“In the city of Chicago in 1892, the rules and expectations for Victorian women are strict, their roles in life limited. But sisters Rebecca and Flora Hawes are not typical Victorian ladies. Their love of adventure and their desire to use their God-given talents have taken them out of society ballrooms and delivered them to the Sinai Desert–and into the teeth of a sandstorm.
Accompanied by Soren Petersen, their somber young butler, and Kate Rafferty, a plucky street urchin learning to be their ladies’ maid, the two women are on a quest across the desert chasing rumors of an important biblical manuscript.
As the expedition becomes ever more dangerous and uncertain, all four travelers sift through memories and adventures of their past, recalling the events that shaped them and the journeys and providence that brought them to this very time and place.”
Quick note: Lynn Austin is one of my very favorite authors (and the very first one I ever picked up when it came to Christian Fiction), and when I heard she was looking for people to help launch her book – I immediately applied, and got accepted.Yet another first for me! This book was very kindly sent to me for review as part of the launch crew. I will cherish this book (and the lovely note sent with it) forever!
True to Lynn Austin form, this is a very well written, fast moving, exciting, loveable and relatable book. The 2 sister’s story is set up in they style normal for Ms. Austin, switching between past and present, focusing on mainly 1 character’s POV at a time. The way this is done makes understanding backstory much more pleasant, and really gives you a feel for each of the main characters. This being Christian fiction, I do love how the message of the gospel and how different bible stories become relatable to both the characters and to the reader. The author does not shy away from her beliefs, and does not water them down as some other Christian fiction does tend to. At the same time, it’s not written in a manner that is overly preachy.
One thing I really enjoy about this book (and most of Lynn Austin’s work) is her focus and creation of strong heroines. She is not afraid to let them shine, as well as fail when need be. They are written true to their time, but at the same time – can be people you know and aspire to be in this day and age as well. Both Rebecca and Flora are both strong in their own ways – and a want to be taken seriously (mostly by men and authority figures) in a way that is sadly still applicable today. The bond between the sisters, though having differences of opinions and tempers is unshakeable – even able to stand the friction of romantic partners. Their relationship was written in a believable way, allowing differences of temper, opinion and the tendency for the oldest sibling to be the bossiest.
To keep from spoilers I will say I always enjoy the romantic tension written into Ms. Austin’s stories, and this was no different. The choice of choosing from your heart, or choosing from your head is a timeless one. I appreciated the different portrayals of love this story had to offer, and the decision to go with what society offered, versus something more in line with God’s plan for your life – was well displayed and refreshing.
As for Kate and Soren, they’re stories were enjoyable, but I appreciated even more their character development and traits. Soren had the loyalty of Flora and her tender heart. Kate on the other hand had Rebecca’s stubborn independence and need to be able to be in charge of her own life/self. I found their stories just as interesting as the main line.
Beyond having the ability to move me to laughter, tears and spiritual revelations, another thing I enjoy about Lynn Austin’s writing – is I always get to learn a little something about history/setting. I had recently read a nonfiction work about her own pilgrimage to the Holy Land – and now greatly enjoyed seeing it fleshed out in the backdrop of the 1890’s. I also was not aware of the breadth of devastation the Chicago Fire had caused. In the end Ms. Austin shows the overlying picture of how even in the midst of what can seem like a doomed season – God’s hand is still upon us, and we still have lessons to learn from Him.
Another 5/5 for me, and a new favorite added to my shelf.