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Historical fiction and Biblical fiction, reviewing since 2008

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Oct 28, 2014

Saint Brigid's Bones: A Celtic Adventure by Philip Freeman




Saint Brigid's Bones: A Celtic Adventure by Philip Freeman
Pegasus Books, October 2014
240 pages, Historical Fiction
9781605986326

In an evocative Celtic novel set in a time when druids roamed the land, lively young sister Deirdre embarks on a mission to find the stolen bones of her convent’s patron saint.
In ancient Ireland, an island ruled by kings and druids, the nuns of Saint Brigid are fighting to keep their monastery alive. When the bones of Brigid go missing from their church, the theft threatens to destroy all they have worked for. No one knows the danger they face better than Sister Deirdre, a young nun torn between two worlds.
Trained as a bard and raised by a druid grandmother, she must draw upon all of her skills, both as a bard and as a nun, to find the bones before the convent begins to lose faith.
In this swiftly told tale set in Ancient Ireland, Sister Diedre is tasked with the most important job of the monastery at Kildare: to retrieve the stolen bones of Saint Brigid. Without the bones for pilgrims to come pay homage to, the nuns and those they care for will not survive for very long without the donations from visitors seeking healing from the precious relics. 

The author proves his intellect and research within the first person narrative of Sister Diedre as he deftly sets up the mystery and even manages to flesh out Sister Diedre's character as we wonder if she should have even become a nun in the first place. There was a short period within the telling where I wondered if I had missed a previous novel featuring Diedre's story, but we slowly learn the secrets of her past before she dedicated her life to the monastery. Diedre is a strong and willful young woman who was also a skilled bard with a few suitors at her doorstep. While she seeks answers to the mystery of the saint's bones, she encounters ruffians and piratical lords as well as several kings of the lands of Ancient Ireland. I was surprised that so much could occur within the seemingly short novel yet the pacing and suspense were very well stylized, and I was happy to see the Philip Freeman plans on publishing a second novel featuring the lively Sister Diedre.


Oct 15, 2014

The Lion Triumphant by Philippa Carr



The Lion Triumphant by Philippa Carr
various publishers, circa 1974

Catharine Kingsman The Lion Triumphant follows The Miracle at St Bruno's with Catharine, the daughter of Damask, growing up in the new Elizabethan age -- one of the most eventful in English history because of the struggle for power between two mighty rivals had begun. Catharine, smarting from the bitter blow which deprived her of her lover, meets the lusty sea Captain Jake Pennlyon, who makes it clear that he allows nothing to come between him and his desires. Catharine is the chief of these and the battle between two stong-willed and tempestuous people is fought out in the shadow of the growing rivalry between Spain and England. Catharine delights in outwitting the man who would subdue her and before he can have his way a mysterious abduction takes place. A captive on a Spanish galleon, Catharine experiences the terrors of the sea and makes the aquaintance of the mysterious and dignified Don Felipe. In the Hacienda she discovers the reason for her capture and what is demanded of her, which bears out the fact that Jake Pennlyon is a man whose life is inextricably interwoven with her own.
His symbol is the Lion and there is no escape from him and his determination to overcome her resistance. He is as sure of his power to subdue her as he is of England's to rule the seas. With her Spanish son Roberto and her English daughter Linnet, Catharine is torn between love and loyalty in a story of lusty adventure on land and sea, when those who lived in the turbulent sixteenth century were caught up in the trmendous events of their times. The fight for survival is Catharine's and Jake's, Roberto's and Linnet's -- as well as England's. From Plymouth, the ships set forth, for the issue will be decided at sea. Here is the most significant engagement of all times when the little ships of England drove off the mighty Spanish galleons of Spain and the Invincible Armada was defeated, leaving the Lion Triumphant.

The second book in the Daughters of England series by Philippa Carr (another pseudonym of Jean Plaidy fame) picks up with the next generation of the family from The Miracle at St. Bruno's. Damask's daughter Catharine is the heroine of the novel which takes on a very gothic feel. Even though some of the situations Cat would get herself in made me want to strangle her, I was enthralled by the story. This was supposed to be a read -along but I blew through it due to the wildness of some of the story arcs.

Catharine did have a tendency to get on my nerves - she was definitely a curious one - poking her nose in where she shouldn't. She had some really intriguing relationships going on which I am not going to spoil within the review here, but it was definitely a lot of fun and lived up to my expectations with a Carr novel.

I loved it so much that I had to know what was going to next in the third book, The Witch From The Sea, so the read - along participant and I decided to jump into that one next soon after. There are times when you just need to sink yourself into some crazy entertaining historical that just may be a bit off-kilter from reality, and the Philippa Carr series does the trick.

Oct 12, 2014

Playing By Heart by Anne Mateer



Playing By Heart by Anne Mateer
Historical Fiction/Christian
September 2014
Review copy provide by Bethany House in exchange for this review
Burton Book Review Rating:Fabulous read!

(Click here for other books by Anne Mateer reviewed on Burton Book Review)


Lula Bowman has finally achieved her dream: a teaching position and a scholarship to continue her college education in mathematics. But when she receives a shocking telephone call from her sister, Jewel, everything she's worked for begins to crumble.
After the sudden death of Jewel's husband, Jewel needs Lula's help. With a heavy heart, Lula returns to her Oklahoma hometown to do right by her sister. But the only teaching job available in Dunn is combination music instructor/basketball coach. Neither subject belongs anywhere near the halls of academia, according to Lula!

Lula commits to covering the job for the rest of the school year, determined to do well and prove herself to the town. Reluctantly, she turns to the boys' coach, Chet, to learn the game of basketball. Chet is handsome and single, but Lula has no plans to fall for a local boy. She's returning to college as soon as she gets Jewel back on her feet.


However, the more time she spends in Dunn, the more Lula realizes God is working on her heart--and her future is beginning to look a lot different than she'd expected.
This was a heart tugging story put forth by Anne Mateer and her passion for telling this particular story shone through every page. It's a blend of faith and romance during the scary times of the Great War where boys striving to be men enlisted to make their families proud. An era where strict rules among the social classes existed, and fraternizing with the opposite sex would cost you your career.

The main characters of Lula and Chet were told in an alternating first person narrative which only took me a few turns to get accustomed to. Perhaps it was this first person narration that helped endear me to them and made me feel much more empathetic towards them both. Lula was both intelligent and independent but willing to give up everything she ever dreamed of in order to be near her sister during difficult times, and Chet was also making his own personal sacrifices for his family even while others misunderstood his intentions.

They work together and become close which causes envy among their peers, yet their entire courtship was a charming story to read as they opened up about their emotions and their individual passions. I especially enjoyed the development of the supporting characters and their families, and I would love to see a sequel to see what happens next for Chet and Lula.

Playing By Heart is a very inspirational story featuring music, basketball, coaching and the war efforts which was put together very well into a solid piece of Christian historical fiction which I recommend to any reader of the genre. Thanks to Anne Mateer and Bethany House for providing us with another great inspirational novel!