A Passionate Hope, by Jill Eileen Smith

Publisher’s Overview:

Can one woman’s prayers change the world?

Hannah and her husband, Elkanah, share a deep and abiding love for each other, for their God, and for His tabernacle at Shiloh. Greatly disturbed by the corruption of the priests, they long for restoration and pray for a deliverer. But nothing changes as the years pass. Years that also reveal Hannah to be barren.

Pressured by his family to take another wife, Elkanah marries Peninnah, who quickly begins to bear children. Disgraced and taunted by her husband’s new wife, Hannah turns again to prayers that seem doomed to go unanswered. Do her devotion and kindness in the face of Peninnah’s cruelty count for nothing? Will God remain silent and indifferent to her pleas?

Travel back to the dusty streets of Shiloh with an expert guide as Jill Eileen Smith brings to life a beloved story of hope, patience, and deliverance that shows that even the most broken of relationships can be restored.

First Thoughts:

I’ve enjoyed previous Biblical fiction novels by Jill Eileen Smith. I’m part of the launch team for this new release.

My Take:

When reviewing a Biblically-based novel, I find it useful to review what I know about the main character(s). I knew that Hannah was the mother of Samuel, who anointed both Saul and David. I knew she’d been barren for many years, and I knew that she made a vow to God that, if He gave her a child, she would surrender that child back to Him. She also had a vicious sister-wife!

A Passionate Hope had me rethink at least one of my presumptions. Peninnah is essentially the villainess of Hannah’s story, but Jill Eileen Smith made me feel sympathy for her. She was the second wife of a man she loved, and she gave him plenty of children, but Elkanah was never really able to give her what she wanted. In Smith’s account, Peninnah’s deceased father hadn’t been a great father or husband and her mother consistently gave her bad advice. As for Hannah, I can’t imagine what it must’ve felt like to know your husband was sleeping with another woman because she could give him sons when you couldn’t. And how much worse it must’ve been for the wives of the sons of Eli, the priests who couldn’t have cared less about carrying out their duties the way God instructed. Instead of focusing on the responsibilities they’d been given they reveled in the power that resulted from those responsibilities.

Don’t expect a detailed look of the duties of the Levites, the loss of the Ark of the Covenant in battle, or of Samuel as an adult. We get Elkanah’s perspective, but only as it pertains to Hannah and Peninnah. This is a book about the mother of a great Bible figure, in a series about pivotal female figures of the Old Testament. Look at it in that light and I’m sure you’ll agree that this is a fascinating look a woman who struggled to understand God but kept her faith in Him nevertheless.

Thank you to Revell and Jill Eileen Smith for my complimentary copy of A Passionate Hope, which I received for my honest review.

Do you plan to read A Passionate Hope? Let me know your thoughts.


Publisher: Revell (a division of Baker Publishing)

Publication Date: 06 February 2018

Page Count: 368

Read more on:   Revell’s Website   Jill Eileen Smith’s Website   Shiloh

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Isaiah’s Daughter, by Mesu Andrews

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

In this epic Biblical narrative, ideal for fans of The Bible miniseries, a young woman taken into the prophet Isaiah’s household rises to capture the heart of the future king. 

Isaiah adopts Ishma, giving her a new name–Zibah, delight of the Lord–thereby ensuring her royal pedigree. Ishma came to the prophet’s home, devastated after watching her family destroyed and living as a captive. But as the years pass, Zibah’s lively spirit wins Prince Hezekiah’s favor, a boy determined to rebuild the kingdom his father has nearly destroyed. But loving this man will awake in her all the fears and pain of her past and she must turn to the only One who can give life, calm her fears, and deliver a nation. 

First Thoughts:

I read Isaiah’s Daughter as part of an advance review team, but I’m always interested in reading Biblical fiction. I’ve read novels by Mesu Andrews before. I usually not only enjoy them, but find myself learning something new. I didn’t know much about Isaiah or his family, so I was hoping to again learn something. If anything, I also hoped to be able to spell Isaiah correctly by the end of this review!

My Take:

Let’s hear it for character lists at the start of novels! They are a blessed addition to any narrative containing lots of characters. There are two and a half pages of characters at the beginning of Isaiah’s Daughter – a mix of names mentioned in the Bible and/or historical documents and fictional characters – and I referred to it often. There’s also a nifty map of Israel and Judah, and the surrounding territories. For this is set after the ten tribes of Israel have split away from Judah, leaving a much diminished Promised Land. The Assyrian Empire is expanding at a rapid rate, and Israel is now little more than a vassal state. God’s ways are being forgotten and the people now worship pagan idols.

This is the situation in the opening pages of Isaiah’s Daughter. Ishma and her friend Yaira are among a group of captives being force marched from Bethlehem to Samaria, victims of an attack launched for political reasons. After the reader is introduced to these two characters, the action then moves to Jerusalem and the description of a human sacrifice to Moloch. This is a scene that made me feel sick, but my own research showed that this particular atrocity probably did take place. It’s to Mesu Andrews’ credit that she was able to write it in such a way that shows how vile these sacrifices were and how witnesses reacted, yet do it tastefully.

Amid the palace intrigues and wars between kingdoms is a romance between Ishma (now Zibah) and Prince Hezekiah. They meet as children, two souls who’ve seen too much already in their young lives, and connect through their hurts. Although he is the son of a king and she is an orphan they communicate as equals, and I enjoyed their back and forth discussions, but it’s apparent that the past haunts both of them even as they work to build a future for themselves and their country. Throw in a prophet with an opinion, and it’s difficult for both to put their trust wholly in the Lord.

Isaiah’s Daughter is called a Novel of Prophets and Kings, which implies it’s the beginning of a new series. Who knows where the series goes from this, but Mesu Andrews has posted on her blog that she’s writing about Daniel. Since Daniel is partially known for his interactions with King Nebuchadnezzar, I can only presume that this is another book in the series.

Thank you to Mesu Andrews and Waterbrook Press for my complimentary copy of Isaiah’s Daughter, which I received for my honest review.

Read other reviews here

Do you plan to read Isaiah’s Daughter? Let me know your thoughts.


Publisher: Waterbrook Press (Imprint of Penguin Random House)

Publication Date: 16 January 2018

Page Count: 400

Read more on:   Waterbrook’s Website   Mesu Andrew’s Website   Biblical King’s Seal Discovered in Dump Site

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Bread of Angels, by Tessa Afshar

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Purple. The foundation of an influential trade in a Roman world dominated by men. One woman rises up to take the reins of success in an incredible journey of courage, grit, and friendship. And along the way, she changes the world.

But before she was Lydia, the seller of purple, she was simply a merchant’s daughter who loved three things: her father, her ancestral home, and making dye. Then unbearable betrayal robs her of nearly everything.

With only her father’s secret formulas left, Lydia flees to Philippi and struggles to establish her business on her own. Determination and serendipitous acquaintances—along with her father’s precious dye—help her become one of the city’s preeminent merchants. But fear lingers in every shadow, until Lydia meets the apostle Paul and hears his message of hope, becoming his first European convert. Still, Lydia can’t outrun her secrets forever, and when past and present collide, she must either stand firm and trust in her fledgling faith or succumb to the fear that has ruled her life.

First Thoughts:

I really enjoyed the first novel I read by Tessa Afshar, so I’m looking forward to her characterization of Lydia.

My Take:

What do we know about Lydia? Her story is encapsulated in just three verses in the 16th chapter of the Book of Acts. She’s described as a seller of purple, from the city of Thyatira. When she met Paul, she was in Philippi. She must have doing reasonably well in her business, enough that the home to which she invites Paul is described as being hers. In Bread of Angels, Afshar paints a vivid picture of life in Philippi during Lydia’s time and includes a varied cast of characters, from Roman generals to slaves.

The tale opens with a prologue set in AD51. Lydia is writing a letter in her mind and two sentences immediately spoke to me. “How laughable our plans sometimes seem in the light of eternity. How blessed when they are destroyed.” People who know me have often heard me groan when plans don’t go as they should. How often I’ve had to remind myself about God being in control. The narrative then takes the reader back to AD25 and we are formally introduced to Lydia, the motherless daughter of a well-known purple merchant. An injury to her father causes Lydia to meet a Roman citizen who seemingly takes a shine to her. Knowing from the overview that Lydia was to face betrayal, I felt a sinking in my stomach when his mother offered to financially assist Lydia and her father.

The overriding theme of Bread of Angels is about placing your full confidence in God and trusting in Him to provide. Lydia learns to see His provision daily, not just for her but for those around her. Her guide is a young Jewish woman named Rebekah and, it is through her, that Lydia becomes the Godfearer she’s described as in Acts. The title comes from a description of the manna God provided during the Exodus after the Hebrews complained of hunger. He gave them the manna, but they had to look to Him to provide it. In the New Testament, Jesus spoke of it as being “that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” He then went on to say that he was the bread of life, which Lydia ultimately received when she met Paul.

Thank you to Tyndale and the Tyndale Blog Network for my complimentary copy of Bread of Angels, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read Bread of Angels? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.


Publisher: Tyndale

Publication Date: 06 June 2017

Page Count: 416

Read more on:   Tessa Afshar’s Website   Tyndale’s Website

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