He Knows The Way by Idella Borntrager Otto

He Knows The Way by Idella Borntrager Otto is Ms. Otto’s debut novel.

Back Cover Blurb:

Ellen, a young northern Mennonite nurse is transplanted into the chaos of Mississippi’s church bombings and cross burning. When danger from the Ku Klux Klan lurks, the scripture text “He knows the way that I take and when He has tested me I will come forth as gold” nibbles at her mind like a broken record. She searches for a sense of direction.

Lord, did I misread your leading to serve you in Mississippi? I don’t need to be gold. Silver or pewter would be just fine. In the midst of racial violence, Ellen re-examines her peace-loving faith while trying to unscramble her feelings which vacillate between a handsome Yankee and her southern pastor’s engaging son.

My Review:

He Knows The Way grabbed my attention from the start with a scene of heart-pounding danger — Ellen arriving to do a job as men with guns block her path. She is alone. She is in Mississippi during racial tensions in the 1960s.

More danger crops up as the Ku Klux Klan burns a cross on the lawn of somewhere Ellen has been ministering to someone preventing Ellen from continuing in this ministry with a woman she has become very fond of.

Ellen, a young northern Mennonite nurse, struggles with the attitudes of people in the south who look down on those who are different and don’t want to treat them as human beings. In one situation, Ellen shows great courage and breaks a southern segregation rule, then fears she will lose her job for doing so.

She is encouraged to go to a school in Virginia to get her B.S.N. and apply for a nursing director position. She goes off to school where she meets a young man, and the two begin spending quite a bit of time together.

Then Ellen goes home for a school break and meets her southern pastor’s son and spends time with him.

She returns to school in Virginia, confused with tangled feelings. She prays the Lord would direct her and show her which young man is the one she might one day marry.

Between the southern tensions and the struggle to make a decision on a young man, this story kept me turning page after page. I was rooting for one particular young man, but eventually liked both men so much that I was confused. I had to keep turning pages to see how the story would clear up both Ellen’s and my confusion about which young man was right for her.

There was one place in the story where I was jolted out of the story for a chapter or two because Ellen was suddenly missing from a chapter or two. I was suddenly reading about a young man and another girl. Things soon became clear, when Ellen returned to the story and eventually met this young man.

All in all, I thought this story was very well written, it captured and held my attention, and I had to keep reading to see whom Ellen would spend her life with. Not only was it a decision as to who she would marry, but where the Lord wanted her to minister — foreign missions or missions in her own country.

I certainly hope Idella Borntrager Otto will be producing more books because I definitely look forward to reading more from her.

In the Shadow of Your Wings by J.P. Robinson

Another great historical story from J.P. Robinson! In the Shadow of Your Wings moves between characters in Germany and Great Britain during war time. Leila Durand is  a German spy with a troubled past who falls in love with Malcom, the son of Thomas Steele, a British icon, whose home she is to infiltrate. She struggles between her love for Germany and her love for an enemy of Germany, and trouble seems to follow her wherever she goes.

Eleanor Thompson is a woman of faith, but her faith is pushed to its very limits when her infant daughter is killed in a German air raid after her husband has gone off to fight in the war. However, Eleanor doesn’t give up on life as she remains hopeful to reunite with her husband when the war is over, but he doesn’t answer any of her letters. As she sees the horrors of war, she begins to lose hope, yet stubbornly clings to her faith.

J.P. Robinson weaves a tale of intrigue and history as these characters’ lives intertwine in unexpected ways. There is also a German family that takes center stage in some chapters. This book shows the heartbreak of war and the struggle for faith. It is my favorite of  Mr. Robinson’s book so far.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction that includes intrigue and suspense.

 

Bride Tree by J.P. Robinson

Bride Tree (Secrets of Versailles Book 2) by [Robinson, JP]

Bride Tree “Secrets of Versailles” Book II by J.P. Robinson is an epic tale of Queen Marie-Antoinette during 1789, when France is reeling from a civil war between its social classes.

This is the second book in the “Secrets of Versailles” series by J.P. Robinson. The first was Twice Born. You can read my review of Twice Born here.

Bride Tree is a story filled with French history, action, romance, betrayal, suspense, and allegory. Characters stretch across the social classes. Some I hated, some I loved, and some I had mixed feelings for. I identified with some of the characters, found it hard to understand others, and pitied others. I cheered for some of the characters. I laughed and cried. To me, that is the mark of a great story — it grabbed my emotions and touched my heart. The characters of Bride Tree will forever remain dear to my heart.

I also love the cover of this book. I find it beautiful and eye-catching.

I highly recommend Bride Tree to adults who love to read historical stories, especially epic accounts. I recommend Bride Tree to adults who like to be emotionally gripped by a book and who enjoy a book that keeps you turning pages — a book you just can’t put down.

This book may also be appropriate for some young adults, but, a word of caution: this book contains some graphic violence and some sexual scenes and innuendo.

 

Friends and Enemies by Terri Wangard

Friends and Enemies is the first book in the Promise for Tomorrow series by Terri Wangard.

The story begins in 1943 and moves through 1944 and touches a bit of 1945. Heidi Wetzel lives in war-torn Germany. She moves to a rural farm to help care for evacuated children and has never been a supporter of National Socialism. She takes pleasure in passive resistance, but must exercise caution around neighbors who delight in reporting to the Gestapo.

Cadet Paul Braedel trains for the U.S. Army Air Force. As a navigator, he is sent to England with a crew that will fly a B-17.

Both Heidi and Paul experience loss during this difficult time in world history. Then Paul finds himself alone in Germany and he hears a gentle whisper, “Find Heidi”. Heidi had lived in America during her high school days and had known Paul during that time, but now he’s an enemy. How much will she risk to help him?

This story drew me in right from the beginning. I love history, especially when it is woven together with wonderful fictional characters. That brings history to life and implants it in my brain much deeper and stronger than any dry history textbook ever has. Friends and Enemies is a 527 page book, but it kept me turning pages and in just one week, I completed reading it.

I came to care deeply about both Heidi and Paul throughout the story and I felt their fears, shared their laughter and their tears in the experiences of life during war; war that touches every aspect of your life. Heidi and Paul will live in my memory for a long time.

Friends and Enemies was very well written and though war can never be without violence, pain and sorrow, Terri Wangard did an excellent job keeping the violence to a bare minimum. The story also taught lessons about what it’s like to live with war right in your own backyard.

I look forward to reading No Neutral Ground (Book Two) and Soar Like Eagles (Book Three) in the series.

If you enjoy reading historical fiction, I encourage you to pick up Friends and Enemies by Terri Wangard. You won’t be disappointed.

Flash Fiction Friday: The Thief of Westhaven

As he walked through the woods, he heard leaves crunching up ahead. He creeped from tree to tree wary of what may lie ahead. As he slipped up behind the large trunk of an old oak tree he saw her, a woman of exquisite beauty.  Her auburn hair appeared to be blazing with the sun’s rays shining on it. Her lips,  red and moist, touted an invitation to a kiss. Her large eyes sparkled in the unusual color of violet and her complexion, a flawless peaches and cream. She paced back and forth wringing her hands. She was dressed in tan leggings and a dark green tunic with a scalloped bottom.  Tied to a cord around her waist hung a lumpy, brown bag that jingled at each of her steps. A bow lay on the ground near her feet, and slung over her shoulder, a quiver of arrows.

He decided on a cautious approach to offer assistance,  but before he shifted from his position a thundering noise came through the trees to his left and a great, sleek, black stallion trotted to the woman.

“Oh, you’re here! I feared you had been killed.” She wrapped her arms about its neck and pressed her face against its jaw as the horse nuzzled her neck with its lips.

“We must get out of here.” She seized her bow, grabbed hold of the stallion’s long, flowing mane and heaved herself upon its back, and as he stood mesmerized at the sight, beauty fled from his undisclosed presence.

A knowing grin slid across his face. No one would believe that the thief of Westhaven was a beautiful woman.

A Great Research Resource

When you write historical fiction, there is a need to do some research:  research on the time period, the clothes people wore and the foods they ate during that time period, the cost of things during that time period, occupations of that time period, the way people spoke/words that were and weren’t used and more.  Also, if your story is set in what was a real place in that time period, you need to know what that place was like, what the weather was like, what the land and buildings looked like.

In addition to time and place, you may choose to have one of your characters working a job you are unfamiliar with or that is no longer an occupation in today’s world or that requires them to work with tools or animals you are unfamiliar with.  These things will then need to be researched also.

Research is time consuming, but it can be quite fun.  You will learn interesting things that you may find fascinating.  You may even find them leading you to research something else as another idea for something to include in your story may arise.

Being something between a plotter and a pantser, when I was in the beginning stages of my novel, I researched what I felt I needed to have accurate information about; mostly setting — place and time period.  I also researched names to be sure my character’s didn’t have names that couldn’t possibly have been used in the time period.  I had a good idea of what people wore but I still did some research to be sure, but I didn’t spend as much time on this as I did on the setting components.  I researched a couple of occupations, one a lot more than the others.

Okay, you might think, but where did you look for the information you needed?  Well, I did a lot of research online.  The internet is a wealth of information, as long as you are careful and check that the websites and/or blogs you get your information from are accurate and legitimate.  I never go to Wikipedia without checking other places to be sure the information lines up, and I rarely use Wikipedia.

One great source for historical research are the websites of museums.  In addition, you may want to call the museum and ask if they have any information they would be willing to send to you through snailmail.  I recently did this and was surprised at how easy it was.  I thought I may have to pay a fee, at least to cover postage and handling, but the lady I spoke with was willing to gather information and send two packets to me.  I was so excited!  I can’t wait for these packets to arrive.  I check my mailbox everyday, Monday through Saturday.  It is is currently about a week and a half and I’m still eagerly awaiting my packets.

Other great resources:  if your story’s time period isn’t too far in the past, older folk who lived during that time love to share memories, books (biographies, diaries and journals or logbooks written by someone who lived in your time period) are still a great resource, speaking with an historian who specializes in your story’s time period, and old newspapers or newspaper archives.  Of course, if your story’s setting — place, isn’t too far away and it’s feasible for you to go there, visiting the actual place and checking out the museums and historical tourist spots is a great resource that really gives you a visual and makes your story’s place come to life.

Do you write historical fiction?  What is your favorite research resource?

Flash Fiction Friday: Out of the Flames

She sat in a heap next to the smoking embers of what used to be a cabin.  Her face was black except where the tears had run down.  Her dress streaked with black had some holes where the fire had grabbed it but she had managed to extinguish those flames.

A rider came into the yard.  She didn’t even look up.

*  * * * *

He was too late.  He had seen the flames from a couple of miles away and smelled the smoke as the wind carried it to his homestead.  He had ridden as fast as he could in hopes of helping whoever was in trouble.

There didn’t seem to be anything left.  Two buildings lay in smoking embers.

His heart lurched.  Was that a woman?

He rode a bit closer, then dismounted.  Yes, it was a woman, but she didn’t move a muscle, didn’t even seem to be aware that he was there.

He stepped closer.  “Ma’am?”

No response.

He squatted and touched her arm.  “Ma’am, are you okay?”

When her eyes met his, his heart plunged into his stomach.  Her eyes displayed emptiness.  A couple of stray tears trickled down her cheeks.  She seemed unable to speak.

She appeared to be a few years younger than he.  Her empty eyes were smoky gray and her brown hair lay in tangles on her shoulders.  He was certain that cleaned up she’d be right pretty.

One thing was certain, she was alone and needed help.  He wasn’t about to leave her here.

“Ma’am, my name’s Joshua Collins.  I live just a few miles from here.  I’d like to take you home with me.  I promise no harm will come to you, but you can’t stay here.  Can you stand?”

He took her hand and placed his arm around her waist to help her to her feet.  She didn’t appear to have any injuries aside from some blisters on her hands he reckoned she got from trying to stop the fire.  He led her to his horse and helped her mount.  He climbed up behind her and headed back to his homestead at a much slower pace than when he was trying to get here.

At his homestead, he got some cool water and cleaned her hands and face.  He put some ointment on her hands.  She was exhausted and hadn’t spoken a word.  He let her have his bed and he slept on a chair in the living room. He’d see about getting her some things tomorrow.

He had just dozed off when a woman’s scream startled him awake.  He went into the bedroom to find the woman sitting up in the bed.  She was screaming, “Clint, no, Clint don’t go in there!  The barn’s too far gone!  Clint!”  Then she started sobbing.  He sat down and held her in his arms.  “It’s okay.  You’re safe.  I’m so sorry about Clint.”

When her sobbing quieted, he told her to lie back down, covered her with the blanket and went back to his chair in the living room.  This poor woman had a long road ahead.  He would do whatever he could to make it easier for her.