Shadows in the Mind’s Eye
by Janyre Tromp
This story is one of those that sticks with you for a while. It’s not for the faint of heart either, as it delves into PTSD, a soldier’s homecoming that is nothing like anyone wanted, and a corrupt town that infiltrates all aspects of life. There were times when Sam (the hero) wondered if he was losing his mind, overreacting, or really seeing something he needed to act upon, and boy do I identify with that one when it comes to caregiving. I also understood Annie’s struggle of not getting “the same husband” back that she sent off to war. They both had struggles that pushed them apart and together. Their commitment to each other and their struggles other were realistic. The voice of this story was masterfully created. You really felt like you were in the south with all the word choices and beautiful imagery.
I listened to the audiobook and just want to say that I really appreciated the change of female and male narrators depending on whose POV you were listening to. One thing that disappointed me in the audio is that part of the surprise ending was spoiled sooner than desired. To the careful listener, the narrator used the voice of the character who was supposed to be a mysterious voice. But none of that is the author’s fault. That’s just a review of the audio.
This story was fantastically done and would recommend it to anyone who likes real portrayals of family struggles, soldiers coming home from war, and those who generally just like to see real-life interwoven with an intriguing and engaging story.
Genre: Historial, 1945, Arkansas
Charlotte Anne Mattas longs to turn back the clock. Before her husband, Sam, went to serve his country in the war, he was the man everyone could rely on–responsible, intelligent, and loving. But the person who’s come back to their family farm is very different from the protector Annie remembers. Sam’s experience in the Pacific theater has left him broken in ways no one can understand–but that everyone is learning to fear.
Tongues start wagging after Sam nearly kills his own brother. Now when he claims to have seen men on the mountain when no one else has seen them, Annie isn’t the only one questioning his sanity and her safety. If there were criminals haunting the hills, there should be evidence beyond his claims. Is he really seeing what he says, or is his war-tortured mind conjuring ghosts?
Annie desperately wants to believe her husband. But between his irrational choices and his nightmares leaking into the daytime, she’s terrified he’s going mad. Can she trust God to heal Sam’s mental wounds–or will sticking by him mean keeping her marriage at the cost of her own life?
Debut novelist Janyre Tromp delivers a deliciously eerie, Hitchcockian story filled with love and suspense. Readers of psychological thrillers and historical fiction by Jaime Jo Wright and Sarah Sundin will add Tromp to their favorite authors list.
What I loved: The realistic struggle of not only Sam’s PTSD, but also the struggle of Annie as they navigated their marriage during a time when Sam wasn’t the same man she married.
Favorite Character and Why: Lots of people have been saying Dovie May, but honestly, Sam is my favorite. Maybe it’s because I can relate to him and his staunch decision to protect his family no matter what they think of him. I really love him and his fight to overcome his own personal mental challenges while being there for his family–even when he feels like a failure.
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Have you read it? What were your thoughts? If not, what about this story appeals to you?
It’s been a while since I’ve managed an interview, but today is my great pleasure and honor to introduce to you Jennifer L. Wright, one of the 2021 Christian fiction debut authors.
Jennifer Wright has been writing since middle school, eventually earning a Master’s degree in Journalism at Indiana University. However, it took only a few short months of covering the local news for her to realize that writing fiction is much better for the soul and definitely way more fun. A born and bred Hoosier, she was plucked from the Heartland after being swept off her feet by an Air Force pilot and has spent the past decade traveling the world and, and every few years, attempting to make old curtains fit in the windows of a new home. She tries to squeeze in time to write in between rolling with the punches of her husband’s unpredictable schedule and corralling her two children (and one grumpy old dachshund).
She currently resides in New Mexico and has discovered a passion for all things green chile.
She is a member of ACFW and can be found on https://jennwrightwrites.com/, Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, and sometimes (but very rarely) on Twitter.
Her debut novel, If It Rains, will be released on July 6, 2021. Pre-orders can be purchased on Amazon, through Tyndale House Publishers, and any other place where Christian fiction is sold.
Now for the fun stuff! I have to admit I am partial to my Fast Five. 🙂 So settle in as I hit Jennifer with rapid-fire.
CC: Milk or Dark Chocolate?
CC: Print or E-book?
CC: Cat or Dog Person?
CC: Morning Person or Night Owl?
CC: Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter?
I’d love to learn a little more about you before we dive into your debut novel.
CC: What has been the biggest challenge for you on your writing journey?
JLW: My biggest challenge has been patience! I have been writing steadily for over ten years, and yet ‘If It Rains’ will be my first published novel. Publishing requires a lot of grit and persistence, more than little luck, and mounds upon mounds of patience. It takes long time to complete a book, from first draft to polished manuscript, and even longer to get it into the hands of readers. Learning to be still and wait has been a huge but valuable challenge for me.
CC: A valuable challenge to be sure, but so hard to endure as it is being developed in you.
CC: What is your favorite Bible verse? Why?
JLW: I keep several Bible verses taped to my desk, but the one I read daily is: “My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is a mighty rock, my refuge.”—Psalm 62:7 Especially as I move into the time of publication, I know I will be confronted with criticisms and not-so-nice reviews; it comes with the business. This verse is a reminder that, no matter what happens with my book, my salvation and my honor depend on God alone. He determines my identity and nothing else.
CC: As silly as it sounds, I am so proud of you for walking into it with that mindset and totally surrendering it all to God. You are absolutely 100% right, He does determine your identity and nothing else.
CC: What is your writing Kryptonite?
JLW: Reading a really, really, really good book! As crazy as that sounds, if I find one of those rare reads that leave me breathless and stay with me long after I’ve finished, I have a terrible tendency to hate everything I write because I feel as if I’ll never write anything as good as that book. It usually takes a little while before I regain my confidence enough to start writing again.
CC: I both love and hate that. Reading is such a wonderful escape, but it can also be a stumbling block when you read something from someone so amazing you just know you’ll never compare.
Thanks for sharing those fun things. Let’s dive right into talking about your debut novel, If It Rains!
A story of resilience and redemption set against one of America’s defining moments—the Dust Bowl.
It’s 1935 in Oklahoma, and lives are determined by the dust. Fourteen-year-old Kathryn Baile, a spitfire born with a severe clubfoot, is coming of age in desperate times. Once her beloved older sister marries, Kathryn’s only comfort comes in the well-worn pages of her favorite book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Then Kathryn’s father decides to relocate to Indianapolis, and only the promise of a surgery to finally make her “normal” convinces Kathryn to leave Oklahoma behind. But disaster strikes along the way, and Kathryn must rely on her grit and the ragged companions she meets on the road if she is to complete her journey.
Back in Boise City, Melissa Baile Mayfield is the newest member of the wealthiest family in all of Cimarron County. In spite of her poor, rural upbringing, Melissa has just married the town’s most eligible bachelor and is determined to be everything her husband—and her new social class—expects her to be. But as the drought tightens its grip, Henry’s true colors are revealed. Melissa covers her bruises with expensive new makeup and struggles to reconcile her affluent life with that of her starving neighbors. Haunted by the injustice and broken by Henry’s refusal to help, Melissa secretly defies her husband, risking her life to follow God’s leading.
Two sisters, struggling against unspeakable hardship, discover that even in their darkest times, they are still united in spirit, and God is still with them, drawing them home.
CC: Who was the most challenging character to create? What made them so difficult?
JLW: Helen was an extremely difficult character to write. There’s a fine line when you’re creating a villain; she had to be unlikeable but also believable. Though her actions may be unforgiveable, I hope I did justice to why she did the things she did. People are not black and white. We are all shades of gray, and I hope readers find something redeemable in Helen (even if they hate her!)
CC: Villians are some of my favorite to write because they are complex. I know I never do it justice, but I am looking forward to seeing Helen and why she is the way she is.
Which character was the most fun to create? What makes them fun?
JLW: Kathryn was the most fun to write. She’s obnoxious and immature and pigheaded, but she also has a lot of heart. She is based partly on how I was as a child (minus the clubfoot, of course), and it was so much fun to dig into that side of myself as I wrote her.
CC: Oh that is fun! I bet it was really fun to revisit that aspect of your life.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
JLW: It’s no secret If It Rains is an homage to L Frank Baum and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I’ve hidden several Oz easter eggs within the pages, from names to character parallels to quotes, and I can’t wait to see how many my eagle-eyed readers can spot.
CC: Secret admission…I’ve never read it and I can’t remember the last time I watched The Wizard of Oz. Now you have me wanting to before I read your book just so I can find all the easter eggs
Thank you so much for joining me today and providing all of us with a wonderful distraction. As my final question, I have my usual “Fun Question”.
If you had to live in any time period except modern-day, which time period would you choose? Why?
JLW: I have such an obsession with the Roaring Twenties. The fashion, the music, the overall mentality of our nation during that time—take me back to the days of The Great Gatsby please (minus the booze!) I’m sure I’m romanticizing it all in my head, but I still find everything about that era fascinating.
CC: It is definitely a fascinating time. My mind tends to wander to all the dark crime of that time, but I tend to write romance with suspense so that makes sense. LoL Thank you so much for joining us today. It is such a blessing to have had you.
You can purchase Jennifer’s book at any of the following retailers or your favorite bookseller.
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Veiled in Smoke by Jocelyn Green
This book was chosen for my online Christian Historical Romance Book Club, and I just finished listening to the audiobook this weekend. First, I highly recommend the audiobook as the narrator did a wonderful job changing voices to match the characters. As for the story, I enjoyed it as well, although perhaps not in the same manner as I would a light-hearted novel. This story was ripe with emotions, family drama, and a touch of romance. If you have a family member who is dealing with PTSD or dementia, it can be a hard read or an enlightening read. It just depends on where you are in your personal life. For me, I loved the depth of character development and a glimpse into the challenges others face in their lives. The details of living through the fire were so gripping it felt as if I were there experiencing it with the characters. The mystery entwined with the story was well done and complex. While the ending was happy, it didn’t pretend the life-long effects of PTSD go away. You left the family knowing they would continue to face challenges but face them together with fortitude and faith.
I recommend this story for anyone who enjoys deep characters, tough issues, family drama, and a romance that stands true.
Genre: Historical Romance, Chicago Fire, 1871
Meg and Sylvie Townsend manage the family bookshop and care for their father, Stephen, a veteran still suffering in mind and spirit from his time as a POW during the Civil War. But when the Great Fire sweeps through Chicago’s business district, they lose much more than just their store.
The sisters become separated from their father and make a harrowing escape from the flames with the help of Chicago Tribune reporter Nate Pierce. Once the smoke clears away, they reunite with Stephen, only to learn soon after that their family friend was murdered on the night of the fire. Even more shocking, Stephen is charged with the crime and committed to the Cook County Insane Asylum.
Though homeless and suddenly unemployed, Meg must not only gather the pieces of her shattered life, but prove her father’s innocence before the asylum truly drives him mad.
What I loved: I think my favorite part was experiencing the fire with the characters. It brought to light a historical event I’d read about in ways which I’d never considered. It helped me to better relate to friends who have had to evacuate due to wildfires. The details were just so real I’ll never view that tragedy the same way again.
Favorite Character and Why: Stephen was a complex character who I loved and sympathized with. The poor man had endured so much during the Civil War and Andersonville, and yet he was forced to continually face it through PTSD. His grow arch was complex, believable, and heart-wrenching. Parts of his thought patterns reminded me of a dearly loved one and helped me to understand them just a bit better.
Rating and Why: Four and a half stars. The story was heavy, in a good way, but also in a way I’m not sure I am likely able to read again. I would recommend it to everyone, but it was an emotionally hard read for me.
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Hi faithful readers!
I’m considering doing an every-other-month book club via my website and Facebook author page. Is this something you would be interested in?
I’ve always wanted to be part of a book club, but I’ve never had the joy of having local readers with similar tastes. I thought it would be great to get together with others who like reading Christian Historical Romance (like you!) and have our own online book club. I’m still trying to sort the idea out, but before I put too much effort into it, I wanted to have your feedback.
My current thought is to vote on a Christian Historical Romance novel, pick a day where we come together via Zoom (or just posts online) to discuss the book, play a game or two, and participate in a giveaway. I’d send discussion questions ahead of time because if you are like me, you need time to think and process. It would be an event you sign up for ahead of time and wouldn’t necessarily have to participate every time.
If I did it, I think the schedule would be January, March, May, July, September, and early November (to avoid holiday hassles).
The first one would be pretty short notice for this July, but the book options I’m thinking are:
- The Lost Lieutenant by Erica Vetsch – Regency
- A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White – WWI
- Veiled in Smoke by Jocelyn Green – The Great Chicago Fire
If this is something you are interested in, please comment below. Let me know what book would be your top choice and any suggestions you might have.
Ready to sign up? Fill out the Google form at this link: https://forms.gle/a2MyEyzt4aTa1DqQ7
No Ocean Too Wide by Carrie Turansky
I picked up this book because I’d seen several people post about it over the course of the year. I probably would have read it faster as a print book, but my library was closed and after looking at screens for writing all day, I didn’t want to look at a screen for a book. So I listened to this as an audiobook over the course of two months, which is quite a long time to stretch a book out. There were a lot of factors, but part of it was this was a book I could put down and pick up again without much trouble. Despite that, I felt this was a book I could recommend to the right readers.
Do not expect this to be your typical historical romance. In fact, I would lean more toward the historical with a light romance thread than a true historical romance. The main story was focused on the drama of the McAlister family being sent to a children’s home and then immigrated to Canada. This dramatic story was engaging and the characters were relatable. You may not have always agreed with the characters’s choices, but you understood why they made them. It was a delight to travel across the ocean and see parts of life that have been lost to history. People who love foster family or adoption stories might enjoy this one, although be prepared to see both the good and the bad sides of this system in action.
My own warning: When I first finished this book, I was a little upset because I had no indication anywhere on the audiobook or Amazon if this was going to be a series. As a standalone, I felt like it was a realistic end but I didn’t find it 100% satisfying. I probably wouldn’t read it again if it were the only story. However, after some digging, I DID find that Ms. Turansky is currently working on the sequel. With that knowledge, I would recommend waiting to read this book until you have the second one to immediately follow up with. The story was good but definitely felt like it needed to be longer in order to reach that satisfying conclusion I desired. When the second book comes out, I may try to read this one again and then read the sequel.
Genre: Historical Romance, England and Canada, 1902
Between the years of 1869 to 1939 more than 100,000 poor British children were sent across the ocean to Canada with the promise of a better life. Those who took them in to work as farm laborers or household servants were told they were orphans–but was that the truth?
After the tragic loss of their father, the McAlister family is living at the edge of the poorhouse in London in 1908, leaving their mother to scrape by for her three younger children, while oldest daughter, Laura, works on a large estate more than an hour away. When Edna McAlister falls gravely ill and is hospitalized, twins Katie and Garth and eight-year-old Grace are forced into an orphans’ home before Laura is notified about her family’s unfortunate turn of events in London. With hundreds of British children sent on ships to Canada, whether truly orphans or not, Laura knows she must act quickly. But finding her siblings and taking care of her family may cost her everything.
Andrew Fraser, a wealthy young British lawyer and heir to the estate where Laura is in service, discovers that this common practice of finding new homes for penniless children might not be all that it seems. Together Laura and Andrew form an unlikely partnership. Will they arrive in time? Will their friendship blossom into something more?
What I loved: The amount of historical research Ms. Turansky did must have been astronomical. It was a very well researched book and I loved all the little details. The realistic look at this piece of history was incredibly fascinating.
Favorite Character and Why: Rose and Henry. These two were the solid rocks for the main characters and I really enjoyed seeing them.
Who would like this? I’d recommend it to anyone who loves family dramas, stories of separated families being reunited, and families that will go to any length to stay together. It’s not a big romance story, as the family drama definitely takes center stage.
Rating and Why: Four Stars. I would have given it three if it were a standalone, but knowing there will be another story to tie up the loose strands, I’m okay with giving it a four. It really was a well-written story as long as you frame it within a family drama versus a romance.
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