Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The Caregiver - Shelley Shepard Gray

According to her website, Shelley Shepard Gray enjoys writing stories about “people who have a strong faith, a quieter way of life, but aren’t perfect.” Thus sets the scene for the first novel in her Families of Honor series, which includes a cast of characters that most wouldn’t expect to find in Amish novel. Lucy has escaped an abusive marriage following her husband’s sudden death, Calvin is picking up the pieces of his life after his long-term girlfriend left him for his best friend, Mattie is struggling with breast cancer and John is returning to his Amish roots after a long period in the English world. Their lives collide when Lucy travels to Jacob’s Crossing, Ohio, to care for her cousin Mattie as she undertakes chemotherapy, and ends up sitting beside Calvin and his English Uncle John on the train. Still having nightmares about her husband’s temper a year after his death, Lucy finds it difficult to be comfortable around men. And just as she starts to open up to Calvin, she witnesses him having a heated argument that causes all of her fears about men to surface again. When she arrives in Jacob’s Crossing she throws all of her energies into caring for Mattie, but can’t help but keep running into Calvin. Lucy finds herself challenged to put her past behind her and open up to the new possibilities of the future – and a life with Calvin.

The Caregiver was my second experience with Shelley Shepard Gray, and while I wouldn’t say that she’s becoming one of my favourite authors in the Amish genre, she’s definitely one you can depend upon for a great story. Shelley doesn’t shy away from writing about tough topics, and I commend her for showing the Amish in a truthful light and not falling into the trap of romanticising their lifestyle. In places I found it difficult to read about Lucy’s abusive marriage and to learn that her family hadn’t tried to rescue her, but I’m sure this is a situation that far too many women find themselves in, both Amish and “English”. Lucy was an incredibly endearing character, one that you just want to hug and keep from harm. That said, Lucy is not as vulnerable as you might think, and while she finds it difficult to trust men she is a pillar of strength when it comes to looking after her cousin, Mattie. I enjoyed reading about Lucy and Calvin’s blossoming friendship, which will be appreciated by many fans of sweet romances. Calvin wasn’t a terribly unique character as far as heroes go, but he had his own troubles in facing his ex-girlfriend and best friend’s new relationship, and it was interesting to see that not all Amish courtships end in marriage. Calvin was a solid, dependable character and the perfect match for Lucy, and I was rooting for them to overcome their troubles and admit that they cared for each other.

As I started to read this novel I was surprised to discover that the focus wasn’t purely on Lucy and Calvin, but also on Mattie and John. A fair amount of the story was fixed on Mattie’s recovery from surgery, her struggles with her faith and her fear that she’d never find a husband because her operation had warped her body. Although I didn’t expect to read Mattie’s perspective on the events that unfolded, I ended up appreciating her struggles and what they added to the story. Shelley painted Mattie’s experience with breast cancer very realistically and I could imagine that any woman would feel exactly as she did. On the other hand, I found myself becoming disinterested with John’s story, which was almost entirely unrelated to the main plot and focused mainly on his attraction to two very different women. This subplot was unresolved by the end of the novel, and while I imagine that it will be continued in the second book in the series I have to admit that I really don’t care what happens to him. His character wasn’t fleshed out enough for me to really become interested in him, but maybe he’ll become a more focal character in the second book.

Having experienced Shelley Shepard Gray’s skill in creating realistic characters with struggles that readers can all relate to, I will definitely be keeping my eye out for more of her work. If you’re wary of the Amish genre for fear that authors have a tendency to romanticise the lifestyle, The Caregiver may be more your style of novel. That said, it still contains a large splash of romance and a happy ending that will provide encouragement to all fans of the Amish genre. 8/10

Avon Inspire and NetGalley provided a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Here Burns My Candle - Liz Curtis Higgs

Life in Scotland during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 was not easy for anyone, least not the noble Kerr family in the capital city of Edinburgh. Elisabeth Kerr cannot hide her Jacobite sympathies from her family, and slowly her husband begins to share her sentiments. But when her beloved Donald and his younger brother Andrew decide to fight for the royal pretender, denouncing their loyalties to King George, Elisabeth can’t help but question whether she should have kept her feelings to herself.

Her emotions are torn even further when she discovers that the rumours about her husband’s infidelity were more than just idle gossip. This news comes at the worst possible time, and Elisabeth resigns herself to waiting until her husband’s homecoming to work on restoring her marriage. But will the Kerr men ever return from battle?

As she waits for news of her husband, Elisabeth finds herself drawing closer to Marjory, the mother-in-law who had previously scorned her for being a Lowlander. Outlawed for their allegiance to the bonny prince and lost without their men, these two women learn to find trust in each other as their position in society and their beloved country begin to crumble around them.

No review I write of this book will ever be able to do it justice. There are some books that I find myself so enamoured with that I cannot even begin to think of any flaws in them, and Here Burns My Candle is one of these. Having considered it, I could understand that those of a sensitive nature may be upset by the discussions of adultery and mistresses. And non-Christians may find Elisabeth’s conversion to Christianity uninteresting and feel the need to skip over these sections.

And I must confess, I am of a bit of an advantage when it comes to understanding the Scottish dialect in this novel, having grown up in area of Scotland where most of the residents speak with a rather broad Scots accent. (Although I will admit that my own accent is incredibly neutral, causing all of my foreign friends to complain that I don’t sound “Scottish enough”. So while I can decipher old Scots, I couldn’t pronounce it to save my life. Please don’t ask me to read this book out loud!) Fortunately, the author has included a wonderful glossary at the back of this book. If you have not yet discovered this, I’d recommend searching for it now! Even I had to use it a couple of times. The idea of having to look up a glossary in a novel might seem strange at first, but I know that most Amish novels now include these so the idea is not entirely new. But I can sympathise with those who are put off this novel due to the dialect.

That said, I honestly cannot think of one aspect of this novel that I did not love. I was cautious at the idea of reading a book set in my own country, as my one previous experience with a Scottish historical romance wasn’t particularly inspiring. Eighteenth-century Scottish history isn’t a period that I’m overly educated in, and I’m fairly certain that the Jacobite Rebellion was covered in a one-hour lecture in my first year of university. Thus, I’m certain that there are American readers who came to this book more read on this subject than myself! Like many, I started this book rather blind, and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

I was immediately taken in by the strong, yet somehow vulnerable character of Elisabeth, who was treated like an equal by her husband yet looked down on by his family. While she stood up to her mother- and sister-in-law, she was scared at confronting her husband about the rumours she’d heard whispered about him. As would any woman, Elisabeth tried to deny any thoughts of her husband’s infidelity, yet on another level she believed them enough that she didn’t want to risk confronting him for an answer. It was truly heartbreaking to witness Elisabeth’s internal turmoil and to wait for the moment when she would learn the truth. And while you wouldn’t think that Donald could be a terribly endearing character, I did wish that he would get the chance to reform himself and cut the ties to his mistresses.

But this is Edinburgh during the Jacobite Rebellion, and I knew that the outcome of Elisabeth and Donald’s story wouldn’t be a pleasant one. Those who recall the Biblical story of Ruth will also know how this plot will pan out, since both Here Burns My Candle and its sequel, Mine is the Night, are based upon the Book of Ruth.

Unlike a lot of the historical novels I read, the premise of this one was not a boy-girl romance, but the growth of a relationship between mother- and daughter-in-law. Marjory was originally a rather unlikable character, the typical matriarch who cared more about the appearance of her family than her relationships within it. But when her sons left to fight in battle, she found herself alone with her two daughters-in-law, and it was Highlander Elisabeth, not the more respectable Janet, in whom she found comfort. It was wonderful to watch the growing relationship between these two women, despite the bleakness of their situation, and the reformation of Marjory’s personality. Their friendship also helps Elisabeth to draw closer to God, a figure who had been entirely absent in her upbringing but in whom she finds comfort after her husband’s departure. Mother- and daughter-in-law relations are not often the subject of novels, but they are a topic that most women will be able to relate to.

While I felt that the conclusion to this novel was largely optimistic, I’m also very glad that I have the sequel sitting in front of me! The Kerr saga is captivating, and I’m now a convert to the works of Liz Curtis Higgs and historical fiction of my homeland. It was so refreshing to read a novel not focused on romance, but the relationships between women in an extended family. If you’re a historical fiction fan and have not yet discovered Liz Curtis Higgs, I highly recommend starting with Here Burns My Candle.

Review title provided courtesy of Waterbrook Press.

This review is also posted at The Christian Manifesto, who will be featuring a giveaway of this book in the near future. Keep checking back for more information!

Monday, 21 March 2011

Giveaway: Lilly's Wedding Quilt - Kelly Long

Recently I was fortunate enough to get the chance to review Lilly's Wedding Quilt by Kelly Long, #2 in her Patch of Heaven series. So I'm excited to announce that The Christian Manifesto are holding a FIVE book giveaway of this novel! For those of you who don't know, I now review for this website and will be providing them with an influx of postings about Christian romance, Amish and historical novels! If you're interested in winning a copy of this book, check out the information here. All you need to do is email them your details, and the contest is open until the 27th of March. Good luck!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Secrets of Harmony Grove - Mindy Starns Clark

From the bestselling author of Shadows of Lancaster County comes an exciting new romantic mystery set in Amish country.

Sienna Collins, owner of the Harmony Grove Bed & Breakfast in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, learns that she is under investigation by the federal government for crimes she knows nothing about. A few hours later she finds her ex-boyfriend, Troy, dead, and her life and livelihood begin to spin wildly out of control. She begins to doubt everyone around her, even the handsome detective assigned to the case.

As Sienna tries to clear her name, she is forced to depend on her faith, the wisdom of the Amish, and the insight of the man she has recently begun dating. She’ll need all the help she can get, because the secrets she uncovers in Harmony Grove end up threatening not just her bed-and-breakfast, but also her credibility, her beliefs, and ultimately her life.

I can't believe I've not written a review of this book yet, especially as I read it well over a week ago! I was working on two essay deadlines at the time so this review will be more concise than usual as the book isn't so fresh in my mind.

Overall, I really enjoyed this mystery set in an Amish settlement in PA. I've never read anything from Mindy Starns Clark before but I have enjoyed some Amish romantic suspense from Marta Perry. I'd have to say that I probably prefer Marta as her style is a bit lighter. But Mindy's mystery was incredibly complex. I could not guess who was behind everything, which is unusual for someone who devoured Nancy Drew and Famous Five mysteries as a child! For me, a good mystery is always one that I can't solve before the characters.

But this book was more than just your standard mystery novel. Sienna, the heroine, was trying to simultaneously figure out who had murdered her ex-boyfriend and where her grandfather's diamonds were buried. This brought an entirely different aspect into the story, where Sienna uncovered her family secrets and learned the truth about her grandfather and his first wife. These secrets laid roots in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany and Mindy very delicately revealed some of the horrors of the Holocaust and how these had touched on Sienna's grandfather (an Amish man turned soldier) and his first wife (a German Jew). Sienna's grandfather planted a grove in memory of his deceased wife and it was fascinating to read about the history of it. This aspect of the story was woven through it very well and didn't overshadow the rest of it. Even for someone who is very well educated on the history of the Holocaust, I still felt that Mindy dealt with it in an incredibly touching and enlightening manner.

While I did enjoy the complexity of the mystery, it did seem a bit far-fetched in places. Yes, it was exciting and made me keep turning the pages, but on a couple of occasions I did wonder about how plausible situations were. I know I don't always look to fiction for realism but so many other aspects of the novel were believable that they made others feel a bit out of place. My only other complaint would have to be that while I found Sienna to be an interesting character, I never really connected with her. I could sympathise in places, but the way that a grown woman dealt with relationships kind of baffled me! However, I did enjoy the outcome of her romantic sub-plot; it wasn't predictable in the slightest.

All in all, I did enjoy my first Amish romantic suspense from this author. It was a refreshing departure from my usual romances and historical novels, and definitely a compelling read. While I didn't completely connect with the characters and found the plot unrealistic in places, I wouldn't hold that against this book and would probably read more from this author in the future. 8/10

Monday, 14 March 2011

Lilly's Wedding Quilt - Kelly Long

If there’s such a thing as edgy Amish fiction, Kelly Long is undoubtedly the queen of it. The second novel in her Patch of Heaven series features the conventional “marriage of convenience” plot that many romance readers adore, transported into the world of the Amish. After a convoluted series of events, Lilly Lapp finds herself married to the boy she’s adored since childhood, Jacob Wyse. But Jacob is still pining after his childhood love, Sarah, and Lilly isn’t keen on competing with the image of her husband’s lost love. Riddled with heartbreak and misunderstanding, it seems as if their marriage is never going to work. Lilly and Jacob must work together and learn to trust each other, all the while hoping that someday their convenient situation might just turn into true love. But that day may be closer than they think...

I could not stop singing this novel’s praises when I finished it. When I wasn’t pestering my fiancé to read out my favourite quotes, I was avoiding coursework in order to read another chapter. Kelly Long brings something new and exciting to the Amish genre, and I do hope that she gets the recognition she deserves. While I loved her debut novel, Sarah’s Garden, I absolutely adored Lilly’s Wedding Quilt. Maybe it’s because I’m getting married in 2012, but the story of two newlyweds falling in love under unusual circumstances really struck a chord with me. I remember the early days of my relationship, where both of us were unsure about expressing our feelings and getting into anything emotional. Although Lilly and Jacob are clearly in a very different situation, Kelly truly captured the early stages of romance: wanting to make the other person love you but being scared to share your true feelings; the hurt and confusion at unexplained silences or misinterpreted speech; the undeniable attraction but not knowing how to act upon it.

But wait, you ask, isn’t this an Amish novel? Shouldn’t this be strictly hand-holding and longing glances, resulting in a marriage with nine children and not a moment to yourselves once the first Boppli is born? Well, I have to admit that all of the Amish romances I’ve read so far have barely acknowledged anything other than a chaste kiss. And until I discovered Kelly Long, I was happy with this idyllic, sweet style of romance. But there’s something refreshing about Kelly’s writing, in acknowledging that the Amish have the same feelings as everyone else, even that of attraction. I’m not suggesting that Kelly’s writing is in any way explicit or inappropriate, but I appreciated immensely the way that she showed that physical attraction is just as essential as emotional and spiritual when it comes to making a marriage work. Just as Kelly utilises the traditional romance plot of a marriage of convenience, she also features strong character chemistry and plenty of romantic scenes that’ll encourage any readers who wonder whether it’s realistic for Amish characters to never engage in anything more than a fleeting peck on the cheek.

Of course, this novel isn’t all kissing-in-the-rain and pounding hearts. Lilly and Jacob have a lot of emotional ground to cover before they reach this stage. I particularly connected with Lilly’s struggle to get over her husband’s first love. This is something which I understand first-hand as being a horrible emotional cocktail of betrayal and jealousy, especially when you aren’t ready to talk about your feelings with your partner. And Jacob, like most men, is uncomfortable expressing his feelings and admitting his worries to Lilly. They both have physical fears to overcome – Lilly is scared of horses and Jacob is embarrassed that he can’t read – and the journey they take together to overcome these difficulties runs parallel to the growth of their emotional relationship. It was simply wonderful to see these two newlyweds developing a deeper knowledge and understanding of each other, culminating in the sweetness of Jacob’s gift to Lilly. I don’t want to spoil anything for those who have yet to read the book, but when Jacob started planning her present I felt convinced that he had truly come to understand his wife.

Building on the foundation that the Amish have the same problems and difficulties as the rest of the world, Kelly includes some brilliant secondary characters. From gossipy neighbours to rebellious teenagers, no one that Lilly and Jacob encounter is truly perfect. Sometimes novels can present the Amish as flawless, as if they were as sinless as Christ himself, but fortunately Kelly doesn’t fall into this trap. I also applaud her portrayal of Lilly’s mother’s struggle with depression. This was the first time that I’d read about an Amish character suffering from a mental illness, and it was incredibly encouraging and insightful to learn about how the community helped Lilly’s family through this difficult time.

Full to bursting with realistic characters, sizzling chemistry and a pinch of passion, Lilly’s Wedding Quilt brings something new to the world of Amish romance. Readers will find themselves nodding sympathetically at Lilly and Jacob’s problems, sighing over their romance and dying to flip to the final page to discover how it all works out. Whether you’re a committed fan of this genre or a newcomer, I’d highly recommend picking up a copy of this book. 10/10

Thank you to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a copy of this book for review purposes. Lilly's Wedding Quilt is due for publication on the 29th of March 2011.

This review is also posted at The Christian Manifesto, which will be running a giveaway of Lilly's Wedding Quilt on the 21st of March.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Book Blogger Hop

I don't often participate in Hops, but this one jumped out at me, demanding my attention!

Book Blogger Hop

In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word! This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs to read!

This week's question comes from Ellie who blogs at Musings of a Bookshop Girl:

"If I gave you £50 (or $80) and sent you into a bookshop right now, what would be in your basket when you finally staggered to the till?"

If I were to be truly sensible, I'd say "Sorry, I already have too many books!" And I'm not kidding - my room at university is tiny, so most of my books are stored in a giant box in my wardrobe, or in piles on my floor. One day, the floor will cave in and I'll finally meet my downstairs neighbours... I also have seven shelves full of books at home, as well as a giant box under my bed and one in the attic. Not to mention all the books piled on my desk that my dad keeps reminding me about whenever I call home...

But hey, maybe my fiancé will let me start storing books at his house? :)

If so, I'd definitely buy the following (going with the pricing on christianbook.com):

A Place of Peace is #3 in the Kauffman Amish Bakery series by Amy Clipston, one of my favourite Amish authors. It came out a few months ago but, being a poor student, I haven't got around to buying it yet. I do still have some Christmas money left and I've been contemplating buying some new clothes...but maybe I'll get this? I can always darn my socks a fourth time!

Lilly's Wedding Quilt is #2 in Kelly Long's Patch of Heaven series. I'll admit, I already read an ARC of this (look out for a review soon!) and it was FANTASTIC! I loved her first book but this was even better. It's not often that I consider buying a copy of a book I have on my Kindle, but I know I could read this again and sigh over Jacob and Lilly's romance a second time. And a third... (P.S. Check out my review of this book over at The Christian Manifesto. They'll be running a 5-book giveaway of Lilly's Wedding Quilt on the 21st, so keep checking back for updates!)

I have read SO many excellent reviews of A Heart Most Worthy by Siri Mitchell. I've yet to read one of her books, but I did get She Walks in Beauty as a Kindle freebie this month. I'm definitely going through a Historical Romance phase right now, and while I love my Westerns (I'm looking at you, Mary Connealy and Kelly Eileen Hake!) this book looks incredibly appealing. How can you resist that cover? So pretty!

Ann H. Gabhart is another new author, although I have had my eyes on her Shaker series for sometime. But Angel Sister is another one that's been popping up on blogs and GoodReads over the past few months. It's an early 20th century historical novel, possibly entirely devoid of romance (!), but looks incredibly intriguing. Plus, isn't the little girl just so cute? I watched a film with my fiancé a few months ago, about which he said "You'll like this film, it has a cute little girl in it." I'm rather predictable in that respect! Stick a toddler or a baby on a cover and I'll be sure to admire it.

...you see my point? This book has two appeals - babies AND the Amish! I read one of Mindy Starns Clark's suspense novels set amongst the Amish (another review to look out for) and really enjoyed it. And while I do like to read a good mystery every now and then, The Amish Midwife is more my kind of book! It has a bit of a mystery in it, too, according to the synopsis. I'm intrigued by the idea of a joint-authorship. It's worked in the few cases I've read, so I'd definitely be interested in reading this one.

A Man of His Word by Kathleen Fuller was actually released in 2009, but I'm putting it on this list as I adored her novella in An Amish Love. And yes, it's another Amish novel - but they're just so sweet! And I always feel the need to do some knitting or sewing once I've finished one of these books. Which is quite handy, as most of my jeans are falling apart right now. Maybe I should stop spending all my spare money on books and visit a clothes shop instead...

I've been wanting to read one of the Love Finds You books in quite some time, and Love Finds You in Poetry, Texas by Janice Hanna jumped out at me from my wishlist. The idea of a headstrong female writer acting as a matchmaker sounds like it'd make a great read, and I do love my small-town prairie stories. To be honest, I have most of the Love Finds You historical romances on my wishlist as they all look so good!

Come on, doesn't this cover look exactly like a scene from Little House on the Prairie? Which, by the way, I'm slightly obsessed with right now. I've yet to read a novel by Kim Vogel Sawyer but Courting Miss Amsel looks like a good place to start as the reviews are excellent.

But looking at the piles of books around my room, I'll have to resign myself to admitting that I really don't need $80 worth of books right now. But if God feels the need to bless me with new books, I definitely won't be complaining!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Restless Hearts - Marta Perry

Fiona Flanagan's mother left the community during her running-around years to marry an Englisher, but died soon after her daughter's birth. As a result, Fiona has never known anything about her mother's Amish relatives, and harbours hurt that they never tried to get in contact. Yet despite her claims that she doesn't feel the need to delve deeper into her Amish heritage, Fiona jumps at the opportunity to open a midwifery clinic in Pennsylvania Dutch country - where she immediately runs into her mother's family. Both parties are hurt by what has happened in the past, and Fiona finds herself leaning more on local police office, Ted Rittenhouse, to guide her regarding how to build bridges with her newfound relatives. Meanwhile, Ted may need Fiona's help in solving a case involving vandalism against the Amish locals. Will these problems come between their blossoming relationship?

As with all of Marta Perry's novels, this was a thoroughly enjoyable story. While not directly about the Amish, the countryside and characters still came alive and gave the book a content, soft tone that I often find in Amish romances. And as Marta herself lives near the Amish in PA, the details felt authentic, and not thrown in to make the romance more interesting. I enjoyed seeing Fiona learn about the ways of her mother's family through her friendship with Ted, even if they did have many stumbling blocks. This was a very soft, slowly blossoming romance, and didn't quite have the same sizzle and chemistry that I've felt in other Love Inspired novels, but it did make me grin from ear to ear in places! And as with all of Marta's stories that I've read, it contained a little mystery that helped the characters to learn more about themselves as they went about solving it.

This is #6 in the Flanagan series but can be read as a standalone book. From the hints dropped about other characters, I'd be interested in reading more from this series. A sweet romance with some calming Amish detail, which was just what I needed after a hard day's essay-writing! Thanks as always to Marta Perry for a wonderful story! 8/10

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Love Me Back to Life - Missy Horsfall & Susan Stevens

Mallory Carlisle's life is already a mess when she starts to have the nightmares. She and her husband are drifting further apart as he works longer hours and makes more business trips, she's racking up credit card debts and her extended family is just as dysfunctional as ever. But when Mallory starts having disturbing dreams that cause her to act weirdly around her loved ones, she begins to wonder whether they're linked to something that she actually experienced. When a news story causes her to have a panic attack at a Bible study meeting, her friends urge her to see a therapist to understand what's really going on in her life. Slowly, Mallory comes to terms with the childhood memories that she'd suppressed, and begins to put her trust in God for healing and release from the hurt she's been carrying. Only through God can she put her life, her marriage and her family back on track.

This was a truly devastating story. I had to put it down at times and read something else as Mallory's story simply broke my heart. While I don't have any first-hand experience in dealing with childhood abuse, I felt that the authors really captured Mallory's hurt and pain. The road to recovery was difficult, but I admired her bravery and enjoyed watching her pull her life back together and come to terms with the changes she needed to make.

I would have to say that I never really warmed to Mallory's husband, Jake. They were suffering from marital difficulties at the start of the book, and having never seen them happy together, it was difficult to like him. Although I could sympathise with the confusion he felt at Mallory pushing him away as she fell deeper into her emotional turmoil, I sometimes felt like he didn't make enough effort. Jake did, thankfully, redeem himself and realise that he had contributed to the family problems, but I wish I'd had more of a chance to read about "changed" Jake to truly witness his transformation of character.

I was impressed with the authors' choice to tackle such a difficult subject. While some may consider Christian Fiction to be full of romance, happy endings and fluffy bunnies, the market can feature some pretty taboo topics. Missy and Susan definitely deserve credit for being brave enough to bring to light the fact that childhood abuse can affect even the most pious of Christians, and for showing how both therapy and God's love can help victims to overcome their hurts. However, I do wish that the authors had stuck with the original issues - abuse, marital problems and credit card debt. They also threw in several other problems, either as events in the novel or in mentions to past experiences, including a childhood death, a miscarriage, a sudden illness, and the death of a grandparent. There was actually one point where I found myself thinking, "Really? Could these characters have any more to deal with?" I'm sure that the authors could write wonderful novels on these other subjects, but in this case they felt hastily thrown together. As a result of featuring so many issues in one novel, some of them were never truly concluded and they sometimes overshadowed the wider issue of Mallory's abuse.

I would like to caution that this is very definitely a Christian novel. While some inspirational books merely feature a few Bible verses and references to praying and attending church, this isn't one of them. Mallory frequently seeks God's guidance, meets up with her pastor's wife and fellow Church members to discuss her difficulties and is counselled by a Christian therapist. I lost count of the number of Bible verses that she mentioned in the diary entries at the end of each chapter. This was a new experience for me as I hadn't previously read a book so focused on a character's spiritual journey, or read about Christian counselling. I felt that this was a realistic novel about a woman reaching out to God for help in her time of need, but it probably isn't one to pass on to non-Christian friends.

Boldly tackling topics that are often hidden away in Christian circles, Love Me Back to Life is a heart-breaking tale of God's healing power and love. While I sometimes felt overwhelmed by the many difficulties that Mallory found herself pitted against, I definitely think that Missy Horsfall and Susan Stevens deserve credit for writing such an honest and realistic account of one woman's struggle to overcome childhood abuse. 7/10

Many thanks to Barbour and NetGalley for giving me the chance to read and review this book.