Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: My Heart Belongs in Galveston, Texas by Kathleen Y’Barbo

368Journey now to Galveston, Texas, of 1880…
Where is Mrs. Smith’s granddaughter?  Who is the mysterious Mrs. Smith?

Pinkerton agent Jonah Cahill is hired by the mysterious widow to find her lost granddaughter, rumored to be living in Galveston, Texas. Though Jonah prefers to travel alone, Mrs. Smith insists that she and her companion accompany him. Madeline Latour, investigative reporter, has been acting as Mrs. Smith’s assistant for several months, and Madeline will not allow anyone—even a Pinkerton agent—to ruin the story of a lifetime. The pair forges an uneasy truce as the investigation grows dangerous.

Is there a bigger story beyond a missing girl to be revealed?

More from My Heart Belongs in Series…
My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss: Priscilla’s Reveille by Erica Vetsch (January 2017)
My Heart Belongs in the Superstition Mountains: Carmella’s Quandary by Susan Page Davis (March 2017)
My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho: Rebecca’s Plight by Susanne Dietze (May 2017)
My Heart Belongs in the Shenandoah Valley: Lily’s Dilemma by Andrea Boeshaar (September 2017)

My Thoughts: Galveston, a Pinkerton agent, partners at odds, romance, and mystery: There was every reason for me to pick up this novel!
The setting really came to life, so I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Galveston. The book opens with a mysterious letter and a life-altering storm. I was hooked from the start and the mystery unfolded at a nice pace and kept me engaged.
Sadly, I wasn’t able to fully connect with the main characters so that hindered my enjoyment. But the mystery was a delightful puzzle and the plot continued to evolve.

Rating and Review: I’m giving it 3.5 stars and recommending it to those who enjoy light historical mysteries or Christian historical fiction fans.

~ I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

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Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Falling For You by Becky Wade

231Famously beautiful model Willow Bradford is taking a temporary break from her hectic schedule to work as the innkeeper at her family’s small-town bed-and-breakfast. She was enjoying the peace of her hometown, Merryweather, Washington, right up until she came face-to-face with Corbin Stewart, the man she loves to hate. A thoughtful rule-follower by nature, Willow threw caution to the wind four years ago when she entrusted her heart to Corbin–and suffered the consequences when it all fell apart.

Former NFL quarterback Corbin is forceful, charming, and accustomed to getting what he wants . . . except where Willow Bradford is concerned. Unable to forget her, he’s never stopped regretting what happened between them. When their paths unexpectedly cross again, he’s determined to make her give him a second chance.

When a decades-old missing persons case finds Corbin and Willow working together, they’re forced to confront their past and who they’ve become–and whether they can risk falling for one another all over again.

My Thoughts: There was a lot here that I really, truly enjoyed. But sadly there were some things but bugged me more than I expected. I was excited to revisit the Bradford sisters, and I look forward to hearing Britt’s story next. I can’t count the number of times I laughed out loud while reading Willow’s snarky comments and then melting at something charming that Corbin said. Overall, I really liked their story and their relationship. Wade brings a lovely message about forgiveness and the consequences of sin.
However, I struggled when the story hit a lull shortly after the opening chapters. Solving the mystery, which was fantastically written, kept me coming back. There was a plot twist toward the end of the novel that felt forced and, quite frankly, frustrating. But Wade pulled it out in the end and brought something beautiful out of it. I was very glad I stuck with it.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving Falling For You 4 stars and recommend it to fans of Christian Contemporary Romance.

~ I received a copy from Bethany House. I was not compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: A Rebel Heart by Beth White

333Five years after the final shot was fired in the War Between the States, Selah Daughtry can barely manage to keep herself, her two younger sisters, and their spinster cousin fed and clothed. With their family’s Mississippi plantation swamped by debt and the Big House falling down around them, the only option seems to be giving up their ancestral land.

Pinkerton agent and former Union cavalryman Levi Riggins is investigating a series of robberies and sabotage linked to the impoverished Daughtry plantation. Posing as a hotel management agent for the railroad, he tells Selah he’ll help her save her home, but only if it is converted into a hotel. With Selah otherwise engaged with renovations, Levi moves onto the property to “supervise” while he actually attends to his real assignment right under her nose.

Selah isn’t sure she entirely trusts the handsome Yankee, but she’d do almost anything to save her home. What she never expected to encounter was his assault on her heart.

What I Loved: I was won over from page one. The first two chapters, in particular, were explosive, and I knew I was going to love this book. There was a mild mystery/suspense thread woven here that kept the plot moving forward. The Daughtery family was engaging, and I look forward to visiting them again in future books.
In terms of spiritual content, White brings a lovely story centered around forgiveness and benevolence.
Simply put, I loved it! A Rebel Heart was one of my reading highlights for the month.

Rating and Recommendations: I’m giving A Rebel Heart 5 stars and I recommend it to those who enjoy Christian historical fiction or those looking for fiction in the Reconstruction Period.

~ I received a copy from Revell. I was not compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Where the Fire Falls by Karen Barnett

226Stunning Yosemite National Park sets the stage for this late 1920s historical romance with mystery, adventure, heart, and a sense of the place John Muir described as “pervaded with divine light.”

Watercolorist Olivia Rutherford has shed her humble beginnings to fashion her image as an avant-garde artist to appeal to the region’s wealthy art-collectors. When she lands a lucrative contract painting illustrations of Yosemite National Park for a travel magazine, including its nightly one-of-a-kind Firefall event, she hopes the money will lift Olivia and her sisters out of poverty. 

    After false accusations cost him everything, former minister Clark Johnson has found purpose as a backcountry guide in this natural cathedral of granite and trees. Now he’s faced with the opportunity to become a National Parks Ranger, but is it his true calling? 

    As Clark opens Olivia’s eyes to the wonders of Yosemite, she discovers the people are as vital to the park’s story as its vistas–a revelation that may bring her charade to an end.

My Thoughts: Karen Barnett has quickly become one of my favorite authors. It’s hard to describe exactly why that is. Where the Fire Falls is another hit from Barnett. Her characters are well developed. The plot continues to evolve. The mystery was nicely woven in and kept me guessing longer than I expected it to. The setting, both the era and Yosemite National Park, come to life and meld together with the rest of the story in a flawless way.
The only thing I would have liked was for Olivia’s salvation to have been more clear. But Barnett’s Vintage National Park series is a gem, and I can’t wait for the third release. It’s already on my must-have list for 2019.

Rating and Recommendations: I’m giving Where the Fire Falls 5 stars and recommend it to those who enjoy Christian Historical Fiction or stories about artists or wildlife.

~ I received a copy from Net Galley. I was not compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin

229In 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a “Wren” in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. Dorothy pieces together reconnaissance photographs with thousands of holiday snapshots of France–including those of her own family’s summer home–in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt will turn into naval bombardment plans.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn to love. Dorothy must resist its pull. Her bereaved father depends on her, and her heart already belongs to another man. Wyatt too has much to lose. The closer he gets to Dorothy, the more he fears his efforts to win the war will destroy everything she has ever loved.

The tense days leading up to the monumental D-Day landing blaze to life under Sarah Sundin’s practiced pen with this powerful new series.

What I Loved: When I think WWII fiction, I immediately think Sarah Sundin. She’s become such a staple in the genre and for a good reason. I’ve come to expect from Sundin a well-rounded story, loveable characters, clean romance, solid Christian message, along with rich and vivid historical details. The Sea Before Us is one such novel.
The history lover in me enjoyed an up-close look at part of the planning that went into D-Day. I found the map-building process to be enlightening. I also enjoyed another look at the life of an Englishmen during the later years of the war.
Much of the naval details fly over my head, but I can appreciate Sundin’s research and attention to detail. It’s clear that she put a great deal of work into this novel.
One of the things I always praise in a Sundin novel is her characters. She has a way with creating humble Christian characters. There were some solid threads on forgiving yourself, selflessly serving others, being who God created you to be, and trusting Christ with things you can’t control.
From page one, she starts off with a gripping backstory of three brothers that will be the foundation for the entire series. I can’t wait for the rest of the series to discover what happens with the other two brothers!

Rating and Recommendations: I highly recommend this one to those who enjoy WWII fiction, Christian Historical Fiction, or Christian War fiction. I’m giving it 5 stars.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: April and May’s Backlist Reviews: 3 in 1

New releases are great! And there are some wonderful new releases out so far this year. But I enjoy picking up something new from the something old section. These are the books I read from my backlist collection this month.
*All links lead to Goodreads unless otherwise stated.

278Daughter of the Regiment by Stephanie Grace Whitson:

Irish immigrant Maggie Malone wants no part of the war. She’d rather let “the Americans” settle their differences-until her brothers join Missouri’s Union Irish Brigade, and one of their names appears on a list of injured soldiers. Desperate for news, Maggie heads for Boonville, where the Federal army is camped. There she captures the attention of Sergeant John Coulter. When circumstances force Maggie to remain with the brigade, she discovers how capable she is of helping the men she comes to think of as “her boys.” And while she doesn’t see herself as someone a man would court, John Coulter is determined to convince her otherwise.

As the mistress of her brother’s Missouri plantation, Elizabeth Blair has learned to play her part as the perfect hostess-and not to question her brother Walker’s business affairs. When Walker helps organize the Wildwood Guard for the Confederacy, and offers his plantation as the Center of Operations, Libbie must gracefully manage a house with officers in residence and soldiers camped on the lawn. As the war draws ever closer to her doorstep, she must also find a way to protect the people who depend on her. 

Despite being neighbors, Maggie and Libbie have led such different lives that they barely know one another-until war brings them together, and each woman discovers that both friendship and love can come from the unlikeliest of places.

My Review and Rating: From one Civil War fan to another, this one is a gem! I enjoyed the new-to-me perspective of a woman’s role in a regiment. Whitson introduces 2 memorable characters for me: Noah, and Hero, the dog.
There were a couple of Catholic “praying to the saints and/or to Mary” moments, but the rest of the religious content followed a general Protestant angle.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one from start to finish!
I give it 5 stars!

 

279A Heart Most Worthy by Siri Mitchell:

The elegance of Madame Forza’s gown shop is a far cry from the downtrodden North End of Boston. Yet each day Julietta, Annamaria, and Luciana enter the world of the upper class, working on finery for the elite in society. The three beauties each long to break free of their obligations and embrace the American dream–and their chance for love. But the ways of the heart are difficult to discern at times. Julietta is drawn to the swarthy, mysterious Angelo. Annamaria has a star-crossed encounter with the grocer’s son, a man from the entirely wrong family. And through no intent of her own, Luciana catches the eye of Billy Quinn, the son of Madame Forza’s most important client. Their destinies intertwined, each harboring a secret from their families and each other, will they be found worthy of the love they seek?

My Review and Rating: Spectacular sums up my thoughts on this one! From the very beginning, Siri stepped outside of the norm with the use of an old-fashioned narrator. And I loved every single minute of it!! I can imagine some readers probably complained because technically Siri was “head-hopping” by modern standards. But I found it to be absolutely charming. I will say this: I listened to this one in audio. I can imagine that I might have tripped over the narrator just a bit if I had read it in physical form. But in audio (which FYI the lady reading the book did an excellent job!!) having a narrator seemed quite natural since you typically listen to someone tell a story more than you read it in that format.
The story itself was fantastic. But I will note that the religious content was highly Catholic for those who wish to know. There were some solid themes on the consequences of sin and rebellion as well as God’s forgiveness woven throughout the story. There were lots of Catholic traditions and beliefs sprinkled throughout as well.
I not only urge you to add this one to your TBR list, but I vote you grab the audio version if you can so you can enjoy the Italian accents. She’s certainly one of my favorite audio narrators to date. It’s a 5 star book for me!
*Link will take you to Amazon so that you can preview the audio version.

 

334

Dear Mr. Knightley (Audio Version) by Katherine Reay:

Samantha Moore is, to say the least, bookish. An English major of the highest order, her diet has always been Austen, Dickens, and Shakespeare. The problem is, both her prose and conversation tend to be more Elizabeth Bennet than Samantha Moore. But life for the 23-year-old orphan is about to get stranger than fiction.

An anonymous, Dickensian benefactor calling himself Mr. Knightley offers to put Sam through Northwestern University’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism. There is only one catch: Sam must write frequent letters to the mysterious donor, detailing her progress. As Sam’s dark memory mingles with that of eligible novelist Alex Powell, her letters to Mr. Knightley become increasingly confessional. While Alex draws Sam into a world of warmth and literature that feels like it’s straight out of a book, old secrets are drawn to light. And as Sam learns to love and trust Alex and herself, she learns once again how quickly trust can be broken.

I have actually reviewed this one before so you can catch my original review here. But if I’m reviewing it again, it must be among my favorites. 😉 I had the chance to get a copy of the audio version and decided that I would enjoy hearing the story all over again. I’m really enjoying it just as much as I had when I read it the first time.
In terms of the audio version, I’m only giving it a 4.5 stars. The narrator has this slight whine to her voice that pops up from time to time. It’s the type of thing that bugs me to listen to. Everyone will have different narrator preferences so you’ll want to preview the audio for yourself. But the annoyance was enough to keep from being head over heels in love but not enough to keep me from listening to a beloved story.
*The link I provided in the title will take you to Amazon where you can preview the audio.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: English Through the Ages

305

Lists words, grouped by subject, that were in use in different time periods, including prior to 1150, and in increasingly smaller ranges to the present.

They didn’t offer much of a description, so let me help you out:

This is one of those gems that, as a historical author, I wish someone had told me about sooner. Not only is it helpful, but it’s flat-out fun to read. Ok, I just admitted to having fun reading a dictionary. I’m aware of how that makes me look, but I don’t care. Lol Did you know they were using the word “kicks” for shoes by 1905?! Or “rock” as another word for diamond? Or that “groovy” was in use by 1945?

As with any book, there could always be more information or more words added, but this is a great overview of a wide variety of words, subjects, and eras. Here’s the breakdown:

Eras:
1150
1350
1470
1500
1550
1600
1650
1700
1750
1800
1825
1850
1875
1900
1910
1920
1930
1940
1950
1960
1970
1980
1990
The way the eras work, is they’re showing you words that were in use BY that particular era. So if you wanted to know what new words were commonly used in 1955, you’ll look under 1960.

And here are the categories they cover in each era: 
Geography/Places
Natural Things
Plants
Animals
Weather
Heaven/Sky
Energy
Time
Age/Aging
Mathematics
Measurement
The Body
Physical Description
Medicine
Everday Life
Shelter/House
Drink
Food
Agriculture/Food-Gathering
Cloth/Clothing
Fashion/Style
Tools
Travel/Transportation
Emotions/Characteristics
Thoughts/Perception/The Mind
Love/Romance/Sex
Family/Relations/Friends
Holidays
Games/Fun/Leisure
Sports
Professions/Duties
Business/Commerce/Selling
The Workplace
Fiances/Money
Language and Speaking
Contractions
Literature/Writing
Performing Arts
Music
Education
Religion
Society/Mores/Culture
Government
Politics
Life
Death
War/Military/Violence
Crime/Punishment/Enforcement
The Law
The Fantastic/Paranormal
Magic
Interjections
Slang
Insults
Phrases
General/Miscellaneous
Things
Description
Colors
Actions/Verbs
Archaisms

There’s an Index in the back where you can look up a word and find where it falls in the timeline. They tell you if the word is a noun, verb, adjective. With some words, they offer a brief explanation and other words, they believe to be self-explanatory (although, I’ve found some that I would have liked an explanation for.)
The book is helpful in showing you when a word is first documented, but it doesn’t show you how it faded from use or reappeared years later. Take the word “groovy” for example. They claim it was in use by 1945 and yet we know it as a word from the 1970s.
Overall, this a great book to have on hand. Even if it doesn’t address ALL your questions, it’ll address many and/or make for a great conversational piece later.

 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Engaging Mr. Darcy by Rachel John

233“Angry people are not always wise.” – Jane Austen

After a standoff in the pizza parlor, Elsie Bennet has decided Fitzwilliam “I-Throw-Fitz” Darcy is the worst customer she’s ever encountered. Also the best looking, but that’s beside the point. She’s horrified to discover Will is not just passing through her small town, he’s her new neighbor.

Will Darcy has all the money and time he could ask for, and yet life never seems to meet his expectations. When his best friend, Charlie, starts dating Jane Bennet, Will becomes their unhappy third-wheel. The solution? Bring along Jane’s sister, Elsie, a girl who challenges him, makes him laugh, plagues his thoughts, and unfortunately, hates his guts.

Will might control a lot of things, but he won’t control her. Elsie’s already been warned away by her new friend, Jeff Wickham, who found out the hard way that Will is not someone to be crossed. Things would be so much simpler if she was attracted to Jeff. But she’s not. She’s attracted to Will, and the tug-o-war between her mind and her heart is going to drive her mad.

A modern day take on Pride and Prejudice with all the characters you know and love.

What I Loved: I was first smitten with the cover, then the concept. But from page 1, I was taken in by Rachel’s world and writing style. Rachel John was a new author to me. I found her to be refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable.
As for the story … Engaging Mr. Darcy is the best contemporary retelling of Pride and Prejudice that I’ve read. Her translation of the events and characteristics of Austen’s infamous story were spot on. They were creative, yet natural. While I’m familiar enough with the original story to know what to expect, the story wasn’t completely predictable.
This is slightly different from my normal read in that it wasn’t a Christian novel. But it IS a clean novel. There wasn’t anything offensive here.

Rating and Recommendation: I loved Engaging Mr. Darcy and recommend it to Jane Austen fans or those looking for a clean contemporary read. I’m giving it 5 stars.

 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischof

332

A Tale of Family, Brotherhood, and the Healing Power of Love

After the tragic death of her husband, Aven Norgaard is beckoned to give up her life in Norway to become a housekeeper in the rugged hills of Nineteenth-Century Appalachia. Upon arrival, she finds herself in the home of her late husband’s cousins—three brothers who make a living by brewing hard cider on their three-hundred acre farm. Yet even as a stranger in a foreign land, Aven has hope to build a new life in this tight-knit family.

But her unassuming beauty disrupts the bond between the brothers. The youngest two both desire her hand, and Aven is caught in the middle, unsure where—and whether—to offer her affection. While Haakon is bold and passionate, it is Thor who casts the greatest spell upon her. Though Deaf, mute, and dependent on hard drink to cope with his silent pain, Thor possesses a sobering strength.

As autumn ushers in the apple harvest, the rift between Thor and Haakon deepens and Aven faces a choice that risks hearts. Will two brothers’ longing for her quiet spirit tear apart a family? Can she find a tender belonging in this remote, rugged, and unfamiliar world?

A haunting tale of struggle and redemption, Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a portrait of grace in a world where the broken may find new life through the healing mercy of love.

What I Loved: I loved this one!! From the very beginning, I was hooked. I liked the mountain setting, and the addition of the KKK was a treat for this historical fan. I was a little wary about the focus on brewing and consuming hard cider. Bischof is an author that I was eager to pick up without having fully read the description, so I wasn’t prepared for this. But by the end of the book, I was satisfied with the way she handled it. I thoroughly enjoyed the love story and the love triangle was a nice touch.
For me, the highlight was Thor. It’s rare to have a hero with a disability, so he stood out to me right away. I think she did a great job displaying his form of communication, as well as his struggles (both with alcohol and communicating), and his strengths.
Sons of Blackbird Mountain is the first of a series, and I can’t WAIT to see what Joanne has in store for us next! There are certainly some redeemable characters left to look forward to.

Rating and Recommendations: I’m giving it 5 stars and recommending it to Historical Christian Fiction fans or those looking for a stand-up hero with a real disability.

~ I received a copy from NetGalley. I was not compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own.

*Sons of Blackbird Mountain releases on July 3rd, so be sure to add it to your TBR or Wish list. This link will take you to Goodreads.

Posted in Book Reviews

GIVEAWAY!! Plus Author Interview and Book Review: A Holy Passion by Alicia G. Ruggieri

228“My heart begins its slow crescendo at the news. Mr. Brainerd – my Mr. Brainerd – has come at last.”

After a few scant years of solitary missionary work among the American Indians on the colonial frontier, David Brainerd has been forced off the field once more by his terminal illness. A man who has sacrificed every earthly comfort for the sake of Christ, he takes refuge in the home of Reverend Jonathan Edwards, eminent Great Awakening theologian and pastor… and the father of a young woman named Jerusha. 

Unbeknownst to David, Jerusha Edwards has nurtured an affection for him since she met him long ago. Their renewed acquaintanceship challenges Jerusha to understand the meaning of selfless, Calvary love. Yet does such love demand too great a sacrifice for her to make?

Told with an emphasis on the known facts of Jerusha and David’s relationship as well as his missionary undertakings, this novel carefully embellishes the historical record, weaving a bittersweet tale of romantic, holy devotion.

 

I’ve packed a great deal in this blog post for you. A Holy Passion is a fiction book based on non-fiction events and characters. You’ll find my interview with the author, my review, and a giveaway for a paperback copy. Enjoy! 

My Interview with Alicia G. Ruggieri:

What was your inspiration for A Holy Passion?
My husband, Alex, and I used to live in Rhode Island, and we liked to take weekend jaunts exploring interesting places in New England. One time, a few years ago, we stayed at an old inn that had named its rooms after historical inhabitants of the town in which it was located. Our room was named after a young woman who had been captured by American Indians during a raid. At the time, I mentioned to Alex that I’d like to write a novel about that young woman. Well, I didn’t end up writing about her, but the idea of writing a colonial-era story got stuck in my mind for good. Sometime after that, I remembered a little book on my sister’s bookshelf: The Life and Diary of David Brainerd. I had never read the book, but I’d read a brief history of his life somewhere else and found him admirable. I also remembered that the biographer had mentioned that it was possible that the resolutely-unmarried missionary had entertained a romantic relationship with Jonathan Edwards’ daughter, who cared for him on her deathbed. Well, at that, the wheels of my writerly mind began turning… So that was the start of it!

How much research went into this novel? Did you research before or during the writing process?
As I started this project, I wanted to be sure that I accurately represented the people depicted in it (most of them are real people that we will meet in heaven someday), and so I really tried to delve deeply into both secondary and primary sources. The novel includes a list of some of the sources I used. Though most of the research was book-based, one of the fun parts of the research included traveling to Yale in New Haven and to Northampton, Massachusetts, to see the actual places Brainerd would have seen.
My research for this novel began well before the actual writing started and ended… Has it ended? 🙂 The fun – and sometimes heart-stopping – part of writing historical fiction is that there’s always something new to learn and another side to the story that you can explore.

Are there any books you’d recommend for us to read to learn more about David Brainerd?
If you only read two books on David Brainerd, read his Life and Diary. Alongside it, read David Wynbeek’s Beloved Yankee. Wynbeek’s book will make the Diary come to life for you. It’s out-of-print, but it’s the best and most readable adult biography of Brainerd available, in my opinion.

What was the most surprising thing you learned about these people?
One of the things that surprised me was the legacy that Brainerd left. This man died unmarried and childless; never graduated from seminary; and most of his work on the mission field, with the exception of the Crossweeksung revival, appeared a failure. He spent most of his own spiritual life in deep discouragement, and his body basically fell apart by his late twenties. This doesn’t sound like the kind of man who leaves a great legacy, does it?
Yet, over and over, I found Christians since Brainerd’s death who pointed back to him as their spiritual father, as the one who passed the torch to them, through his honest, God-seeking diary and through his life’s example of incredible endurance, made possible only by dependence moment-by-moment upon the Holy Spirit. Jim Elliot, Hudson Taylor, William Carey, and Henry Martyn are just a few of these who were encouraged as a result of Brainerd’s life and work.

Could you relate to any of them? In what way?
Oh, yes! That’s one of the things that drew me into the story and kept me writing… These “characters” are real – they existed – we can go and visit their graves – and their experience of the Christian life was also real. In Hebrews 12:1, the Bible talks about how we have a great cloud of witnesses, those who have gone before us. We can look at their testimony and know that God’s testimony in His Word is true. We can see how they lived and how they died, and we can pattern our own lives after theirs, as John Wesley, leader of Great Awakening in England, advised that we do.
One of the specific things that really encouraged me was the honest way in which Brainerd describes his lifelong, severe battle with discouragement/depression as a Christian… and the way that he continued to persevere through it. Before I read his diary, I had heard it described as somewhat bleak because of the way Brainerd often wishes (literally) for death to come or continually relates his hopelessness that God will ever use him. That is true; his diary is the account of a man who went through significantly more “demon-possessed valley” experiences, as Oswald Chambers describes them, than mountaintop ones. However, as a result, reading Brainerd’s diary centuries later, I felt a spiritual kinship with and encouragement from this man who pressed on, despite the dark clouds that would not lift, despite the seeming lack of measurable spiritual progress. I find myself now remembering his example when discouragement loom, remembering to take heart, take hope in God, and to press on, not in a fake kind of joy, but in a determined belief that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)
Another way that I found I could relate to them was through Jerusha’s struggle to let Brainerd go. How often have we prayed for something before God, all the while with our spiritual hands tightly gripping that thing or person, refusing to let God take it or them and do what His loving will is with them or it? I know that has often been the case with me.

What was the biggest obstacle to writing this novel?
The sheer feeling of inability that often overcame me in the midst of the writing. Above all, I didn’t want to misrepresent these people in any way, and sometimes, especially in the beginning of the writing, I wasn’t sure how to form David’s character. God mercifully led me to write this in first-person, present tense, from Jerusha’s perspective, and seeing David from Jerusha’s eyes helped immensely.

What are you hoping the reader will get out of it? 
Well, the thing that made the greatest impression on me during the writing of this was the message that flames brightly from David’s life – and Jerusha’s – more than 250 years after their deaths: Hold nothing back from Christ. Give up lands, houses, relationships, and ambitions, if they distract in any way from the high calling we have in Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus is worth all of it, and more. In his day, David was unusual, peculiar, because of his total commitment. We are each called to this. We are called to it in a day of innocent indulgences and diversions; we are called to it when sleep is so appealing, yet we know that God wants us to plead before His throne; we are called it when the compromise the world asks of us is so small, so seemingly insignificant.
Growing up, my mom often said in response to a Christian dilemma of what to do or not to do, “Count the cost. The cost is high.” And it is. We would do well to ask ourselves daily, as Brainerd did, “Am I counting the cost?”
So, if nothing else, I hope that readers will be inspired by David and Jerusha’s story of doing just that – counting the cost – that they will be inspired by it to do likewise, to think of their own lives in light of eternity.

Light and Quick Questions:

Do you journal?
Oh, dear, I am such a delinquent journaler! 🙂 Yes, but not consistently. I like to journal my prayers sometimes because I often can express myself better in writing than in speech.

What’s the one thing (besides God and family/friends) that you don’t think you could live without?
Stories, in some form, of course! 🙂

Do you write in the morning or evening?
Usually in the morning, but when I’m on a deadline, I will write any time.

Do you think you would have been a patient nurse like Jerusha?
I think genuine, God-given love makes any of us patient, so I have a feeling that any one of us could have been patient as Jerusha was, if we loved David as she did.

What is one of your favorite old hymns?
Oh, there are so many good ones, but one of my favorites is Charles Wesley’s “Arise, My Soul, Arise.”

 

Here are my thoughts on A Holy Passion: 

What I Loved: A Holy Passion is a fiction novel based on real events and real people. From beginning to end, it’s clear the author spent a great deal of time researching everything from the lifestyle, disease, conflict, and down to her best perception of the characters’ real personalities. Naturally, there are areas where she’d have to fill in the blanks with her imagination, but her imagination felt as real and as plausible as the tidbits of facts that were woven in.
The bulk of the novel is told through the first person, present tense. This is a style that I find harder to wrap my mind around. I knew the story would be worth persevering and I’m grateful that I did. After the first couple of chapters, the present tense became rather natural to me, and I no longer tripped over it.
I found it delightful to meet up with big names and events that have been passed down through Christian circles for the last two centuries. And it was refreshing to get to meet two of these people who I have never heard of before now. The romance is at first relatable and entertaining. It’s not hard to understand Jerusha’s feelings as she anticipates David’s appearance and, later, his attention. But the further the story moves, the deeper and more awe-inspiring the romance becomes. From a historical standpoint, you’ll learn a great deal about tuberculosis, evangelism among the Indians, and some of the conflict surrounding the Great Awakening.
But the highlight of the novel is truly the spiritual content. Alicia brings David’s biggest desire for living a dedicated life of service to Christ and through evangelizing the lost to bear on the reader. It was the type of message, through the type of means, that will weigh on my heart, and help to bring me back to the basics, for a long time to come.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving A Holy Passion 5 stars. I recommend it to those who enjoy Christian Fiction, especially those looking for novels based on real believers. Also for those who enjoy Christian Historical Fiction and those looking for more novels about the 1700s.

~ I received a copy from the author. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review or required to give a favorable one. 

 

Giveaway Info: 

The author is generously providing a paperback copy to one of my readers. Follow the link to enter the giveaway!

*Continental U.S. residents only due to shipping costs, but an ebook version can be provided for international readers.

*Giveaway ends Sunday night, May 20th. This blog post will be updated on Monday, May 21, 2018 to announce the winner. If a response is needed and the winner doesn’t claim the prize within 7 days, a new winner will be selected.

CONGRATULATIONS: JoAnna Gommensen!! You’re our winner!!
*Expect an email from either me or Alicia.