Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Noble Fugitive by T. Davis and Isabella Dunn

I picked up The Noble Fugitive, by T. Davis and Isabella Dunn, largely because of the setting. The word Venice is a siren call to me, and one day I will have the wherewithal to visit it—hopefully before it sinks into the sea.  I wasn’t disappointed with my choice.

The Noble Fugitive chronicles the lives of Serafina Gavi and John Falconer. She is the spoiled daughter of a Venetian doge, intent on running away with her art instructor, a young man named Luca. Even after she is caught and falls ill, she can think of nothing else. Her father is sent on a secret mission to America, and he takes his wife and daughter with him. Though she loves her parents, she again runs away when the ship docks in Portsmouth. Her plan is to find her aunt, Agatha Donatella, and enlist her aid in returning to Venice.

Luckily for young Serafina, Agatha is having none of it. She is dying, but she shares with Serafina, the truth about her lover. In possession of a broken heart, but no money and no other options, Serafina is forced to enter service as a scullery maid at the great house of Harrow Hall.

John Falconer is a man with a past that hangs over him like a cloud. Once a slaver, he has since given his life to Christ. Although he knows God has forgiven him, he cannot forgive himself for the reprehensible things he has done. He, and a couple of other men on the island of Trinidad, are determined to prove to Parliament that although trafficking in slaves has been outlawed for years, it is still going on. The stakes are magnified many times when they discover that the governor of Trinidad has been bribed into renewing the license for at least one such market. The conspiracy leads as high as the court, if not the crown.

When one of Falconer’s cohorts is murdered, he must begin a perilous journey to take the proofs they have gathered to England, so that the matter can be put before Parliament. His progress is complicated when he is accused of his friends murder and becomes an outlaw. He frog-leaps his way across the Caribbean and up the American coast until he reaches Georgetown. Here he throws his lot in with an invalid, Gareth Powers, and his young daughter, Hannah. Gareth is a pamphleteer devoted to ending slavery. Danger stalks their progress as they cross the Atlantic together.

Serafina and Falconer meet at Harrow Hall, when Gareth seeks refuge there from his enemies. After Falconer rescues her from an attack by the Duke’s son, she leaves her employment there, to act as a caretaker for little Hannah Powers. Falconer quickly falls in love with the beautiful, young Venetian, but he knows nothing can ever come of it.

Truly repentant for her foolish willfulness, Serafina has been humbled. She recognizes the rightness of the fight against slavery, and with the prompting of the Powers family she agrees to use her artistic abilities in their last salvo. The question of slavery, and whether it should be abolished entirely, is about to be put up in Parliament. In the end, Serafina and Falconer must step beyond what they believe themselves capable of, to fight for a greater cause.

My one small criticism is that the prologue would have been more effective as a chapter in the middle of the book. Written from Serafina’s point of view, it doesn’t add any information that couldn’t have waited until later to be introduced.

I had difficulty getting past Serafina’s selfish stupidity in the early chapters. Nobody stone me, but she reminded me of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, another character I didn’t really like. But that was the point. In essence, The Noble Fugitive is about redemption. I liked John Falconer immensely, but that was because I met him after he met the Lord. Had I met him as a murdering, thieving, slave ship skipper, I wouldn’t have been so impressed.  By the end of the novel I was rooting for them both. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Healing Season by Ruth Axtell Morren

Today’s authors don’t often give us a glimpse into the rougher side of the Regency, but in The Healing Season, Ms. Morren tackles what would have been some of the very real, and pressing issues of the day. The glitter of society is a distant world to Methodist surgeon, Ian Russell, as far removed as Paris Hilton’s existence is from mine. He is driven by his work among the poor. It is his heart’s desire to establish a children’s hospital in the heart of London, at a time when many physicians refused to treat children.

When summoned to help a young woman who has botched an attempted abortion, Ian meets Eleanor Neville, who discovered her friend on the brink of death. Together the two work through the night to try to save the girl’s life.

Mrs. Neville, is Eleanor’s stage name, and she is one of the leading actresses in London’s burlettas. When she and Ian are increasingly thrown together she fights her attraction to the one “good” man she has ever met. Having never been introduced to the Bible or church she find his devotion to his ideals, utterly incomprehensible.

Ian finds the beautiful actress an increasing temptation, and struggles against the attraction. She has been used by several men, while he has kept himself pure for his future wife, and he cannot believe her to be anything other than a trap set to ensnare him.

The conflict sizzles as the two are drawn inexorably together. It is only when they discover the power of Godly forgiveness that they can move beyond their pasts, and their prejudices to fine one another.

My only criticism is that there seemed to be no satisfying resolution of the final situation with the villain. He is portrayed as an insanely jealous man, and Eleanor goes into hiding to escape him. Even with some very strong clues, he doesn’t even attempt to find her. His reaction seems strangely anticlimactic, and I kept wondering when he would come for her.

I found the Healing Season to be well researched and engrossing. Ms. Morren is definitely skilled at developing her setting and giving the reader a sense of time and place. It would have been very easy for Ms. Morren to rely on sensationalism as she presented the harsher elements of the story, but she handled the gritty realities with sensitivity. Overall, I would recommend this book highly.


Saturday, July 19, 2008


I always wanted to have a premier. Until I have a little baby book to nudge on out into the world, a blog is as good a way as any to introduce myself to the world. This blog will be devoted to reviews of Christian fiction-specifically, but not exclusively-historical fiction and mysteries. At the bottom of this page is a batting list of what I will be reviewing next. 

My purpose in reviewing is never to be critical for the sake of it, and I will never post anything to be mean-spirited. If I offend please know that I did not set out to do so. I welcome comments on my comments and enjoy a good debate as well as anyone, so fire away!

Must Reads

  • All the Tea in China-Jane Orcutt www.revellbooks.com
  • In the Shadow of the Sun King-Golden Keyes Parsons www.goldenkeyesparsons.com
  • Wings of a Dream-Anne Mateer