Edith Kanyagia

For readers of Christian fiction, two novels offer a bounty of hope, love and redemption.


Historical novels from Joanne Bischof and Valerie Fraser Luesse masterfully tell stories of strong-willed women who venture into the unknown.

As winter approaches, Juniper Cohen is struggling to earn enough to sustain her and her young daughter in the barren ghost town of Kenworthy, California. Though it has been months since she last saw her husband, John, who left after the town’s mine closed, Juniper holds onto the hope that he will return to them. She writes him letters even though she is unaware of his location or whether he is even still alive. More than a century later, Johnny Sutherland buys Juniper’s house to begin a new life after separating from his wife, and there he finds Juniper’s letters.

In The Gold in These Hills, Bischof’s immersive storytelling captures an immense amount of detail, especially characters’ private thoughts and emotions. As Juniper reflects on her life in Kenworthy with John and waits for answers about his disappearance, her pain is palpable, and her desperation is heightened by the dwindling population and abandoned buildings that surround her. In the modern-day timeline, Johnny clings to the unpromising remains of his marriage like a crutch, refusing to face the inevitable.

Bischof’s characters are flawed and easy to like. Juniper’s friend Edie is secretive but fiercely loyal, and she also longs for her lover. She faces painful circumstances and leans on Juniper during such times. The town’s schoolteacher is a discreet woman who becomes a wonderful help to Juniper and her daughter. As Johnny discovers the uncanny similarity between his circumstances and those of Juniper’s husband, he sees an opportunity to redeem his life and move forward. Hope and friendship provide all these characters with the strength to carry on, despite day-to-day heartbreak and fear of the unknown.

In Under the Bayou Moon, lively and creative Ellie longs to live authentically. Hoping to achieve her goal, she leaves her community of friends and family in Alabama to take a job as a teacher in rural Louisiana. In the town of Bernadette, Ellie feels unwelcome from the start, but the town’s physician convinces her to give the job a chance. She gradually wins the hearts of the townsfolk through her warmth and respect, and she soon finds a home in Bernadette.

A lovely romance blossoms between Ellie and Raphe, a Catholic man who is surprised by her appreciation of his Cajun culture. Raphe is taking care of his nephew, whom he is determined to raise despite the incessant pressure from an evangelical Christian preacher to place the boy for adoption.

Christy Award-winning author Luesse peppers her latest novel with funny, engaging conversations and situations. Readers will enjoy vibrant portraits of 1949 Louisiana’s sights and scenery, as well as descriptions of Cajun culture and cuisine. Local politics provide an exciting backdrop to the story, including discussions about teaching French alongside English in school. There are also powerful, corrupt figures looking for oil in the bayou, unconcerned about the Creole and Cajun people or protecting the waterways.

The story is also enhanced by the legend of a white alligator that is said to inhabit the swamps. Sightings of the majestic animal add thrilling scenes to the story, although political and religious forces use the legend to support their misguided and self-seeking agendas.

Under the Bayou Moon is a charming tale of romance, culture and history, filled with characters who will fascinate readers.

Christian fiction authors Joanne Bischof and Valerie Fraser Luesse masterfully portray the stories of strong-willed women who venture into the unknown.

In Kaia Alderson’s witty and powerful debut novel, World War II is a conflict not only between nations but also within the hearts of two Black women serving in the U.S. Army. It’s also a chance to prove themselves to their restrictive families and a prejudiced society. Sisters in Arms chronicles their story, which spans the constraints of New York City and the perils of war-torn Europe.

For Grace Steele, pursuing a career in classical music is all she has ever wanted. But when her music idol questions her commitment, she enlists in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), which she hopes will provide her with the sense of fulfillment she longs for. She enrolls alongside Eliza Jones, a lively and privileged Black woman who is defying her father to demonstrate her capacity to thrive on her own. Grace and Eliza join the women of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, pioneers in a field dominated by white men.

Sisters in Arms stands out for its originality in exploring a lesser-known part of World War II and American history. The novel also incorporates the inspiring contributions of real Black historical figures including American educator Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Major Charity Adams (the first Black woman to be an officer of the WAAC) and Truman Gibson Jr. (a civilian aide), as well as Mary Bankston, Mary Barlow and Delores Browne, Black female soldiers who died while fighting in France.

The novel is not only a historical account of the war but also a beautifully interlacing tale of loss, friendship and romance. Despite Grace’s irritable attitude and Eliza’s sense of self-importance, the two strike up a friendship. During their service, their bond is tested, but they learn to stick together to survive, and their romantic relationships enhance their personal stories.

Both women grow during their time in the Army. From a lost and unsure woman whose future is determined by her mother, Grace develops her own perspective on what she wants to accomplish. Eliza proves that even when she is stripped of her privilege, she is capable of succeeding. They encounter and triumph against racism, chauvinism and the turbulent events of the war.

An outstanding historical novel, Sisters in Arms succeeds at celebrating the accomplishments of the Six Triple Eight Battalion through the lives of two audacious Black women.

In Kaia Alderson’s witty and powerful debut novel, World War II is a conflict not only between nations but also within the hearts of two Black women.

Three heroines weather tremendously difficult circumstances, uncovering and navigating unsettling details about their families’ histories with admirable grace.

★ A Dance in Donegal

In Jennifer Deibel’s debut novel, A Dance in Donegal, Moira Doherty travels from Boston to Donegal, Ireland, fulfilling her late mother’s dream that her daughter would return to their breathtaking homeland. Moira endures the strenuous journey and arrives in the village of Ballymann, where the villagers’ reception is mixed. Donegal is a charming place, but despite Moira’s excitement, some of the villagers’ disconcerting remarks send her in search of the truth about her mother. In the process, a romance blossoms between Moira and a handsome, honorable thatcher who defends her against the villagers’ prejudice and hostility.

Deibel’s descriptions of Ireland’s landscape, enticing cuisine, sonorous language and vibrant culture converge to form a spectacular background for the story. A gentle thread of suspense builds throughout, beginning with a strange dream Moira has at the story’s opening, which hints at her task in Donegal and her mother’s looming secret. There’s also a love triangle that keeps Moira on her toes.

As an outsider, Moira struggles to be accepted by the tightknit, superstitious Irish community, but she wins hearts through her powerful faith and her love for everyone she encounters. While unraveling her family’s secret and becoming immersed in Irish culture, Moira discovers her roots and finds happiness.

Her Every Move

As in A Dance in Donegal, the devastating details of a family’s history form the foundation of Kelly Irvin’s latest suspense novel, Her Every Move. When a climate change debate at a San Antonio library becomes the target of a tragic bombing, the event’s coordinator, Jackie Santoro, is identified as a key suspect. 

Detective Avery Wick believes Jackie’s motive was to avenge her father, who died by suicide before the commencement of his criminal trial, and whose death left his family with a deep-seated resentment toward the city’s officials who leveraged the allegations against him. While detectives look into Jackie’s past, the real attacker threatens to continue his trail of destruction if his group’s demands are not met.

As these tense events unfold, Irvin dives deeper into Jackie’s and Avery’s complex personal lives, and as the pair gets to know each other, the professional boundaries between them become blurry. Though it includes a slow-burning romance and gripping details of chaotic explosions, the novel is, at its core, a heartwarming exploration of faith and friendship.

’Til I Want No More

The past also plays a critical role in Robin W. Pearson’s encouraging, family-centric love story ’Til I Want No More. Theodore is kind and loving, the kind of man that columnist Maxine should settle down with. Even her mother approves of him. But Maxine fights to maintain control of her feelings amid her premarital counseling sessions with Theodore—and the return of her teenage love, JD, whose presence threatens to destroy her future with Theodore and expose secrets that she has concealed for a long time.

Emotional scenes reveal key events from Maxine’s childhood and turbulent teenage years, when she felt unwanted. These early experiences contributed to her decision to settle down with Theodore before she’d properly dealt with her past, but grown-up Maxine sometimes still feels unworthy. The novel also includes Maxine’s articles about her family life, upcoming wedding plans and relationship with Theodore, adding another layer of context to Maxine’s life as the drama unfolds.

With help from her community, Maxine learns that by confronting her tangled past, she can face her future and discover her true self. Uplifting faith-based messages are included throughout, and the story’s easy pace allows time to take in each lesson.

Three heroines weather tremendously difficult circumstances, uncovering and navigating unsettling details about their families’ histories with admirable grace.

Two novels reflect on women’s strength, cultivated through their faith in God and in themselves.


For centuries, women’s roles have been defined for them, their voices and capacities restricted by discriminatory societal standards. In two new inspirational novels, women from different historical eras strive to overcome personal limitations in order to define their own identities. 

Inspired by a true story, Jane Kirkpatrick’s uplifting Something Worth Doing introduces Abigail Jane “Jenny” Scott Duniway, an incredibly determined pioneer woman who defies opposition to fight for women’s rights. 

From a young age, Jenny experiences the societal barriers placed before girls and women. Despite protests from Jenny’s mother, Jenny’s father decides that the family will move from Illinois to the Oregon Territory. The journey jeopardizes his wife’s health, and she dies before the family arrives at their new home. In 1853, Jenny’s confidence and intelligence lead her to a position as a teacher, one of the few professions accessible to women at the time. After marrying Ben Duniway and joining him on his farm, Jenny begins to write about women’s issues for the local newspaper. This is a big step away from her upbringing, as her father opposed any form of public expression by women.

Even in the face of devastating financial loss, Jenny never gives up, and her tenacity pulls her family through difficult times, including Ben’s injury and incapacitation. In 1871, Jenny founds The New Northwest, a newspaper that gives women’s issues a platform, including the controversial topic of women’s suffrage. 

Jenny is bold in her attempts to challenge and bring down sexist social norms, and her efforts receive immense opposition, including hostility from her influential brother. She remains unfazed, continuing to navigate the limitations of being a woman while fighting for reform. Though discouraged many times, she uses every opportunity to empower women, and her efforts become pivotal in the arduous struggle to attain the right to vote for women.

Jaime Jo Wright’s thrilling and mysterious The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus is set in the fictional town of Bluff River, Wisconsin, and intertwines the stories of two women who live a century apart. 

On the surface, Pippa Ripley’s life appears privileged. Adopted into the family of a wealthy circus owner, Pippa is surrounded by the finer things that life in 1928 has to offer. Although she remains submissive and obedient to her tyrannical father, Pippa also feels a bond with the “misfit” circus people. Still, Pippa is burdened by, even obsessed with, finding out about her origins, but her adoptive parents are unwilling to reveal the truth.

Pippa becomes entangled in a dangerous chase as she tries to get close to the man she believes has the answers to her questions. Meanwhile, the circus faces fierce opposition from an animal rights group, and a serial killer lurks aboard the circus train. Pippa’s engagement to a dictatorial man, chosen for her by her father, further complicates matters. Through it all, Pippa remains resolute about discovering her roots, and she soon learns to stand up to her oppressors.

In the present day, real estate project manager and single parent Chandler Faulk hopes to catch a break in Bluff River, where she’s been given a rare opportunity to work for her uncle. She wants to provide the best care she can for her young son, Peter, but an autoimmune disease slows her down. She soon learns that the circus train depot, which she has been hired to renovate, was the site of a string of murders that left their mark on the town’s history. Bluff River may be fraught with ghost stories, but Chandler is willing to do whatever it takes to prove her competence and take care of Peter.

With the support of amazing friends, Pippa and Chandler both display courage as they face frightening ordeals. Wright entertains with fast pacing, great writing, deep spiritual truths and just the right amount of spookiness.

Two novels reflect on women’s strength, cultivated through their faith in God and in themselves.

Charlotte Wood’s honest and humorous The Weekend follows three women in their 70s as they meet to clear out their friend’s house after her passing.

Months after Sylvie’s death, her three close friends continue to grieve. Bossy former restaurateur Jude, practical intellectual Wendy and actor Adele, who’s holding on to faded dreams, all struggle to restore what is left of their friendships now that Sylvie is gone. In their short gathering at the beach house, insecurities, bitterness and secrets are revealed, shaking the very foundation of their friendships. Antagonism, which for so long has gone unexpressed, brews just beneath the surface, as the three women question what has held them together for so long.

Adele isn’t the only one struggling to adjust to her current life. Despite the sturdy image she portrays on the outside, Jude is having a hard time coping with old age. Her love life is an unspoken issue between the friends, yet all three are aware of her clandestine relationship. Wendy’s dog, Finn, is nearing death, but despite his pain, Wendy is reluctant to let him go, convinced that her commitment to him represents her unwillingness to give up on life.

The story’s pacing is steady as the friendships’ dynamics are explored, but an oncoming storm—a metaphor for an inevitable shift—throws events into high gear. Unwelcome guests introduce an additional strand of rivalry, and the three friends must come together to defend themselves against this intruder, a testament to their loyalty despite everything going on between them.

Entertaining and insightful, Wood’s impressive novel captures characters who are hard to forget. 

Charlotte Wood’s honest and humorous The Weekend follows three women in their 70s as they meet to clear out their friend’s house after her passing.

A heartwarming, enlightening novel that won the 2018 Bath Novel Award for unpublished manuscripts, The Girl With the Louding Voice examines the plight of underage girls in Nigeria, robbed of an education by early marriage.

On her deathbed, Adunni’s mother makes her father promise to continue 14-year-old Adunni’s schooling. Adunni’s mother was the breadwinner for the family, so with bills piling high, Adunni’s father quickly forgets his promise, instead viewing his young daughter as a strategic escape from his financial woes. To receive money in the form of a dowry, he marries off Adunni to the brutal, elderly Morufu as his third wife. The flame in Adunni’s heart to continue her education—now only a flicker—lives on, even after landing in Lagos and working as a domestic worker for a cruel, abusive family.

Abi Daré’s skillful examination of the causes and effects of corruption, child labor and child marriage forms the foundation of the novel. Child labor and marriage are driven by poverty, misinformation and outdated beliefs, as when Adunni’s father fails to educate her because he believes that education makes a woman headstrong rather than yielding and submissive to her husband.

The story is told in a distinctive, grammatically imperfect style by an innocent but perceptive main character who has yet to be indoctrinated by her society’s commonly held ideologies. Adunni realizes that the ability to speak English does not reflect a speaker’s intelligence, and she discovers that English, though important in her quest for knowledge, is like any other language. She also questions why far fewer African people appear on TV than white people.

Through the moving story of a girl’s persistent struggle to acquire an education, The Girl With the Louding Voice brings deep, significant issues into focus.

A heartwarming, enlightening novel that won the 2018 Bath Novel Award for unpublished manuscripts, The Girl With the Louding Voice examines the plight of underage girls in Nigeria, robbed of an education by early marriage.

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