28 June 2013

Review: Pilgrimage of Promise by Cathy Bryant

In 2012, a diagnosis of cancer impels Bo Miller to address the reasons he didn’t keep his promise to his high-school sweetheart, Mona Beth Adams. She’s not just reluctant to revisit the past: she’s openly hostile about it. They are given a stack of forty-year-old letters, which might just open the doors …

Pilgrimage of Promise moves between the 1960’s and the present as we are shown how Mona Beth and Bo meet and fall in love, and the obstacles and misunderstandings that eventually separated them. It’s an interesting way to tell a story: we know in the present that they were separated but reunited, but we still have to live through the past anguish with them (mentally shouting “don’t do that, you stupid woman” to some of the minor characters as we go).

This was the final book in the Millers Creek series, following Texas Roads, A Path Less Travelled and The Way of Grace. I haven’t read the others, and I found Pilgrimage of Promise can easily be read as a stand-alone, as the focus is on what happened in the past more than the present. Yes, reading this first might ‘spoil’ some of the plot points in the previous novels, but I can also see how it will tie up some of the lingering questions in the earlier books.

The story had a strong Christian theme. What I found particularly interesting was the way teenage Mona Beth was the one with the strong faith, but in the present it was Bo who was stronger. I very much liked the way the book dealt with some difficult subject matter without descending into angst or over-emoting (I can think of one famous author who I no longer read because she hasn’t learned this lesson). That’s one of the reasons I liked Pilgrimage of Promise so much—because of the strong writing. I also really liked the characters, who were so much more realistic and human than many I see in Christian fiction. I even enjoyed the bittersweet nature of the plot. I’ll certainly read more from Cathy Bryant. Recommended.

Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Cathy Bryant at her website.

26 June 2013

Indie Review: Zion's Road by Imani Wisdom

Upon his death, aged 86, in Tulla Springs, Mississippi, Harold T Smith, is taken on a voyage through his past where he has to face the truth and the consequences of some of his actions, particularly surrounding his relationship with one young ‘Colored’ woman back in the 1930’s. This short novella addresses the racism and hypocrisy he was brought up with and the impact it had on those around him, enabling him to see things differently in death than he ever did in life.

Zion's Road is a well-written and powerful inspirational story, but misses the crux of the Christian message. This bothers me because I was approached by the author to review this book, and the author was aware that I review Christian novels. And this isn’t. It implies our eternal destination—heaven or hell—depends on the choices we make not while we live but after we die, which contradicts the teachings of the Bible. And while the Bible is mentioned in passing, there is no mention of belief in Jesus or how that impacts our eternal destiny.

Thanks to Imani Wisdom for providing a free ebook for review.

24 June 2013

Review: Penumbra by Samantha Bennett

Norla is a slave, living in a hovel and carrying rocks under the eye of violent overseers on King’s Mountain. She is chosen to be the mistress of a handsome young lord, Count Pallo Belany, but will only consent if he will promise to free her mother. This is not something Pallo can promise: only King Vaskel can free slaves. Vaskel consents, on the condition that the pair completes a quest: they must locate the infamous criminal Penumbra, and bring back the book he stole. It seems like an impossible quest, but if they fail, Norla will belong to the cruel king. The quest takes them across half the kingdom, puts them in almost-constant peril, and reunites Norla with a childhood friend. And when they find Penumbra, things are not all they seem.

The two halves of this novel were quite different, and I’m not sure if that was a weakness or a strength. The first half introduced the culture (which was caste-based and somewhat complex) and the characters. It managed that well, without delving into generations of irrelevant backstory or culture; something that can be difficult to achieve in fantasy, especially for first-time authors.

The second half turned more allegorical, and at times it seemed as though the plot was being forced along by the need to stay true to the underlying Christian theme. Note that the story wasn’t overtly Christian: it was more similar to the Narnia stories, in that you could see the Christian themes if you were looking for them. I enjoyed spotting the allegory in the second half, but it might seem contrived to a young adult reader just looking for a good fantasy novel.

Overall, this was a good story, well-told. Recommended for fans of Christian allegory and young adult fantasy. Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Samantha Bennett at her website.

21 June 2013

Review: On Moral Fiction by John Gardner

On Moral Fiction was first published in 1976, and is author and critic John Gardner’s view on the necessity for morality in fiction, arguing that fiction displays the beliefs of the author. I don't agree with his view on religion, but I suspect his view is tainted by the accident that killed his younger brother, that he apparently felt responsible for.

His opinion of many of the foremost 'literary' authors of his day (the 1970’s) is nothing short of scathing, and I can't help wondering what he would say about the fictional giants of our century, authors like EL James, James Patterson, Stephenie Meyer and George RR Martin.

He is also critical of the ‘professional reviewer’, who follows the nineteenth century model “which avoided talking about the work by talking, instead, about the man who created it”. I suspect he would both applaud and decry Amazon in the same breath: applaud for the ability of the Amazon review to reflect the opinion of the reader rather than some ivory tower critic, but decry because of the lack of insight of some of those opinions (I doubt Gardner would be a fan of the OMG Best Book EVA!!! review, even on his own titles).

“Writers do communicate ideas. What the writer understands, though the student or critic of literature need not, is that the writer discovers, works out, and tests his ideas in the process of writing.”

This is why rewriting and editing is vital—any worthwhile writing will change both the reader and the writer. If the writer is changed by the writing, the purpose of revising is to clarify and bring out this new understanding, to ensure consistency of thought and theme throughout. Self-published authors: take note.

While I don't agree with everything Gardner says, I do have to acknowledge that his arguments are intelligent, well researched, well written and coherently argued. It’s not an easy read but it is well worth reading, both to understand his point of view and, perhaps, to understand why we read fiction.

Thanks to Open Road Media and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

19 June 2013

Review: Trouble in Store by Carol Cox

When she loses her job as a governess, Melanie Ross heads to Cedar Ridge in the Arizona Territory to claim half of her cousin’s store, as promised by his partner, Alvin Nelson. But when she arrives, Alvin is dead and his nephew, Caleb, has no desire for a business partner, especially not one of the female variety. When Melanie discovers a dead body on the back step, and they begin to suspect there might be more trouble in store… (sorry, but I couldn’t resist the pun). The murder then forms the foundation of the plot, as it becomes apparent that there is a mystery that must be solved.

As well as the murder there have been some mysterious notes, suggesting someone doesn’t want Caleb in town. Trouble in Store is a good mix of mystery, humour and romance. The characters were likeable, and while the story focused more on Melanie and Caleb’s disagreements about the store and the mystery, there was still a nice romantic sub-plot. The story is clearly Christian, but not preachy.

I really enjoy historicals like Trouble in Store. There’s nothing especially deep or challenging, but they are fun, easy to read, perfect for a snuggling down with in winter, or reading in the sun in summer. Lighthearted with good morals, and something I’m happy to pass on to my daughter. Recommended.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Carol Cox at her website, on her blog or you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

17 June 2013

Review: A Most Peculiar Circumstance by Jen Turano

A Most Peculiar Circumstance has an excellent beginning, as Miss Arabella Beckett finds herself in jail for the first time in Gilman, Illinois, in November 1880 (I particularly liked the ‘first time’ line—it implied that jail was a surprise, not perhaps not an unexpected one, given her involvement in the women’s suffrage movement and her beliefs around the rights of women (not to mention her habit of travelling without a companion or chaperone).

Arabella prays that God will help her out of this predicament, and almost immediately is visited by a Mr Theodore Wilder. Mr Wilder introduces himself as a friend of her brothers and a private investigator, who has been asked to locate her and return her home to New York, which he does, but the pair argue constantly, even though the reader can see that they share many of the same beliefs. We also see Mr Wilder’s beliefs about rights for women change as the story progresses. Arabella also grows as a character when she gets the opportunity to meet and talk with the women she is trying to reform and protect.

The early scenes were excellent, but things become a bit more confusing when Theodore and Arabella return to New York and we are suddenly introduced to an entire cast of characters that it seemed like I was expected to know—parents, siblings, friends and parents of friends. I assume these are characters from the earlier stories in the series (free Kindle download Gentleman of Her Dreams and A Change of Fortune).

Although we didn’t actually get to see Arabella as an active suffragette, it was good to have this background to her character, and to get an understanding of how long the fight for votes for women took (as an aside, New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women the vote, in 1893, and American women nationally didn’t get the vote until 1920). It was also good to be reminded that some of the ideals we hold as true were not always seen that way… which makes me wonder which of today’s ‘truths’ will be seen as wrong and outdated in the decades to come. I enjoy a novel that can challenge my thinking.

While I enjoyed the story, and particularly the historical, suspense and faith elements, parts of it were difficult to follow because I hadn’t read the earlier book, and I wasn’t entirely convinced by the romance between Arabella and Theodore. Recommended for those who enjoy Christian historical fiction by authors like Karen Witemeyer and Mary Connealy.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Jen Turano at her website.

14 June 2013

Review: An Open Heart by Harry Kraus

Moving from comfortable Virginia to Kenya to begin the nation’s first heart surgery programme sounds like a noble objective, but Dr Jace Rawlings is running away. He’s running away from a broken marriage, a possible affair and memory loss, and returning to the town where he grew up as a missionary kid, working at the hospital where his Dad was a doctor, and where he lost his faith and his twin sister.

But this is Africa, and there are challenges in getting the programme started, not least in getting the equipment through customs. And once Jace undertakes the first operation, he finds a strange after-effect: his patient is giving him messages from beyond this dimension. And that’s not his only problem. Someone is out to end the heart surgery programme, and it looks as though he might be implicated in a death back in the US.

I’ve read and enjoyed novels set in Africa and other exotic locations (particularly those by J M Windle). I’ve read and enjoyed medical dramas (by authors such as Candace Calvert and Hannah Alexander). I’ve read and enjoyed novels with a supernatural element (like The Widow of Saunders Creek or Illusion). And I’ve read and enjoyed several of Kraus’s previous books (including the Claire McCall series), so I thought I would enjoy this. I did, but not as much as I expected.

The opening of An Open Heart was excellent, as Jace found himself thrown in jail, then refusing to pay the bribes to release his medical equipment. But as I progressed, it felt as though the novel was trying to be a supernatural thriller (with supernatural messages and a witch doctor), a medical thriller (the surgery) and a suspense novel (who wants to end the heart programme and why, the US element and the back story about Jace’s twin sister) all at the same time. It was too much, and I’m not sure it worked.

But my big problem was Jace’s faith. While I could understand why he turned away from Christianity as a child, I didn’t see why he essentially faked faith throughout his adult life. He married another missionary kid, a strong Christian woman; he went to church, then he goes back to Africa to serve in a missionary hospital, yet he has no personal faith. (SPOILER: He then has a major change of heart at the end of the story, yet it came out of nowhere. It seemed convenient rather than heartfelt).

And there were times when An Open Heart was let down by the writing. I found that the technical dialogue that comes across quickly in a TV medical drama doesn’t work so well on the page. It sounded authentic, but it read like a foreign language. There were too many points of view, odd changes of tense, and some of the scenes had a repetitious sentence structure (like starting consecutive paragraphs with adverbs). And there’s a spelling mistake in the Amazon blurb (it’s maelstrom, not maeltsrom), which isn’t good.

Overall, An Open Heart could have been great, but it wasn’t.

Thanks to David C Cook and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Harry Kraus at his website.

12 June 2013

Review: Barefoot Summer by Denise Hunter

Madison McKinley is a 26-year-old veterinarian back living in her home town of Chapel Springs, Indiana, and she has a dream. She wants to win the Annual River Sail Regatta in honour of her twin brother, Michael, a keen sailor who died when they were 17. There are only two things standing in her way: she doesn’t know the first thing about sailing, and she is afraid of water.

She wins a sailing lesson-and-regatta package at a local charity auction, but her plans go awry when she finds the lessons won’t be from married-with-children Evan Higgins, but with the very single Beckett O’Reilly, reformed bad boy and son of the town alcoholic. Beckett has had a long-time crush on Maddy, so is happy to give her lessons, as long as she doesn’t find out how he feels about her, doesn’t find out what happened between him and her sister, Jade, and doesn’t discover his secret—the one he doesn’t know if she will be able to forgive.

The opening of Barefoot Summer was a bit confusing as I tried to sort out all the characters (especially the many McKinley siblings), but I soon worked them all out and settled into enjoying a well-plotted story. It wasn’t a straightforward romance—there were enough twists and turns to keep it interesting and give it a pleasant depth not found in many contemporary Christian romances. The one slight fault was perhaps the outcome of the regatta …

I really enjoyed Barefoot Summer. I liked the characters, I liked the way the author dealt with Madison’s issues with Christianity, and I especially liked Beckett, who has overcome a difficult childhood to become a man anyone would be proud to know, despite his inferiority complex. I liked the style of writing, and I especially liked the way the author introduced the various characters in the McKinley family, obviously setting us up for a sequel (which I will look forward to reading).

Odd as it might seem, I read two books in a row about a twin who lost their faith in God when they lost their twin to death, this and An Open Heart by Harry Kraus. I enjoyed Barefoot Summer much more, because I could really believe Madison’s faith journey, and I found the characters easier to relate to. Yes, the plot was more predictable than that of An Open Heart, and perhaps even a bit corny at times, but the storytelling was better. Or maybe it’s just that I like the romance…

A fun summer read (or, for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere, for cuddling up by the fire with).

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and Booksneeze for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Denise Hunter at her website.

10 June 2013

Review: Stealing the Preacher by Karen Wittemeyer

It is 1885 and Crockett Archer is following the call of God to on his way to Burleson County, Texas, to gain what he hopes will be his first official job as preacher. But his train journey is cut short when a group of outlaws hold up the train and kidnap him … as a birthday gift.

Joanna Robbins has always known her father used to be an outlaw and train robber, but his love for her now-dead mother led to Silas and his gang giving up crime fifteen years ago and settling down to work the Robbins ranch. Her mother was a strong Christian, and when she died, she passed on to Jo the burden of praying for Silas and his salvation. Jo has long wanted a preacher for their abandoned church, but never dreamed her father would kidnap one (well, who would?).

It’s an amusing set-up, and one that works well. Jo is a mature and beautiful young woman who is soon attracted to the young preacher, and Crockett soon finds that his plans might be different to God’s plans—and God’s plans just might include Jo and her small church. But he also has to earn the respect of Silas, who has a long-standing hatred for ‘men of God’.

One of the things I enjoy about Karen Witemeyer’s books is the humour, and Stealing the Preacher is no exception. The concept alone is pretty funny, and she manages to mix humour with likeable characters, a solid plot and sound Christian themes without the humour coming off as forced, and without the characters coming off as stupid.

Crockett Archer first appeared in Short-Straw Bride, the first novel about the Archer brothers, and although Stealing the Preacher is part of a series, it can easily be read as a stand-alone novel (although you might just want to go back and read the earlier stories once you’ve finished this one). Recommended for fans of romantic American westerns by authors such as Mary Connealy, Cara Lynn James and Jen Turano.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Karen Witemeyer at her website.

7 June 2013

ARCBA Review: Picking up the Pieces by Paula Vince

6 - 10 May
is introducing

Picking up the pieces
(Even Before Publishing 2010)

Paula Vince
About the Author
Award winning Australian author, PAULA VINCE, loves to evoke tears and laughter through writing fiction. She has a passion to provide inspiring stories that highlight her own beautiful country.

Website is http://www.paulavince.com/
About the Book:
“One terrible decision leads to another and the Parker and Quinlan families find out what it means to be in total despair.

In a moment of recklessness, Blake Quinlan does something he never should. The bitter consequences of his impulse will reverberate through the rest of his life unless he learns to deal with his past.

Without warning, Claire Parker’s life shatters. One horrific event leads to a choice that she can never forget. She must find a source of strength and forgiveness to help her recover or she will never again be the happy person she once was.

Moving forward, there is still a ray of hope. A triumphant story about forgiveness, new beginnings and the power of love.”

My Review

Clare Parker sees Blake Quinlan on a bus on the way to a Christian camp, which takes her back seven years to when she last saw Blake, and how his actions shattered her life... The book then moves back seven years, showing us how Clare and Blake met, what happened, and how they both pick up the pieces of their lives after Blake rapes Clare. The second half of the book brings us back to the present, with Clare and Blake meeting on the bus and what happens next, with the story told from both the point of view of both Clare and Blake.

From Clare's point of view, I thought the book was a sensitive portrayal of recovery from a life-changing event for which she feels guilty and ashamed. It felt realistic - Clare's recovery is long and painful, which contrasts with some other books I've read with a similar plot (one I read had the heroine mortally afraid of men one day and falling in love the next, which seemed a little unlikely, to say the least). Clare's recovery is made harder by the well-meaning actions of her family members, both Christian and non-Christian. Sadly, this was entirely believable, and made compelling reading.

But the plot from Blake's point of view was, if possible, even more compelling. Bla ke is not the cardboard cut-out violent, woman-hating rapist. He is a shy, sensitive boy/man (he's 18) with a violent father. On a date with Clare (arranged by his mother), Blake gets so drunk that he commits an unthinkable act for which he hates himself, feeling guilty and ashamed, but knowing there is nothing he can do to change his past action or make it better. So, he too is left picking up the pieces of his life, and facing the scorn of his family and the violence of his father.

This book is well worth reading, for its sensitive handling of a difficult subject, and for the underlying themes of redemption and forgiveness in unthinkable circumstances.

5 June 2013

Author Interview and Review: The Heir by Lynne Stringer

Author Interview

This week sees the release of Lynne Stringer's debut novel. Lynne is an Australian author and sci-fi fan, and I'm exciting to introduce her to you.

Thank you, Lynne, for sharing with our readers today. You can find out more about Lynne Stringer at her website.

What was your motivation for writing The Heir?

I have always been interested in science fiction and fantasy, and I love romances that have a fantasy element to them, so this story was one that fascinated me once I had thought of it.

Where did the characters and story come from? What were your influences?

I thought of the idea one day when I was talking to my husband. He is fascinated by cheesy pick-up lines (not that he uses them, then he'd be in trouble!) and he was talking about some of his favourites. I started thinking about some myself, and I thought of the one that says, 'You are the only reason I was put on this planet.' It made me think, what if someone said that to you and they meant it literally? What would be the implications of that? The story grew out of that.

Sarah is very similar to myself, so the writing was a bit vicarious. Dan was someone who seemed to suit Sarah well, and he came out of that. Jillian was born because I needed someone who was a bit pushy in Sarah's life, and Mr Hatchet was originally intended to be the heavy so that he could hit someone if it was required, but he took on a life of his own once I started to write him down.

Who is your favourite character and why?

Probably Dan. He's going through so much during the course of the story, but unfortunately, the reader misses out on a lot of it because the story's told from Sarah's point of view (which was necessary so you don't find out what's happening too soon!). Knowing him and what goes on in his head makes me adore him, but I like Sarah and Mr Hatchet almost as much.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but we find out that Dan has had a very different upbringing to Sarah, and that’s affected a lot of his beliefs and values. How do you see that relating to teens?

I think it can help them see that other people can have different upbringings and experiences from ourselves and this can lead to different ideas about all sorts of things from the things they eat to more significant issues like morality. Learning that people have these differences can be a helpful lesson especially when we're young.

When I read The Heir, there were a lot of things that I didn’t quite ‘get’, but looking back from the end I can see they were all clues (very clever). One thing I didn’t get is why Sarah continues to trust Dan when he acts very strangely at times. Why does Sarah continue to trust him even when she finds him over-controlling?

Sarah realises that there's something special about Dan and Jillian that she can relate to. Dan, in particular, since she fancies him, receives a lot of trust from her, although she never pauses to assess exactly why she places such a trust in him. She's motivated by her subconscious to trust him in this way.

You post a lot of science-fiction images on Facebook. What’s your favourite Sci-fi show?

I love a lot of sci-fi. I'm a fan of Star Wars, and I have been watching and enjoying Doctor Who since I was young enough to sit in front of a television. Another TV show I loved is a little known show called Roswell.

Do you believe there is life on other planets? Why? Why not?

I think it's likely that there is some kind of life, but sentient life? I'm not so sure about that. I think we would have heard from them in a significant way if there was. I try to be open minded about it, though.

The Heir is aimed at the Young Adult market, reflected by the fact that your main characters are in their senior year at high school. What made you decide to write for this age group?

I didn't want Sarah to be an adult. I thought it was more appropriate for her to be on the cusp of adulthood as she discovers all these things about herself, especially as the teenage years are a fertile ground for angst anyway. Lots of teenagers have trouble finding their niche, so I thought it was a good place for Sarah to begin experiencing the things that make her different from everyone else.

The Heir has been published by Wombat Books, a general market publisher who also has a Christian imprint, Even Before Publishing. Why is The Heir with Wombat, not Even Before?

I couldn't think of a Christian angle for The Heir, and I wasn't interested in forcing it into the story just to make it suit the Christian market. I'd like to think that The Heir is a book everyone can enjoy, and Christian teens can tell their non-Christian friends about it and they can enjoy a book without the explicit content that does tend to go with many books in this genre.

How does your faith influence your writing? How would that be different if you were writing for the Christian market?

I have tried to keep The Heir within a reasonable Christian framework of morality. I wasn't interested in writing something filled with sex or bad language, but I didn't want to make it deliberately Christian, not because I had an aversion to writing a Christian book, but just because the story didn't go that way, and I wasn't going to turn it into something it wasn't. I think my faith has influenced its morality, but not in an overt way.

What can you tell us about the next book in the series?

The next book is called The Crown and should be out either at the end of 2013 or the beginning of 2014. It is the continuing adventures of Sarah and Dan, but I can't say too much more or I'll spoil it for people who haven't yet read The Heir!

My Review

Sarah is a normal American teenager. Well, mostly normal. She goes to a fancy private school where all the other kids are rich, her dad is an inventor who never quite seems to get it right, she’s being stalked at school by a creepy boy, and her English teacher is always picking her for class debates even though she hates them. Apart from that, she’s just a normal kid who loves art, tries to survive high school and has a secret crush on Dan, her best friend’s kind-of boyfriend.

But things are not what they seem, and when tragedy strikes and Sarah’s life changes overnight, things start to get even stranger. Melting tables, windows that don’t open, eyes in the bushes … and then things get even stranger.

The story started slowly but there was a growing sense of foreboding and rising suspense that made me realise it wasn’t the predictable Young Adult coming-of-age kind of story it started out as (but I’m not going to spoil the surprise by saying too much). Strange things started to happen and there were a few left-field comments from Sarah’s friends that made me think I was missing something. I was. So was Sarah. And when we got the big reveal it was both a huge surprise and not, because it answered all those niggles.

The Heir is told entirely in the first person, from Sarah’s point of view (which I know some readers don’t like). But she’s a strong character who can carry the story without being so perfect as to be annoying. She’s a realistic teen, with strong likes and dislikes, hopes and fears, a secret crush, and a secret history even she doesn’t know about…

I really enjoyed The Heir. It was well-plotted with good foreshadowing (but without making it obvious), good characters, and an ending that was both satisfying in the way it completed the current story, but left me wanting more (fortunately, the sequel is expected out at the end of the year). An excellent debut novel, recommended for those who like authors such as Kathy Tyers, or those who enjoy YA dystopian or science fiction.

Thanks to Wombat Books for providing a free ebook for review.

3 June 2013

Review: Sisters of Mercy Flats by Lori Copeland

Anne-Marie, Abigail and Amelia McDougal are orphans from Mercy Flats, Texas, who make a living as con artists, disguising themselves as nuns to inspire trust in those they plan to relieve of their money. The sisters are being hauled to jail when their wagon is attacked by an Indian raiding party. They escape—barely—with the assistance of three men who just happened to be passing, but the sisters are separated in the escape.

Sisters of Mercy Flats then follows the story of Abigail, the middle sister, as she is carried off by weedy Hershall Digman, a travelling shoe salesman. (Well, that’s what we are supposed to think. The book blurb reveals that he is actually Captain Barrett
Drake, a spy for the Confederate Army, trying to get some important documents to aid in an upcoming battle).

It wasn’t clear who the story was actually going to be about for the first couple of chapters, and by the time it became apparent that it was only about the immature and annoying Abigail, I had already come to the conclusion that I didn’t like her (Anne-Marie was the sister who most caught my interest). The fact that the story was written almost entirely from Abigail’s point of view didn’t help. I would have like to see more from Hershall/Barrett, as I didn’t feel he was ever fleshed out properly as a character.

There was a fast-paced start but after the sisters were separated, it really seemed to slow down, and I found the problems started to outweigh the good points. The sisters had a Robin Hood approach to ethics that didn't sit comfortably with me. They seemed to subscribe to the idea of a victimless crime. I don't. And (at the risk of giving a spoiler) I didn’t think there was sufficient acknowledgement of or repentance from this attitude from Abigail. We were told her attitude had changed, but not shown. I wasn’t convinced.

I also got confused with the timing. In the early chapters it seemed of vital importance that Hershall/Bennett reach Shreveport as quickly as possible, yet they seemed to waste several days in the journey. And I found it odd that a Confederate spy would give a speech about the importance of freedom, given the views of most Southerners about slavery. So was he fighting for slavery or freedom? But I’m not American and most of what I know about the Civil War was learned from Christian novels, so who knows how accurate my views are.

The romance came together very quickly, and I’m not convinced it would last, because of Abigail’s immaturity. Overall, while the basic plot had potential, I had to force myself to finish Sisters of Mercy Flats. Recommended for those who like light romantic westerns by authors like Lori Wick and Karen Baney.

Thanks to Harvest House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.