New Releases in Christian Fiction (December 2016)

December 2016 New Releases from members of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW):

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

Bella Natale! by Marianne Evans — An aspiring American artist and the widowed, Italian owner of a premier art gallery meet and fall in love in Florence when he champions her work, but there are her American family’s expectations and his five-year-old son to consider. (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

With this Kiss by Marianne Evans — A kiss stolen in a midnight snow. A jealous colleague at Jonathan’s firm is bent on revenge…revenge that puts Isabella’s store into legal peril. Will love be enough to see them through? (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

Mistletoe Daddy by Deb Kastner — Bubbly Vivian Grainger bids on gruff Nick McKenna at Serendipity Texas’s annual Bachelors and Baskets for one reason–to help her build her hair salon; but once Nick finds out she’s pregnant, he does his best to build a path to Vivian’s heart. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

A Hero for Heather by Marion Ueckermann — When a “homeless” man she’s been helping rescues social worker Heather Blume from a vicious attack, she’s so grateful she violates one of the most important rules in her profession–she takes him home to tend his wounds. But the mysterious Paxton Rathbone is no homeless man…he’s a gentleman. When feelings grow, and Paxton’s past beckons, both he and Heather discover there’s a fine line between gratitude and love. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

A Husband for Holly by Marion Ueckermann — Holly Blume loves decorating people’s homes, but that doesn’t mean she’s ready to play house. Believing a house is not a home without a woman’s touch, Reverend Christopher Stewart is in the market for a wife. What woman would consider him marriage material, though, with an aging widowed father to look after, especially one who suffers from Alzheimer’s? Despite their differences, Holly resolves to finish her job of redesigning the Stewart home, while Christopher determines to re-form Holly’s heart. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Rocky Mountain Cowboy by Tina Radcliffe — Twelve years after she married another man, Rebecca Anshaw Simpson is back at Joe Gallagher’s ranch as his physical therapist. But healing his body is nothing compared to guarding his heart from the woman he never forgot. Becca won’t let regret and a surly rancher get in the way of her job and the chance to start over with her little girl. But Becca never expected she’d fall all over again for her first love. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Cozy Mystery:

Christmas Cookie Mystery by Naomi Miller — With Christmas right around the corner, Katie Chupp and The Sweet Shop get involved in a mystery when a certain dear family finds an unexpected package at their door. (Cozy Mystery from S&G Publishing)

Historical:

Michel: The Fourth Wise Man by Katheryn Maddox Haddad — This descendant of Daniel, also a wise man, sacrifices everything – his wife, his father, his home – to do what he is convinced God needs him to do, then finds out he was wrong. (Historical from Northern Lights Publishing House)

Five Nights with Pharaoh by Kristen Reed — Shortly after entering Egypt with her husband, Sarai is taken into Pharaoh’s harem as his newest, most favored concubine. The breathtaking, ageless beauty is forced to cling to her faith in God as she prays for the strength to accept her new position and endures a series of mysterious plagues that can only be indicative of a wrathful deity’s divine judgment. Discover a remarkable reimagining of Sarai’s plight in Egypt, where she humbly set aside her own honor to protect the man through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. (Historical – Independently Published)

Historical Romance:

Seven Brides for Seven Texans Romance Collection by Amanda Barratt, Susan Page Davis, Keli Gwyn, Vickie McDonough, Gabrielle Meyer, Lorna Leslie Seilstad, Erica Vetsch — Meet the seven Hart brothers of the 7-Heart ranch in central Texas. Each man is content in his independent life, without the responsibilities of a wife and children–until their father decides 1874 will be the year his grown sons finally marry, or they will be cut from his will. How will each man who values his freedom respond to the ultimatum? Can love develop on a timeline, or will it be sacrificed for the sake of an inheritance? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

A Pony Express Romance by Misty M. Beller — Pony Express rider Josiah English and the station master’s sister, Mara Reid, fall in love, but when the Express shuts down and Mara’s family home is in peril, the danger looming over Mara’s life may not be half as destructive as that threatening her heart. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Military Suspense:

Conspiracy of Silence by Ronie Kendig — A former Green Beret is confronted by past mistakes as he and his team battle a centuries-old plague and the terrorists bent on rewriting history. (Military Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])

Romantic Suspense:

Hazardous Holiday by Liz Johnson — Just in time for the holidays, navy SEAL Zach McCloud returns home from deployment–and discovers someone wants his family dead. When he married his cousin’s struggling widow, he vowed to help her and her seriously ill son, and now he’ll risk everything to protect them. Even if their arrangement is only temporary. Kristi’s certain an unhappy client from the law firm where she works is determined to hunt her down. But when a sniper bullet wildly misses its target, they begin to question whether it’s really her someone wants dead. Working together, can they figure out why they’ve been attacked…and keep little Cody from the nefarious forces dead set on making this Christmas their last? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Christmas Conspiracy by Susan Sleeman — When Commander Jake Marsh loses control of a hostage situation and Tessa Long is injured, guilt eats at him. He blurs the line between the professional and personal, and visits Tessa at the hospital. But when a man tries to kill her in her hospital room, Jake disregards all of the rules and regulations that have allowed him to control his world and vows to keep her safe no matter what. Trouble is, the situation brings back memories from his childhood of the loss of his entire family, and for the first time in twenty years, he fears he’s no longer in charge of his life, and knows when he’s out of control bad things happen. Very bad things. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Fear and Worship

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”
Mark 4:39-41, NLT*

Matthew, Mark, and Luke each record Jesus calming the storm, and they each follow the account with what happened when the boat reached its destination. Jesus freed a demon-possessed man (Matthew says two men) and sent the demons into a herd of pigs which then dashed into the lake and drowned.

In the boat, the disciples had been afraid of drowning in the storm, but then they were terrified by the power Jesus displayed. Following Jesus, they’d seen Him heal people, but somehow this authority over the elements was even more awe-inspiring to them.

On land, the townspeople also responded with fear, but of a different kind. They pleaded with Jesus to leave them.

Peter once begged Jesus to leave him, because he knew his sinful nature and feared to be in the presence of one so great (see Luke 5:8). Instead, Jesus called him as a disciple. Here, the people asked Him to go and He went. It’s not about the “please leave,” it’s about the heart-reason behind it.

Peter and the other disciples were afraid with a holy fear of God. They worshipped, but feared their unworthiness. These town-folk were afraid of a power that shook things up and threatened their way of life. They didn’t recognize it as from God, and they just wanted it gone.

God who speaks to sickness, storms, and sinners, please open our eyes to recognize Your holy power. Plant in us a holy fear of You, an awe and wonder that leads us to worship You. Let us never fear You in the way that would make us hide from You. Instead, draw us ever nearer like moths to Your flame. Thank You for Your grace that saves us and takes away our fear of judgment, and that welcomes us into Your presence.

A good worship song to focus us on God’s power is Travis Ryan’s “You Hold it All.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Embracing Weakness

Each time he [the Lord] said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT*

Humanly-speaking, wouldn’t the Apostle Paul have been more effective for the Lord without his limiting “thorn”? Whatever it was, it tormented him and left him weak. It wasn’t a good thing, nor desirable, but God used it for a good purpose – to keep Paul humbly dependent on Him.

Maybe Paul would have seemed more successful in the short term, reaching more people, covering more territory, but would his life and ministry have had such a lasting effect? Might people have been distracted from Christ by the brilliance of the messenger? Would pride have ruined him?

God was so good to give Paul what He knew was necessary, even though it was painful. His goodness helped Paul wrestle through it to understand its purpose. By the time he wrote today’s verse, Paul saw its value. He had pleaded three times for release. Did God tell him to stop asking, or was that when he received perspective?

What do we see as a limitation? A liability or weakness that holds us back? “If it wasn’t for _________, I’d be so much more useful to God.”

God crafted each of us the way we are, and He has plans for us. Even if we’ve taken a detour and feel that our “thorn” is self-inflicted, God can use us as – and where – we are.

Just as Paul learned to embrace the things that kept him weak, knowing they kept him dependent on God’s power, we can do the same, as God helps us to do so. It won’t be easy, but even here His grace is enough.

Instead of “doing things for God,” we’ll be positioned for God to work through us. After all, it’s not about stroking our pride. It’s about showing the world who He is.

Holy, powerful, and sovereign God, You have chosen to work through the weak, to show what only You can do. Sometimes this hurts us, but please help us entrust ourselves to You. In our weakness and in our apparent strength, protect us from the snare of pride and from self-reliance. Help us find our sufficiency and our value in You, surrendered to Your purposes and living for Your glory.

Casting Crowns’ song, “In Me,” shows where our true strength lies.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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.

===

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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Soul-Rest

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Matthew 11:28-29, NLT*

This much-loved and often-quoted passage brings comfort and hope. Most times we focus on words like ‘rest, teach, humble, gentle,’ and again ‘rest.’ We skip over the ‘yoke’ part.

I’ve often heard the teaching about the yoke being for two oxen, and how a new, untrained animal would be paired with an experienced one to learn how to pull the plow. Jesus, the thought goes, is the experienced teacher, and we, learning to work alongside Him, are the novices.

That makes good sense, but let’s look at the yoke for a minute. Jesus says it’s His. He may or not mean He’s wearing it, since He did indeed come to serve by showing us how to live for God.

It’s also His because the Teacher, Shepherd, Suffering Servant is also the Master.

On our own, we get frazzled, weary, and definitely overburdened. The soul-rest Jesus offers isn’t about collapsing under a shade tree for a nap, though. It’s about dropping the loads we were never designed to carry and taking up the load He has for us.

There’s still work involved, but now we’re working under the direction of a Master who loves us, a God whose compassion sent Him to die to rescue us. He knows our weakness, and His Spirit gives us strength.

Sovereign Lord God, You are our rightful ruler and King. Forgive us for the times we try to live under our own leadership, and the stresses and messes we get into. Help us to surrender to Your authority, and open our spirits to Your Spirit’s direction and strength. Thank You that the path of serving You is a path of fulfillment and soul-rest.

This song from Matt Maher sums it up: “Lord, I Need You.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Review: Another Day, Another Dali, by Sandra Orchard

Another Day, Another Dali, by Sandra OrchardAnother Day, Another Dali, by Sandra Orchard (Revell, 2016)

Someone is replacing privately-owned artwork with forgeries, and one victim is a friend of Serena’s grandmother. How can Serena say no when Nana asks her to investigate privately? But what if her findings only widen the gap between her grandmother and herself?

Suddenly Serena’s in danger. Is it because of her unofficial case, or her involvement in FBI co-worker Tanner’s investigation?

Another Day, Another Dali continues in the same light-yet-potentially-deadly style as A Fool and His Monet. I enjoy the humour in this series, and yet there’s a deeper thread, too, as Serena learns a few things about herself as well as about the case.

There’s plenty of action, multiple suspects, schemes, and secrets. After a heart-warming ending, I’m not sure all my questions were answered, but the important ones were.

My vote for favourite character in this novel is Mr. Malgucci. Can’t tell you why without spoiling part of the story.

As if mystery and danger aren’t enough, Tanner and Nate, Serena’s apartment supervisor, seem to be competing for her attention, and her relatives are choosing sides. Author Sandra Orchard has had a reader poll going since book one to decide which man Serena will choose, and we’ll find out in book 3. They’re both such nice fellows, and I really don’t want to see either of them hurt.

Favourite line:

Tanner turned over every rock, log, and snitch for a lead on who was bent on terrorizing me. [Kindle location 2880]

Sandra Orchard is an award-winning Canadian author of romantic suspense. The Christian thread in the Serena Jones mystery series is present, but it’s low-key enough that readers of other (or no) faith should be comfortable reading. For more about the author and her work, visit sandraorchard.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

My Corner of the Vineyard (Guest Post)

My Corner of the Vineyard

by Christine Lindsay

Looking back almost 17 years ago now, I started out as a writer hungry to share my memoirs as a birth-mother, a woman who relinquished her baby to adoption.  But I was far from ready to write that book, far from ready to give comfort to others. The Lord redirected my energy into writing Christian fiction.

He used that time to refine me as a birth-mother, to refine me as the woman He wanted me to be. He did that by helping me see who I really was in His eyes. I had so much healing still to go through at the beginning of my writing career. Like I say in my non-fiction book,

“Typical. Most people going through emotional healing think they’re healed long before they actually are.”

I’m so glad today that my heavenly Father held me back from publishing that non-fiction book in the year 2000, when I was chomping at the bit to stand on a soapbox and tell the world how I felt—that relinquishing my baby broke my heart. That book would have done little to help others. It would have only allowed me to toot my own horn.

This past summer the Lord opened the doors—after all these years—to publish that true-life story that started me writing in the first place. Finding Sarah Finding Me is my birth-mother memoirs, about what God taught me through that tumultuously emotional journey, and also the heart-wrenching and joyful stories from other adoption triads. But with relief I see that long-held-back book is now helping others through their adoption story. It’s helping women see themselves as God sees them.

Christine Lindsay and her birth-daughter, Sarah

Whenever I speak in public I get the great honor of hugging some hurting woman. They range from adoptees, to adoptive moms, women who suffered infertility, or women who married the man they used to call Mr. Wrong because of an unplanned pregnancy, and most quietly of all, women just like me who sidle up to my side—birth-moms.

It’s been a long journey, certainly not an easy one, but to see God working in this part of the vineyard, the part where one woman gives her baby up to another mom and dad for the sake of the baby, is a really special corner. I live here and at long last this birth-mom is happy.

Finding Sarah, Finding Me, by Christine LindsayBook Blurb:

Sometimes it is only through giving up our hearts that we learn to trust the Lord.

Adoption. It’s something that touches one in three people today, a word that will conjure different emotions in those people touched by it. A word that might represent the greatest hope…the greatest question…the greatest sacrifice. But most of all, it’s a word that represents God’s immense love for his people.

Join birth mother Christine Lindsay as she shares the heartaches, hopes, and epiphanies of her journey to reunion with the daughter she gave up…and to understanding her true identity in Christ along the way.

Through her story and glimpses into the lives of other families in the adoption triad, readers will see the beauty of our broken families, broken hearts, and broken dreams when we entrust them to our loving God.

AUTHOR BIO

Christine Lindsay is the author of multi-award-winning Christian fiction with complex emotional and psychological truth, who always promises a happy ending. Tales of her Irish ancestors who served in the British Cavalry in Colonial India inspired her multi-award-winning series Twilight of the British Raj, Book 1 Shadowed in Silk, Book 2 Captured by Moonlight, and explosive finale Veiled at Midnight.

Christine’s Irish wit and use of setting as a character is evident in her contemporary and historical romances Londonderry Dreaming and Sofi’s Bridge.

A busy writer and speaker, Christine, and her husband live on the west coast of Canada, and she has just released her non-fiction book Finding Sarah—Finding Me: A Birthmother’s Story.

Please drop by Christine’s website ChristineLindsay.org or follow her on Amazon on Twitter. Subscribe to her quarterly newsletter, and be her friend on Pinterest , Facebook, and Goodreads

Read Chapter One of Finding Sarah Finding Me: Click HERE

Purchase links:

Amazon (Paperback and Kindle)
Barnes and Noble

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Interview at The Romantic Side of Suspense

Have I ever regretted killing off a character? How do I connect with them, and why do I leave out the swear words?

Find the answers in my interview at The Romantic Side of Suspense: A Conversation withJanet Sketchley.

Noticing. And Remembering.

O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us.
Your plans for us are too numerous to list.
You have no equal.
If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds,
I would never come to the end of them.
Psalm 40:5, NLT*

We recognize the truth in verses like these. And yet we forget.

We forget who God is – how strong, how full of love and mercy, how trustworthy.

We see the troubles and stresses in our lives and in the world around us, the looming danger and darkness, and we lose sight of the truth that God is bigger.

Remembering what God has done helps us keep perspective. Look at what He’s done in the Bible and in the lives of Christians around the world. Think back on how He’s moved in your life, the lives of friends, in your church.

For every big thing God does, how many small ones might we overlook? A parking spot when it’s needed most, a lost item found, a phone call at just the right time?

To know and rely on His love (1 John 4:16, NIV**) we need to notice and remember the evidence.

O Lord our God, Your power and goodness are beyond human understanding, and truly we could never list all that You have done. Teach us to remember, and open our eyes to see what You’re still doing. No matter what the day brings, help us to be secure in trusting You.

This week’s song is “The Goodness of the Lord,” by Travis Ryan.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

** New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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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