5 Christian Fiction Authors to Read in 2020

 

Considering that I had my fourth baby in January of 2019, I still managed to read a decent number of books. I may or may not have prolonged middle-of-the-night nursing snuggles a *little* longer than necessary because I wanted to finish a chapter…or a book.

I read a ton of romantic mystery/suspense, with a dash of historical fiction thrown in – two of my favorite genres. These five authors were new to me in 2019, but they’re all on my “read more” list for 2020!

Check out these authors and pick up a new title or two to read soon (bonus: most of these are available for free on Kindle Unlimited). Don’t forget to leave these authors a review on Amazon or Goodreads when you’re done 🙂

 

H.L. Wegley

Genre(s): Christian Suspense/Mystery/Thriller

Topics: United States of America, domestic terrorism, Special Forces, patriotism, military, romance, high-action

Titles I’ve Read:

My Take:

H.L. Wegley is an Air Force veteran, meteorologist, and Boeing Systems programmer turned award-winning author of suspense-filled, action-packed novels.

Wegley’s accounts of combat scenes, weapons, and warfare are highly technical and detailed (which makes sense given his experience and scientific bent). Not everyone will enjoy this, but I personally love because it adds to the realism of the book (plus I enjoy learning about all things military). He writes about places he is personally familiar with and succeeds in bringing the reader there in a vivid way without losing you in flowery, overdone descriptions.

I found the romance in the first book a little weak, but the love story takes a back seat to the story line anyway, so I didn’t mind. I found the romance in the second book better than the first. Both books kept me turning pages rapidly.

Wegley’s books are thought-provoking, and you know I love fiction that challenges and changes you. The Against All Enemies series is an end-of-the-USA story of courage, bravery, and patriotism to save the nation from threats against its core values of freedom and democracy on the part of a tyrannical president who is slowly dismantling the democratic process by subtle abuse of power (please don’t grammatically dissect that sentence). Wegley does an excellent job of painting a scenario that seems scarily possible, especially in our current political climate. If you want to just read the book, you absolutely could, but if you’re willing to think deeper, Wegley  challenges the reader to think critically about the state of our democracy and wrestle with what our individual responses would be if placed in the same situations as the characters. In the second book, he grapples with the issue of the morality of violence and military action from a Christian perspective. I found his perspective on this (through the lens of two characters with very contrasting views) unique and provocative in a good way.

I’m only two books into this author, but he is definitely high on my “read more” list!

Next on my list: the prequel, Chasing Freedom (the Prequel to the other two)

Ronie Kendig

Genre(s): Christian Suspense/Action Fiction/Romantic Suspense

Keywords: war hero, Navy SEAL, PTSD, Special Forces, military, high-action, terrorism, FBI, conspiracy,

Titles I’ve Read:

My Take:

As an Army brat and now Army wife, Ronie Kendig has ample experience to draw from for her military action novels. Her “rapid-fire” fiction is just that – books fill with rapid sequences of action, suspense, drama, twists, and turns. Conspiracy of Silence felt like National Treasurer on Special Forces steroids mixed with some Indiana Jones. Her characters are raw and have believable human flaws.

I inhaled both books and honestly didn’t stop to read too critically, but I don’t have any critiques off hand. In Conspiracy of Silence, I loved how she incorporated the Biblical story of Korah in Numbers 16 (which, cool side note, I just studied last week in my Bible study). In both books, I felt like I was right there with the characters – experiencing the questions hanging in the air, the intrigue at each step, the danger right around the corner, and the heart-pounding adrenaline.

Next on my list: Crown of Souls (The Tox Files Book #2)

 

Linda Brooks Davis

Genre(s): Christian Historical Fiction/Inspirational Historic Fiction

Keywords: turn-of-the-century, inspirational, women’s suffrage, Great War, World War 1, domestic violence, abuse, heiress, Spanish Flu, female leads

Titles I’ve Read:

My Take:

Linda Brooks Davis, a true Texan and former special-needs educator, is a relatively new author to the historical Christian fiction scene with the release of her debut novel in 2015. Her books aren’t for the faint of heart – they are long books that cover large spans of time with multiple twists and turns to the plot, all of which allows for a great deal of character development. Each books include a love story, but the romance is more like a supporting character in an ensemble cast rather than a main player. Davis dives deep into difficult issues that may be triggers for some readers (such as physical and sexual abuse), but she also paints a beautiful picture of the redemptive power of God’s love.

The Women of Rock Creek series is set at the turn of the 20th century through World War 1. Davis brilliantly depicts the historical setting, tensions, and events that shaped that time, touching on the women’s suffrage, the Great War, The Spanish Flu, class distinctions, and more. She is not just a fiction author who sets her books in a historical time period because it’s fun; she is a true historical fiction author who takes the time to research the time period and craft a story that could have come right out of the diary of a real person. The historical context is as much a character as the characters themselves.

Next on my list: I’m honestly not sure, because her only other books are novellas, and I don’t like novellas! (I’m weird – I usually only read books that are over 300 pages). But, since the novellas expand on the Women of Rock Creek characters’ stories, I may concede and read her Rock Creek Christmas Collection.

 

Julie Klassen

Genre(s): Historical Christian Romance

Keywords: Jane Austen, period drama, period romance, dancing master, apothecary, intrigue, Cornwall, regency romance, friendship, class society

Titles I’ve Read:

My Take:

Julie Klassen is an award-winning author who gives fans of Jane Austen more books to read! Her historical romances with a touch of mystery are true period pieces in the vein of Pride & Prejudice and Jane Eyre. Also, if you are a Poldark fan, you will love these books, especially since some of them are set in Cornwall as Poldark is.

Though lengthy (which I like), her books are filled with just enough unanswered questions keep you turning pages long after you planned to go to bed. She unfolds her characters’ stories slowly while keeping interest and resolving the unanswered questions in the end. Her character development is well-thought out, her attention to historical details is spot on, and her plot twists keep the reader guessing.

True confession: The first book I read of hers was The Dancing Master. I could not get into this book. It took me almost a month to read; usually I will fly through a book like that in well under a week. I’m glad I did not give up on her though, because I absolutely loved the others of hers I read!

Next on my list: I don’t know yet! She has plenty more books for me to discover, but I haven’t picked one.

 

Christy Barritt

Genre(s): Christian Romantic Suspense/Mystery/Thriller

Keywords: police drama, undercover cop, law enforcement, strong female lead, Navy SEAL, veterans, war hero, beach mystery, North Carolina

Titles I’ve Read:

Another true confession? I read over 30 of Christy Barritt’s books in 2019. Instead of listing them all, I’ll list the first book in each series I read. You’ll definitely want to read her series in book order!

My Take:

Christy Barritt is a Publisher’s weekly bestseller and award-winning author who churns out thrilling mysteries with clean romances and underlying faith messages. She’s like the modern Christian version of Agatha Christie (but her faith messages are light enough you can enjoy her books even if you don’t subscribe to her faith views).

I don’t find her books particularly deep or thought-provoking (although she does deal with some nasty gang violence and a cult in the above series), but they are solid page-turning reads that kept me awake through many wee hours breastfeeding sessions last year. I read them far too fast (and in too sleep deprived a state) to analyze her mysteries and law enforcement procedures, but there weren’t any glaring loopholes. Her books are a little bit like a drug to me…I just can’t stop reading them! And clearly she can’t stop writing them.

Part of what makes her books so addictive that each series has a threaded mystery (except for the Carolina Moon series). Each book in a series is has its own mystery to solve but also unfolds more pieces of the overarching mystery. Much like episodes in TV show like Burn Notice, you enjoy the satisfying completion of a story line when you finish a book, but you’re left hungering for the next piece of the bigger mystery.

Her characters are definitely not boring and have endearing quirks. She overlaps characters from other series, which is always fun for the reader (though risky as an author). She does a good job of maintaining each character’s persona when you encounter them in another series.

If I had to choose favorites, I’d say my favorite series were the original Lantern Beach Mysteries and the Worst Detective Ever. If you’re looking for fun, easy page-turning mysteries, start there!

Side note: I’ve tried reading a couple of her darker mysteries such as Dubiosity and the Fog Lake Suspense Series, but I personally do not like getting inside the twisted heads of serial killers and rapists. If that’s your thing, I’m sure they’re as good of reads as her other books, but they’re weren’t my thing.

Next on my list: Rains of Remorse (Lanter Beach Romantic Suspense Book #5) is currently waiting on my Kindle!

 

Bonus Author: Me!

Genre(s): Christian romantic suspense

Keywords: Maine, Ireland, dance, musician, domestic abuse, survivor, FBI, Navy SEAL, lighthouse, epic drama, romantic saga

Titles I’ve Written:

My Take: I’m a debut author, and I would be honored if you would read my book! I’ll let you read the description and reviews and decide for yourself 🙂

Next on my List: I’m in process writing the second book, Finding Forgiveness.

 

*I may earn affiliate commission if you purchase books using the links above.

Book Review: Keturah by Lisa Tawn Bergren {Spoiler Alert}

Keturah by Lisa T. BergrenLast week I finished reading Keturah by Lisa T. Bergren, the first in a three-book series called the Sugar Baron’s Daughters. The historical novel follows three sisters as they journey across the ocean in the late 18th century from England to the West Indies and attempt the impossible: rescuing their family’s fledgling sugar farm as women in a man’s world, and an untamed one at that. Here’s the summary from the back cover:

In 1773 England, Lady Keturah Banning Tomlinson and her sisters find themselves the heiresses of their father’s estates and know they have one option: Go to the West Indies to save what is left of their heritage.

Although it flies against all the conventions, they’re determined to make their own way in the world. But once they arrive in the Caribbean, conventions are the least of their concerns. On the infamous island of Nevis, the sisters discover the legacy of the legendary sugar barons has vastly declined–and that’s just the start of what their eyes are opened to in this harsh and unfamiliar world. 

Keturah never intends to put herself at the mercy of a man again, but every man on the island seems to be trying to win her hand and, with it, the ownership of her plantation. She could desperately use an ally, but even an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend leaves her questioning his motives.

To keep her family together and save the plantation that is her last chance at providing for them, can Keturah ever surrender her stubbornness and guarded heart to God and find the healing and love awaiting her?

Now, aren’t you intrigued?

 

Keturah Spiritual Content & Themes

Unlike too many Christian fiction books, this book does not shy away from difficult themes. I personally appreciate that. Good fiction causes us to wrestle with real questions, and that this book does.

Some of the themes she explores are:

  • A heart closed off from God – The main character has seen God to be a let-down. He’s failed to be good and failed to protect her. Bergren wrote this in a realistic and believable way. Keturah’s response to her past is spot on with the reactions of many people around us. She did a wonderful job of having Keturah wrestle with her relationship with God in a meaningful and gradual way. Even though there is a “big moment” spiritually, her transformation continues to be gradual.
  • Slavery: Slavery was a way of life in the 18th and 19th centuries. The sisters have grown up with slaves, but encounter a level of barbaric cruelty they have not seen before when they reach the island. At times we see Keturah deeply troubled by what she sees and seeking to resolve it by treating her slaves differently. At other times we see her turning her head from the reality of the slave markets and the reality that she owns other human beings. She has to, because she has a business to run and a livelihood to make, and she has to find some inner justification for the practice because no other way exists – at least to her. In some ways, she sees her slaves as family, and in other ways, her prejudice is evident – probably more to us than to her! Bergren does not shy away from writing some gruesome and disturbing realities of slavery. I’m grateful she doesn’t. She lets the reader sit with the discomfort of what reality was. She also doesn’t resolve it – the story isn’t about Keturah becoming an abolitionist and freeing all the slaves on the island. The issue of slavery remains. We see Keturah wrestle, we see her perspective change slightly, but slavery is still there, because it was there, and that is a tragic reality we all have to grapple with.
  • Patriarchy: Patriarchy was also the way of life. This book illustrates what happens when humans distort God’s intention for male and female. God’s design was for men to protect, care for, and lead women so that they would flourish. Man’s distortion is for men to lord over females and use them for their own gain and pleasure. At times, Keturah feels no different than the slaves – her life is “owned” and directed by the whims of men. She is powerless over them. It may look prettier from her place of finery, but oppression is oppression, and it’s all wrong. Again, Bergren addresses this issue not directly with a rising up of women and with politicized character monologues but by simply revealing what history tells us was (and too often still is) true – then letting us wrestle with it.
  • Abuse: Physical, emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse are all addressed in this book, both in a character’s past and in present circumstances. Bergren is not graphic, but she is explicit – what I mean is that she does not gratuitously describe abuse situations in crime scene detail, but she does make clear what is happening in a raw way. This may be hard for some readers who have experienced abuse personally to read. It’s worth trudging through though because she shows how God can bring healing and freedom from the past.
  • Healing: The true beginning of Keturah’s healing happens when she begins to realize that God was with her in the middle of the awful circumstances she went through. He didn’t abandon her, and He wasn’t to blame for what she experienced. She begins to grasp that her past does not have to have power over her and that God can craft a new story for her. As she remembers the identity HE has given her instead of the identity others imposed upon her, she is able to open her heart to God again, which in turn allows her to eventually open her heart to love again.

Storytelling Factors:

Because I’m writing too much, I’m going to rate these on a scale of 0 to 10 and say little more.

  • Character development: 10. Each character seems like a real person. Their personalities are evident through their actions and their personalities. Every character, from minor to major, is well-developed.
  • Character growth: 8. Keturah’s character growth is gradual, believable, and follows a long range trajectory. There isn’t much character growth among secondary characters, but Keturah’s is focal.
  • Resolve: 8. This is hard to answer, because I don’t know where she’ll go in the next two books. I felt satisfactorily resolved for now yet simultaneously wanting for more – in a good way, in the pre-order-the-next-book kind of way. How she develops the story in the subsequent books will affect whether this number goes up or down. If it were a stand alone book, I’d maybe rate it lower, but since she has a series in mind, I am guessing there is more to tell. That being said, I also appreciate that sequel or not, she doesn’t wrap everything up in a pretty bow – because let’s be real, that’s not life.
  • Drama: 10. It’s realistically compelling without being overly, obnoxiously dramatic. They encounter a lot, but it’s all believable because that was life in that day crossing oceans and living in the West Indies. The drama kept it engaging without making me roll my eyes saying, “here’s another unrealistic dramatic development”.
  • Length: 10. It’s over 350 pages. I’m a fast reader, so anything shorter feels too short, and in my opinion, it’s hard to develop a complex story with deep character development and satisfactory, unrushed endings in anything less than that. The length felt just right.
  • Descriptions: 10. This book is descriptively rich. You feel like you are there on the ship, and later the island, with the characters. She doesn’t have paragraphs detailing everything in sight, but gives rich and thorough glimpses showing the reader the lush landscape of the island and the historical reality of the setting.
  • Historicity: 8. She brings the time period to life through careful research. It’s a true historical fiction book – a book through which the reader actually learns about the time and place of its setting rather than simply a story that is set in history. The time, place, and setting are as important as the story itself; they can’t be disconnected. The only reason it’s not a 10 is because it isn’t written entirely in period-appropriate language, which was a good choice on her part – that would be cumbersome to read!
  • Romance: 7. The romance is secondary, but I like this (personal preference). The real “plot” is not a romance but a young woman’s efforts to save her family. In that are many secondary plotlines: running a sugar plantation, slavery, the hostility of her neighbors, and the romance. It is not a romance novel; it is a novel with a romance in it. That being said, I only have one critique of the romance aspect (see below).

Critiques of Keturah

  • The writing style includes a little bit of old English dialogue and expressions. On one hand, I appreciate that, as it enhanced the historicity. She writes in the author’s note that she intentionally chose not to write the dialogue entirely in Old English style because it would be too difficult to read. I agree with that choice, however, at times the Old English language/expressions felt random or out of place. Perhaps an all-or-nothing approach with the Old English dialogue would have been better. But really, that’s a pretty minor critique.
  • The climactic romance “moment” between the male and female protagonist was a little too sudden for me. She did a good job of building the romance and the character’s feelings, but that particular moment felt too dramatic to be believable. Perhaps dramatic isn’t the right word. Too big of a jump for the heroine. I don’t want to give too much a way, but I think I would have written that moment as a climactic build that left the reader wanting that moment but didn’t peak quite yet, then peaks. To me, a good romance is like a series of subtly increasing mountain peaks that build toward the biggest peak. This was still a great romance, but the leap between those particular two peaks was too big.
  • I have to wait a year to read the second one 🙂

All in all this was a beautiful, compelling story rich with description and ripe with topics to grapple with and spiritual truths to glean. Lisa T. Bergren, I’m counting down days until Verity comes out!