Tag Archives: historical fiction

Review: In a Foreign Land, by Janice L. Dick

In a Foreign Land, by Janice L. DickIn a Foreign Land, by Janice L. Dick (Tansy & Thistle Press, 2017)

Fifteen years after Luise Martens and her family escaped from Russia to China, the past catches up with them. Soon they must flee again, from a terrible enemy they thought they’d left behind.

The novel opens in 1945, and it’s a sequel to Other Side of the River. If you haven’t read that book, you may want to do so first. It’s not necessary for comprehension, but it adds a level of depth to understanding these characters’ lives and struggles.

Book one was Luise’s story as a young woman. Book two is partly her story, but partly the story of her son, Danny. It’s interesting to watch the dynamics between the son facing trials for the first time and the mother who has endured similar times.

I always appreciate Janice Dick’s historical fiction, for its richness of character and setting and for what it teaches me about the Russian Mennonites and their struggle to live as pacifists, trusting God’s care in the middle of dangerous times. As Luise says, “Sometimes living for a cause is more difficult than dying for it.” [Kindle location 412]

Luise’s faith has grown stronger through her suffering, but Danny can’t embrace a God who could allow so much to be taken from him.

In a Foreign Land is an inspiring tale of courage, danger, family, and love, set against a backdrop of international conflict and an oppressive regime. The novel is based on a true story.

The In Search of Freedom series will conclude with book 3, Far Side of the Sea. For more about the author and her books, visit janicedick.wordpress.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Viking Historical: Interview and Giveaway

What do Vikings and present-day folk in small-town West Virginia have in common?Heather Day Gilbert

They both thrive in the head of award-winning author Heather Day Gilbert, whose fiction can immerse readers into either world. Heather’s newest Viking historical, Forest Child, released this month, and she’s offering a free ebook copy to a randomly-chosen commenter on this post. [Draw closed Nov. 25, 2016.]

Janet: Welcome, Heather, and congratulations on your newest release. In both of your genres, you create heroines we can relate to, strong yet vulnerable. Except for your novella, Out of Circulation, they’re each married women. How important to you is exploring the relationship dynamics this brings to each story?

Heather: Thank you for those kind words on my characters, Janet! Ever since I started writing novels, I’ve had a burden for writing about married women and their struggles. Married characters have just always been intrinsically interesting to me… all the way back to those Janette Oke books that featured them. I feel that married love is so much deeper and more powerful than dating love. When we’re married, we see each other at our worst, we sacrifice for each other, we grieve together… and yet if we do it right, our love grows even stronger because we are fully committed to each other.

Janet: So true, and since part of the reason we read about others’ struggles is to learn for our own, we should be seeing a lot more of this. Along with the relationship themes, your novels also involve a fair bit of action. Which aspect of the writing comes easier: the characters or the plots?

Heather: Definitely the characters. Then I have to plug them into a rough plot (my plotting is really loose and involves chapter highlights) and then ask myself what would this character really do in this situation?

Of course, with mysteries, you have to stretch it a bit, because if I were off chasing baddies and having showdowns with cold killers like Tess Spencer, I daresay my hubby would force me to stop my sleuthing “hobby.” Although Thomas Spencer tries to do this, he hasn’t quite succeeded.

Often, my characters surprise me with what they say and do. There is this line that Ref says to Freydis in Forest Child that I didn’t see coming, yet when I typed it, I knew it was exactly what he would have said. It was both brutally honest and quite vulnerable, and it made me mad, just as it did Freydis. (if you read it, try to guess which line that is—you might know, Janet! 😉 )

Janet: Forest Child is, what, your fourth novel in print? You’ve said this was the hardest novel to write – why so? And was it worth it in the end?

Heather: Hm. It’s actually my fifth in print (God’s Daughter, Miranda Warning, Trial by Twelve, and Out of Circulation preceded it). Yes, this was definitely the hardest one I’ve ever written, for several reasons. First, I had to build the simple Icelandic saga accounts of Freydis into a fleshed-out story. That involves matching up timelines, events, and even some wording. Vikings of the New World boxed set

Second, what Freydis did in the saga accounts was something so horrific, it took me over two years to really come up with reasons why a woman would be driven to such actions. I honestly prayed God would give me ideas about that, and He did. While the reason shocked me somewhat, I knew it was a perfect catalyst for her actions. Historically, Freydis was domineering, she was wild, she was a warrior, she was rude, and the list goes on and on. The true challenge was drawing this character so readers could empathize with her.

Finally, I had to  fully get into Freydis’ head because I write in first person present tense, which meant I had to be her for a while. I was kind of afraid her way of thinking might trickle into my own thoughts, but as I wrote her, I realized that in some ways, we were already similar. Acknowledging that was rather terrifying, but ultimately it turned into something that was freeing, for me and for her. So yes, I feel the angst of writing Forest Child was worth it and I know the story turned out exactly the way it needed to.

Janet: You did a fantastic job making Freydis both shocking and relatable. I think her inner vulnerability, which she didn’t even see at the start, made a strong connecting point for readers. And for me, even the worst of what she did seemed like a perfectly natural outflow of her character.

As well as vibrant characters who make realistic choices, how important to you is each novel’s setting?

Heather: In the Viking novels, setting is obviously crucial (from describing the Viking voyages to their foods and longhouses), so that requires a lot of research on my part. I wish I could visit the Viking locales in Newfoundland, Iceland, and Greenland, but I haven’t been able to yet. I do the best I can with photos and my imagination.

I have noticed that in every one of my books, there is a forest scene. I think it’s because I spent a lot of time in the woods growing up. My West Virginia mystery/suspense is really what I know, because I grew up in WV and I live here now. The ways of the Appalachian people, the winding mountain roads, the issues this state is having with drug addiction… all these things play into my contemporary stories. I don’t go into paragraphs of descriptive detail, a la Thomas Hardy (whose writing I love, BTW), but I hope I include enough description that my readers can see the books playing out like a movie in their heads, which is what some reviewers have said.

Janet: Your forest scenes feel alive to me, likely because the ones of my childhood are similar. Now, my favourite question: What might happen if Tess from your Murder in the Mountains series met the Viking heroines, Gudrid and Freydis?

Heather: Oh my word! I can’t imagine! Tess would probably get along okay with Gudrid, since they both had traumatic childhoods and they might have similar issues. But Freydis and Tess… boy, that would be a clash of the titans! Let’s just hope neither of them would be armed! LOL!

Janet: Could make for an interesting time! Heather, thank you so much for visiting today, and for these fantastic reads. The care you invest in your writing shows in the finished books.

Heather is offering one free ebook copy (epub or mobi format) to a randomly-selected commenter on this post. Entries close at midnight, Nov. 25, EST. To enter, scroll down to the comments field. Just for fun, share something you either know or wonder about the Vikings.

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Forest Child, by Heather Day GilbertViking warrior. Dauntless leader. Protective mother.

Determined to rise above her rank as the illegitimate “forest child” of Eirik the Red, Freydis launches a second voyage to Vinland to solidify her power and to demand the respect she deserves. She will return home with enough plunder to force her brother, Leif, to sell her the family farm in Greenland.

But nothing can prepare her for the horrors she must confront in Vinland… and nothing can stand in her way when her family is threatened.

In her race to outrun the truths that might destroy her, Freydis ultimately collides with the only enemy she cannot silence—her own heart.

Historically based on the Icelandic Sagas, Forest Child brings the memorable, conflicted persona of Freydis Eiriksdottir to life. This immersive tale is Book Two in the bestselling Vikings of the New World Saga.

AUTHOR BIO:

HEATHER DAY GILBERT, a Grace Award winner and bestselling author, writes novels that capture life in all its messy, bittersweet, hope-filled glory. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, generational story-telling runs in her blood. Heather is a graduate of Bob Jones University, and she and her husband are raising their children in the same home in which Heather grew up. Heather is represented by Rebeca Seitz and Jonathan Clements of SON Studios in FL.

Heather’s Viking historical novel, God’s Daughter, is an Amazon Norse Bestseller. She is also the author of the bestselling A Murder in the Mountains mystery series and the Hemlock Creek Suspense series. Heather also authored the Indie Publishing Handbook: Four Key Elements for the Self-Publisher. Find out more at heatherdaygilbert.com.

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Review: Forest Child, by Heather Day Gilbert

Forest Child, by Heather Day GilbertForest Child, by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press, 2016)

As Eirik the Red’s illegitimate daughter, Freydis has always fought for equality with her half-brothers. Her adventurous temperament and her father’s indulgence have shaped her into a fierce hunter and warrior and a skilled sailor.

Desperate to prove her worth and lay claim to the inheritance she believes should be hers, she has led a crew back to the New World to plunder its rich resources. When she meets tragedy and danger, she protects her family the only way she knows how – and carries the decision as an unconfessed burden she can share with no-one.

The story is set around AD 1000 and spans three parts: Vinland (the New World), Greenland, and Iceland. This is book two in the Vikings of the New World Saga, following God’s Daughter, the story of Freydis’ Christian sister-in-law, Gudrid.

You could read book two without having read book one, but not only would you miss a stellar read, you’d have less empathy for Freydis in Forest Child because you wouldn’t have as strong a sense of her past.

Except for the opening prologue, the story is told in the first person, present tense, by Freydis. This evokes a strong sense of place and a connection with Freydis, an impulsive woman whose actions are often misunderstood by those around her.

Readers see her thoughts and can trace her motives even in her most destructive choices. Understanding Freydis’ mindset (as a Viking but also as a strong woman afraid to depend on others or on God) is key to caring for her as the novel’s protagonist.

Freydis, as well as many of the other characters of this series, is based on a real historic figure. Much of the Vikings of the New World Saga draws on The Sagas of the Greenlanders, and so this fictional retelling of history has many predetermined events.

While the content is never gratuitous, the Vikings’ violence and pagan roots make these novels feel darker than what some might expect of Christian historical fiction. Forest Child is darker than God’s Daughter, because of the different natures of the protagonists, but both novels resolve with hope.

Forest Child contains a few violent scenes that timid readers may wish to skim. They’re written with all possible sensitivity, and since the author drew from actual events, they’re not optional to Freydis’ story. What they do is allow characters and readers to consider themes of family, vengeance, murder, faith, and redemption. Oddly, the decision Freydis makes which troubled me most (the one I really wanted to make her reconsider) is not found in these scenes.

These fierce, long-ago Vikings become people we connect with, despite the differences in cultures. Many of us know too well what it’s like to fight for respect or position, to fall outside what’s socially acceptable… and to fear the vulnerability that comes with trusting others. Many also know what Freydis needs to discover: God loves us no matter who or where we are, and His forgiveness changes everything.

Heather Day Gilbert took the building blocks of history and breathed life and relatable motivations into these characters. I wish I had time to read the original sagas to discover where fact and fiction meet.

The book ends with a family tree of the main characters, and a glossary of Viking terms and pronunciations.

Heather Day Gilbert also writes present-day suspense novels set in West Virginia. As well as drawing readers into richly-detailed settings and believable characters, her fiction explores the dynamics of marriage relationships and how faith can affect daily life. For more about the author and her work, visit heatherdaygilbert.com.

[Review copy provided by the author.]

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Review: Legacy, by Mary Hosmar

Legacy, by Mary HosmarLegacy, by Mary Hosmar (2014)

What 15-year-old boy wants to tag along with his mother, visiting relatives in the Netherlands over Christmas, when he’d been planning a ski adventure with his buddies?

Not Jake Thompson. But it’s a condition of his late great-uncle’s will. So Jake, his attitude, and his mother fly from Canada to meet the strangers who are their extended family.

Bit by bit, they discover family history – and secrets – that neither of them had known, wrapped up in the fallout from World War 2.

Jake’s point of view makes Legacy an easy read, and I enjoyed watching him try to deny his grief for his great-uncle and his growing interest in his heritage. Although his relatives tell him the stories from the past, much of those tales are written from the point of view of the characters who experienced them, making the memories come alive.

Favourite line:

If this was Bert’s idea of a good time, no wonder he hadn’t married. [Kindle location 1166]

The book offers an interesting insight into the early days of the liberation of the Netherlands and the after-effects of the war. I’d recommend it for young adult readers, especially those interested in history, but also for adults.

The subject matter makes it appropriate for reading at Remembrance Day (Veterans’ Day) or Christmas, but it would be a good read at any time of year.

Canadian author Mary Hosmar has also written A Matter of Conscience, another young adult historical novel, set in Canada. For more about the author and her books, visit maryhosmar.weebly.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Storming, by K.M. Weiland

Storming, by K.M. WeilandStorming, by K.M. Weiland (PenForASword Publishing, 2015)

In 1920’s Nebraska, Hitch Hitchcock makes his living as a barnstorming pilot – until a woman in a fancy ball gown falls out of the night sky in front of his plane and he gets mixed up with her – and with her enemies.

Hitch doesn’t want anyone depending on him, because he’s let too many people down in the past. He’s back in his hometown for one week only, to compete for a chance to join a flying circus.

His encounter with the mysterious falling woman, Jael, also brings him face to face with family and townsfolk he’s hurt before – and with the man who made him run away. When Jael’s enemies turn their airship’s weaponry against the town, Hitch has to stay and fight when every instinct tells him to run again.

Favourite lines:

Bonney Livingstone could talk a man into picking his own pocket. [Kindle location 1083]

If Earl had thought last night’s story was crazy, this one plumb ran away with the farmer’s daughter. [Kindle location 1347]

The only good parts of this day were the worse things that could’ve happened and hadn’t. [Kindle location 2165]

A blend of historical and dieselpunk, Storming is filled with action, intrigue, flying (surprise!) and great characters. There’s plenty to satisfy the relationship-oriented reader, too: friendship, romance, and long-standing hurt.

This is the second K.M. Weiland novel I’ve read, and it won’t be the last. I love the way she creates characters I can relate to, and drops them into situations beyond their control – where somehow they have to stay and fight, and where losing isn’t an option.

K.M. Weiland knows how to raise the stakes, as well as creating characters we care about and want to see win. In addition to Storming, she has written Behold the Dawn (historical), A Man Called Outlaw (western) and Dreamlander (speculative), as well as short fiction and books on writing.

[Review copy provided by the author, but I liked it so much I ordered a copy to keep.]

Historical Novelist Christine Lindsay

Christine Lindsay’s tag line is “Giving hope and strengthening faith,” which she does through richly-written historical fiction and a contemporary romance novella, Londonderry Dreaming. Her most recent release is Veiled at Midnight, a novel filled with historical drama and with timeless human struggles. Read on…
Author Christine Lindsay, and the covers of her novels

Janet: Welcome, Christine, and thanks for taking time to join us. Your book Captured by Moonlight was the 2014 winner of Canada’s The Word Guild Award for historical. Did you enter your latest novel, Veiled at Midnight, in that contest?

Christine: Sadly, Janet, I missed the deadline to enter Veiled at Midnight for The Word Guild this year. Oh well. But what an honor it was last year for Captured by Moonlight to win in my category, and congratulations to you for Heaven’s Prey being a finalist in the suspense category.

Janet: Thanks! What’s the most exciting thing for you right now?

Christine: To be honest, the most exciting thing is watching my youngest son who is 26 falling in love with a beautiful girl. When our kids grow into the adults God wants them to be, it’s so exciting. My son is a musician and a graduate of Briercrest Theological College, and is currently the lead guitarist in a worship band. His young lady is exactly what I have been praying for my son Rob for years.

Janet: What’s your biggest challenge right now?

Christine: Trying to balance two part-time jobs, promote Veiled at Midnight that was recently released, do edits for my publisher on a historical romance called Sofi’s Bridge that will be coming out later this year, and trying to write my non-fiction book that has a looming deadline. My non-fiction book is about the relinquishment of my first child to adoption in 1979 and our painful reunion in 1999, and to the relationship we currently have that is sweetened by the love of God.

Janet: That’s enough to keep you busy! Tell us a bit about Veiled at Midnight.

Christine: Veiled at Midnight is the third and final installment of my series Twilight of the British Raj. This third book has a hard act to follow because Book 1 Shadowed in Silk won the ACFW Genesis, The Grace Award, and was a finalist for Readers’ Favorite. Book 2 Captured by Moonlight won The Word Guild Award and was finalist for Readers’ Favorite and the Grace Award.

As a finale Veiled at Midnight is quite explosive and passionate in my opinion. When you write a series you get really invested in the characters. While each book can stand alone in this series, many of the main characters pop up in the following books.

Cam: "The truth hit him like an artillery barrage. He was just like his wretch of a father."In Veiled at Midnight we find the little boy Cam from Book 1 is now an adult and struggling with the alcoholism he seems to have inherited from his natural father. Cam is also in love with a beautiful Indian woman he’s known since childhood. But as a high-ranking officer in the British army and having the prestigious position of aide to the last British Viceroy to India, Cam must fight against racial bias to marry the love of his life. Or will he?

Janet: Where did the story idea come from?

Christine: Two things—first of all I wanted to have a more redemptive story for a person struggling with addiction. The ending to book 1 Shadowed in Silk was good, but there were things I wanted to say further. There are a lot of people in this world suffering because either they have addictions or the people they love do.

Secondly, my series starts off in 1919 with India’s first real attempt for independence from the oppressive British rule. I had to finish the series off when Britain did relinquish her strangle hold on India in 1947. What a flamboyant time in history!!! It was great doing the research of Lord Louis Mountbatten and his wife Lady Edwina, and all that they did to help the Indian people through that terrible time called the Partition.

Janet: Do you have a favourite character in the story?

Christine: So hard to choose. I love them all, especially my main characters Cam and Dassah, and then Cam’s sister Miriam and the man she’s falling in love with, Jack Sunderland, but there is a secondary character that snuck up and stole my heart.

Reverend Alan Callahan. At first this character was only going to be a foil to help Cam through his alcoholism, but as Alan’s character developed he made me laugh. He’s a tall, lanky, Anglican vicar, with a slightly longish nose, threadbare suit, and always in need of a haircut. He rides out on his horse into the Himalayan foothills to visit his parishes. Alan used to be the vicar of a large English church back in Britain, until he lost his parish because of his drinking problem.

After Alan conquered his addiction he took on missionary service in India and has remained happy ever since. When Alan meets Cam, his beautiful ecclesiastical elocution and precise annunciation deliver really scathing but hilarious rebukes—real zingers—to Cam. Alan is a hoot, and a man who doesn’t even realize he’s lonely for female companionship.

Janet: Alan is a fun character. Sometimes I think the secondary ones have a little more freedom to push the boundaries, because they’re not on the page often enough for readers to become tired of them. What’s the novel’s theme?

Christine: The theme is found in the main scripture verse Romans 8:38, 39 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Because this book is set during the Partition of India and the country of Pakistan being carved out of India, the theme is all about separation. Families are being torn apart and separated due to the horrific political and religious conflict of Muslims and Hindus. But so is Cam being separated from the woman he loves due to racial bigotry, the conflict around them, and due to his drinking problem, and from his seeming embarrassment that she is Indian.

Cam, Dassah, as well as Miriam have to learn that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, not even our own sin or addictions.

Janet: Is there another title in the works?

Christine: I’m excited about Sofi’s Bridge coming out later this year, a historical romance set in Washington State 1913. This book deals with post-traumatic stress syndrome and the fact that we cannot save the ones we love, only Christ can do that.

And I’m excited about the non-fiction book that I started back in 1999. God knew that the story wasn’t ready to be published then. I had so much healing to gain. But now in 2015 the Lord must have done His work in me, because He’s opened the door for this story about the relinquishment of my birth daughter, and what that emotional pain taught me about the Lord. Title is still in the works, but it will be released November 2015.

Janet: Two books releasing this year… very different content, but I can see how they’ll both touch readers’ hearts. What got you started writing?

Christine: Pretty much that non-fiction book I just mentioned. After the reunion with my birth-daughter when she was 20, I went through a terrible depression, reliving my original loss of her when I’d given her up at 3 days old. My husband caught me crying about it one day. He went out and returned a while later with a brand new journal and pen. He said, “Here, honey, write it”

I took my emotional pain and poured it all out to the Lord in that journal. As He brought healing to me in time, I felt His encouragement to put that spiritual truth into fictional novels to help others. So my books are highly entertaining but have strong spiritual takeaways.

Janet: That’s one of the things I appreciate about your novels. What do you like best about the writing life?

Christine: Making new friends, like you, Janet. 🙂

Janet: Someday we’ll meet in person! What do you like least?

Christine: The terrible time pressure. Writers don’t make much money. For the amount of work we put into our novels, we make pennies. Good thing most of us aren’t writing for financial gain. Many of us hold down full-time jobs as well as try to write, so we can share clean, uplifting novels, and also be caring wives, mothers, grandmothers. Family must come first.

Janet: Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

Christine: My life verse that anchors all my writing and speaking is Isaiah 49:15, 16a. “Can a woman forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has born? Though she may forget, I will not forget you. See…I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”

Janet: Chocolate or vanilla? Coffee or tea? Are you a morning person or a night owl? Cake or Pie? What’s your favourite season?

Christine: Vanilla. Tea. Morning person. Pie. And my favorite season is spring—like my novels—God takes the dark, the cold, the hurtful, and turns it into triumphant warmth, light and beauty.

Janet: What was the best part of the story to write?

Christine: The humor in my characters. When you’re writing about a heart-rending time in history, you need to balance that with light. I get a real kick out of my characters’ wit. Reverend Alan Callahan and Cam’s sister, Miriam, especially. These two characters make me laugh till the tears run down my face.

"Honestly, Miriam, the way you barge into Dante's Inferno you must think angels ride on your shoulder."

Janet: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Christine: Make the word Perseverance your middle name. That’s what it’s all about.

Janet: Amen. What do you do when the muse is uncooperative?

Christine: Go for a brisk walk with the dog.

Janet: Any interesting research tidbits?

Christine: I thoroughly enjoyed the biographies of Lord Louis Mountbatten (the Queen’s cousin) and his wife Lady Edwina. Lady Edwina, though not a Christian and having some shady morals in her personal life, was also an inspiration when it came to her Red Cross work during WW2 and during the Partition of India. I came to admire her for that.

Janet: What are you reading these days? Listening to?

Christine: I just finished reading Crooked Lines by Holly Michael—a very different style in Christian literature. But I loved it.  It was set in India, in many of the places I’ve been to. I also highly recommend The Language of Sparrows by Rachel Phifer.

Janet: What do you like to do to recharge?

Christine: Spend time with my loved ones—my husband, my mother, my kids and grandkids. I especially love to go camping with my husband in our little travel trailer.

Janet: Tell us something you appreciate about where you live.

Christine: I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world—British Columbia, Canada.  We’re within an hour’s drive of the ocean, but are surrounded by mountains. About six hours to the Rockies.

Janet: What’s the most surprising/fun/zany/scary thing you’ve ever done?

Christine: I wanted to learn to fly, so I took a trip up with a pilot in a small plane just to see if I could handle it. It was exhilarating, and I would have done it if I’d had the money.

Thank Janet, it’s been such fun being a guest on your blog. One of these days we’ll have to meet in person. Hugs for now.  Christine

Janet: Christine, thanks so much for taking time to answer all these questions… my, but I was feeling curious when I put this interview together! The Lord bless you as you prepare these next two books for the world, and in all the other aspects of your life as well.

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You can visit Christine Lindsay’s website and sign up for her quarterly newsletter—she always has something free to give away. And go to the links below to read sample chapters from all the completed series Twilight of the British Raj.

Veiled at Midnight, by Christine Lindsay

Chapter One Shadowed in Silk

Chapter One & Two Captured by Moonlight

Chapter One & Two Veiled at Midnight

Purchase sites for Christine Lindsay’s books:

Review: Consider the Sunflowers, by Elma Schemenauer

Consider the Sunflowers, by Elma SchemenauerConsider the Sunflowers, by Elma Schemenauer (Borealis Press, 2014)

In 1940s Saskatchewan, Tina Janz schemes to win the man who fascinates her, instead of the rich-but-boring man who impresses her Mennonite parents. Tina and Frank marry for love—or at least fascination—but it’s a rocky trail. They each have insecurities, attitudes and suspicions, and Tina is keeping a secret that may come back to hurt them both.

Consider the Sunflowers is a skillfully crafted literary novel that opens a window onto small-town life in World War Two-era western Canada. Little snippets of news and daily life help us understand the times, while Tina’s and Frank’s efforts to save their marriage will resonate with readers today.

Readers learn about Mennonite culture and prairie life, and about feeling like an outsider. There is a spiritual thread that’s organic to the novel, but it’s not about preaching. It’s about how the believers live their lives. Frank is honest about his inability to believe.

We also see the effects of self-pity, complaining, self-exclusion and manipulation, and in the seeing we may gain insight into our own lives. There’s a point in the story where Tina sees an amplified negative trait in another character and realizes she needs to change herself. As we watch her begin to change, it might inspire us to do the same.

My favourite lines:

Now she [Tina] was clinging to faith by her fingertips. One gust of wind and she’d reel off into some howling void of—what? She didn’t know; she’d never not believed before. [Kindle location 1408]

Adeline. The woman was like a poisoned well. She claimed Jesus poured springs of living water into her heart. Maybe he did, but Adeline poisoned them with her rudeness as fast as he poured them in. [Kindle location 1462]

He [Frank’s father] always shouted during long-distance phone conversations because they cost so much. [Kindle location 2184]

Do you remember old people shouting on long-distance calls? I do. I always thought they shouted because the sound had to travel so far.

Canadian author Elma Schemenauer is the author of 75 books and the editor of many more. Consider the Sunflowers is her first novel for adults. For more about the author and her novel, please visit her website. Or check out my interview with Frank Warkentin.

Paperback 299 pages $19.95, ISBN 978-0-88887-575-4, AVAILABLE FROM THE PUBLISHER, Borealis Press. Also available online at Chapters Indigo by about November 15. E-book coming in 2015.

[Review copy provided by the publisher.]

Review: Veiled at Midnight, by Christine Lindsay

Veiled at Midnight, by Christine LindsayVeiled at Midnight, by Christine Lindsay (WhiteFire Publishing, 2014)

Veiled at Midnight is a strong conclusion to Christine Lindsay’s Twilight of the British Raj series. If you haven’t read the previous two books, you can jump in here and understand everything, but Cam’s and Miriam’s back-stories do contain spoilers for the other books. And it’s a series well worth reading in its entirety.

Cam was a young child in book 1, Shadowed in Silk, and Miriam is his younger sister. Now adults, he’s in the army and she’s a teacher. The year is 1946; the place, India. These are the final days of British rule, but instead of happiness over the coming independence, the country is fracturing from within.

Because Cam and Miriam grew up in India, very involved in the work of a local mission for orphans, they feel more Indian than British. The idea of repatriating to England unsettles them. Cam’s war experiences add to his struggle, which he tries to drown in alcohol.

In a time of strict views on social status, dare Cam marry his childhood sweetheart, Dassah – an Indian? Can he live without her? And will Miriam be able to choose between a dashing British soldier and her career? Or can she hold onto both?

The siblings’ personal lives play out against the exotic background of India, during an increasingly turbulent time.

In some ways this was a difficult book to read. Author Christine Lindsay does a very good job of conveying the horror of the riots and fighting without becoming too graphic. With the current behaviour of ISIS and other religious terrorist groups, this historical novel feels uncomfortably current.

Yet against a background laced with tragedy, the novel weaves stories of hope. Another contemporary issue addressed in its pages is alcoholism. This is a Christian novel, and the author is clear in her message that only God can break the grip of this addiction. As we see, that doesn’t mean it’s easy for Cam. What it means is that it’s too hard for Cam – without God.

Favourite lines:

She’d been a striking woman, but it seemed as if someone had taken a charcoal drawing of her face and smudged it downward. [Kindle location 1716]

The rails leading out of the Amritsar station caught the last vestiges of setting sun and quivered in two molten lines of steel. [Kindle location 2110]

How could one’s heart sing and crack at the same time? [Kindle location 2252]

Eshana’s rebuke left welts on the raw patch that used to be Cam’s self-respect. [Kindle location 2326]

Christine Lindsay writes novels to give hope and to strengthen faith. As such, she doesn’t shy away from difficult issues but allows readers to walk through those places with her characters. As well as the Twilight of the British Raj series, Christine has written a contemporary romance, Londonderry Dreaming.

[Review copy provided by the author.]

Review: Other Side of the River, by Janice L. Dick

Other Side of the River, by Janice L. DickOther Side of the River, by Janice L. Dick (Helping Hands Press, 2014)

It’s been too long since we had new historical fiction from Janice L. Dick. Once again she immerses readers in the world of Russian Mennonites, a persecuted people wherever they try to settle in the Soviet regime of 1926.

Despite the growing turmoil in their village, Luise Letkemann is eager to marry her beloved Daniel Martens. Her family wants to move somewhere safer: to Canada, or at least farther east towards China. But will anywhere be safe from vindictive officials out to break her people’s hope?

As the story opens, Luise is determined to remain optimistic and to see the bright side in everything, but sorrow brings change. Elderly Tante Manya has some of the best lines, wisdom-wise in the story. Here’s my favourite:

Manya: The purpose of prayer is not to get what we want, Luise, but to lay hold of God Himself. He seeks always to reveal Himself to us. Once we begin to see Him as He is, we can relinquish our tight hold on our will and trust Him for His. Do you understand?

Luise: Sometimes I don’t understand anything, Tante. [Kindle Location 3725]

In some ways this was a heavy book because of the people’s struggles, but the way they dig deeper into faith and find the resources they need to carry on in the face of oppression is an example and an encouragement to readers today in whatever stresses we find ourselves.

It’s not a traumatic read. These are resilient people and although some break, the community bond is strong and supportive. Luise, her gentle father Abram, her acidic stepmother Anna, Luise’s step-brother and step-sister, Tante Manya and Daniel are all real characters with individual struggles, weaknesses and strengths.

Other Side of the River originally released as a ebook series. This review is of the complete series in one volume. If you’re looking online, be sure to get the full novel and not just a piece that leaves you wanting more. Sadly, Amazon.ca does not yet offer the print version although the US and UK Amazons do.

Janice L. Dick is a Canadian author of Mennonite heritage. Her Storm series (Calm Before the Storm, Eye of the Storm and Out of the Storm) also traces the lives of Russian Mennonites. I hope we’ll see another novel to follow Other Side of the River. You can find Janice, and more about her books, at her website: janicedick.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Secrets of Sloane House, by Shelley Gray

Secrets of Sloane House, by Shelley GraySecrets of Sloane House, by Shelley Gray (Zondervan, 2014)

The year 1893 finds Rosalind Perry in the bustling city of Chicago, far from her rural home, working as a maid. Yes, her family needs the money, but Rosalind is there to discover what happened to her sister, Miranda, who disappeared without a trace from the family’s employ. In a time when young women might willingly disappear, many more are going missing.

Rosalind has stepped far outside her comfort zone, and she develops a confidence and perseverance she otherwise wouldn’t have found. Her eureka moment may be that relying on trusted friends brings a stronger result than trying to do everything herself.

One of the friends she’s surprised to make is Reid Armstrong, the son of a wealthy family and a welcome visitor at Sloane House. Reid’s struggle is with honouring his father’s dreams when it begins to feel like he’s losing himself in the process. For both characters, it’s a discovery of identity and about what matters most in life—and about love.

Favourite lines:

She ached to give them hope, but at the same time, she knew better than to give them such a gift. Hope was one of the Lord’s blessings, that was true. But in other ways, hope could be the very work of the Devil. It permitted a person to believe that their imaginations or dreams could actually be true. [p. 94]

Fans of deep point of view may be frustrated by the more “telling” style of narrative (like “He realized…” “She thought…”). However, this slightly distant point of view allows a gentle read even in the most disturbing scenes.

Secrets of Sloane House is book 1 in the Chicago World’s Fair Mystery series, and as such I expected the Fair to be a significant element in the setting, almost a character in its own right. While a few scenes took place there and others mentioned it, the central setting focuses on the rich society and the servants they consider second-class but necessary.

Shelley Shepard Gray is a NY Times and USA Today bestselling author perhaps best known for her Sugarcreek Amish novels. For more about the author, including a list of her novels, visit her website: shelleyshepardgray.com.

[A review copy was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way compensated for this review.]