Alabaster, by Chris Aslan

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Maryam is stuck in an abusive marriage, living with her in-laws in a conservative, toxically religious village. A few years back, her father was given a jar of priceless perfume by a dying leper and it seemed as if their fortunes would improve, but then Maryam’s father contracted leprosy and was exiled from the village. Maryam and her siblings, Eleazar and Marta, experience the shame and ostracism this brings. The precious jar that was meant to bring them freedom has only brought destruction. But rumors abound concerning a new doctor; perhaps hope is on the horizon…

First Thoughts:

This had such an intriguing description that I just had to read this debut work of fiction.

My Take:

Alabaster begins ominously with a young woman experiencing an earthquake and its aftermath. We learn immediately that she’s treated like a slave by her husband’s family, is a mere 15 years of age, and has an older sister who lives alone. While the earthquake has caused some damage in the village, and a nearby family has suffered a fatality, Maryam is relieved to find that her family’s most precious possession has survived. From there, the first person narrative goes back to the time when Maryam and her father came across a dying leper in their olive grove. Her father’s choice of grace over Mosaic Law came from a good heart, but when he paid for it later the family was plunged into shame. The story continues to go back and forth in time, which I found confusing until I realized that the tense changed with each switch.

Aslan’s debut work of fiction has some wonderful moments. When the sisters learn they’re to host an important visitor you can feel the excitement. When a woman is found guilty of adultery and the sentence is carried out you understand her mother’s pain. I had read three-quarters of the book when I came upon a scene I immediately recognized. I don’t want to give anything away, but at that point I realized who the sisters were and I looked at them differently from then on. Other familiar scenes followed. I read Alabaster during Holy Week and found it to be a very appropriate tale. Overall, I loved reading this novel, found it far too short, and am looking forward to its follow-up whenever it’s released.

Thank you to Kregel for my complimentary copy of Alabaster, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read Alabaster? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Kregel Publications

Publication Date: 27 March 2017

Page Count: 208

Read more on:   Chris Aslan’s Website   Kregel’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com

An Uncommon Protector, by Shelley Shepard Gray

Publisher’s Overview:

Overwhelmed by the responsibilities of running a ranch on her own, Laurel Tracey decides to hire a convict—a man who’s just scary enough to take care of squatters and just desperate enough to agree to a one year post.

The years following the war have been hard on Laurel Tracey. Both her brother and her father died in battle, and her mother passed away shortly after receiving word of their demise. Laurel has been trying to run her two hundred acre ranch as best she can.

When she discovers that squatters have settled in her north pasture and have no intention of leaving, Laurel decides to use the last of her money to free a prisoner from the local jail. If she agrees to offer him room and board for one year, he will have to work for her to pay off his debt.

Former soldier Thomas Baker knows he’s in trouble when he finds himself jailed because he couldn’t pay a few fines. Laurel’s offer might be his only ticket out. Though she’s everything he ever dreamed of in a woman—sweet and tender-hearted, yet strong—he’s determined to remain detached, work hard on her behalf, and count the days until he’s free again.

But when cattle start dying and Laurel’s life is threatened, Thomas realizes more than just his freedom is on the line. Laurel needs someone to believe in her and protect her property. And it isn’t long before Laurel realizes that Thomas Baker is far more than just a former soldier. He’s a trustworthy hero, and he needs more than just his freedom—he needs her love and care too.

First Thoughts:

This is the second of the Lone Star Hero Love Stories series by Shelley Shepard Gray. Since I didn’t immediately recognize Thomas Baker’s name, I wondered if any of the characters from The Loyal Heart would feature in it.

My Take:

Laurel Tracey is in a bind. She’s inherited her father’s ranch, but there’s no one to assist her other than her obnoxious step-siblings. They’ve long squandered their own inheritance and now want what doesn’t legally belong to them. Her persistent neighbor doesn’t believe she can manage the land, but hasn’t taken well her rejection of his courtship. So, she takes a leap of faith and hires Thomas who is determined to discover who’s threatening her. And he happens to have friends who can help.

An Uncommon Protector takes place shortly after the events in The Loyal Heart, the first book in the Lone Star Hero Love Stories series. As with that book, this novel opens with a scene on Johnson’s Island during the Civil War. There are also frequent flashbacks to Thomas’s time at the POW camp. I found it an easy read and worked out the villain’s identity almost immediately, although I did have a backup suspect in case I was wrong! Although the heroes ride away in the sunset at the end, there are hints of possible stories to come in the series and it looks like we only have to wait until October to learn what those stories are.

Thank you to Zondervan, BookLook Bloggers, and the Fiction Guild for my complimentary copy of An Uncommon Protector, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read An Uncommon Protector? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Zondervan (A division of HarperCollins Christian)

Publication Date: 07 February 2017

Page Count: 320

Read more on:   Shelley Shepard Gray’s Website   Zondervan’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com

My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, Texas, by Erica Vetsch

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Journey now to Fort Bliss in West Texas of 1874, where…
A Battle Is About to be Waged Between Two Hearts.

Fashion artist Priscilla Hutchens has a grudge against the army that has ruined her family and taken the people she holds most dear. When her twin niece and nephew are left orphaned at Fort Bliss, Texas, she swoops down on Fort Bliss to gain custody of them immediately.

There is just one thing standing in the way—Post surgeon Major Elliot Ryder, who is also the twins uncle, also claims the children and thinks he knows what is best for them.

Priscilla and Elliot will cross swords, but each will have to lay down arms if they are to find a lasting peace on which to form the family both are longing for.  Who will win the battle? Or will a truce be called for the sake of love and family?

First Thoughts:

Sometimes, I just want to get lost in an historical romance…

My Take:

Barbour Publishing has started a new line of historical romance fiction called My Heart Belongs focusing on different locations in the USA.  In January, it started with Fort Bliss, Texas: Priscilla’s Reveille by Erica Vetsch. Priscilla is the ‘fish out of water’ stylish city woman who is completely unprepared for life on the frontier. She has one plan: to get to Fort Bliss, gain custody of her family, and then immediately take them home to civilization. The children might be loved at Fort Bliss but, as far as Priscilla is concerned, a military environment is no place for a child. Her plan takes a slight detour, however, when she’s attracted to the Major in the Military Corps who happens to be the children’s uncle.

My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, Texas is a cute story that’s easy to read. While it’s mostly light, there are serious times such as interactions with local Indian populations and the spread of disease throughout the fort. The physical descriptions were so good I could visualize everything. During the course of the novel, Priscilla must continuously step out of her comfort zone and, as she does so, she gradually comes to realize that home really is where the heart is.

Thank you to Barbour Publishing for my complimentary electronic copy of My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, Texas, which I downloaded from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, Texas? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Barbour Publishing

Publication Date: 01 January 2017

Page Count: 256

Read more on:   Erica Vetsch’s Website   Barbour Publishing’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com