Parker’s Pick of the Month, Clipston, Laureano, Rivers, Turanksy, a Quintet of Colonial Stories | Christian Fiction Reviews

Pick of the month

redstarParker, Samuel. Coldwater. Revell. Jan. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9780800727345. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781493412549. CF

The darkness that emanates from Michael leaches into everything around him, destroying all that he touches. Spending most of his juvenile life in prison for killing his younger brother, Michael is moved to solitary confinement when mysterious and gruesome deaths begin occurring around him. Released as an adult, ­Michael returns to his hometown of Coldwater, where he finds a group of vigilantes waiting for him. A chance meeting with a stranger as he escapes the mob offers him an opportunity at redemption he is unable to accept until he is forced to make an unavoidable choice. Parker’s sophomore effort (after Purgatory Road) is a powerful and disturbing retelling of the biblical story of Cain and Abel. Fast-paced prose evokes strong emotion that is intensified by the brevity of the chapters. The gritty plot can be a bit much for sensitive readers, but the story is ultimately compelling. VERDICT Fans of Stephen King and Dean Koontz will enjoy this twisted tale of the destructive and sinister power of evil. [See the Q&A with the author, LJ 2/1/18, p. 81.—Ed.]

Amish Corner

Clipston, Amy & others. An Amish Heirloom: Four Novellas. Zondervan. Apr. 2018. 400p. ISBN 9780310351887. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780310351870. CF

Four of today’s top Amish fiction writers contribute to this sweet collection of novellas about love, marriage, and secrets found in family heirlooms. In Clipston’s “A Legacy of Love,” Leon King realizes he still cares for ex-girlfriend Susie Bontrager when he agrees to repair her grandparents’ rocking chairs for her upcoming wedding. Susie, still drawn to Leon, knows she is marrying the wrong man. The titular object in Beth Wiseman’s “The Cedar Chest” contains family love letters that reveal a long-hidden secret; Catherine Fisher and her mother must decide whether to share it. Kathleen Fuller’s “The Treasured Book” revolves around a young man’s choice between the Amish life he desires to join and the law practice his father expects him to assume. His answer may lie in an old Bible he finds at a flea market. As Iris Beachy cares for an abandoned newborn wrapped in an antique crib quilt, she and Mahon Kurtz consider the possibility of a future together in Kelly Irvin’s “The Midwife’s Dream.” VERDICT Recommended for fans of the authors as well as newcomers who want a sampler of the best the genre has to offer.

Fuller, Kathleen. Words from the Heart. Thomas Nelson. (Amish Letters, Bk. 3). Feb. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9780718082567. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780718082574. CF

Betrayed by her fiancé, a brokenhearted Ivy Yoder returns home to Birch Creek, OH. Volunteering to help clean out a friend’s attic, she discovers a stack of old letters and immerses herself in a romance from long ago. Noah Schlabach, an auctioneer of historical ephemera, is anxious to find anything of value for an upcoming sale, and his interest in the letters starts out as purely financial. But as he begins to read them, he, too, is captivated by the love story they reveal. In this third book in the “Amish Letters” series (after Written in Love and The Promise of a Letter), Fuller crafts another charming tale about a young couple learning to enjoy the present instead of living in the past. VERDICT In a style similar to Amy Clipston’s, with the same attention to detail and character development that make both authors fan favorites, Fuller’s latest will appeal to fans of Amish fiction with a historical bent.

Check These Out

Andrews, Mesu. Isaiah’s Daughter: A Novel of Prophets & Kings. WaterBrook. Jan. 2018. 400p. ISBN 9780735290259. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780735290266. CF

With her family destroyed, an orphaned Ishma enters the house of the prophet Isaiah as a captive, but he adopts the young woman and gives her a new name, ­Hephzibah, which means “delight of the Lord.” She soon ends up stealing the heart of the future Israelite king Hezekiah, but life in the palace and her marriage are not easy. As war and strife run rampant through the land of Israel and still haunted by her past, Zibah fears an uncertain future. Faith in Yahweh seems to be the only way to ensure peace, endure hardship, and develop the strength to forgive. Narrated by Zibah, this story is an emotional roller coaster that will keep readers engaged. VERDICT Marked by precise historical detail, Andrews’s (Miriam) sweeping and engrossing biblical saga will renew interest among Christian book groups in rereading the prophesies of Isaiah in the Old Testament.

Blackburn, Lynn H. Beneath the Surface. Revell. (Dive Team Investigations, Bk. 1). Mar. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9780800729387. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781493413829. CF

Moving home to Carrington, NC, oncology nurse Leigh Weston hopes to recuperate from a harrowing experience with a psychotic patient. But her fragile peace is shattered when someone tampers with her brakes, and her friend and dive team investigator Ryan Parker finds a body in a lake. The crime has all the hallmarks of a serial killer on the loose, and Leigh initially believes that her former patient is stalking her. Unfortunately she may not be off the mark. Before Leigh and Ryan become the killer’s next victims, they must solve the case quickly. Launching a new series of romantic suspense, Carol Award winner Blackburn (Covert Justice; Hidden Legacy) keeps the tension high, building a palpable sense of fear in the protagonists as their investigation comes closer to identifying the killer. VERDICT Fans of Dani Pettrey’s “Alaskan Courage” thrillers will enjoy this nail-biter of a series opener, which will also be appreciated by romantic and psychological suspense fans.

Cossette, Connilyn. A Light on the Hill. Bethany House. (Cities of Refuge, Bk. 1). Feb. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9780764219863. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781493413614. CF

Captured and branded with the mark of the Canaanite gods in Jericho, Moriyah doesn’t expect to marry owing to her shameful disfigurement. Her astonishment soon turns to dismay when it’s revealed that her father has betrothed her to a widower with children for whom she is expected to care. The marriage goes awry, and Moriyah flees to the only place she feels is safe—one of the six Levitical cities of refuge. However, she is unprepared for the hardships and dangers along the way, making terrible enemies but also connecting with strong allies, who strengthen her in ways she could not have imagined. VERDICT Cossette (“Out from Egypt” trilogy) debuts a biblical series that revolves around the Old Testament’s Levitical sanctuary cities, set against the backdrop of ancient Israel. Accessible and fluid character-driven storytelling creates a fascinating read that will appeal to fans of Jill Eileen Smith and Angela Hunt and those who prefer their biblical fiction less academic.

Hunt, Angela. Judah’s Wife: A Novel of the Maccabees. Bethany House. (Silent Years, Bk. 1). Jan. 2018. 384p. ISBN 9780764219337. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781493413591. CF

When Leah marries Judah, she believes that her life is finally on the right path and that she is free from the hardship of her childhood. Unfortunately, Antiochus IV, a descendant of one of Alexander the Great’s generals, now rules Judea and issues an edict that the Jews must adhere to the laws of Syria or face death. Leah’s father-in-law chooses to resist in battle, and when he is fatally wounded, his dying wish is for Judah to continue to fight for the Jewish right to follow the law of Moses. Leah is unhappy with her husband’s decision and struggles to understand a God who would foster death and destruction in his wake. VERDICT Hunt’s (Egypt’s Sister) latest series puts a human face on an a momentous event in ancient history—the Maccabean Revolt of 167–160 BCE—by presenting it from the perspective of Judah’s wife. Fans of biblical fiction will be captivated.

redstarLaureano, Carla. The Saturday Night Supper Club. Tyndale House. Feb. 2018. 384p. ISBN 9781496420244. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781496420275. CF

Chef Rachel Bishop never imagined that her successful career could disintegrate so quickly after an online negative review of her restaurant goes viral, but she is determined to restore her reputation. Alex Kanin’s New Yorker article has given his stalled writing career a boost, but at a cost to Rachel’s restaurant. Guilt-ridden, he offers her a chance to prepare a dinner for an exclusive Denver supper club. As they become better acquainted, the couple realize that they have more than food in common. The latest novel from Laureano (Under Scottish Stars) is a delight for foodies, providing delicious descriptions of dishes and glimpses into the culinary world. The romance develops gradually, allowing readers to experience and savor Rachel and Alex’s deepening connection. VERDICT Romance aficionados and fans of stories about overcoming obstacles and the role of faith in everyday life will eagerly await the next entry in this sweet food-centered series.

Rivers, Francine. The Masterpiece. Tyndale House. Feb. 2018. 494p. ISBN 9781496407900. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781496418951. CF

Famous artist Roman Velasco battles his demons in the night as The Bird, a graffiti artist. This alter ego draws from Roman’s past before fame and fortune made him wealthy but empty inside. Grace Moore is a suddenly single mother who needs to work. After her husband’s betrayal, she finds comfort in her faith. When an opportunity comes her way to be the personal assistant to the reclusive Roman, Grace is cautious but hopeful that the opportunity will give her some much-needed security. Little does either of them know how much they need each other. ­VERDICT Rivers (Earth Psalms) is known for creating memorable characters whose brokenness serves as a pathway to redemption and finding faith in Jesus. This character-driven romance will enthrall her many fans.

Smith, Jill Eileen. A Passionate Hope: Hannah’s Story. Revell. (Daughters of the Promised Land, Bk. 4). Feb. 2018. 384p. ISBN 9780800720377. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781493412488. CF

In the ancient city of Shiloh, Hannah and Elkanah are a childless couple; despite their love for each other, Elkanah succumbs to family pressure and takes a second wife, who conceives many children and taunts the humiliated and disgraced Hannah. Although Hannah’s prayers seem to go unanswered, she holds steadfast in her belief in God. That faith is rewarded in unexpected ways. Smith’s affinity for biblical research is evident in her well-drawn characters and detailed settings that breathe life into stories of the past. VERDICT Smith (Redeeming Grace) delivers the final volume in series about remarkable women of the Old Testament, focusing on the faith and patience required to sustain a relationship of any kind. Fans of Angela Hunt, Brock and Bodie Thoene, and Connilyn Cossette will be pleased to discover this rising star in biblical fiction.

Trembling, Paul. Local Artist. Lion Hudson: Kregel. Jan. 2018. 192p. ISBN 9781782642596. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781782642602. CF

When Sandra Deeson discovers a corpse in the library where she works, it stirs up memories of when she found a body 30 years ago. There may be a clue connecting the two murders in a painting that was left for her. As Sandra and her husband, Graham, begin to put together the pieces of the past, someone attempts to prevent them from assembling the puzzle. The last time this happened, she escaped with her life; this time she may not be so lucky. In Trembling’s second mystery (after Local Poet), steady pacing and eerie details result in a haunting tale of murder and mayhem. A few British colloquialisms may give some readers pause, but this is a minor distraction. VERDICT Featuring likable characters, this quick and engaging read is perfect for those who enjoy cozy mysteries set in Britain.

Turansky, Carrie. Across the Blue. Multnomah. Feb. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9781601429421. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781601429438. CF

Isabella Grayson, the daughter of a prestigious newspaper baron, is expected to marry well, but she yearns to write for one of her father’s papers. Her parents reluctantly acquiesce to her desire, stipulating that she use a pen name and marry within one year. James Drake longs to be the first man to fly across the English Channel and win the contest sponsored by ­Grayson newspapers, thereby freeing himself from a shameful family secret. When his aircraft crashes onto the grounds of the Grayson estate, he meets Isabella and a mutual attraction arises, even though James’s humble background and lack of social standing is frowned upon in Edwardian England. As the race draws closer, sinister events threaten the couple’s relationship and the outcome of the competition. VERDICT Carol Award winner Turansky (Shine Like the Dawn) captures the exciting beginnings of aviation with authentic historical details that serve as a fascinating backdrop to Isabella and James’s burgeoning relationship. For fans of tender romances set in Edwardian England.

Colonial stories

Bergren, Lisa T. Keturah. Bethany House. (Sugar Baron’s Daughter, Bk. 1). Feb. 2018. 284p. ISBN 9780764230240. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781493413621. CF

In 1772, Lady Keturah Banning ­Tomlinson and her sisters, Verity and Selah, travel from England to the West Indies to visit the plantations left to them by their late father and find that their legacy is in decline. For all three, life on the Caribbean island of Nevis comes as a shock. The local gentry seeks Keturah’s hand and her property, but past hurts cause her to shy away from romance. Yet a childhood friend may change her mind about trusting in love. Bergren (Waterfall) puts a fresh spin on popular colonial fiction in this series launch that follows three sisters as their lives are shaped by their new circumstances. Keturah is a strong female protagonist who will appeal to inspirational fiction fans who appreciate stories about women who forge their own path in life. VERDICT Readers who prefer their historical fiction mixed with romance may enjoy this tale’s original story line and setting. But librarians should be aware of the problematic language used by some of the characters in referring to enslaved peoples; according to the author’s website, such strong terms are representative of the historical documentation from the time period, but may be disturbing to some patrons. [This title and the succeeding entries were highlighted in Julia Reffner’s “A Delicate Balance,” LJ 11/15/17.—Ed.]

Fisher, Suzanne Woods. Phoebe’s Light. Revell. (Nantucket Legacy, Bk. 1). Feb. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9780800721626. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781493412495. CF

Phoebe Starbuck is a young Quaker woman living on the island of Nantucket, MA, in the 18th century. Her marriage to Capt. Phineas Foulger is a dream come true until a secret in her great-grandmother’s diary, given to her by her father as a wedding present, threatens to ruin that happiness. Fisher’s (An Amish Country Christmas) close attention to the women whose husbands would go to sea for two years or more offers an intimate look at an isolated community, in which life was difficult and lonely. Striving for authenticity and historical accuracy, Fisher unfortunately peppers her dialog with a plethora of thees and thous that may be difficult for some readers. VERDICT Fisher’s focus on a new faith group, the Quakers of colonial-era Nantucket Island, offers a fresh take on early America that history buffs will relish.

Frantz, Laura. The Lacemaker. Revell. Jan. 2018. 416p. ISBN 9780800726638. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781493412501. CF

Betrothed to a man her father thinks will solidify their Tory cause, lacemaker Lady Elisabeth ­Lawson is shocked when her fiancé abandons her after she is accused of being a British spy in Williamsburg, VA. It’s the eve of the American Revolution, and tensions are high. But help arrives in the form of patriot Noble Rynallt. However, their relationship is fraught as their opposing political affiliations cause them to be cautious of each other. The two realize that the wrong spark can set off an epic explosion. Christy Award finalist Frantz’s (A Moonbow Night) lush descriptions immerse readers in the sights, sounds, and smells of 1770s Williamsburg. The suspense is palpable as the plot unwinds into a tangle of local and global politics. ­VERDICT With believable, sympathetic characters and a swoon-worthy romance, Frantz’s latest is perfect for those reading for character and looking for a great historical love story.

Green, Jocelyn. A Refuge Assured. Bethany House. Feb. 2018. 432p. ISBN 9780764219078. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781493413690. CF

In this evocative tale, Vivienne Rivard, a Parisian lacemaker for the court of Marie Antoinette, barely escapes with her life as the French Revolution breaks out. Boarding a ship to America, she lands at the French settlement of Azilum in Pennsylvania. There she meets Liam Delaney, a veteran of the American Revolution, who is gradually pulled into the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791. Both long for safety and security, but when Vivienne becomes the caretaker for a young boy believed to be the Dauphin, heir to the French throne, life becomes complicated and dangerous. VERDICT Green (The Mark of the King) has written a complex, compelling historical romance that brings a less-familiar part of American history to life. Its themes of faith and perseverance will appeal to many readers of the genre.

Woodhouse, Kimberley. The Mayflower Bride. Shiloh Run. (Daughters of the Mayflower, Bk. 1). Feb. 2018. 248p. ISBN 9781683224198. pap. $12.99; ebk. ISBN 9781683224211. CF

Mary Elizabeth Chapman is loath to leave the only home she has ever known, but the religious strictures of England have become more than her separatist father can bear. In 1620, they board the Speedwell for the New World. Her future husband, carpenter ­William Lytton, who has been hired to spy on the new colony, travels on the Mayflower. What they face when they land are harsh realities and hardships of life in a wild and untamed land. VERDICT Adventure and espionage feature prominently in this dynamic new historical series from Woodhouse (Out of the Ashes), which tracks one family from the inaugural voyage of the Mayflower through the end of World War II. Book clubs and genealogy buffs will delight in seeing how the history rolls out with each succeeding generation.

Christine Sharbrough is Librarian, First Baptist Church, Bellville, TX. She loves Christian fiction for the inspiration and hope it gives to readers

 

This article was published in Library Journal's February 1, 2018 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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