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Aug 15, 2012

Two Crosses (Book 1) & Two Testaments (Book 2) by Elizabeth Musser


(Elizabeth Musser)
A double review for the two books shown above which should be read back to back for three days straight, like I did. And I must say, I had received two incredibly huge daunting manuscript galleys for these, which scared me. I was not looking forward to reading these cumbersome things, and I kicked myself for choosing these books. My fears were unfounded.

My review was published in the August HNS Review magazine, as an Editor's Choice.. which further proves the fact that these books are fantabulous. I have purchased another of this author's work solely based on the merits of these two.

Two Crosses Book One in Secrets of the Cross Trilogy by Elizabeth Musser (464 pages) and
Two Testaments Book Two in Secrets of the Cross Trilogy (494 pages)
David C. Cook, June 2012, $14.99
Review copy provided by the publisher via HNR, thank you!
Review originally posted in Historical Novels Review Magazine, August 2012
Burton Book Review Rating: 5 Inspiring Stars

Book One Blurb: The glimmering Huguenot cross she innocently wears leads her deep into the shadows. When Gabriella Madison arrives in France in 1961 to continue her university studies, she doesn’t anticipate being drawn into the secretive world behind the Algerian war for independence from France. The further she delves into the war efforts, the more her faith is challenged. The people who surround her bring a whirlwind of transforming forces—a wise nun involved in the smuggling, a little girl carrying secret information, and a man with unknown loyalties who captures her heart. When she discovers a long hidden secret from her past, it all leads to questions about trust, faith in action, and the power of forgiveness to move beyond the pain of the past
Two Crosses begins the unforgettable story that is the tapestry of several characters in this saga that stretches across opposite coasts of the Mediterranean Sea. Fighting for independence from France, the racism plaguing Algeria’s social classes creates a chasm in the early 1960’s that spins uncontrollably. Teacher and student David and Gabriella meet at a Franco American Exchange program where the nun Mother Griolet manages the operation along with an orphanage which doubles as a cover of a rescue mission in France. Gabriella helps David with dangerous operations of transporting orphaned children whose family were victims of the Algerian war. David’s own past reemerges as his daughter Ophélie arrives on Gabby’s doorstep, epitomizing the stolen innocence of the children due to the treachery of the Algerian war. Gabby and Ophélie bond immediately, as they each proudly wear their Huguenot cross close to their hearts which becomes symbolic and healing even as David tries to reconcile his own questions of faith with the horrors of the war he has witnessed. Gabby’s relationships with the women in the school and the orphanage are also an integral part of the story as she slowly realizes her calling in life.

Book two seamlessly picks up the story from book one, as there is no clear divide between the two. These books are definitely meant to be read in order as the characterizations and the consequences of the war are all splendidly portrayed in the first book. Two Testaments continues with the aftermath of the Algerian independence, as David befriends a Muslim friend and they question their faiths together. Although the war is supposed to be over, the people have been forced to split and choose sides. The pied-noirs were French citizens, but unwanted after being forced from Algeria; Harkis were Muslim soldiers who once fought alongside Arabs, but now found themselves unwelcome in the newly independent Algeria.

Two Testaments tells the story of the pied-noirs and the Harkis through several characters in a way that evokes tears because of the violence and tragedy. Yet, there was always hope, and victory for some; death for others, and insecurity for the rest. The plot is a well-written composition that teaches a little about life during tragic times, but moving and emotive as the characters reach for understanding through a higher power. At first there was a daunting set of names and places, but they were ultimately threaded together carefully throughout the story. Both of these novels explored deep themes such as prejudice, God, love, sacrifice and hope, but these words just skim the surface of its potential to touch the reader. Book three, Two Destinies {September 2012}, picks up the saga of these families thirty years later as war yet again becomes unavoidable.

These are going to be on the top of my favorites list of 2012.