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Posts Tagged ‘“Christian” Fiction’

Several years ago, I was browsing the “Christian fiction” shelves at my local Books-A-Million, and I picked up a book that looked promising. It was The Widow of Larkspur Inn by Lawana Blackwell, and it turned out to be one of my all-time favorite novels. I ended up buying the other two books in the series (The Courtship of the Vicar’s Daughter and The Dowry of Miss Lydia Clark) and I loved them as well.

I have loaned these books out many times–so many times that I’ve lost track of who had them and I’ve had to buy new copies. Everyone I’ve ever loaned them to has loved them too. I’ve since sought out and read most of Lawana Blackwell’s other books, and I’ve enjoyed them all. But in my opinion, her Gresham books are her best work. The world she’s created for these books–the small Dairying town of Gresham, feels like a real place to me.

And now, after many requests from her readers, Ms. Blackwell has treated us to another Gresham book, The Jewel of Gresham Green. It does not disappoint. Lawana Blackwell’s greatest strength is creating lovable and lifelike characters, and this book is no exception. It was so much fun to revisit Julia and Vicar Phelps and their families. The thing I like the most about Ms. Blackwell’s characters is that they always inspire me to be a better version of myself.

In this story we meet Jewel Libby, a lovely young widow living in Birmingham, England with her daughter, Becky. While Jewel works long hours, she fears for her daughter’s safety. Mr. Dunstan, the rent collector, has taken an unhealthy interest in four-year-old Becky, and Jewel must make some difficult decisions to escape him.

As a writer, one of the most enjoyable parts of this book was reading about Adela. Readers first met her in The Widow of Larkspur Inn, as the young daughter of widow Julia Hollis. Now she has grown into an independent woman—and a writer. Adela struggles to find the privacy to write and fears rejection of her work—things that most writers can identify with. I’m sure that Ms. Blackwell had fun drawing on her own experiences as a writer to create this adult version of Adela.

The Jewel of Gresham Green is most enjoyable for the chance it offers to revisit beloved characters in a beloved setting. I can’t blame Ms. Blackwell for wanting to add to this series. As a stand-alone novel, however, I think it would be more difficult to fully appreciate. I strongly recommend reading the earlier books from the Gresham Chronicles before reading this one.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

~LW

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Liz Curtis Higgs has wowed us again with her fourth installment in the tale of the McKie family. Grace in Thine Eyes (2006, WaterBrook Press) parallels the Genesis 34 account of Dinah. It picks up the series which includes Thorn in My Heart, Fair is the Rose, and Whence Came a Prince, the three of which retell the story of Jacob and his two brides, from Genesis 27-33. I suggest starting with the first and reading all the way through.Higgs’ stories are colorful and gripping. They are set in Scotland in the late 1700’s through the early 1800’s, and benefit from her extensive research. The stories would stand very well on their own, without the Biblical parallels. The fact that they retell some of the most powerful stories of all time just adds another layer of richness.

The subject matter is serious–Higgs deftly handles mature topics such as marital intimacy (in the first three novels) and even rape (in Grace in Thine Eyes). She takes material that could be edgy or gritty, and uses it instead to show the beauty of God’s mercies. Still, because of the nature of the stories, we recommend the books primarily for married readers or unmarried readers with the guidance of a parent or other mature adviser.

The thing we appreciate the most about Higgs is that she’s not just a good “Christian Fiction” writer, she’s a good writer, period.

We are eagerly awaiting the release of Higgs’ next work, My Heart’s in the Lowlands, to be released February 2007.

~Glenda

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