Archive for May 20, 2019

Review of The Heart of a King: The Loves of Solomon by Jill Eileen Smith   Leave a comment

 

King Solomon was wealthy and wise beyond measure. He could–and did–have anything he wanted, including many women from many lands. But for all his wisdom, did he or the women in his life ever find what they searched for all of their lives?

In this engrossing novel, you’ll find yourself whisked away to ancient Israel, where you’ll meet Solomon and four of the women he loved: Naamah the desert princess, Abishag the shepherdess, Siti the daughter of a pharaoh, and Nicaula the queen of Sheba. As you experience the world of Solomon through his eyes and the eyes of these women, you’ll ask yourself the ultimate question: Did Solomon’s wisdom ultimately benefit him and those he loved . . . or did it betray them?

***

At last, my collection of Biblical fiction from Jill Eileen Smith on the shelf is about complete. I’m happy now. 😀 I’m a huge fan of her work, having collected all of her Daughters of the Promised Land, Wives of King David, and Wives of the Patriarchs series. So I was happy to get her collection of the loves of Solomon, which before was only available as an ebook.

So for the story itself. It focuses on Solomon, of course and 4 women (out of a thousand) who loved him. Naamah, the Ammorite who has come to accept God; Abishag the Shulamite who is first wife to King David and then his son and entrances Solomon with her passion for songs and poetry; Siti, the spoiled Eygptian princess whose intelligence and desire to challenge his belief in God; and lastly Nicaula, the great queen of Sheba who alone he felt to truly be his equal in life.

What I have always liked with Jill Smith’s work is how she manages to portray the people we read about in the Bible and in my opinion, captures their essence perfectly. Solomon’s life was filled with abundance and love, his wisdom unmatched with any. But with all that he had, it was never enough, and Solomon could never find true peace. Even the gift of wisdom he so desired felt like a burden.

I felt both annoyed and sorry for him. Honestly, you can’t help feeling at least a little disgusted how he reuses the same lines of mushy poetry you read in the Song of Solomon on each woman he comes across. But reading on, you can see how in his own way, in those moments he really did love the woman he was with, but his heart was never content.

In this you can’t help but feel for him. For how many times have we made “things” in our own life more important than the One who made them and allowed us to have them? And in so doing, we feel nothing but emptiness inside, only able to feel some spark for the briefest of moments before seeking some new pleasure to try to awaken it back in us again.

Jill portrays that accurately with Solomon, a man who had it all and sought to have so much. He became so enamored with his own wisdom and power he forgot to honor and seek the One who gave it to him. And so nothing in his life satisfied him. Not even love.

Of the women who loved him, Siti was probably my least favorite because she was so whiny and spoiled. But I did like in the end how she started to question her belief in the Egyptian gods and was beginning to make an effort to understand the one God. Naamah was a like a promise that went unfulfilled. She loved Solomon since they first met as children, and marrying him was like a dream come true, even though she knew he would take other wives. In the end, she had to stand off to the side and watch as he went with woman after woman, and ended up forgetting her.
And poor Abishag. She had a lot of love to give, and was probably the most understanding woman ever. She knew what her fate was, but didn’t complain. Even though her moments with Solomon were few, she was happy for them. Because of her gentle nature, she ended up even befriending Naamah, who before was seeing her as just another rival.

And then there is Nicaula. She is beautiful and intelligent, with enormous wealth and power. But she longs for the one things denied her: love. When she hears the tales of Solomon’s wisdom she sets forth to not only see if the tales are true, but find the answers to the burning questions in her soul.

While the story lagged a bit in spots and some moments lost their impact because they were chopped short, Heart of a King is a great read that shows how empty life can be when pursuing things and ignoring God. Because without Him, everything truly is meaningless.

Verdict: Buy

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author from the blogging program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

 

Review of the Refuge by Ann Gabhart   Leave a comment

When Darcie and Walter Goodwin hear of a new cholera epidemic sweeping the area, they join the Shakers whose villages seem immune to the disease. It’s meant to be a temporary stay, but Walter is killed in a riverboat accident. With no family and no money, Darcie has little choice but to stay with the Shakers. To complicate matters, she is expecting a baby conceived before she and her husband came to the Shaker village. Marital relationships are considered sinful in this celibate community, putting Darcie in a unique–and lonely–position. Can the arrival of widower Flynn Keller and his headstrong daughter offer Darcie the hope of happiness . . . and family?

Ann H. Gabhart returns to the enigmatic world of the Shakers in this emotional exploration of the power of love and the bond of family.

***

Darcie and William are fleeing a cholera epidemic and hope to escape the dreadful disease by taking shelter with the Shakers. When William is killed in an accident, Darcy is left alone in a community that forbids marriage and worse, is now pregnant—a visible sign as to the consequences of the ultimate “sin”. With nowhere to go and little money, she sees no other options left to her other than to stay with the Shakers and hope they have mercy on her.

Flynn Keller is still grieving for his wife and struggling to manage his headstrong daughter Leatrice who seems fixed on getting into mischief. After losing his wife because of that same impulsive behavior, he’s determined not to have his daughter killed because of some reckless act on her part. But he needs to give both of them a decent home to stay in and Leatrice needs to learn how to read and write. He doesn’t like it, but the Shakers are looking like the only people he can go to for help.

Honestly, the story turned out better than I expected. It was interesting to read about the Shaker community, even if you were left scratching your head as to how they could have accepted some weird thinking.
The characters Ann Gabhart introduced us to were solid and real. I liked the Shaker women who befriended Darcy, and it was wonderful to read how the birth and taking care of Darcy’s baby brought them even closer and softened the hearts of even the hardest person. A major point of the story is learning not to worry, to take each day as it comes and trust God to work it out, despite what the circumstances look like.

My only quibble is with the romance between the two main characters. I already suspected the author was going to rush it at the end when I reached the three-quarter mark in the book and there was still nothing going on. And then close to the end, a Shazam! is pulled. And you can guess the rest. 😛

While something more natural would have been preferred, this was still a great story to read and one I recommend if you’re looking for solid characters and writing, with a good plot that will keep you turning the pages.

Verdict: Definite buy.

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author from the blogging program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

 

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