In “The Thorn”, Lewis’s most recently nominated title for the 2011 Christy Award, she returns to her beloved Lancaster County this time to tell the st...moreIn “The Thorn”, Lewis’s most recently nominated title for the 2011 Christy Award, she returns to her beloved Lancaster County this time to tell the story of the Kauffman sisters as they struggle with their faith and their relationships with the men in their lives. Hen, the elder sister, is an impetuous woman who regrets her decision to leave her Old-Order Amish family to marry a worldly husband when she sees the negative effects of the modern world on her four-year-old daughter and her marriage. She returns to the family homestead but her parents and the bishop encourage her not to give up on her marriage. Hen tentatively reaches out to her husband, but wonders how successful her efforts can be given his outspoken disdain for the heritage he feels holds her captive.
Hen’s sister, Rose, has never for a moment considered leaving the Plain life. Equipped with seemingly endless supplies of patience and energy, she cares not only for her invalid mother but also keeps house for an English widower whose own life is riddled with emotional pain and family secrets. Rose is a very likeable young woman. Indeed she is an object of intense interest to two neighboring young men, one whose feet are firmly planted in Amish soil and the other, the bishop’s foster son, whose restless heart is always roaming beyond the borders of Lancaster County. In her innocence and naiveté Rose is oblivious to the latter’s attraction to her. It is only after he leaves under suspicion of murder that she begins to reconsider her feelings for him.
Each sister stands at a crossroads and Lewis, with her usual finesse, leaves her readers longing for the next volume of the Rose Trilogy. (less)
This review is the first in a series of reviews of the 2011 Christy-nominated titles. “Indivisible” is an enticing blend of mystery, psychological thr...moreThis review is the first in a series of reviews of the 2011 Christy-nominated titles. “Indivisible” is an enticing blend of mystery, psychological thriller and romance. Redford appears to be a quiet town nestled in the mountains of Colorado, offering a picturesque retreat to vacationing tourists. But beneath the surface currents between the inhabitants run deep. Police Chief Jonah Westfall struggles to maintain his sobriety. His childhood friend Tia, whom he now loves, has kept him at arm’s length for nine years with great personal sacrifice but out of a misguided sense of loyalty to her sister who was once engaged to Westfall. Page by page Heitzman reveals the deep wounds which have brought them to this impasse while highlighting the suspense of the chief’s race to solve a string of bizarre animal mutilations before the perpetrator escalates to human victims. The new veterinarian in town is an attractive, almost reclusive woman who fantasizes about a future with Westfall as she aids in the investigation. Heitzman not only constructs evocative settings, she also has a gift for creating believable characters and making her readers care about them. “Indivisible” is Heitzman at her best. Readers will not be disappointed. (less)
How does a mother describe death to her five-year-old daughter? Looking out over the water from her father’s property Jenny tells Isabella that death...moreHow does a mother describe death to her five-year-old daughter? Looking out over the water from her father’s property Jenny tells Isabella that death is like crossing from one side of the ocean to the other. Jenny is forced to do this because she is dying. Only a reason so dire could have forced her return to the North Carolina town she turned her back on six years ago, grieving her mother’s death and abandoned by the men in her life. Her father was overwhelmed by his own grief and her boyfriend, not knowing she was pregnant, callously dumped her. But Jenny must find someone to care for Bella after she is gone. So she returns home to face her past and repair broken relationships. Raw emotion fairly jumps off the pages as Holmes’ flawed, believable characters interact with each other, wrestling with their grief, their love and their conflicting plans for Isabella. To her credit debut novelist Holmes never resorts to clichés, nor does she indulge in a miraculous cure for Jenny. She does, however, provide a good home for Isabella whom we meet again as an adult in the epilogue. Jenny’s journey down the path of surrendering to God’s will for her life is heartfelt and rendered so realistically that the reader knows that the author has experienced loss in her own life. This is a very poignant tale of love and loss, of mistakes and forgiveness, and of learning to trust in God in the direst of circumstances. At times, this is not an easy read, but it is definitely worth it! (less)
In Lady in Waiting the prolific Ms. Meissner has crafted an intriguing tale of two Janes. One, Jane Lindsay, is a contemporary New York antiques deale...moreIn Lady in Waiting the prolific Ms. Meissner has crafted an intriguing tale of two Janes. One, Jane Lindsay, is a contemporary New York antiques dealer and the other is the unfortunate Lady Jane Grey who ruled England for a mere nine days in 1553 before being executed. The stories are linked by a ring that surfaces in Modern Jane’s antiques shop with a Latin inscription and one recognizable word: Jane. While investigating the ring’s provenance Lindsay becomes convinced that it once belonged to Lady Jane Grey. As Lindsay tries to unravel the mystery of the ring, she is also struggling to come to terms with her husband’s sudden and devastating separation which has caused her to question whether her decision to marry him had been truly her own or if she had succumbed to the expectations of others. Lady Jane is seen through the eyes of her fictitious seamstress and confidante, the young Lucy Day. Lady Jane hopes to marry the man she loves but powerful men with schemes to rule England through her have other plans.
It would be easy for both Janes to simply give up and let other people determine their life’s course. But they do not. Lindsay, with the help of her sister, her friends, and a caring therapist, learns that she is responsible for her own life, her own happiness and that, if she wishes to, she can fight to save her marriage. Lady Jane Grey, caught up by political and religious forces beyond her control nonetheless comes to see that she can still make a choice, even if it results in her death.
These two stories flow effortlessly side by side, each informing and enriching the other. Award-winning author Jane Kirkpatrick (The Daughter’s Walk) comments are typical of the praise being heaped on Meissner for this fine effort. “The pacing, perfection. Transitions between centuries, seamless. Capturing the nuances of relationships, flawless. Put anything by Susan Meissner on your ‘must read now’ list…. I couldn’t put this elegant novel of love and choice down. A completely satisfying read.” (less)
In Tamera Alexander’s Within My Heart a young widow struggles to raise her two young sons while trying to keep her ranch afloat, a testament to her hu...moreIn Tamera Alexander’s Within My Heart a young widow struggles to raise her two young sons while trying to keep her ranch afloat, a testament to her husband’s memory. Although overwhelmed with these responsibilities, she is fiercely independent and reluctant to seek help. However, when her sons lives are endangered she is forced to turn to the town’s new doctor, Dr. Rand Brookston. She does not want to give her heart to the doctor believing that such a relationship would end in heartbreak as it had for her mother, who had married a doctor. Rand frequently requests Rachel’s help with medical procedures; she had often aided her father. The two eventually declare a truce that allows them to work together and to learn to trust one another. Rachel realizes she has reached a crossroads when a wealthy businessman begins to pay her his respects. Will she choose the safety of the financial security he offers or will she risk giving her heart to the man she is now forced to admit has become her new love? And, most importantly, what does God want her to do? Set against the background of the rugged Rocky Mountains in post Civil War Colorado, this entry in the Timber Ridge Reflections series will stay with readers’ hearts long after reading the final page.(less)