14 January 2014

Review: Shadowed by Grace by Cara Putman

Recommended for Historical Fiction Fans

Rachel Justice is about to cross the Atlantic on HMS Queen Mary, bound for war-torn Europe, to photograph the fighting as America liberates Italy from the Germans. Her real motivation isn't to bring the war to the minds of her US readers--although that is part of it. She's going to Italy, in search of the father she never knew. Rachel needs to find her father because her mother is suffering from tuberculosis, and is likely to die soon without more medical treatment—treatment Rachel is hoping her father can help pay for.

Lieutenant Scott Lindstrom is an officer in the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Division, better known as the Monuments Men. I’d never heard of them, so this was a pleasant surprise which elevated the novel from interesting into something more original, which I like. (The division will also be the subject of an upcoming film, The Monuments Men, starring Mat Damon and Cate Blanchett, which was based on this book. After reading Shadowed by Grace, I’m looking forward to seeing the movie.)

Rachel and Scott meet when he is assigned to show her around. Fate keeps throwing them together as the fighting moves north, closer to Tuscany, where Rachel believes her father lives. The plot works well on several levels, with the romance between Rachel and Scott developing as they spent more time together, supported by subplots of war, missing artefacts and Rachel’s search for her father, and for faith. Overall, the book flowed well, and presented an original plot, likeable and interesting characters and an underlying Christian message.

The one thing that annoyed me was when a minor British character introduced himself as “Leftenant Alistair Barkley”. Yes, I understand they are trying to show us the different accent, but in that case, why not introduce the Americans as Lootenant? And wouldn’t a Southerner pronounce words differently than someone from Los Angeles or Boston? So why weren’t these words spelled differently? (And why was Barkley referred to as Indian? The British ran India in 1944, and Barkley’s family was from England, so surely he would have considered himself British or English, not Indian.)

I have read a couple of Cara Putman’s contemporary novellas, and while they were solid, they weren’t special in the way Shadowed by Grace is. I just hope we see more in this series—Shadowed by Grace is published by B&H, who announced last year they were closing their fiction line. It would be a shame if this were Putman’s only novel in this vein.

Thanks to B&H Books and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Cara Putman at her website.

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