This book was an interesting one. Sometimes it seemed like the story took on different stories at different periods of the protagonist’s life and it is unclear what the main plot of the story was. However, it is not until towards the end of the book that the reader sees how these subplots drive the main plot of the story.
Being born under a blood moon was not a good sign to the superstitious folks of Alyce’s village. It was a sign that even her own father saw as a bad omen—plus the fact that his daughter was born a girl instead of a boy added to his fury. So, in an attempt to protect Alyce, her mother sneaks the both of them away to another village where a trusted friend helps harbor them. She feels the best way to protect her daughter is to dress her up like a boy in case her father came looking for them. But soon, the past catches up. After many unfortunate circumstances that drive Alyce away from her new home, she finds refuge in the woods with the local “witch” Elspeth, who teaches her the ways of medicine and healing and also how to communicate with the bees of the forest for news of things to come. Their friendship leads them on a journey to Alyce’s birth village where they find some familiar faces and one nonfamiliar face who manages to steal Alyce’s heart. Amidst an outbreak of scarlet fever, which allows Alyce uses the healing skills she learned from Elspeth and gain the trust of her fellow villagers, her new family helps her regain her birthright and discover the answer to the mystery that links all the way back to her very roots.
I initially was drawn to the book’s cover and the fact that it was labelled as a “historical romance”. Yet, I found myself disappointed when halfway through, there still was no hint at who the love interest might be. When the love interest did manifest himself, the romance finally unfolded, and I have to say that I loved the sweet story that blossomed between the two characters.
I both liked and disliked the timing of the love story; I would have liked to see the character of Will earlier on in the story, but I also appreciate how the author chose to develop the protagonist Alyce a little more before introducing Will.
I’m not too familiar with the former writings of Carol Warburton, but I would like to read more of her work since she is a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints author. Her past work contains novels centered around the church and others that do not mention it and are simply wholesome historical romances/gothic novels.
As a piece of historical fiction, the backdrop of this story was believable concerning the era in which the author placed her characters; she mentions King Charles, the English Civil War, the caste system of the day, and the fear of witches that was still present in the public’s mind. However, the author also takes some creative liberties to help drive the story, but none that are too extreme or unbelievable, such as the passing of estate from father to daughter.
Things I Liked:
- The characters of Elspeth, Alyce, and Will were pretty well-rounded, despite being introduced at later parts of the story.
- Despite all of the turmoil that could have ensued after the doctor and other villagers witnessed Alyce’s healing abilities, the majority of them showed gratitude instead of the fear that was shown towards Elspeth at the beginning.
- For a Christian historical romance, religion was not preached but used as a driving agent for the characters’ actions (it was shown and not told).
- The development of a family unit made up of unrelated members; the friendships that strengthened between each character added to the quality of the story.
Things I Disliked:
- Given the shorter length of the story, I expected more action would be told in less words, but the pacing of the story was sometimes slow.
- The first two chapters are focused on Alyce’s mother, so the protagonist does not start sharing her story until about 20 or so pages in.
- Halfway through the book, I was prepared to rate the book a 3.5/5 stars because of the lagging, but after the story’s mystery finally unfolded ¾ way in, I think it deserved a higher rating.
- A lot of characters elaborated their dialogue, leaving the reader not many opportunities to fill in the gaps of the story.
I would recommend this book to fans of Christian historical fiction, genealogy, clean historical romances, and people who just enjoy a good tale about forming a family who, as Charles Dickens put it:
“…need not be defined merely as those with whom we share blood, but as those for whom we would give our blood.”From Nicholas Nickleby