Saturday, September 7, 2019

Shadow Among Sheaves by Naomi Stephens

SHADOW AMONG SHEAVES is a retelling of the biblical story of Ruth and Boaz. How good a retelling of that this is, I have no idea, seeing as how I am not religious and never have been. Why am I reading christian fiction? Well, I got a copy of this from the publisher to review, and I happen to love historical romance. I was also intrigued by the idea of a christian work of historical fiction that had a woman of color as the heroine. Would they do a good job, or would it be Cultural Appropriation: Take #23565?

The heroine is a woman named Rena. She is a Brahmin, which was the highest caste in the Indian class system. During the upheaval that followed in the wake of the Great Rebellion, Rena meets a British soldier named Edric. She has only known him for a few weeks before they secretly get married. Unfortunately, Edric and his father die, and instead of returning to her own heartbroken but forgiving parents, Rena goes with her mother-in-law, Nell, to return to England and wallow in poverty.

She resides in a brothel (a step-up from the alleys), the only place that will stoop to taking her after everyone turns up their nose at her, and steals grain for food. One day, the owner of the grain comes out to see her being harassed by his cousin. He sends the cousin away and says that she can have as much grain as she likes. This is the hero, Barric, an icy member of nobility and actually cousin to Rena's late husband. He finds himself entranced by the vision of the dark-haired woman in mourning wear roaming his fields, picking sheaves. He's even more fascinated by her utter conviction, her love for her dead husband, and her contrariness in virtually everything.

Must be love.

So this is the third work of christian fiction I have read in the last month. One of them was excellent and I would be willing to read more by that author, without hesitation. The other was awful, and had me rolling my eyes at the quality of the writing. This one is okay. I liked the beginning of the book better than I did the ending. I get that to an extent the characters are prisoners to the zeitgeist, but it was sad that Rena basically had to convert to get Barric to finally make a move. That's not officially why he went with her, but is it really a coincidence? Given the genre? I think not.

This book is not as preach as most and there is actually some sensuality between the romantic leads. I was half-expecting this to be a train wreck and was delighted that it was not. Would I read more by this author? Maybe-- and honestly, given the genre and my background, that's pretty high praise.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! 

3 out of 5 stars

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