Beth Bulow

Faith, desperation and mystery intersect in these novels of inspirational suspense. The faith of these characters is pushed to the limit—while the answers they seek could shake the foundation of all they believe to be true.

If the survival of another person is on the line, would you be able to put someone else’s needs ahead of your own? This challenge of selflessness is at the root of Samuel Parker’s riveting debut, Purgatory Road. Couple Jack and Laura head into the desert to escape the bright lights of Vegas for the day. Expecting a happy reprieve, they instead become stranded and are near death when they’re rescued by a desert hermit. Their rescue soon takes a bewildering turn, however, when the hermit won’t let them return to safety. Interwoven with the couple’s story is a terrifying encounter between a teenage runaway and a desert-town maniac, driven to heinous acts by an outside force, something seemingly held at bay by the very hermit who rescued Jack and Laura. As the two stories converge, the couple realizes that this is more than a desert rescue—it’s a battle between good and evil.

The resilience of Jack and Laura will have readers cheering as this dark thriller reaches its culmination. Though some violent scenes could bother sensitive readers, the convincing struggle between supernatural forces proceeds at a tense and breathless pace. Not for the faint of heart, Purgatory Road is a compelling story that suspense fans are sure to love.

AN IRISH TWIST
Because You’re Mine, bestselling author Colleen Coble’s latest novel, takes readers to picturesque Charleston, South Carolina, where Irish singer Alanna, a rising star in the world of Celtic music, has sought refuge. Her husband Liam was killed in a fiery car explosion, and Liam’s father is demanding custody of her unborn baby. To escape, Alanna accepts a marriage of convenience with her band manager, Barry, who’s from a wealthy Charleston family. Complicating matters is the open hostility other band members feel toward Barry, as well as the fact that Jesse, Liam’s best friend, survived the accident that killed Liam. When menacing events start happening at the opulent but decaying mansion that’s home to her new husband’s family, Alanna delves further into the mystery of Liam’s death.

Alanna’s love for Liam is both touching and heart-rending as she navigates her new life without him. Despite a bit of predictability, the strength of the atmospheric setting and a romance with a divine touch carry the story with ease. The nod to Celtic music adds a beautiful layer to this suspenseful tale of love lost and found.

HER FATHER'S DAUGHTER
The third entry in Sandra Byrd’s Daughters of Hampshire series portrays the life of Gillian Young, a prospering middle-class woman in Victorian England. In A Lady in Disguise, Gillian, an up-and-coming seamstress for ladies of the aristocracy and a costume designer for a famous London theater, uncovers clues that suggest her recently deceased father might have been living a secret life beyond his respected role as an officer with London’s Metropolitan Police. Though her questions about her father’s accidental death are clearly not welcome, Gillian feels there is more to the story than what his longtime partner at the department is telling her. Adding fuel to an already volatile situation, Gillian meets her dashing new neighbor, Viscount Thomas Lockwood. Despite their instant attraction, as the mysteries surrounding her father’s death deepen, she can’t help but wonder if anyone’s motives toward her are truly pure.

Byrd’s award-winning Daughters of Hampshire novels are unique in that they put the focus on women who are viewed with disdain by high society. Though she moves in aristocratic circles at times, Gillian is a woman who works to support herself. (Byrd includes fascinating details about the complexity of Gillian’s tasks as a master seamstress.) The benevolent legacy of Gillian’s deceased mother, an actress devoted to the care of orphans used and discarded by the London theater scene, packs an emotional punch. Gillian’s reliance on faith, her determination to believe the best about her father and her poignant connection with her mother’s ministry add a genuine spiritual element to the story.

Still, suspense stays front and center as Gillian undertakes a harrowing mission of danger and disguise to find her father’s killer. The vivid historical details and thrilling plot make A Lady in Disguise a perfect choice for readers of both historical romance and romantic suspense.

 

This article was originally published in the March 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Faith, desperation and mystery intersect in these novels of inspirational suspense. The faith of these characters is pushed to the limit—while the answers they seek could shake the foundation of all they believe to be true.

In these three inspirational novels, characters return home to face their past, seek forgiveness and renew hope for the future. Sometimes going back is the only way to move forward. 

HEALING IN THE PAST AND PRESENT
In bestselling author Rachel Hauck’s latest novel, The Wedding Shop, veteran Haley Morgan returns home to Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, to heal after her deployment and the end of a destructive relationship. There, she rediscovers a local wedding shop, a place she and her best friend, Tammy, dreamed of restoring to its former glory. Haley decides to fulfill that childhood dream. Her story alternates with one set in the early 1930s, when Cora Scott, the original owner of The Wedding Shop, finds purpose as a working woman. Though Cora longs for a happy ending, she may be overlooking a love that’s right in front of her.

Haley’s trust in God is encouraging and uplifting, and Hauck gives Heart’s Bend an authentic history, providing a charming setting. Hauck switches easily between past and present, bringing two heartfelt journeys to a poignant culmination.

NEVER TOO FAR GONE
In his 12th novel, Long Way Gone, Charles Martin deftly retells the story of the prodigal son. From the remote Colorado mountains to the music-obsessed streets of Nashville, Cooper O’Connor carries his father’s words in his heart and a beloved six-string guitar in his hands. 

After reaching Nashville, Cooper realizes that stardom is not readily achieved. Once he hits rock bottom, Cooper looks back to his father’s words and up to God, both cast aside in his bid for stardom.

Whether portraying a soul-​shattering betrayal or a bittersweet reunion between lovers, Martin sustains a realistic yet hopeful atmosphere. Best of all is the heart-​wrenching relationship between Cooper and his father. 

A PROMISE OF HOME
What at first appears to be a story of childhood love is actually a tale of secrecy, sacrifice and family. Chris Fabry’s The Promise of Jesse Woods details a life-changing summer. In 1972, new to the town of Dogwood, West Virginia, pastor’s son Matt finds common ground with two other outcasts: Jesse Woods, a girl from a poor family, and Dickie Darrel Lee Hancock, a mixed-race boy. Matt forms a particularly quick bond with Jesse, whom he is determined to protect, no matter the personal cost. A serious trauma severs Matt and Jesse’s friendship, and after years of silence, he must return to understand what else was lost that summer.

Matt’s strong voice is rivaled only by Jesse’s resolve, and readers will cheer her fortitude. This poignant story is worth the heartache: Complex and layered, The Promise of Jesse Woods goes beyond a youthful promise to center on a bond renewed by a desire for truth.

 

This article was originally published in the October 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

In these three inspirational novels, characters return home to face their past, seek forgiveness and renew hope for the future. Sometimes going back is the only way to move forward.

An intelligent mystery set during a compelling time in history, Sigmund Brouwer’s Saffire is a fascinating novel. James Holt made a lasting impression on Teddy Roosevelt during their service together in the Spanish-American War; now it’s 1909 and the President wants James to travel to Panama and meet with the Canal’s American Zone leader. Once James arrives, however, his investigation into the disappearance of young Saffire’s mother turns deadly, and he finds himself in the midst of a potential revolution.

The characters in Saffire are varied and realistic. James Holt is endearing and his first-person narration has a clear, distinct voice. The faith element is light and never preachy; James views everyone through a faith-based worldview and wants to help those who cannot help themselves. The secondary characters are vibrant. In particular, T.B. Miskimon, Canal Zone Inspector and reluctant helper to James, provides some humorous pieces of dialogue and Saffire makes a memorable first appearance. There’s also a heartfelt romantic thread running behind the action and history.

Readers who know little about the building of the Panama Canal, or the political climate of the time, will become well-informed in an organic way throughout the story. The descriptions of the different aspects of construction are equally fascinating, and the magnitude of this undertaking is keenly felt. Unique, smart and compelling, Saffire is sure to be remembered well after the last page.

An intelligent mystery set during a compelling time in history, Sigmund Brouwer’s Saffire is a fascinating novel. James Holt made a lasting impression on Teddy Roosevelt during their service together in the Spanish-American War; now it’s 1909 and the President wants James to travel to Panama and meet with the Canal’s American Zone leader. Once James arrives, however, his investigation into the disappearance of young Saffire’s mother turns deadly, and he finds himself in the midst of a potential revolution.

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