Showing posts with label Christian historical romance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christian historical romance. Show all posts

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Cowboy's Redeeming Love Historical Fiction Book Reviewed

The Cowboy's Redeeming Love Christian Historical Fiction Book Reviewed

The Cowboy's Redeeming Love by Chloe Carley


My favorite book genre is historical fiction romance.  I've read a few books in that genre written by Chloe Carley and love them all. I previously reviewed one of her other books here on Review This, "The Stubborn Sweet Bride". Therefore, I was recently thrilled to discover  "The Cowboy's Redeeming Love" while searching for a new book.  

I expected The Cowboy's Redeeming Love to be a good book with a somewhat typical "all's well that ends well" story-line.  However, it turned out to be a unique and excellent historical romance.  

Chloe Carley has once again written a fiction book that tells the story of a young woman who meets evil face to face here on earth and goes to extremes to get away from it.


The Cowboy's Redeeming Love Synopsis 


Brianna Tompkins' previously wealthy father decided to move his family to California so he could quickly restore his families worth via a gold mine.  Apparently, he believes the gold is just lying around waiting to be claimed and would be an easy way to get rich again quick.  Without fully knowing, or considering, the environment he would be taking his privileged wife and daughter into, he loaded a wagon and headed west to stake his claim.

 The Cowboy's Redeeming Love:
An Inspirational Historical Romance Novel
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Having been raised in affluence, with servants attending to her every whelm and need, Brianna is scarcely prepared for the changes she would be required to endure.  Her lifestyle had previously protected her from the harsher elements, work, and vices of the world.  She had only known abundance, silks, refinement, ladies and gentlemen.  


Neither Brianna nor her mother wanted to go, but Brianna's father assured them all would be well.  They would make their fortune quickly and return home, back to the lap of luxury. 

Since readers have the benefit of historical knowledge, we already know, the Tompkins family is in for a rude awakening.  However, even we wouldn't expect both parents to die, leaving Brianna in the hands of a mercilessly evil man who stakes his claim on her.  With her refusal to readily accept Percy Smythe, he has her brutally beaten and held captive, allowing her time to embrace her new reality as his wife. 


The Cowboy


The Sutter family is leaving their home in Kentucky and moving to California to help Mr. Sutter's aging brother, Otis, on his ranch.  Along with his wife, Cora, Mason Sutter and their 3 grown sons, Morgan, Spenser & Riley, packed up their wagons and headed west.  The family stopped along the way to visit Cora's sister and found her sister recently widowed.  Cora and Mason decide to stay on in Missouri to help Cora's sister, but send the boys on ahead.  After all, Otis Sutter is expecting them to help him through the upcoming winter.

The Cowboy's Redeeming Love Historical Fiction Book Reviewed
Since it was just the 3 young men now, they were able to move much faster, stopping in small towns along the way for rest and supplies.  However, they found some small towns were not "friendly" or "inviting" to outsiders.  That was the case in Percy's Crossing.  Even though it was only 20 miles from their uncles ranch, they needed to stop for the night, but Percy's Crossing was not an option for them.  They rode another mile before they settled in for the night with a warm fire, to sleep under the stars.

When a small figure entered their camp and set down in front of their fire, only one of the sleeping brothers was awakened by this nearly silent intruder.  Morgan expected a child when he slipped up on the little intruder.  Instead, he discovered a badly beaten woman and she had either fallen asleep or passed out when he reached her.  He decided to let her rest and covered her with a blanket.  The following morning, as the sun started to rise, the little intruder was terrified when she awoke and found herself surrounded by 3 big men.  She had no way of knowing the three brothers would not harm her.  All she knew was that she had to get away, and stay away, from Percy Smythe.

Morgan offered to let her travel with them to their uncle's ranch, where she would be offered a safe haven.  She reluctantly accepted.  After all, Brianna didn't have anyone else to help her and she had no where else to go.


Are You Ready to Read the Book Yet?


I have only given you the set-up for the story.  I'm sure you already suspect that Percy Smythe is not going to just let Brianna disappear into the night.   The title and book genre will likely also tell you that one of the brothers will fall in love with Brianna.  What is not obvious is that they are not allowed to just live happily ever after.  Evil continues to dog them in the hopes of possessing it's prey.

 


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Other Chloe Carley Books Reviewed on Review This!


The Stubborn Sweet Bride Book ReviewThe Stubborn Sweet Bride: A Christian Historical Romance Novel Reviewed

An excellent Christian historical romance that transfixes readers with Molly's story of loss, betrayal, survival & desperate decisions. Highly Recommended!





House of Sylvestermouse




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Monday, September 10, 2018

A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner Book Review

Reviewing A Fall of Marigolds. 
A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner is both heart-breaking and triumphant. It is a story of two women who lost the men they loved during two separated tragedies. A co-worker recommended this book to me. The first chapter was easy to read. I was immediately hooked. Then I got bogged down in the second chapter. My co-worker encouraged me to continue reading. I'm so glad I did! 


A Fall of Marigolds


Chapter 1 begins with Taryn and the setting is Manhattan in September 2011. Her story begins at her job - a job she loves in a boutique fabrics shop. Her specialty is identifying and matching old fabrics. Taryn's word-of-mouth advertising is that she can always find a match to old and rare textiles. Her response is, "Almost always."  There is one piece of material that stumped her. Lily's "French-made from an Indian design, and surely a hundred years old" marigold patterned scarf was a mystery. 

Taryn was a young widow, her husband killed during the 9/11 attacks. And she was raising her daughter alone. Taryn had no way of knowing how that customers scarf would tie together the past and the future.

Chapter 2 opens with Nurse Clara at Ellis Island, August 1911. The shift from a setting in this century to a setting 100 years ago was jarring for me. I got stuck in Chapter 2 and had to re-start it a couple of times (from a combination of the book and from my typical response of falling asleep as soon as I begin reading).  Clara's voice was subdued and her story seemed as though it was going to be boring compared to Taryn's.  I am so glad I continued reading because Clara's story was not boring. 

We spend days with Clara and the other nurses and doctors on Ellis Island as they care for the immigrants who are ill, contagious, and often dying. It became very hard for me to put the book down as the relationships on the island, and the characters become fully formed. Clara has reason to sound subdued. She lost her love in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire. 

The Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire occurred and the issues with the elevator and stairs trapped the workers on the floors above the fire. 145 people died, either in the building or while jumping to their deaths from the windows. 

Part way through Clara's story, I began to think that the author would tie the two story lines together in some fantastical or annoying way. I was happily wrong. The lives of the characters were woven together in a beautiful way.


Author Susan Meissner


In the Author's Note, Ms. Meissner writes 
"I strive to be as accurate as possible when I create an imagined story in a historic place .... I have in these pages proposed how one nurse might have experienced Ellis Island Hospital in the second half of 1911."

I enjoyed reading about Nurse Wood and the writing was so engaging that I could completely imagine the setting. A setting that I had never before given much thought. I felt as thought I was on the streets during 9/11. And as though I were watching Nurse Clara care for those who were recovering or dying on Ellis Island. 

The book dealt beautifully with tragic events, grief, and mourning. The age-old battles of how to make sense of tragedy, how much to let yourself love, and how quickly to trust. And finally, how does each person try to make sense of life, the "hard and beautiful aspects of a full life."





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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Understanding Elizabeth by Robin Helm: A Review

It Began with Pride and Prejudice


The love story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy as written by Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice has been one of the most popular in all of English literature. Now over 200 years old it's been made into numerous movies, plays, and variations. Understanding Elizabeth is one of these variations.

Since most of the characters in Understanding Elizabeth came straight from Pride and Prejudice, I'm going to refresh your memory with this diagram to show how they are related.

Understanding Elizabeth by Robin Helm: A Review
Pride and Prejudice Character Map by Jellomania at the English language Wikipedia

It has been sixty years since I read Pride and Prejudice, and that's why I needed to read it again before writing this review of Understanding Elizabeth. If you haven't read Jane Austen's original recently enough to remember the plot and characters, you can watch this video summary or download the free book from Amazon, as I did. This is the best of the summary videos I found.




If you prefer to read a plot summary with descriptions of the original characters in Pride and Prejudice, Wikipedia provides it. I reread the 410 pages in two days to refresh my memory, since the plot is complex and my memory isn't what it used to be. I found I appreciated Pride and Prejudice more at 75 than I did at 15.

Understanding Elizabeth

Understanding ElizabethUnderstanding Elizabeth

Understanding Elizabeth by Robin Helm focuses on Mr. Darcy's inner thoughts. Although the narrator tells the story, Robin Helm lets the reader inside Mr. Darcy's head. Whereas Jane Austen reveals what her characters are thinking through their words to each other and comments from the narrator, in the Helm book Darcy's italicized thoughts are interspersed between his spoken thoughts and the narration.

We discover what motivates his words, including those infamous insulting words spoken to his friend Mr. Bingley at an Assembly. Bingley wanted Darcy to dance with Elizabeth and offered to arrange an introduction, but Darcy coldly replied, 'She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me...' Elizabeth overheard him, and although wounded, she joked about it with her friends. The offending words came from Pride and Prejudice, but they play a major part in both books.


In Understanding Elizabeth, Elizabeth writes in her journal: 
Fortunately I need not care for Mr. Darcy's good opinion, as I have known from the first moments of our acquaintance that I am not handsome enough to tempt him. After all, in his own words, I am barely tolerable....As I told Charlotte, I could easily forgive his pride had he not mortified mine. 

Darcy Reads Elizabeth's Journal


It was in trying to understand Elizabeth that Darcy alienated her. After hearing that her sister Jane who was staying with the Bingleys at Netherfield had become ill, Elizabeth immediately left for Netherfield to care for her .

Darcy was also staying there, and one evening while a group was in the parlour, Darcy observed Elizabeth reading a book. That impressed him because he liked intelligent women who read. He wondered what she was reading. As he observed she was also writing, he became curious about that, as well.

When she left to go back to Jane's room, she accidently left her book behind. Darcy took advantage of this and grabbed it, hoping to read the pages she had written and concealed in the book's pages. He battled his conscience before doing this, knowing he shouldn't, but he couldn't stop himself. He hid the book in his newspaper and took it to his room.

The first papers reveal her thoughts on the poem she was reading, but then after arguing back and forth with himself about invading Elizabeth's privacy, he yields to the temptation to understand her thoughts. As he reads her notes on Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," he sees her opinion that 'to be generous and sincere is better than to live for worldly fame and fortune.' He wonders if she thinks he "wallow[s] in luxury and pride." He questions his own character.

As he reads her opinions,  he 'picture[s] himself under a magnifying glass held in her small hands.' Then he realizes the rest of the papers in the book are her personal journal. As he reads he realizes she overheard his remark about her not being handsome enough to tempt him, and he admits to himself he hadn't meant it but was merely trying to get the matchmakers, including Bingley, off his back. By this time he knew he was becoming attracted to Elizabeth against his will.

He closes the book and sneaks it downstairs to return it to where Elizabeth had left it, now dark. Everyone else had retired by then, and, newspaper in hand, he is headed back to his room when he runs smack into Elizabeth who had come to retrieve her book. After a brief conversation about why they are there, they return to their rooms. And he realizes he is in danger of falling in love with Elizabeth.


The Dreams


Understanding Elizabeth by Robin Helm: A Review of a Pride and Prejudice Spin Off
Image Courtesy of Pixabay

By this time Darcy deeply regrets the insulting words he had spoken to Bingley about Elizabeth. He had never intended for her to know about them. Now they were thwarting his desire to have her think well of him and she made it clear that she loathed him. As he wishes he could take back his words, the theme turns Faustian as the devil appears in a dream to ask what he'd give to take back his words. But the angel who also appears in the dream reminds him that anyone dealing with the devil has a price to pay.

These dreams are repeated all through the book as Darcy tries to repair the relationship damage his words have caused. Elizabeth still doesn't realize he knows that she overheard them. That comes out later just as the relationship seems to be healing.

By this time Jane's illness has become more serious and Elizabeth spends a great deal of time in Jane's room. To give her some diversion, Darcy suggests they play chess. Each has a chessboard. Each writes their next move on a paper. They arrange that Molly, a servant, and Watkins, Darcy's valet, carry the notes back and forth so Elizabeth and Darcy can play their chess games without being in the same room. (Molly and Watkins don't appear in Pride and Prejudice.)

The relationship continues to develop until Darcy makes a verbal slip that makes Elizabeth realize he had read her journal. When she confronts him, he at first denies it. She then ends the chess games and the relationship because he not only invaded her privacy but also denied it. She returns his book and tells him to burn any of her notes in his possession. She also forbids him to call her Elizabeth any more and insists it be Miss Elizabeth.

That night the angel and the demon return again in a dream. Only quoting the Scriptures keeps Darcy from dealing with the Devil. The demon says he will return only once more. The quote in the image below was a warning from the angel.

Understanding Elizabeth by Robin Helm: A Review


Comparing Understanding Elizabeth and Pride and Prejudice


Unlike many Pride and Prejudice variations, this book is not a sequel. Instead it parallels the plot of Pride and Prejudice, adding many more details about the period Jane and Elizabeth spent at Netherfield during Jane's illness. It also elaborates on what Darcy did to help after Lydia ran off with Wickham.

In Understanding Elizabeth, Darcy doesn't try to break up Bingham and Jane, nor does Elizabeth become as friendly with Wickham as she does in Pride and Prejudice. Darcy's marriage proposals are handled differently, and so are the weddings.

The most significant difference in the books is the Christian element. Whereas Austen devotes several pages to making Parson Collins look pompous and ridiculous, he is not so major a character in Helm's book. We get only a hint of his attitudes and see fewer of his interactions.

Helms also explores Darcy's spiritual life. She reveals the torment he goes through in his dream visions and temptations before he finally achieves a difficult victory in which the Scriptures play an important role.

In his search to understand Elizabeth, Darcy learns to better understand himself. As he sees more of his own sin, he loses ungodly pride and develops more humility. He is finally able to love more unselfishly.

My Recommendation 


Fans of Jane Austen will enjoy the additional details in Helm's plot. Helm doesn't change any of the main plot elements, but she gives readers deeper insight into what motivates Darcy and Elizabeth. She alters some of the plot details and adds some characters such as Molly and Watkins, but she doesn't change the personalities of the main characters Austen created.

Austen lets Jane recover from her illness and leave Netherfield in chapters 7-12.  Helm devoted at least her first sixteen chapters - more than half the book - to Jane's convalescence, thus giving Elizabeth and Darcy much more time to develop a relationship before Elizabeth breaks it. I appreciated this.

Understanding Elizabeth is much easier to read than Pride and Prejudice. Though it retains the style and customs of Austen's book, it's easier to keep the cast of characters straight in Helm's book. The language is not as obsolete. Many of Austen's words have different meanings today than they did 200 years ago.

That being said, Austen's book still surpasses Helm's in overall literary quality and character portrayal. Still, I'd give Understanding Elizabeth five stars. It's entertaining, the main characters are well-developed while remaining true to Austen, and the spiritual elements add depth. I loved the ending.

Many others have written variations of Pride and Prejudice I've not yet had a chance to read. I'm amazed at how many there are -- from historical to modern. Some make the romantic details much more explicit than others set in that historical period.  The three I'd like to read next are in the group below. Why not download one today?




You may also enjoy my reviews of these Christian historical novels:

  • Untamed Land by Lauraine Snelling - the story of two Norwegian brothers who settled the Dakota country in the 1800's with their wives
  • Paper Roses by Amanda Cabot: A Christian Mail Order Bride Romance



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Friday, May 5, 2017

At Your Request Book Review

At Your Request is a delightfully charming novella that took me less than two hours to read. It serves as an introduction to a full length novel by Jen Turano, Behind the Scenes.
At Your Request is a delightfully charming novella that took me less than two hours to read.  It was the perfect short story to entertain me while our dinner was cooking.  

From the very beginning of the story, I found myself smiling.  Throughout the novella, I found myself laughing and thoroughly enjoying the author's wit.

The story takes place in New York during the Gilded Age with fabulous fashions and high society determined to remain aloft.  The loss of family fortune also meant the loss of friends and potential suitors.  Unfortunately for Wilhelmina, that is exactly where she found herself when her father lost his money on one bad investment.  

After years of literally being the bell of the ball, she was relegated to the position of social secretary for a wealthy matron.  Plus, she was required to continue to attend the balls to observe the guests to determine who was worthy of a future invitation.  Regardless of her discomfort with her current lack of social standing, her family now needed the money to survive.


At Your Request Novella Synopsis

 At Your Request (Apart From the Crowd)
An Apart From the Crowd Novella
As Wilhelmina is sitting with the wallflowers on the sidelines watching the beautifully dressed, wealthy daughters dance with their potential suitors, she spots the one man she has ever truly loved.  Not wanting him to see her, she sits in the floor and begs her new friends to help hide her.  However, Edgar does spot her and crosses the dance floor to talk to her.  Unfortunately, in her haste to get away, she finds herself, and her bustle, stuck under a chair, unable to move.  The next events truly had me laughing out loud as her friends and Edgar endeavor to free her from her extremely embarrassing situation.

After using a mouse story as a diversion, once Wilhelmina is free, Edgar whisks her outside into the snow and freezing temperatures.  This is where I was thinking, "leave it to a man to make things worse!"   

He quickly leads her to the warmth of the conservatory.  It is there where they were found alone together a few minutes later by three woman.  A scandalous situation to say the least!  Thinking fast, Edgar announces to the ladies that Wilhelmina has finally agreed to marry him.

That announcement places them both in uncomfortable places since Wilhelmina had turned Edgar's marriage proposal down years before. Not to mention, they are no longer in the same social sphere for a marriage to be socially acceptable. If you want to know what happens next, I'm afraid you will have to read the novella for yourself. I refuse to give away anymore of the plot.


Conclusion


This novella serves as an introduction to Jen Turano's full length novel, Behind the Scenes.  Needless to say, I will be starting the novel right after dinner!

I highly recommend this short story.  It was humorous, easy to read and of course, romantic.

I am most excited about this novella because I have found a new author who I know I will be able to trust to deliver entertaining fiction without explicit or offensive content.





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At Your Request Book Review Written by:
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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Book Review of Tabitha (Girls from the Mountain Book 1)



Tabitha's Story is One of God's Grace


In this Christian novel by Vikki Kestell, young Tabitha had to deal with situations so horrible that it hurt to read about them. Yes, Tabitha did bring it on herself by running away from home with Cray for a more exciting life than she had with her parents in their home near a Texas creek. She was fourteen and bored with her monotonous life. Cray promised riches and adventure.

Book Review of Tabitha (Girls from the Mountain Book 1)
Book Review of Tabitha: Girls from the Mountain Book 1
Image from Pixabay,  and Modified


Tabitha knew her parents did not approve of Cray. They had warned her that he had no sense and that he was a wild dreamer. Still, he was able to persuade Tabitha to run away with him to the Arizona gold fields. Even though Tabitha knew running away wasn't right, Cray's flattery about her beautiful red hair and milky complexion, as well as his promise to marry her in a church wedding as soon as they made their fortune, convinced her to ignore her conscience.

She had learned the difference between right and wrong from her parents. She knew she was rebelling when she left with Cray. What she never dreamed was that he would so completely betray her that only the grace of a God she hadn't met could save her.




Palmer House


Palmer House, a Denver ministry to young women and girls such as Tabitha, rescues them. When we meet Rose Thoresen, the administrator and counselor of Palmer House in 1911, she is 63. Tabatha, who is the oldest of Rose's “girls,” is now thirty. She has nine weeks to go before her new nursing school term begins in Boulder and she wants some project to keep her busy. Rose convinces her to tell her story of her journey to faith in Christ, including the mistakes she made before her rescue and arrival at Palmer House.

Book Review of Tabitha (Girls from the Mountain Book 1)


Rose said she would help by writing down notes as Tabitha told her story. It would then be edited and Tabatha could read it and suggest any changes before it was made into a small book to keep at Palmer House and for the use of other residents who had not yet entered a relationship with Christ. Much of what follows is part of her story. (Image above from Open ClipArt-Vectors on Pixabay, text added on PicMonkey)


Arizona and Beyond


We first see Tabitha in Arizona as she waits in the heat of the desert beside Cray's tent for him to come home for the dinner she has prepared. But he doesn't come. The claim he had paid for in this uninhabitable land had no gold left to find, so Cray had spent all he had in the nearest mining town of Fullman on supplies. They had only a two-week supply of food and water. They had found a patch of land near the only stream and camped there. When we meet Tabitha there, she has been there for two weeks. There are no other humans around. She is in the desert alone.


By this time Tabitha had been with Cray for a few months. He had kept saying he'd find the gold and then go back to Texas and buy land and cattle. Tabitha was the only one who continued to speak of marriage. They often quarreled. Cray was finding no gold, though he went to look for it every morning and returned sullen and distant. On the morning of the fifteenth day on the campsite, Cray seemed happier as he left. He packed his gear on the mule, along with extra water for her. He ate the breakfast Tabitha had prepared, and took the lunch she had packed for him. He even said goodbye to her, which he'd not bothered to do for a while. As he left, he'd told her “Goodbye, Tabitha. You wish me well now.'


Book Review of Tabitha (Girls from the Mountain Book 1)
Book Review of Tabitha
Photo from Morgue File, Modified



Cray did not come home that night. The next morning Tabitha walked to his dig to find his tools and the mule gone. She knew then he would not come back. He had left her alone in the desert. She crouched in her tent for the rest of the day, alternately sobbing and ranting in anger over his desertion. She tried to figure out how to survive. She knew her only hope was to walk back to Fullman, a day's journey. It was not a reputable town. Tabitha thought that maybe she would find Cray there and he would take her back.

Instead, when she thought she had been rescued by another woman, she learned that Cray had sold her into prostitution as payment for new supplies. She also learned that escape only brought beatings and threats of worse punishments. She died inside and at one point was tempted to take her own life.

Rescued by the Grace of God


Although Tabitha had not yet met the Lord, she heard a street preacher while she was being transferred from one brothel to another. She did not know the meaning of what she heard, but the preacher had looked right at her and said that Jesus could save even her. She held onto those words and cried out to this Jesus she did not know for help. One night that help came, and she arrived at Palmer House. While there, as Rose and the other staff loved her and taught her, she finally trusted herself to Jesus and decided to spend the rest of her life following him.


After Palmer House


I don't want to reveal more of the plot here because I don't want to spoil it. Much of the action occurs during World War I. We watch as Tabitha faces enemies during her nursing school education, and as she decides what to do about a very persistent suitor – a rich man who is a benefactor of Palmer House, the nursing school, and an orphanage. Even knowing her background doesn't discourage him. Later they both go overseas separately to serve in the war in different locations.

How Reading Tabitha Affected Me


The book's theme – how the grace of God can overcome evil – was well executed. I found myself thanking God again for the blessing of a normal childhood with parents who loved me and the opportunity to learn about Jesus while still young.

I was outraged to see how young women, still in their early teens, were enslaved as prostitutes with no hope of escape. I'm even more outraged that this still happens today, outside of novels, in our large cities, as pimps befriend runaways and then bully and enslave them. I just read today that in a county where we once lived and still own property detectives just broke up a ring of suspected human traffickers. In this case the victims were Chinese and here on visas.

Daniel Walker, who worked undercover for many nonprofit organizations to rescue today's enslaved prostitutes, has written God in a Brothel to describe his experiences freeing women and children from the sex trade in the United States. You can read it for a nonfiction perspective on how Christians still rescue those who cannot help themselves.

I often found myself in tears as I watched Tabitha's struggle with the consequences of her wrong choice so early in life and as I later watched her grieve the loss of the one she loved.

My Review


Although some may find the style sentimental and Tabitha almost too good to be true in her later life, she does model servant leadership. She is serious about making up for the lost years with her obedience in her later life as a Christian. Toward the end of the book she faces the ultimate test of her faith, but I won't be a spoiler.

The biggest weakness I saw in the book was that many characters seemed unrealistically good or evil. Yet I know that very godly and very wicked people do exist. Tabitha was the most well-developed character, and I found myself wanting her to be successful and eventually marry Carpenter. We don't see enough of Mason Carpenter, her benefactor and love interest, to get to know him very well, since most of the time the two are away from each other. We do see that he's the perfect gentleman, always helping everyone and doing good. I couldn't help but like him, but it was  hard to believe he was so perfect.

The author was very good at tying all the loose ends of the plot together in a satisfying way. I was able to predict some plot elements I was sure would be there, and I was happy that the author agreed with me.

This historical Christian romance reminds Christians of how God reaches out to all of us.  Those who may be searching for meaning in life, who have no hope left because of their past mistakes, may find hope as they read this book. Tabitha illustrates the power of God to cause a person be reborn to a new and living hope.

Vikki Kestell also wrote the A Prairie Heritage Series. It explains some of what occurs before and after the events in Tabatha. You will see some of the same characters' stories unfolding in A Prairie Heritage Series. Tabitha fits between Stolen and Lost Are Found. You might want to pick up the entire series and read Tabitha where it fits best chronologically.







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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Review of The Time of Grace Series by Alicia Ruggieri



It Is Always Time for God's Grace


The Time of Grace Christian romance series is different than most I've read. Its overall theme is that God himself is the great lover of the men and women who live their lives from day to day. The secondary theme is the difference Christians can make in the lives of those who live in despair because they have not experienced God's grace and have no hope.

Review of The Time of Grace Series by Alicia Ruggieri
Image Courtesy of Pixabay.com


Not Your Typical Christian Romance


Most Christian romances I read have two main characters who fall in love but encounter obstacles on the path to marriage. These are often due to a misunderstanding on the part of one or both of the characters. Maybe they overheard some gossip they accepted as fact, or saw something that was different than it appeared to be. The main action in these romances is getting the two people together and married so they can live happily ever after. We don't usually see what comes after.

The three books in the Time of Grace Series are not like that. The main character, Jesus, is never seen except in the lives of his people and their efforts to reach out to those have not yet accepted his free gift of grace and salvation. We see God dealing with the main characters as families and as individual members of those families.

The three Christian historical romance novels in this series are set during the depression years in Rhode Island. Book 1, The Fragrance of Geraniums, begins in 1934. In it we first meet fifteen-year-old Grace Picoletti, as she auditions for the school chorus, humiliated because the rubber band holding the sole of her saddle shoe has burst, and her shoe is flapping. Her family is destitute. We also meet her teacher, Mr. Kinner, who is conducting the auditions. He and his wife, Emmeline live in a lovely home and Emmeline grows geraniums from hanging pots on her porch. Grace looks forward to seeing the beauty of these red geraniums every day as she comes home from school. We also meet Paulie Giorgi, one of Grace's classmates, son of a prominent doctor. 

Review of The Time of Grace Series by Alicia Ruggieri
Photo in Public Domain Courtesy of Pixabay


The Families


The Picoletti Family


The Picoletti family is destitute. Grace's mother Sarah lives in despair. Her husband Charlie is unfaithful and abusive. As the book opens Grace's oldest brother Ben makes a surprise visit. He tells Grace their father is planning to bring his latest mistress home to live on a cottage on their property. He reveals he has fought with his father about this and has just punched Charlie out because of it. He tells Grace he has to leave again.

The other four children are minor characters in the book. Sarah finally sends her favorite, Evelyn, to live with her wealthier sister so she can have a better life. Grace's two older sisters leave home to get jobs and live on their own to get away from the violence. Then they get married and we don't see much of them after that. Cliff, the younger brother, is out of control and often gets into trouble.


Review of The Time of Grace Series by Alicia Ruggieri
Photo in Public Domain Courtesy of Pixabay
The author focuses mostly on Sarah and Grace, both of whom have little hope. There is not enough to eat, Charlie publicly humiliates them with his blatant infidelity, and they can't afford decent clothes or shoes. Sarah has let herself go physically, since Charlie pays little attention to her anymore except to demand she cook, clean, and take care of his laundry – or else. The family is Catholic, but they don't connect what happens in church to their daily lives. They have no notion of a God that loves them personally. They have no hope of improving their lives. 

Grace is highly intelligent, but Sarah is expecting another baby and insists Grace will need to quit school to help her. The baby is born 85% of the way through the book, and Emmeline, who has become a friend to Sarah, stays to help her. Charlie shows no interest in the baby and wants no part of him. This crushes Sarah.

Charlie's mistress Gertrude leaves him and takes everything of value that was in the room they shared. Charlie goes to town, gets drunk, and is killed in an accident. He leaves Sarah no source of income and much debt, since he has not paid the bills or the mortgage in months and the bank is about to take the house. She sees no solution except to move in with her brother in New Jersey, taking Cliff and Grace, and leaving friends and her grown children behind.

The Kinner Family


Geoff and Emmeline Kinner attend the First Baptist Church. They are a middle class family and economically well off enough to share what they have with others. They are kind to all. Geoff is Grace and Paulie's teacher, is truly interested in his students, and prays for them.

To outsiders, Geoff and Emmeline appear to have an ideal life. But they want to start a family, and Emmeline has never been able to carry a child to full term. At the beginning of this book she has told her husband she is four months pregnant, and they are ecstatic, since Emmeline has never carried a baby this long. But when Emmeline sees the doctor the next day, he dashes her hopes and tells her she probably will lose this baby, too.

The Giorgi Family


Review of The Time of Grace Series by Alicia Ruggieri
Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

Doctor Samuel Giorgi and his son Paulie, seventeen, live in a mansion with a staff of servants. Samuel's wife, Julie, Paulie's mother, died of an aneurysm six years ago, and Samuel and Paulie miss her terribly. They also attend First Baptist Church.

After Julie's death, Samuel hired Mrs. McCusker as a house keeper to run his household and help out with Paulie. Sam is a prominent obstetrician who often has to leave to deliver babies at all hours of the night. In the last chapters of The Fragrance of Geraniums we learn that Samuel had once been engaged to Sarah before he left for college. His family had disapproved of her, and said if he married they would not pay for his education. He had intended to get get through medical school and then come back and marry her. She had felt betrayed because he had chosen his education over her, and had married Charlie. Sam later met Julie and fell in love with and married her.

Three Books, One Story


After reading what's above, you can probably guess a lot of the plot. Paulie and Grace are classmates and fall in love despite their different economic classes. Emmeline and Grace become friends, and through that relationship Emmeline also meets Sarah and reaches out to her. When Charlie badly burns his face badly in the last quarter of the book, he comes to Sarah for help. She sends Grace to get the regular doctor, but he's away at a conference. They can't afford the hospital or an ambulance, and even though Grace is trying to avoid Paulie, she sees no option but to run to his house to see if his father will come.

Mrs McCusker answers the door and says the doctor cannot be disturbed, but Paulie hears the conversation and gets his dad. Mrs. McCusker treats Grace shabbily. Sam and Paulie drive Grace home. As Sam treats Charlie, Sarah is holding his head. Sam and Sarah recognize each other. She did not know he had returned.

By the end of the first book, Grace has finally understood that Jesus does love her and has given her life to him. Sarah has been listening at home in her darkest hours to a Protestant radio station, mostly for the music. What she hears conflicts with much she has believed as a Catholic, but she wants to believe that Jesus loves her and can change her. She just isn’t sure how to approach him. Emmeline has shared her faith and how Jesus helps her through her grief over the loss of her child. 

The book ends with Charlie's funeral. All three families are there. We have seen God's answer to the prayers of Emmeline and Geoff.  The reader is left hanging as to what will happen to the Picoletti family. Will Sam and Sarah renew their relationship now that Charlie is dead? Do Grace and Paulie have a future together? Those questions are answered in the last two books, which I had to purchase because I couldn't stop reading until I reached the last page of the last book.

The Books' Themes


Several themes play out in this series. First is God's unconditional love. This theme pervades all the others. Christians need, by God's grace, to forgive those who hurt them physically and emotionally, in order to be whole themselves.

Love is sacrificial. This theme comes to a climax near the end of the last book. God's love is redemptive. Sam shows us this in the last book very vividly.

God's love persistent. Both Paulie and Sam persist in reaching out to members of the Picoletti family even when their efforts are rejected.

God seeks and saves those who are lost in despair and bitterness. He uses his people to help, as he used Sam, Paulie, and Emmeline in this book. They prayed, and they shared their faith, but first they listened and helped physically with unspoken needs.

An example: Emmeline initiated a relationship with Grace just because she knew Grace always paused at her house to look at something on the way home from school. She used that knowledge to reach out to Grace and get acquainted. She suspected Grace didn't get enough to eat, so she made sure there were fresh cookies and milk whenever Grace visited. She suspected that Grace was ashamed of her home so she invited Grace and Paulie to have their tutoring sessions at her kitchen table, along with refreshments.

The author shows that only people who get their sense of worth from the knowledge that God loves them are secure enough to be who they really are. Since they know God accepts them, they do not need to live for the approval of or fear the judgment of others.

A good part of The Fragrance of Geraniums consists of passages from the Bible that the characters share with each other or encounter in radio or church sermons. This might be a bit much for some people, but each passage is relevant to the themes. The characters share their reactions, not always positive, to these passages.


My Opinion of the Series


Overall, the series held my interest because from the beginning I cared about the characters. I empathized with Sarah and Grace. I wanted Paulie and Grace to straighten out their friendship when it became strained. I wanted Sarah and Grace to experience the grace of God. And I wanted Ben to surrender his bitterness and false pride and answer the nudging of the Holy Spirit. I wanted to see how God would accomplish his plan in each life.

I felt there were some weaknesses that we see in many Christian novels. Although there was a lot of showing in the lives of the characters, there might have been a bit too much telling. It was preachy. Sam and Paulie were so godly they were unrealistic. I loved them, but they were almost too Christlike. They were both very good at turning the other cheek and praying for those who hurt them when most people would at least say something hurtful back and ask forgiveness later. They did sometimes have thoughts that weren't loving, but they hardly ever gave voice to them. I can't think of one example where they really lost it, even though they were tempted.

The author was good at foreshadowing future events. She dropped enough clues to enable the reader to predict why there was a problem between Grace and Paulie in the last book. To say anymore would be a spoiler.

The relationship between Paulie and Sam was one any father would envy. It contrasted with the terrible relationship between Ben and his father Charlie. Emmeline and Geoff showed Grace that all men were not like her father and that a marriage could be healthy and loving.

Unlike most romances, the books in this series are serious and deal with heavy subjects like abuse, bereavement, and rebellion. The marriages are not always the “live happily ever after” kind – even when the man and wife are Christians. Even forgiven sins have consequences that make life hard. God works his plan out even in these marriages that aren't ideal. The main love is between God and the characters, and until they are rightly related to him, the human love affairs don't go very smoothly.

As you read the looks, you may find yourself grappling with issues instead of escaping into a pleasant world with a happy wedding at the end. There are plenty of dark valleys to walk through before you see a rainbow. It's still a journey I'm glad I took -- realistic or not. Book 1, The Fragrance of Geraniums, is free for your Kindle as I  write this. I hope it will hook you and that you will want to read the other  two books, as I did. I would suggest you get all three books at once. Just click on the book covers above.

Review of The Time of Grace Series by Alicia Ruggieri







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