Reviews on three new fiction books

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Reviews on three new fiction books
The Rose and the Thistle 

When Lady Blythe Hedley’s father, a Jacobite sympathiser, is declared an enemy of the crown, she must flee from her Northumberland home to Wedderburn Castle on the Scottish borders. There, Everard Hume has just lost his father and has plenty of issues to cope with himself, including a brother with dangerous political views, a neighbourhood lady who seems far too interested in him, and the abrupt arrival of a refugee heiress who is difficult to ignore.

I loved this book. The writing is wonderful and the settings are excellently described. The characters are all well defined so it’s easy to like or loath(!), and the ‘supporting cast’ have depth and quality. The plot moves along at the perfect pace with emotional tugs and plenty of tension. The romance does not begin early on, unlike in many romantic historical novels, and I loved the fact that Lady Blythe’s companion Elodie had her own back story and romance! Faith was woven throughout the narrative and was believable, with no hint of being added in awkwardly, while the opposing religious and political views were well explained without it ever feeling like a history lesson. Clearly, Frantz has done much careful research, leaving the reader feeling immersed in the period.

As a reader, you are so drawn into the story that putting it down to do some ordinary task, like making supper, leaves you feeling as though you’ve come back through a portal from another time and place and have to readjust to the real world – rather as I imagine it would’ve been for the Pevensey children returning from Narnia, although in this case without actually having to fight any battles…

Long Way Home 

Peggy Serrano lives with a father who barely notices her existence and whose girlfriend wants her gone. Her best friend Jimmy returned after WWII, but is no longer the person she knew before. He went to war believing in a good God, but the darkness of his wartime experiences, in particular the horrors of the concentration camps, suffocated him and extinguished his faith.

After he tries to take his life, he is sent to a military hospital on suicide watch. Peggy is desperately trying to help reach into Jimmy’s shut-down world when she discovers a photo of a girl in his bag. Who is she, and can she help break through Jimmy’s darkness?

We discover that she is a German Jew, Gisella, who attempted to flee the oncoming evil of the Nazis with her family and whose life was affected in significant ways by Jimmy.

As you’d expect this is not ‘cosy reading’ and some parts made me set the book aside and go and research actual events. With the complexity of Jimmy and Gisella’s stories I felt that some of Peggy’s story would have been better in another book; some elements felt shoehorned in. Jimmy’s road to recovery also felt rushed in the latter part of the book; I think he would have needed more time and professional help to work through his trauma, although I liked the way his friends and family fought for him. For me, there were too many threads and some rather odd wartime references or omissions, which I will leave readers to notice themselves and make up their own minds about. The story does, however, make the reader think about the plight of refugees, both post-war and today, as well as the sacrifices of those who go to war.

Second Time Around 

Second Time Around will not disappoint Melody Carlson’s many fans.

Mallory Farrell is rattling round the home she has beautifully renovated but which her family have now all left, when she inherits her grandmother’s shop. Mallory sets off to prepare the shop for sale, but although the building is more dilapidated than delightful, Mallory soon finds herself drawn to the town and to the idea of new beginnings. When she discovers that a property developer (a chap Mallory had a crush on in school) has his eye on the place in order to build a soulless shopping mall, she decides to thwart his plans by staying put and renovating the shop instead, ready to set up a specialist interior décor business.

Much hard work with local help (and some unhelpful input!) later and she can see her vision taking shape. When a popular TV show wants to feature her new shop, Mallory is ecstatic – until she realises that the dingy and depressing apartment above the shop will also be part of the programme.

I really enjoyed this. The romance is nicely done and doesn’t overwhelm the story, and the faith is nicely integrated and doesn’t feel heavy, but also doesn’t feel superficial. The characters are so well imagined and even the odious Aunt Cindy and cousins Valerie and Marie are entirely believable and satisfyingly dealt with! Reading the story, I could easily imagine myself in the quiet coastal town with good friends around me.

 

Reviews by Anne Rogers

Together Magazine

Together is the Christian resources magazine for the UK, with stories of what God is doing across the church today, book reviews and publishing industry news. Subscribe now at www.togethermagazine.org.

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Products mentioned in or related to this blog post
Long Way Home (Paperback)
Lynn Austin
Retail price: £14.99
Your price: £14.99

Second Time Around (Paperback)
Melody A. Carlson
Retail price: £9.99
Your price: £9.99

The Rose and the Thistle (Paperback)
Laura Frantz
Retail price: £9.99
Your price: £9.99

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