the events leading up to General Lafayette’s visit, who is known for delivering to his many
admirers a “buss”, which, at the time, was the word used for a playful kiss on the cheek.
The vivid descriptions of clothing, family relationships, period-specific customs, and daily routines create a charming picture of life in 1825, and these elements inform the senses while reminding readers that the scene is from a different era.
“How I loved the smells: cloves and nutmeg from the Spice Islands,
cinnamon from Ceylon, ginger and pepper from South America, and coffee from the West Indies. It seemed to me that the general store smelt strongly of worldly adventure.”
As a historical piece, the book dives into rich detail on Revolutionary War tales. The characters retell stories of General Lafayette, General Washington, and others, providing readers with a thorough backdrop of history to accompany the book’s main storyline about Clara. Ms. Jensen also weaves throughout the story many words and objects that are common to the era, but are likely unfamiliar to the modern reader. A glossary included in the book provides a useful way for the reader to look up historical words, thus not having to rely upon context alone to interpret.
Recommended for teen readers that have an interest in history, this book is an enjoyable introduction to the post-Revolutionary War period in America, and provides a lovely story about family, determination, and how perspective can change everything
-The Children’s Book Review
Makes [Lafayette] Come Alive
Fifty years after American independence, General Lafayette is visiting all 24 of the new nation’s states and everyone is eager to catch a glimpse of the honored guest, even 14-year old Clara Hargraves. Jensen effortlessly weaves history together with the daily trials of a girl resenting her stepmother’s reminders to behave like a lady. Most schoolchildren know Lafayette’s role in the Revolutionary War only superficially, and Jensen makes him come alive in a way they will remember. Historical accuracy, character development, and engaging dialogue enliven this narrative and make it an enjoyable read. 8.50 out of 10″ – Booklife Prize In Fiction Entry Critic’s Report
A True Feel for the Time
I’ve often heard the adage, things aren’t always as they seem. Jensen’s story is delightfully as ambiguous as her title. The line flows with gentle curves, pleasant twists, and light chuckles. Seasoned with history made most personal. I felt as if I had come upon a young girl’s journal, and as my eyes filled with its pages, I stumbled into another time and place and landed in the heart of its writer. The characters are strong, yet yielding, and not all is as it seems. The author provides a great glossary to heighten the learning and give us a true feel for the time. I truly enjoyed it. -Darleen Wohlfeil, Story Monsters Ink
A Winning Historical Tale
In Jensen’s (Frizzy, the S.A.D. Elf, 2014, etc.) middle-grade novel, a young girl in New Hampshire meets the titular, illustrious French hero of the American Revolution during his commemorative trip through America.
Clara Hargraves turns 14 on the first day of summer in 1825—a date that coincides with the one-year anniversary of her father’s marriage to Clara’s straight-laced aunt, Priscilla, which occurred only one week after Clara’s mother died. The stepdaughter and stepmother don’t get along; Priscilla considers Clara a “hopeless hoyden” for her tomboyish ways, while Clara stubbornly refuses to call Priscilla “Mama,” as her father urges her to do. Between her clashes with Priscilla, red-haired Clara chafes at the teasing of her brother Joss’ friend Dickon Weeks and her “dread cousin” Hetty—they call her “carroty pate” and “pumpkin head.” As Clara is preoccupied with her own small problems, the whole country is aflutter over “The Nation’s Guest,” the Marquis de Lafayette, who’s touring the United States to mark the 50th anniversary of the revolution; everywhere she goes, people are eager to relate tales of Lafayette’s noble deeds during the war, show off souvenirs, or share their delight in getting a wave or a buss (“a playful, smacking kiss”) on the cheek from the marquis. Her brief encounter with him will forever change how she views herself. Overall, this novel is well-researched; for example, Clara saves her pennies to buy a Simeon’s lead comb from a local store—a real-life product that promised to turn red hair “a beautiful shade of black.” Some other aspects of Jensen’s novel are predictable, however: Clara is a fairly standard spunky heroine, and her rapprochement with Priscilla is a foregone conclusion. But Jensen still manages to deliver a lot of historical facts without dull exposition—it’s perfectly plausible, for instance, that the adults in Clara’s life would tell her stories about Lafayette’s exploits, and her curiosity becomes infectious. Jensen also includes a glossary and bibliography for further reading.
A winning historical tale that may appeal to young fans of the musical Hamilton. –Kirkus Reviews
A Timely and Wonderfully Appealing Historical Novel
A Splendidly Told Tale
A Buss from Lafayette is an exquisitely detailed and beautifully penned historical fiction novel that chronicles a week’s worth of events that ultimately transform a girl into a budding young woman.
I am a big fan of historical fiction and was thrilled at the opportunity of reviewing A Buss from Lafayette and I must say the author does not disappoint. The rich detail and vivid storytelling make it easy to fall into this story. I felt as though I was transported back in time to experience life with Clara and could feel the excitement in the air as the town was a buzz with the talk of Lafayette.
The author also makes her characters easy to relate to which gives the story a sense of timelessness. It’s easy to understand Clara’s emotional struggles of accepting her stepmother, her nervousness around a certain young man, and her desire to fit in when all her red hair does is stand out. Readers will also be able to identify with the stepmother who wants to be loved and welcomed by her stepchildren, but is also dealing with the pain of losing her sister.
I think one of my favorite aspects of the story is how the author is able to weave a history lesson throughout the daily lives of her characters. Sitting around the dinner table, visiting in town, or chatting after church seem so natural that it’s easy to become engrossed in the story and forget you’re learning.
Kudos to Dorothea Jensen for a splendidly told tale. I highly recommend picking up a copy. – Stacie, Goodreads Review
Why I like A Buss from Lafayette
– We get to learn about Lafayette’s contribution to the Revolutionary War! I didn’t even know France and Spain helped America in the Revolutionary War until a while ago, and this helped me understand better.
– Clara is such a likeable character in this coming of age story. In fact, all the characters are wonderful. We get to see them mature, and we get to find out more about them when initially we had different opinions.
– The setting in Colonial New Hampshire is described really nicely and you can actually feel like you’re there! I found out lots about colonial towns and clothing. It must have taken a lot of research to write this book!
At first, I had no idea what a buss was at all. Whenever I looked up ‘A Buss from Lafayette‘ online, all I got were ways to get tickets from Lafayette, Indiana for a bus. the book tells us (and in the very informative glossary, as well) that a buss is actually a playful, smacking kiss.
I give this book an eight out of ten! It’s wonderful!
– “Violet Tiger” librarymind.weebly.com
Highly recommended! – Elizabet Filleul and Sofia, Amazon.com
Nothing to Do with Dusty History Books
This lovely jaunt into the year 1825 has nothing to do with dusty history books, but rather, brings to life the less known history of General Lafayette through the eyes of a spunky girl.
Brings History to Life
Dorothea Jensen brings history to life in this vibrant coming-of-age story about a young girl, Clara Hargraves, who is living in the time of the 50th anniversary of the American Revolution and General Lafayette’s farewell tour. What is history for us was current events for the people of that time and Jensen skillfully tells it like that. She describes hammering chips off a pound-sized block of sugar and making strawberry jam with ready-made syrup from the West Indies. Much of the history is learned through conversations that flow naturally. The characters are engaging and I enjoyed the sibling rivalry between clever Clara and her competent brother, Joss. There’s also a bit of young love by a certain admirer amidst all of the shenanigans. I highly recommend this historical novel for all middle grade and young adult readers. – Christina Morley, Amanda’s Books and More Blog
Like a Gift with a Bow on It
Nothing draws me in more than historical fiction. I love stories and I love history. With this story I was drawn in by the title of the book. I had no idea what a ‘Buss’ was and knew I had to find out. This middle grade/young adult historical fiction takes place in a 1825 New Hampshire town interweaving the historical event of General Lafayette’s 7 day tour of the region in his final farewell to the American people and the story of Clara Hargraves, the spunky, feisty fourteen-year-old heroine.
I found many elements of this book very enjoyable. First, I found the book pleasantly paced. You know the type of book when you reach the end of the chapter and are left with little morsels and tell yourself just one more chapter, I felt this way on many occasion and read later in the evening then expected. I just knew the young girl would meet Lafayette in the most bizarre manner and have a grand tale to tell.
Secondly, I found the blend of the story and the historical elements to flow seamlessly. It is evident that this author did her research and it made the story feel that much more authentic. I could easily imagine a fourteen old girl like Clara and everything that she had to face and the problems she had to overcome through the detailed descriptions of time and place as well as the use of prose gives the reader a palette for the time period and location.
In the end the ‘Buss’ from Lafayette is tied in nicely like a gift with a bow on it with Clara’s story surrounding her new sibling. It is also of interest to read about how the author made the story centred around the ‘Buss’ from Lafayette and how it is connected to where she lives and a person she knows. Read below in the author bio to discover it as well. There is nothing better in my books then a book that combines a great story with historical elements that can teach us something new.
I enjoyed reading this book and I would recommend this one to girls aged 10-15 as well. Clara the main character is dealing with similar issues girls today face even though she is in the 19th century. Feminine stereotypes, stepmother issues, new romance, and acceptance of self. And of course, the reader will learn a little bit about American History as well. -Bonnie Dani, Adalinc.org
Takes You Back in Time
Clara is a likeable teen and a 19th-century tomboy of sorts, who strides a horse and swims in the pond. On the cusp of adulthood, she experiences conflicting feelings toward Dickon, a childhood playmate who suddenly asks her to a dance. The book-ended connections about Clara’s auburn hair tie the plot together in a charming way. The narrative moves forward, in part, through Clara’s diaries and letters which offer unique insights into the red-haired protagonist. This epistolary style keeps the story interesting and engaging. Jensen sprinkles large doses of early-American history throughout the narrative, which are often recounted in stories told by old-timers or discussed at the family dinner table. In some instances, the historical references go on a bit too long and could be condensed for YA readers.
What tweens and teens will like ….
Ah, the challenge of teen years, even across the centuries! While Jensen shows Clara’s rebellious side and search for identity, Clara ultimately makes peace with the people in her life and and comes to terms with the changes they face. Best, she accepts her unique talents and physical appearance as gifts to be treasured, not scorned. This is a great read for those who love early-American history. Librarians and history teachers will want to recommend A Buss for Lafayette to girls in their classes.My Recommendation
Tween and teen girls will enjoy stepping back in time with Jensen’s historical fiction/coming-of age tale. Along with snippets of history, it offers just enough teen struggle and budding romance to keep YA readers (and history buffs) turning the page to find out what happens to Clara. – Cat Michaels, Cat’s Corner
Charming Historical Fiction
I found the story charming and very educational. I learned a lot about General Lafayette’s role in the American Revolution.
I liked Clara’s personality and the evolving relationship with her stepmother, cousin, and Dickon, who used to tease her. I think if there had been a little more interaction with each of those characters, it would have been even better.
I think fans of Laura Ingalls’ books, Anne of Green Gables, and Larkrise to Candleford would enjoy this.
Some young people might feel this is too much like a history lesson than a fun story. But it is a great way to teach history. And I happen to enjoy historical fiction! – Christina D., Goodreads
Navigating the Timeless Pitfalls of Being 14
“In this coming [of] age novel, Clara Hargraves must come to terms with a step mother she feels is trying to take her dead mother’s place, her flaming red hair that draws attention and teasing, and just being a 14 year old girl.
The book takes place in 1825 and as the title suggests, central to the story is the tour of The States by revolutionary War Hero, General Lafayette. While Clara navigates the inevitable and timeless pitfalls of being a 14 year old, the world around her is abuzz with Lafayette’s tour stops. It seems that where ever she goes the adults are discussing him and his contribution to the Revolutionary War. Against that canvas Clara gets to learn a few things about life not always being what it seems. Maybe her Evil Stepmother/Aunt isn’t the villain Clara would like to believe. Maybe her hateful “perfect’ cousin isn’t so perfect after all. And that boy who has been teasing her mercilessly for years, well just maybe he isn’t so bad either. An unexpected meeting will change her perspective on herself and her family.
Middle grade girls will immediately identify and relate with Clara. Despite the historical time gap, Clara’s life isn’t so different from theirs; Chores, boys, growing womanhood and greater responsibilities. Meanwhile, without even realizing it they will pick up an excellent education on the primary figures of the American Revolution, as well what life was like for kids their age in the early 1800’s. For that reason, I believe in a classroom setting this book would also appeal to middle grade boys.” – I Read What You Write Blog
As Good as The Riddle of Penncroft Farm!
“As a fan of The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, I was hoping A Buss From Lafayette would be as good, and it is! The characters really came to life for me and the story moved along at a good pace. The heroine, Clara, has some of the same issues as girls of today, even though she’s living almost 200 years ago! Historical fiction fans will enjoy this book, especially as it was based upon a real historical event, General Lafayette’s visit to New Hampshire. I found the glossary helpful and informative. Read it…You’ll be glad you did.” – Readnride, Goodreads Review
Delightful Historical Fiction
A Buss from Lafayette is a delightful historical fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed going back in time and reliving a bit old-fashioned American history. Dorothea’s story has a nice balance of history, suspense, scandal, twists, scenery, and memorable characters. I recommend her book for all ages as it is a good read. – Rebecca Krusee
A Lovely Book
Clara Hargraves is the heroine of [A Buss from Lafayette]. She is a young teenager living in New England, and the book is related from her point of view. She is dealing with a new step-mother (her deceased mother’s older sister) a spiteful cousin, a clueless brother, and all the intensity of being required to act more like a young lady than like a child. Add to that the visit of a nationally adored hero, the Marquis de Lafayette, and the result is a sometimes overly sweet narrative.
Clara is quite charming, and this is overall a lovely book. As a longtime fangirl of the Marquis de Lafayette, I really appreciate the loving and respectful way that he and his legacy are portrayed. A very worthwhile read. – Critter Bee via NetGalley.com
A True Act of Character
Clara – 14 year old main character; clever as a whip; suffers teasing for her read hair; resentful of her aunt becoming her stepmother
Joss – Clara’s older brother; a jester and jokester; dislikes having to help Clara with chores
Priscilla – Joss and Clara’s aunt-now-stepmother; very pregnant; wants Clara to be a proper lady
Father – supportive of Priscilla; kind and gentle type
Dickon Weeks – the older boy who teases Clara incessantly
Hetty – Clara’s mean, snotty, snobby cousin; she loves any opportunity to put Clara down
Lafayette – a kind, chubby man who saved the nation; he is back in the States for his farewell tour
I did indeed feel as if I had wandered into the Cinderella story. How confusing that my fairy godmother and my wicked stepmother are turning out to be the same person, I thought. But my stepmother is not really wicked. She is just not my mother.
The Highs and Lows
- Historical aspect. The book revolves entirely around Lafayette’s part in the American Revolution, for which he is now known as the National Guest. In almost every chapter there is something that brings back the focus to Lafayette and continues to explain various pieces of history leading up to true separation of the colonies.
- The State of the Family. Back in the day, it was common for a brother to marry his brother’s widow and look after the family. Although not as common, the reversal is true, too. Caroline Hargraves passed only a little over a year prior to the book’s beginning. Her sister Priscilla, who taught school for years in Boston, has returned home and married Caroline’s widowed husband. They are now expecting a baby any day.
- – Clara’s Behavior. At times Clara had major outbursts and said some very hurtful things. She’s 14 and her mother died barely over a year ago, and now her schoolteacher aunt has become her stepmother and is very pregnant. It is a lot to take in while still grieving, and I can understand the resentment. What surprised me, though – especially for the time and the belief in such highly respectful attitudes towards your elders – was that Clara’s father never punished her. Or even spoke to her about her outbursts. Those moments did not seem plausible to me, given what I have read in the time period.
- + Dickon Weeks. Clara and Dickon have grown up together what seems like their whole lives. During that time Dickon picked on Clara constantly. In fact, the word she used was “tortured.” As the book plays out, an increasingly embarrassed or disappointed Dickon shows his feelings for Clara, who completely misses them by miles. She still believes he is up to his no good tricks, but all the signs the author gives about Dickon’s behavior reveal how much he likes Clara. It was sweet and cute and the classic story of “he teases you because he likes you.”
- – Hetty. She is atrocious! Just awful! There is even one point where, in front of her own mother and Priscilla, she says something incredibly rude to Clara, and both older women are shocked. She is so ill-spirited! (And narcissistically egotistical.)
- + Clara’s Growth. Over the course of the book, more aspects of Priscilla are revealed. Indeed, she doesn’t seem like such the wicked stepmother Clara believes her to be, and eventually Clara must confront her very own notions. She looks at things as they really are, instead of how she perceives them. This helps her get past her grief and accept her new family the way it is. To go from such strong resentment to acceptance and kindness at the end takes a true act of character, and it leads up to what happens at the end of the book.
- The Lafayette Scene. In a moment of despair and private crying bout is when Clara meets the National Guest, General Lafayette. It is a beautiful and sweet scene, and even though I don’t believe the scene to have any historical merit, it makes me like the man even more. This is where the title gets its name. I didn’t know what a “buss” was until I reached this point, and then it all made sense.
- The Afterward. There is an afterward and a glossary at the end of the book that explains further some of the historical relevance of the time. I found it very helpful to be included.
This was a historical book heavily founded on the American Revolution, and certain key players in it. What I liked most was how Clara seemed to resolve her issues with Priscilla, Hetty, and Dickon in such realistic ways. Clara is a bit of an introvert, and it takes her a while to figure things out and the best way to approach them, but she does, and things end up slowly falling into place. –girlofathousandwonders blog
A Warm, Funny, Coming-of-Age Novel
“Dorothea Jensen has written a warm, funny, coming-of-age novel about a 19th century teenage girl who lives on a farm in Hopkinton, New Hampshire. Set in June 1825 as the Town and its inhabitants prepare for General Lafayette’s Farewell Tour visit, the story begins on June 21 and ends 6 days later, the day that Lafayette pays Hopkinton (and Clara) a call. A lot happens in that fateful week; and we see Clara morph from a precocious, rambunctious, somewhat petulant 14-year old into a wiser, more mature young adult.
Jensen sketches her characters with short but believable strokes. Clara, her aunt/stepmother, Priscilla, her brother, Joss, the boy Dickon and her cousin, Hetty, are vividly and sympathetically portrayed. Lafayette is, well, Lafayette, charming and oh so French. Jensen also paints what appears to be an authentic portrait of life in 1825 New Hampshire as well as the Nation’s response to Lafayette’s final visit to his adoptive land.
The story has a number of twists and turns, but the plot is resolved in a satisfying, wholly heart-warming dénouement. Though A Buss From Lafayette is billed as a young adult novel, it is truly a tale for adults of all ages.
– Alan R. Hoffman, President, American Friends of Lafayette; President, Massachusetts Lafayette Society; translator, Lafayette in America in 1824 and 1825, by Auguste Levasseur
One of My New Favorites
“This book is one of my new favorites. It has a believable storyline. It is set on Gould Hill road in Hopkinton, New Hampshire and is based on a real event that happened in June 1825. The storyline moved along at a good pace and was always interesting. It has a taste of romance and lots of bravery. I couldn’t put it down! It was educational too! This book is a Historical Fiction Novel and has many facts about Lafayette and his great deeds helping the Americans win the war against the British. It taught me a lot about American independence and clearly showed me what life was like in the 19th century. I would highly recommend this book to girls who are 9 and up. This was a fabulous book and I definitely will reread it!” – Sara (an 11-year old New Hampshire girl)
Entertaining and Educational Read
“This book takes the reader back in time to the year 1825. Clara is fourteen and her stepmother is trying to teach her how to be a lady. Her stepmother was looking more like a fairy godmother and less like a wicked stepmother. Clara wanted to learn as much as she could about this Frenchman who had done so much for her country. Entertaining and educational read.” –Kay Lalone Blog