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Reviews on three historical novels published in 2021

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Reviews on three historical novels published in 2021
Reviews on three historical novels, though one is a dual-time story...

Paint and Nectar

Paint and Nectar isn’t the kind of book I’d usually pick up, which just goes to show it’s always worth reading outside your immediate comfort zone.

In 1929, William is hired to produce forged copies of the paintings of gifted artist Eliza. Taking the job to help his desperate sister, he thinks it will be a ‘one off’. Little does he know it will change his life.

In modern day Charleston, Lucy Legare unexpectedly inherits a tumbledown historic property and its overgrown garden, along with a beautiful old ring. She meets the engaging Declan Pinckney, but Declan has been instructed by his formidable father to buy the house no matter the cost, and the likely cost is rising all the time.

I enjoyed this not just because the story (stories?) itself is so very well constructed, but because there are flashes of absolute joy in the phrasing of Ashley Clark’s writing. And not just in the notes and letters between William and Eliza, which are enchanting. (How much are we losing in these modern days with the loss of actual letter writing, I wonder?)

The elements of retaining history, and yet aligning it with progress, are well laid out and I loved the themes of inheritance, hope and beauty. Inheritance is shown to be about more than just the most obviously valuable, and hope shown as not always easily found. There are lots of layers, so you need to keep your focus while reading, but it is SO well worth it.

But I do wonder what happened about the bricks…

Along a Storied Trail

I admit that as well as the fact of the heroine being a packhorse librarian I was also drawn to this book by the beautiful cover. As it happens there really were packhorse librarians in the Appalachian mountains in the 1930s, and they must’ve been pretty determined and resolute, because they were far from fair-weather riders.

This is a refreshing read, with a feisty heroine in Tansy, and some other love stories along the way. One of which unexpectedly concerns the wonderfully irritable character of ‘Aunt Perdie’, whose solitary and spartan existence is suddenly shattered by the arrival on her doorstop of the young, desperate and pregnant Coralee.

Ann Gabhart creates fantastic characters. Visiting writer Damien has just the right balance of charm and unpleasantness (is that a word?). Caleb is loyal but hesitant, maybe to his cost. Caleb’s ma, determined to have her own way, made me want to grind my teeth, and the transformations of Aunt Perdie and others in the story are perfectly written. I also liked the wonderfully-named Shadrach – Tansy’s horse.

The faith elements are woven through the story in a way that feels real to the people and the time period, and this faith is honed through tough times and heartaches, as well as joy.

An engrossing story, told believably with very well-described settings and lots of interesting historical details about the work of the Pack Horse Library Initiative whose riders covered 100- 120 miles per week even when their boots froze to their stirrups. A fascinating insight into a part of American history I’d never heard of before.


Tabita is growing up in a mountain village in the Middle East. When a tragic accident results in the death of her closest friend Sholem and the paralysis of her brother Phanuel, Tabi’s life is shattered. When word comes of a miracle-working teacher it’s not only Phan who needs healing.

The author’s childhood in Turkey and Lebanon is reflected in his immersive descriptions of the people and landscape. Although I found the early chapters a bit hard going, before long I was captivated. When Tabi and the four friends who with Phan make up ‘The Hand’ take him to the Teacher, it’s far from being the end of the story. The inspiration for The Hand comes from Luke 12:52 and the overall story arc includes events from Mark and Acts which are woven in very well. I like ‘biblical novels’ which don’t follow key characters, they give their authors scope for wider turns in the storytelling.

Mosaic gives the reader an insight into what life may well have been like for many in Jesus’ time. It clearly describes the rift between those who followed The Way and those who followed the Jewish leaders, while making people on both sides of that rift ‘real’. When reading the Bible, we often go quickly through its stories. Here, we’re aware of how tensions would be building over time, and the struggle of knowing what was right not just in the bigger things, but in individual lives where many broken pieces can be restored and used to create a beautiful mosaic.

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Products mentioned in or related to this blog post
Along a Storied Trail (Paperback)
Ann H. Gabhart
Retail price: £10.99
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Mosaic (Paperback)
Chris Aslan
Retail price: £9.99
Your price: £9.99

Paint and Nectar (Paperback)
Retail price: £10.99
Your price: £10.99