Genre: Historical Christian (Inspirational)

Literary, Sagas, Christian and Biographical

“I learned that this genre provides an interesting lens to examine the hopes and fears of our past and present.” Jessica Atherton

1 Setting/Frame : Genuine if not completely accurate; escape into another time and place; learning about a different occupation/role than one’s own; relevance
2 Character: Authentic characters carry the story even with good world-building especially if characters are based on a real person. Experiencing a life that one would never have; through multiple viewpoints we learn of others experiences and other cultures
3 Writing Style/Language: More descriptive and lyrical than other genres; story telling ability is key
4 Tone or Mood: Sense of stepping into the past—strength of novel’s frame and storyline makes it an immersive experience. Readers want to feel the pull not just the dry details.
5 Storyline: Include the story of that time in the background of the character’s story; Good story brings history alive

Pace does not seem to be a great factor in determining choice for real Historical readers.

Approachable way to learn about history; can peak interest in nonfiction subject areas
Wide variety so determining what reader wants is paramount in this genre.

Thank you to Jessica Atherton; Stefanie Aucoin; Eileen Barrett; Michelle Deschene; Diane Giarusso; Nanci Milone Hill; Jan Resnick; Rebecca Rowlands; Christine Sharbrough; Sandra Woodbury

Meeting: Tuesday, January 28, 2014; 9:45am to 12:00N
at the Lucius Beebe Memorial Library (345 Main Street, Wakefield; Telephone: (781) 246-6334) Contact: Leane Ellis X6569 0R Reference Desk 6567

Inspirational Historical assignment for January 28, 2014:

Benchmark: Robin Lee Hatcher’s Catching Katie.

Read 2nd title in the Historical Christian (Inspirational) genre (Suggestions found below.).

Handouts: “Christian Historical Novels.” Johnson, Sarah L. Historical Fiction: A Guide to the Genre. Libraries Unlimited, 2005, p.563-564 “Biblical Fiction.” Mort, John. Christian Fiction: A Guide to the Genre. Libraries Unlimited, 2002, p.33 “Historical Christian Fiction.” Mort, John. Christian Fiction: A Guide to the Genre. LU, 2002, p.53-54
(Previous handout [Saricks on Historical Fiction from The RA Guide to Genre Fiction (2009) p.290-311] was given to the group in May 2010 and May & September 2013)
Please post your RA review of your 2nd Family Saga & Historical Christian (Inspirational) choices on this blog at Submit 2nd Titles.

Appeal to be read for January meeting: Focus on all the appeal factors, but really think about character, frame and tone.

NOTES on Christian (Inspirational) Historical Fiction

Starting in March, MLS will be putting the RART online on the CE calendar so we can sign up for meetings now. Leane will email us and let us know when it is up and running.

Western regional round table meet on alternate months from us. Feb 25th in Pelham. Fourth Tuesday of the month. Mystery will be the genre. They will start a blog which will link to ours.

Webinar on Mystery genre starting beginning of February. Springfield library has great resources for RA. March 24th on romance by John Charles. All will be archived. Anna Popp looking for volunteers for underrepresented genres like CF. Five part webinar with Joyce Saricks. Leane emailed dates.

Feb 4 2pm Lj doing RA webinar. David Wright and Neil Wyatt, Etta Thornton and Duncan Smith from NoveList. Leane sent out webinar info.

David Wright YouTube speech on importance of RA. Jan Resnick will send link.

Benchmark: Catching Katie by Robin Lee Hatcher
Stock characters
Unintentional hilarity of scenes
Katie’s “fake crisis” turned off some readers
Story seemed unbelievable.
Predictable. But some people like that. Comforting.
History was a bit challenging since western states were some of the first to ratify women’s right to vote. Although this story said it went east to west.
Repetitious story line.
Other CF books do a better job of character development in some cases.
Liked integration of quotes of suffragettes and bible verses.
Sophie represented the audience.
Family relationships are functional.
Tone-introspective, inspirational,

Recommend light, clean romance, nice people

In the RA news they are including chaste as an appeal term. Then mildly sensuous. Then steamy. Then explicit.

Anne of Green Gables, Christy, authors Carla Kelly, Tracie Peterson. Beverly Lewis.

NOTES on Second Titles:

Safe Passage by Carla Kelly
Well received. A pleasant surprise.

Hearts that Survive by Yvonne Lehman
titanic book Religion felt stuffed on top and not integrated. Author messed up who was talking. Too fake outcomes.

Sisters of Mercy Flats by Lori Copeland.
American civil war in Texas.

Carolina Gold by Dorothy Love.

Whispers on the Prairie by Vickie McDonough
Chauvinist males abound. Stock characters but better plotting with twists and turns. Integration of Christian aspect.

Her Daughter’s Dream by Francine Rivers.
2nd in series; Mothers Hope is better.
Liked the characters. Less developed further down the descendant line.

The Sin Eater by Francine Rivers.
1850s setting. Man killed someone and raped a woman. He flees to Appalachian
mountains. His son still keeping hold on migration group. Dark tradition of sin eater. Takes deceased sin upon himself. Goes to live by himself. God man appears tells them story of bible integrated as teaching moments. First part is darkness and second part is light.

Traces of Mercy by Michael Landon, Jr.
Not predictable storyline. End of civil war.
Main character is confederate sniper taking down union soldiers and misses one. Hunts him down. Sniper is a woman.

Under the Northern Lights by Gracie Peterson.
Second in the title. Alaskan Quest trilogy. Best to read in order. Not really stand alone. Religion is more front and center than Katie.

A Greater Glory by James Scott bell.
First three ins series written by Tracie Peterson. No crisis of faith. Awkward racial stereotyping. Clean cut trial. Not dark procedurals.

A Change of Fortune
by Jen Turano.

Barbara Bradley Haggerty. Nonfiction. Fingerprints of God.

Submitted by Christine Sharbrough, Chelmsford Public Library


Austin, Lynn N. Candle in the Darkness (2002). Christy Award N. American Historical 2003
—.Wonderland Creek (2011). Christy Award Historical 2012

Bell, James Scott. A Greater Glory (2003). The Trials of Kit Shannon; bk.1

Cavanaugh, Jack. While Mortals Sleep (2001). Songs in the Night; bk.1
Christy Award International Historical 2002

Foster, Sharon Elwell. Passing by Samaria (2000).

Gilbert, Morris. The Honorable Imposter (1982). House of Winslow; bk.1

Higgs, Liz Curtis. Whence Came a Prince (2005). Christy Award Historical 2006

Ladd, Sarah E. The Heiress of Winterwood (2013). Whispers on the Moor; bk.1

Oke, Janette. Love Comes Softly (1979).
—. The Meeting Place (1999) Series, bk.1. Christy Award N. American Historical 2000

Parr, Delia. A Place Called Trinity (2002).

Peterson, Tracie & James Scott Bell. City of Angels (2001). Shannon Saga; bk.1

Rivers, Francine. Redeeming Love (1991).
—. Her Mother’s Hope (2010). Marta’s Legacy; bk.1

Snelling, Lorraine. Ruby (2003).

Tolsma. Liz. Snow on the Tulips (2013).

Turano, Jen. A Change of Fortune (2012).

Second Titles

Cindy Grove

Traces of Mercy – Michael Landon Jr., Cindy Kelley
Appeal Factors: strong characters, lots of plot twists, heartwarming, funny

This is Michael Landon Jr.’s third Christian fiction novel. I enjoy reading books in the Christian fiction genre, and love what Michael Landon Jr. has brought to it. His books are original, unpredictable and full of great characters. At the beginning of “Traces of Mercy” a young sniper for the Confederate Army has just killed his one hundred and fourteenth Union soldier and missed his one hundred and fifteenth. When he tracks down the missed soldier he tracks him down to find him comforting his dying younger brother. The sniper backs down, not killing the man and in return the man gives the sniper a mercy medallion (that was given to him for protection). The sniper is then captured, released, wounded, shot, and dragged off by stampeding horses. When the sniper awakes in the care of a physician the reader discovers that the sniper is a woman. As a result of her injuries she is suffering from amnesia. Given the name Mercy (based on the medallion) she is trying to form a life, not knowing who or what she was before waking in the hospital.

This story if full of great characters and plot twists that kept me guessing and reading. I am glad that this is part of a trilogy, giving me another book to look forward to reading. I think Landon is a refreshing author for the genre and look forward to the journey I know his next book will take me on.

Sandra Woodbury

Hearts That Survive: A Novel of the Titanic – Yvonne Lehma
Appeal Factors: touching, hopeful, emotional, realistic setting, women’s friendships, romance, tragedy, loss, healing, upperclass, ensemble cast of characters, strong women, historical fiction, Titanic, Christian faith

This is a story of people on the Titanic. It focuses on Lydia Beaumont, an heiress, and the people surrounding her. She becomes close friends with another first class passenger, Caroline, and they really bond when they both lose people in the sinking but survive themselves. The book then follows their stories through most of their lives, into further generations. I didn’t know a lot about this book or author going into it, but chose it from a stack purely because it was about the Titanic and I was hoping for a gruesome, horrific sinking scene. And the sinking chapters were pretty good, actually. Also, the characters were realistic, if a bit stereotypical and not always well-developed. The settings were also well done, described in a natural way that actually made me feel like I was seeing them along with the characters (without being *too* detailed).

However – the book dragged on a bit too much for me, and I just wanted it to end already. As far as the religious factor, it seemed a bit preachy, with the religion kind-of stuffed on top/around the story. The writing was also pretty bad in spots, with inconsistencies and jarring out-of-place lines. I wouldn’t really recommend this book, even to people looking specifically for a Christian fiction book.

Sandra Dobday

The Sin Eater – Francine Rivers
Appeal Factors: Well written, compelling characters

The Sin Eater is set in a Welsh settlement in the Appalachian Mountains, around the mid 1800’s. The man who brought them from Wales is running from a dark past and creates an even darker beginning for the new settlement. Cadie Forbes is a little girl who lives in sorrow and guilt because her little sister died while following her over a log bridge in the river. Her Mother won’t even look at her and the grandmother who loves her has died. The Sin Eater is the one who eats the bread and wine that is placed on the corpse, thereby taking their sins away. This is the way it was done in Wales and the Kai, the man who brought the people to this country, makes sure that someone has been chosen to be the Sin Eater before he dies. This book is full of yearning for love, meaning and acceptance. The tone is very dark until the man of God appears by the river to bring hope to the valley. He preaches that a sin eater isn’t needed since Jesus has already washed their sins away. Cadi and her friend are the only ones desperate enough to listen to the preacher, bringing down the wrath of the Kai, but also bringing the word of God to the people. There is quite a bit of scripture quoted, but it is an appropriate amount since these people hadn’t heard the Word before. I’d recommend this book to anyone. It read very true.

Anna Call

Heiress of Winterwood – Sarah E. Ladd
Appeal Factors: Interesting concept, likeable main character

Amelia Barrett, a woman of means that are accessbile only after she marries, finds herself burdoned with another woman’s infant and a massive promise: to take care of the baby. It’s pretty impressive that she decides to take this seriously, because apparently she hadn’t even been friends with the baby’s mom for that long. (It’s a good indication of how intense this person is, which is one big reason that I ended up liking her.) The next thing she does is to ask the baby’s biological father, who she’s never met, to marry her so that she can a. keep caring for the kid and b. get her inheritance. When you think about it, it’s a pretty practical solution, but of course everyone is shocked anyway. The father is a sailor who isn’t clear on what to make of this even as he mourns his dead wife, but they soon become closer through adversity when the baby disappears. I really liked how intense the main character was. She had an unerring sense of right and duty, but she was also smart enough to use her circumstances to get out of a planned marriage to a different muckety-muck with whom she was uncomfortable. (Kind of wily for an inspirational read!) You were genuinely glad for her when things worked out. Like the protagonist of our benchmark read, “Catching Katie,” she was very much her own person and not one to be restrained by arbitrary social mores.

Leane Ellis

A Change of Fortune – Jen Turano
Appeal Factors: Funny/Sweet/page-turner

Similar to Hatcher’s Catching Katie in its introduction of Women’s Rights in the theme of the story and its very spunky heroine, Eliza Summer. Eliza aristocratic British family’s fortune was lost to a swindler and sets out to find the villain in 1880 America. When one humorous mishap after another fails to help her reclaim her lost fortune, she finds that God has something even better in mind for her than her fortune and her independence. The Christian elements are nicely blended with the narrative making it palatable to those like myself who do not like to be preached at but can respect a person’s struggle with her faith. The story takes place in NYC which is a great historical background. The author also captures the times Eliza lives in as propriety and social expectations war with her quest for independence. This was a romp with a compelling and predictable romantic formula that engaged me mostly because it was hilarious at times. As Eliza and her friend Agatha engage the brothers Beckett—Hamilton and Zayne with delightful banter. Plot twists I did not see coming made it even more enjoyable. Delicious sexual tension and chaste romance ends with a satisfying HEA ending. Terrific secondary characters include the handsome brothers, a relentlessly matchmaking mother, an ankle-biting boy, and a despicable cast of villains. I plan to read the second in this loosely-based-on-character series, A Most Peculiar Circumstance (2013) which unites the quote stunningly handsome PI, Theodore Wilder with the absent Beckett sister, Arabella. Similar authors: Regency romances by Mary Balogh and Georgette Heyer; Carol Cox’s Love in Disguise (2012); Jody Hedlund’s Unending Devotion (2012); Elizabeth Camden’s Against the Tide (2012); Karen Witemeyer’s Stealing the Preacher (2013), & Mary Connealy’s Swept Away (2013).

Jessica Atherton

A Greater Glory – James Scott Bell
Appeal Factors: heartwarming, accessible

James Scott Bell begins a new series (The Trials of Kit Shannon) that features the intrepid Kit Shannon as she faces off against several new opponents, including another female lawyer. Bell’s research of 1905 L.A. shines through the plot and colors the story with realistic historical detail, from carefully described streets to the ubiquitous sexism surrounding Kit Shannon as she tries to do her job and follow her faith in a world that does not always fully support either choice.

Readers interested in a quick read will enjoy the escalating plot, but should be counseled that the story suffers from a slow start. Fans of evangelism will support Kit as she encourages almost all of the characters to save their soul through Jesus Christ. Romance lovers should temper their expectations, since Kit’s engagement seems to serve as a plot device for an unexpected tertiary plotline involving Germans.

Note: This is listed on various catalogs as both #4 and #1 in a series. The previous three books focus on Kit Shannon’s early life (Shannon’s Saga, by Tracie Peterson/James Scott Bell). A Greater Glory continues the story of her life, but begins the series as she works as a trial lawyer and can be read out of sequence.

Jan Resnick

Under the Northern Lights – Tracie Peterson
Appeal Factors: Fast paced; stock characters; story – character-driven; language engaging; tone – inspirational, suspenseful; frame – 1915, Seward Peninsula, Alaska, Strong sense of place

Under the Northern Lights is Book 2 of Peterson’s Alaskan Quest series. Leah Berringer Kincaid returns home to Last Chance, Alaska, only to be kidnapped by her new husband’s twin brother Chase. Her husband Jayce and her brother Jacob are elsewhere in pursuit of Chase for his crimes including murder and to rescue his captive Helaina Beecham. Eventually Leah manages to drug Chase and escape with Helaina. She reunites with Jayce and Jacob until Jayce leaves to find his brother.

This book, although it can be read on its own is very definitely part of the series. It begins after the action of the first book and concludes with the loss of Jayce and Jacob on the ice as winter comes on setting up book 3. Although historical, the reader gets much more of a sense of the wilderness than the time at the beginning of WWI. The war is very far away to the people of the Alaskan Territory.

Faith is a very large part of the story. Every decision, most actions, are debated as an aspect of faith with guidance needed to be provided by God. Although not described, Chase’s rape of Leah will not make this a gentle read. Readers with a strong belief system or searching for one will be most comfortable with the characters.

  • Series: Alaskan Quest, Book 2
  • Similar authors: Lori Copeland, Colleen Coble, Morris Gilbert, Janette Oke, Karen Witemeyer, Amanda Cabot, Tamera Alexander

Laura Bernheim

Sisters of Mercy Flats (originally published as Promise of Today) – Copeland, Lori
Appeal Factors: Pacing: Fast Characterizations: “immoral” woman who is really moral and willing to change her stripes. Lot of side characters, though not well developed. Mainly just the story of Abigail and Barrett. The man is the “hero” helping out the damsel in distress, though she is strong as well, caring for the baby on her own. Story Line: plot driven, what is love, what makes a family Setting: Texas, Civil War era Detail: lots of description of faith in God, actually violent in some areas, though Tone: comforting, inspiring, faith, riveting Language: simple, clean (ie, “It would be a cold day in August”)

The McDougal sisters, Abigail, Anne-Marie, and Amelia, are swindlers, who often trick men out of money by dressing up as nuns. Though their cause is a good one (they’re supporting the convent that raised them), their deeds catch up to them, and they get arrested. Their jail carriage is attacked by Comanche Native Americans, and each woman is rescued by a different man. Abigail is rescued by an alleged shoe salesman, Hershall Digman, and it is hate at first sight. The two bicker back and forth, and finally Abigail steals his horse, and (unintentionally) papers proving that Digman is a spy for the Confederacy. Eventually the two cross paths again, where it’s revealed that Digman’s real name is Barrett Drake and that Abigail really does have a heart of gold. The two end up inheriting a baby and help the Confederate Army as they find themselves falling in love, and turn to God for guidance. This was originally published in 1992 under the name, Promise me Today, as a romance (featuring sex scenes). The two sequels, Promise me Tomorrow and Promise me Forever told the stories of Abigail’s sisters and also featured several sex scenes. Now that Copeland has switched to writing Christian fiction, she’s re-releasing the books under the names Sisters of Mercy Flats and “cleaning” them up. (actually reminded me of The Blues Brothers in that they were doing a favor for their orphanage but by doing something illegal)

Gerry Deyermond

A Change of Fortune – Jen Turno
Appeal Factors: Strong female characters, faith in God, story line, LOL moments

This story brings aristocracy of England to high society New York City in 1880. The protagonist, Lady Eliza Sumner arrives in America under the disguise of a governess to seek the person who stole her family’s fortune and disgraced the name. Lady Eliza falls in love, lands in jail for being falsely accused of being a prostitue, breaks into homes, rescues children from kidnappers, gets tied up herself and manages to complete follow a path she never dreamed of following. This story is filled with adventure, plot twists, and truly laugh out loud moments! The characters prayed that god would lead them and show them the way and he answered their prayers. I truely enjoyed this book and had a hard time putting it down!

This book, as in Catching Katie, had strong female characters. The women were the adventurous, they went after what they wanted and didn’t hold back. As Katie was, Hamilton Beckett’s sister is active in the woman’s sufferage movement.

Stefanie Aucoin

Carolina Gold – Dorothy Love
Appeal Factors: setting, introspective voice, some characterization

After reading Catching Katie, I was eager to finish up my assignment on Inspirational/Christian fiction. I received an ARC (advanced readers’ copy) of this book and on the suggestion of another librarian who loved it, took the ARC home with me. I have a very good friend from the Lowcountry in SC who, surprisingly, actually came back from Christmas break with bags of Carolina Gold as presents for people. I was taken with the idea of a female planter in Reconstruction era South Carolina, and the sort of Jane Eyre-esque references to becoming a teacher employed by a man with a mysterious past.

However, there is much about this book that I think is misleading from the description given on the back of the book. While the story purports to be about a woman trying to reclaim her family home and plant rice, it is a very flat plot point in the book. Plant rice, get rained out, crop destroyed, plant more rice, get ruined, etc. The meat of the story is in Charlotte’s relationship with Mr. Betancourt and his two unruly daughters. Charlotte is such a warm character, who is so very empathetic that her growth and epiphanies have to do with the children she sees around her and less to do with the rice. The other thing that bothered me was that some of the characters don’t stay consistent. Ms. Love does design characters that are supposed to be inconsistent, but they mostly remain out of site until the end with an interaction that I felt had no real place in the book. In particular I was thinking about a freeman Charlotte encounters named Trim. He had been owned by her father before the Civil War and she finds him, on her return, uncomfortable asking for his salary, but refusing to work otherwise. Later in the story Trim is fetching Charlotte from the docks every other week with no word about being paid. It seemed like it was added to the story as a method to describe the situation in Reconstruction, but once her motives had been established she fell back into flatter secondary characterizations. Other than that, poor typeface choices for Charlotte’s “letter voice” were hopefully fixed in the final print run and shouldn’t cloud my review of this book.

I was worried that I would find the books I had chosen to read for Christian Fiction were going to be too preachy, but I think Carolina Gold is much less Christian Fic than literally Inspirational. Religion does play a roll in the creation of certain characters, but Reverends, Nuns and Priests would have been a common site in South Carolina and New Orleans. There are a few time when Charlotte turns inward and confronts her religion but her motivations are much less directed by God and more her own moral compass. Her strength and patience have been instilled in her by her father, the hardships they suffered, and need to move forward.

I am definitely going to recommend this book to my friend’s mother who is still in SC’s Lowcountry, but I think that parts of this book fell short of meeting the goals that the author set out with. If the book was longer, or the romance between Charlotte and Mr. Betancourt was more pronounced, I think I would be more interested, but Ms. Love’s ability to describe her surroundings, particularly Charlotte’s summer cottage and the filth and sickness of the New Orleans infirmaries is very strong. Not my favorite thing to recommend, but something I can save for reader’s who appreciate setting or maybe hail from South Carolina.

Diane Giarrusso

Her Mother’s Hope – Francine Rivers
Appeal Factors: engrossing story with well developed characters, descriptive and dramatic language, emotional, interior and introspective, time periods are important in this saga that spans 50 years, based loosely on author’s own ancestry/family story

Marta’s father abuses her and tries to dash her dreams; Marta’s consumptive mother encourages her dreams and influences Marta to leave home (Switzerland) to chase her dreams. Marta does, but with guilt, anger and regret for leaving her sister. In Canada, Marta hopes to give her children a better childhood than her own, but her fragile, oldest daughter Hilde feels unloved and craves her mother’s acceptance. Hilde’s story continues the book as she defies her mother and attends nursing school to follow her own dream of becoming a nurse. Once there, she trains and succeeds while also falling in love. Her relationship with her mother is strained. A serious bout with TB lands Hilde in the hospital quarantine and Marta comes to help her take care of the children lavishing the love she could never give Hilde to her granddaughter, Carolyn. Ruh-roh…it’s a destructive family dynamic that we’ll see played out in the sequel: Her Daughter’s Dream.

Faith in God plays a very large part in Marta’s life and the religious aspects are very well integrated into the story. Her faith is another part of her personality, like her drive and her discipline. A touching story of strong women, mothers and daughters and the first half of the 20th century. Recommended.

Her Daughter’s Dream – Rivers, Francine
Appeal Factors: engrossing mother and daughter saga with less developed characters than the first (Her Mother’s Hope), descriptive and dramatic language and more dialog, interior and emotional tone, second half of the 20th century brings us from Vietnam and the Peace Movement through war in Afghanistan, based loosely on author’s own family history

Sequel to Her Mother’s Hope, Her Daughter’s Dream begins with Carolyn’s story. Hilde’s daughter, Carolyn has never understood why her mother can’t love her, but loves her brother Charlie. As a result, Carolyn is abused by a neighbor and feels alienated and terrified. Her grandmother Marta arrives to help raise the children while Hilde recovers at home from TB. Carolyn basks in the love and attention of her grandmother while Hilde grows increasingly resentful of her mother’s affection for Carolyn. Carolyn grows and heads to college, while Charlie decides to join the army and deploy to Vietnam. Carolyn is fearful of her brother and pours her heart and soul into the Peace Movement in hopes that the war will end and Charlie will return. His death results in a tailspin for Carolyn who turns to alcohol, drugs and free-love to dull the pain. Missing for 2 years, alienated from her family, pregnant and homeless, Jesus appears to Carolyn and tells her to return home. She is comforted but scared. Single and pregnant she returns home where Hilde takes over caring for her child, May Flower Dawn (named after her spiritual experience) while Carolyn finishes college and restores her life. The experience of mother, daughter and granddaughter is played out again as Dawn (Carolyn refuses to call her that hippie name) grows and Marta moves to a little house on the property–resentful that Hilde thinks she’s too old to live on her own. As May Flower Dawn grows, falls in love with a soldier and is pregnant, she is determined to stop this family dynamic and clear the air between her mother and grandmother.

This story is more didactic than the first, and the characterization is weaker, but I still needed to find out what happened with Marta, Hilde, Carolyn and May Dawn Rose. I enjoyed this series and look forward to reading another of River’s stand alone titles.

Jim Riordan

Whispers On The Prairie – Vickie McDonough
Appeal Factors: Formulaic, strong character development, complex plot, subtle Christian component

Vicky MacDonugh’s Whispers of the Prairie is the first in her Pioneer’s Promises series of which there is one other title so far. The main character Sarah works in an orphanage and lives with her aunt and uncle in 1870s Chicago. She is a very cosmopolitan forward thinking woman who’s biggest problem is whether she wants to marry her oafish fiancé Walt. Then her uncle decides to move to New Mexico via the Santa Fe Trail and Sarah’s life is turned upside down and torn between the life she thinks she wants and her duty to her family. Through a complex series of events Sarah and her aunt end up stranded at a stage coach. The station is run by the Harper family; a mother, father and three sons. The youngest son, Ethan, is tortured by guilt for not having saved the life of his sister-in-law several years earlier and sees finding his brother, Aaron, a new bride as his mission. The plot turns around the machinations of the brothers trying to court Sarah and her trying to reconcile her feelings and come to terms with where she is.

Although the book is formulaic, it has very strong (albeit one dimensional) characters and lots of twists and turns in the plot. This keeps the story from becoming tedious. The tone naturally starts out very cosmopolitan in Chicago but gradually transitions to a much more homespun mood as the action moves to Kansas City and then the stage coach station. This gives the story an urban versus rural component that permeates the story. The Christian component is present but you are not beaten over the head with it. Over all I’d recommend this book to anyone who liked the tone and style of Catching Katie but maybe wanted an even more rural setting.

Christine Sharbrough

Safe Passage – Carla Kelly
Appeal Factors: romance, action, adventure, hopeful

This is a book set at the time of the Mexican Revolution. The story focuses on a couple who have separated. The husband returns to the US and his wife stays behind to care for an elderly grandmother. Meanwhile the Revolution is raging all around the Mormon settlement and the two women caught in the middle of it. At the request of his father-in-law, the husband returns to the dangers of Mexico to find his wife if she is still alive. This is a lovely romance but also an action adventure story. It leaves the reader with a feeling of hope and a yearning for adventure at the same time. Wonderful read.

Eileen Barrett

Fingerprints of God – Barbara Bradley Hagerty
Appeal Factors: For those who enjoying questioning, wondering, and exploring ideas about the great unknown or are looking for scientific validation of their beliefs. Fascinating to read about scientific experiments and theories with regard to spirituality, religious experiences, and the existence of God.

Barbara Bradley Hagerty, an NPR journalist and devote Christian, sets out to answer the ultimate question – does God really exist? Her goal is to explore hard evidence, science, and facts to move beyond people’s beliefs. This quest leads her to interview scientists all over the world, from those studying near death experiences to those searching for a God gene. Also with a dose of adventure and peyote, Hagerty attends a Navajo peyote ceremony. In Fingerprints of God, she relies on journalistic skepticism to lay aside her personal beliefs to try and uncover truths about the mysterious unknown.