Sunday, May 26, 2013

Laura Frantz's "Courting Morrow Little" - even better than I remembered

Upon rereading this novel, I was struck again by how much depth it has, and I remembered why I liked it enough to purchase it.

When I first decided to read Laura Frantz's novels, I was hesitant to read this one; when a plot is entirely about various men pursuing a girl who can't make up her mind, I get annoyed. However, that is not how the novel played out at all! There is comparatively little courting going on, though a number of men would do so if she would let them. Rather, it is the story of a young woman returning to the wilderness after several years in the colonies, and how she overcomes the ghosts of the past and learns to live in a harsh land. Morrow grows considerably through the book - from a shy, wilting Philadelphia belle afraid of her own shadow to a strong frontier woman.

Courting Morrow Little  -     
        By: Laura Frantz
Unlike many novels about the American Revolution, which typically center on the fight between colonists and Redcoats, Frantz looks closer at the war between the Blue Coats (Americans) and native tribes, who were largely allied with the British, and how the Americans broke many treaties without punishment in order to destroy as many of the Native Americans as possible. As experienced through Morrow Little's eyes, this novel shows the unfairness to the Indians by many of the Americans in their war to take control of the country, and the unfairness to any white person who would live with them (for they surely must be either a traitor or a captive held against their will).

Overall, it was so much better than I expected - the story of life and war, not just a romance that is wrapped up at love's first kiss. Yes, there are the magical moments as she goes from distrust to falling in love, but it continues past the wedding ceremony to learning about each other as a married couple amidst a land fraught with danger. It is a novel of great depth reminiscent of "The Last of the Mohicans" and "Ghost Fox".  5 stars.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Jocelyn Green's "Widow of Gettysburg": a well balanced novel of history, emotion, and Godly inspiration

As one who has studied war in college but not experienced it in real life, I found  Jocelyn Green's Widow of Gettysburg to be more effective at conveying the horrors of battle than most of the non fiction I read in college.  Part of it is that I cannot see myself in the place of a soldier, which is the viewpoint taken by most when writing of war, but I can see myself as Liberty Holloway, a woman who knows nothing of  battle but suddenly ends up in the midst of its aftermath.  She is not particularly happy about housing and helping the enemy's wounded, nor does she know how to deal with digging out bullets and amputating limbs, and to top it off her home - and her livelihood as an innkeeper - are basically destroyed without ever feeling a bullet.  But she relies on God through it all, and she finds a strength that surpasses her former understanding. 

Widow of Gettysburg is such a poignant depiction of that historical town in the days leading up to the battle, the battle itself, and the aftermath, as Gettysburg and its inhabitants slowly recover from the devastation.   It really encourages one to really think about how a battle affects civilians.  Through Liberty's eyes, we can grasp the horrible sights, the putrid odors, the fatigue, the hunger, and the devastation that remains when "it is all over" and the rebel soldiers are gone.  Her house and barn are half destroyed, she has no garden or animals left, her food supplies were gone in a day, all spare bedding and material were shredded for bandages, and she only has one dress left to her name.  Those are just the material side effects; if anything, after caring for the wounded, she has changed even more emotionally and spiritually.These things were not unique to Liberty - these things happened to real women all over Gettysburg, throughout the whole Civil War, and probably at nearly every battle in history that could in any way affect civilians.

Green's novel is full of good characters who are likeable, and yet none are perfect - each has issues to work through, from the main characters Liberty and Silas, to her former mother-in-law and the rebel doctor.  Even the undisputed bad guys have moments of grace just like anyone.  Besides the obvious plot of the assault on Gettysburg, there is also a strong storyline full of surprises that further inspires the main characters and moves them on their personal journeys.

An excellent balance of historical fact, emotion, and Godly inspiration.  5 out of 5 stars!

Heroines Behind the Lines
1. Wedded to War
2. Widow of Gettysburg
3. Yankee in Atlanta 
4. Spy of Richmond 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Jody Hedlund's "A Noble Groom"

A Noble Groom, Jody Hedlund's latest novel, is an insightful look into German immigration to Michigan in the 1880's, as well as a sweet romance.   Accurate in the mindset and tradition of the immigrants, the story also allows the characters to expand in character and conviction as they learn to adapt to a new land. 

A Noble GroomAlthough he is a man of faith, Carl is also the indulged son of a baron, unaccustomed to labor, want, or any other unpleasantness from which money can shield him.  When he is wrongly accused of murder, not even his father's money will spare him from punishment, though it is just enough to send him far away from Germany to the kinfolk of his servant, who have been extremely bitter toward the baron ever since the death of the eldest son.  Not knowing his true identity, they accept him out of sheer desperation to help Annalisa save her farm, at least until her new groom arrives.  As the weeks stretch into months while waiting for him, Carl keeps postponing his departure for a professorship in Chicago, unwilling to leave Annalisa without the help she so desperately needs. 

From a naive, privileged scholar of the German barony, Carl grows into a man of strength and character.  For all that he initially looks down on the peasants with whom he must hide, he learns to respect them and earns their respect in return - not as the son of a baron, but as a man in his own right, learning to work in spite of initial ignorance and working hard in spite of initial physical weakness.  In learning the value of hard physical labor, he reaps the blessings that go with it: accomplishment, empowerment, and a contented simplicity.

Although she has never suffered the physical abuse her sister Idette receives from her husband, newly widowed Annalisa has also never received love or respect from the men in her life.  As a woman and therefore without rights of her own, she is little more than a piece of property to be managed by whichever man is currently ruling her life - first her father, then her husband, and then her father again when her husband is killed.  Annalisa has a backbone - she fiercely fights for her rights and children's safety against the man who threatens them over her land - but she does not know how to stand up against her father for her desires, when tradition dictates that she has no choice in her marriage.  Though she fiercely protects her children, she feels she is insignificant and unworthy of regard. 

Hedlund focuses on God's love for the insignificant, for the unloved, for the abandoned.  Matthew 6:26 says, "Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"  In learning to be cherished by Carl, her soft-hearted, child-loving field hand, Annalisa also learns that God cares for her too, that He wants to provide for her, and that He wants to save her - she is a valuable daughter of the Most High.  And once Annalisa has learned to be valued, there is no going to back to an existence that is, at best, a lukewarm marriage where her husband barely tolerates her.  She can accept no less than to love and be loved in return.  

I felt that I knew the main characters very well by the end of the story; though they stretched and grew, their voices remained true to character.  In my middle class righteousness, I was a bit annoyed with Carl's whining early on, but it was understandable for who he was, and besides, he got over himself fairly quickly.  I could relate to Annalisa; as an obedient daughter, I would have a very difficult time going against my father's wishes.  Thankfully, I have been blessed with a dad who allowed me to make my own decisions and respected them.  The message of God's love for the insignificant was something of which, especially in this world where production and corporations are more important than people, I think everyone needs a reminder, including myself.  It is so easy to feel lost and forgotten in all our busyness.

I received a free copy from Bethany House Publishing in exchange for an honest review; the opinions are my own, and I was not obligated to write a positive review.