Love Story by Karen Kingsbury (July 30, 2019)

Love Story  -     By: Karen Kingsbury

Release date: July 30, 2019

Author: Karen Kingsbury

Plot summary: When John Baxter is asked to relive his long-ago love story with his wife Elizabeth for his grandson Cole’s heritage school project, he’s not sure he can do it. The sadness might simply be too great—after a storybook romance that lasted almost thirty years, beginning when the two were in college, Elizabeth tragically died of cancer. But John can’t say no to his grandson and in the process of telling his love story, he finally allows his heart and soul to go places they haven’t gone in decades. Back to the breathless first moments, but also to the secret heartbreak that brought John and Elizabeth together. Cole’s report on his grandparents touches the hearts of the entire family—and causes Cole to better understand his own beginning.

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Until the Mountains Fall by Connilyn Cossette

Until the Mountains Fall, #3  -     By: Connilyn Cossette

Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (2 points)

Connilyn Cossette’s third installment in the Cities of Refuge series is a mixed bag that shows both potential and room for improvement. Continuing where the last novel left off, this one starts a new plot with more members of Moriyah’s extensive family. Rivkah is a young widow who feels that her father is forcing her to marry her late husband’s younger brother. She feels that her time with Gidal was too short, and her time with his brother Malakhi will be much too long. Rivkah can’t see any way out of the situation, so she goes ahead with the betrothal ceremony, however, during and after the same she does everything she can to discourage Malakhi from marrying her. Malakhi has loved Rivkah since they were children, and doesn’t understand her cold attitude towards him. From his perspective, his continual needling and teasing on Rivkah as a child was to help keep her spirit alive after her mother’s death. However, from Rivkah’s perspective, he has always been a silly boy who can’t take life seriously. Rivkah sees her way out when her friend Nessa announces her plans to escape her own impending arranged marriage to a less than desirable mate by looking for job opportunities at the festival in Laish. The two depart as planned, but the two women soon find themselves in difficult situations that lead to hard decisions. Overall, the plotline continues in a mostly predictable fashion, and unlike the previous novel, this is just a romance. There is no mystery or intrigue to speak of here. The storyline in this novel is not as good as its predecessor, and leaves room to be desired in creativity. While some good ideas are displayed, and at times implemented, the reader is left wanting depth. It was a semi-interesting idea to use a levirate marriage as the basis for a storyline, however, at times this part of the plot feels like a book of Ruth redux. Furthermore, the plot feels a bit rushed – there is a five-year time jump halfway through the book – and the romance a bit forced at times. Cossette has shown us that she has more potential than this, so she earns an average score in this section.

Character Development (3 points)

In comparison, Cossette’s characters remain her strongest point. Even though the plot leaves room to be desired, the main characters are quite good. Rivkah is the best character because she makes realistic choices and displays many relatable though processes throughout the story. It is also important to note that Rivkah’s character is based off of real events from Cossette’s life. This gives the protagonist depth and believability. Malakhi is a good character because he has a defined personality and consistent tendencies, however, he seems unfinished in the end. In contrast, Cossette does a good job of contrasting how scenarios are viewed differently by various people throughout the novel. On the whole, Cossette’s female leads are always good, but her male leads always feel unfinished. For instance, Eitan has more depth as a minor character than he did as a protagonist. Furthermore, the other minor characters are a mix of good, average, and unnecessary, so a little more editing was necessary here. These strengths and weaknesses level out to an above average score for Cossette in this section.

Creativity & Originality (.5 point)

Finally, Cossette earns a half a point in originality for her good characters. However, there is, unfortunately, not much creativity to speak of here. Most of the storyline feels like it was made with the purpose of writing an epilogue for old characters – I believe Cossette has more to offer than this. This flaw may exist because of contract constraints. Therefore, I still believe that the Cities of Refuge series has potential to be a good Christian series. The screenwriter would need to downgrade Rivkah and Malakhi to minor characters, and use characters from previous novels as protagonists, but it can be done. Additionally, he/she would need to use the potential in the city of refuge foundation to craft a story that contains more than romance.

Wish List Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Shades of Light by Sharon Garlough Brown (August 20, 2019)

Shades of Light: A Novel  -     By: Sharon Garlough Brown

Release date: August 20, 2019

Author: Sharon Garlough Brown

Plot summary: Social worker Wren has been overwhelmed by bouts of depression before—but this time her anxiety is spiraling out of control. Amidst crying jags and mind-numbing lethargy, she’s lost all hope. Seeking a way forward, she finds solace in art, spiritual formation, and pastoral care. But will a complicated relationship from her past threaten to undo her progress?

The House on Lowell Street by Linda A. Keane

Author’s note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (2 points)

Linda Keane’s debut work of fiction has both strengths and weaknesses, but is overall a very intriguing depiction of the strike of the Kalamazoo corset workers in 1912. Mildred and her sister Harriet have been working in one factory or another for most of their lives. Currently they both work in this corset factory with superiors who expect much work for little pay. Rose is a recently widowed mother in her thirties who runs a boarding house. She and her son Don have been struggling to make ends meet ever since the death of her husband, and she fears that without an increase in income they may lose their home. Rose is momentarily distracted from these troubles when Harriet’s bout of influenza leads Mildred to tell all about their past. Rose is horrified at what the sisters have experienced, but her decision to help them may bring her more harm than good. When circumstances seem to go from bad to worse, the characters will find themselves wondering if change is worth the price. Overall, the storyline is well-constructed and accurately reflects factory working conditions during this era. However, the plot is a bit choppy at times. For instance, the story begins with a focus only on Rose and her immediate life happenings, then switches to an almost tunnel-like view of Mildred and Harriet’s lives. These choppy moments are smoothed over as the story continues, however, the reader may find it hard to keep track of who the protagonist is during the first half of the novel. This is the novel’s biggest weakness and the reason why it received an average score in this section. Additionally, the beginning of the story does not fit with the rest of the plot. In contrast, Keane’s biggest strength is that it is not just another historical romance, rather, it is a great attempt at portraying real life. Keane’s effort to portray an often overlooked period of history in a relevant way saves her novel from being commonplace.

Character Development (2 points)

Likewise, Keane’s character development shows promise for the future, but needs depth to be great. Rose’s character arc throughout the book is good because she changes in response to what life throws her way. However, the biggest flaw with her character is the unaddressed death of her husband – the event seems to have no significant impact on her life. Mildred is the best character because the realistic outcome of her rebellion against tradition ups the storyline quality. Additionally, the factory owner is, unfortunately, a strawman villian. Finally, Harriet is a bit one-dimensional, but is fine as a minor character. Overall, Keane’s first attempt at developing fictional characters is better than many in her position, and could improve over time. Therefore, Keane earns an average score in character development.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Finally, Keane earns a full point in creativity for her unique portrayal of a little-known historical event, and her creative use of real places and people to build her story. Because of this, we here at BOR think that her story could be used as the foundation for a Christian historical drama film that uses characters to drive an awareness-based plot. The characters would need depth for this to be accomplished, but it can be done. This would be a great project for a new filmmaker to start out with because the material is already there.

Wish List Rating: 5 out of 10 points

The Girl Behind the Red Rope by Rachelle and Ted Dekker (September 3, 2019)

The Girl behind the Red Rope by [Dekker, Ted, Dekker, Rachelle]

Release date: September 3, 2019

Authors: Rachelle and Ted Dekker

Plot summary: Ten years ago, Grace saw something that would forever change the course of history. When evil in its purest form is unleashed on the world, she and others from their religious community are already hidden deep in the hills of Tennessee, abiding by every rule that will keep them safe, pure–and alive. As long as they stay there, behind the red perimeter. Her older brother’s questions and the arrival of the first outsiders she’s seen in a decade set in motion events that will question everything Grace has built her life on. Enemies rise on all sides–but who is the real enemy? And what will it cost her to uncover the truth?

Fatal Strike by DiAnn Mills (September 3, 2019)

Fatal Strike by [Mills, DiAnn]

Release date: September 3, 2019

Author: DiAnn Mills

Plot summary: There’s a killer on the loose in Galveston, targeting law enforcement officials and using a fatal injection of snake venom to take them down. Authorities have reasons to believe the Veneno gang is behind the hits, and FBI Agents Leah Riesel and Jon Colbert team up to track down those responsible. Their best lead is an eyewitness who identifies a young man dumping the third body on a church doorstep. But their suspect has gone into hiding, and those closest to him are reluctant to reveal anything that might help investigators find him. As Leah and Jon check connections among the victims and dig deeper into motives, they discover appearances may be deceiving. Someone is desperate to keep their secrets hidden, and Leah and Jon must face their greatest fears in order to stop the next fatal strike.

Fragments of Fear by Carrie Stuart Parks (July 23, 2019)

Fragments of Fear  -     By: Carrie Stuart Parks

Release date: July 23, 2019

Author: Carrie Stuart Parks

Plot summary: The last thing struggling artist Evelyn needs is a call from the animal shelter, announcing that her dog’s about to be put down – especially since she doesn’t have a dog. Following clues from the rescued canine’s microchip, she tracks down archaeologist John Coyote, who’s just been murdered. Now she and her new furry friend are both in danger!

Daughter of Cana by Angela Hunt (March/April 2020)

Release date: Spring 2020

Author: Angela Hunt

Plot summary: This novel picks up right where The Silent Years series leaves off and begins a new series called The Jerusalem Road. The series will begin with Daughter of Cana. The storyline explores Jesus’ miracles in Cana.

All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner

Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot and Storyline Quality (3.5 points)

Susie Finkbeiner’s latest novel has a great multi-dimensional storyline that uses many threads to create a uniquely beautiful tapestry. All Manner of Things portrays the main moral and social issues of the late 60’s and early 70’s in a realistic and non-patronizing way. Instead of using the jump-scare method of issue-based storytelling, Finkbeiner provides a realistic backdrop and a subtle, yet powerful central message. Annie Jacobson is is not your average American high school student. Others may assume that she lives a normal life because she goes to school, works at the local diner, and has late-night conversations with her best friend through their bedroom windows – but appearances can be deceiving. What makes Annie different is this; in the midst of a surface-over-substance culture, she has depth and a life purpose outside of her own interests. This is partly her nature, and partly because she has been forced to grow up without a father. One day while Annie and her older brother Mike are performing their usual tasks at the diner, he confesses that he has secretly enlisted in the U.S. Army because he knew the draft was coming anyway. Annie and her family are shocked, but manage to pull together as they always have to give him a good send-off. Shortly after Mike leaves, Annie’s paternal grandfather dies, which in turn causes Annie’s long-estranged father to show up in town for the funeral. As one event leads to another, the Jacobson family is torn between cautious hope and desparate faith. Will they be able to weather this attack on their lives and their hearts? To answer this question, read the book!:) Throughout the novel, Finkbeiner avoids giving too much information and uses the subtle placement of letters at poignant moments in the story to deepen the characters and the overall message. Additionally, her excellent portrayal of American family dynamics is rarely seen in Christian fiction. The only flaw to point out here is that a few of the minor characters in the story seem to fade away near the end. However, as people do move in and out of one’s life in a seemingly random fashion at times, Finkbeiner earns just shy of a perfect score for her dedication to plot and storyline development.

Character Development (4 points)

Likewise, Finkbeiner crafts excellent and realistic dialogue between her characters, and possesses the rare talent of crafting fictional people who leave the page to become reality…for just a moment. Annie’s first-person perspective on the story drives the plot, and her decisions reflect a perfect balance of strength and weakness, thus making her a perfect character. (spoiler) Frank (her father’s) realistic struggle with PTSD, and the long-lasting effects of the same on his life, are never seen in fiction. (spoiler) Additionally, Annie’s realization that Frank has maintained his relationship with God during their estrangement saves him from being a stereotype. Furthermore, the reactions of the rest of the Jacobson family to the issues at hand are realistically varied depending on personality, etc., and add even more depth to the story. In short, there is not enough good to say here. The Jacobsons are a family with a lot of emotional baggage who are doing their best to honor God, love one another, and share His love with others in the midst of it all. For all the reasons listed above (and even more), Finkbeiner earns a perfect score in character development.

Creativity & Originality (1.5 points)

Finally, Finkbeiner’s core message is this: In our lives we will experience periods of light and darkness, and although we assume God has left us in the darkness, it is on the other side of the same that we will realize He was there all along, working for our good. The author does not try to convince the reader that her worldview is correct, rather, she questions many societal norms of the past and speculates as to their impact on the present. In the end, she leaves the reader to make their own decision(s). This fact earns her the rarely awarded x-factor point in originality. Finkbeiner also earns a half point in creativity for her big-picture portrayal of the everyday and creative writing style that avoids many common errors in new ways. Additionally, we here at BOR feel that this novel would make an excellent Christian series based on the content in the same. Excellent job Ms. Finkbeiner! The Christian writing world needs more novels like yours.

Wish List Rating: 9 out of 10 points

Be Still and Know (Fall 2019)

Be-Still-And-Know-Poster-1v2-Proof.jpg

Currently in post-production, expected Fall 2019

Writer(s): Brittany Goodwin

Director(s): Brittany Goodwin

Producer(s): John Goodwin, Brittany Goodwin, Gil Johnson, Miranda Dixon, Richard Chilton

Starring: Kelsey Steele, Elizabeth Potthast, Kelly Bartram, Olivia Arokiasamy, Jacob Briggs

Plot summary: 19-year old C.J. has lost touch with her childhood best friend, Sophia, ever since she left small-town Willow Springs for college in the city the year prior. Realizing how much they’ve grown apart, Sophia insists that C.J. spends fall break at her late grandfather’s cabin, where they used to spend every summer together. CJ and her new city girl friends Jocelyn and Amber embrace the wooded retreat but their excitement quickly turns to dread when they discover a vagabond living in a run-down trailer on the property. Heeding his warnings against them, the group of girls’ decision to cut their trip short is foiled when Sophia disappears into the vast wooded terrain. As their fear and suspicions turn the girls against each other, C.J. and her friends must find Sophia and decide if they are safer inside the cabin or out. The story combines suspense with personal conflict and explores how faith is tested and relied on in times of trouble.

Cry of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse (February 4, 2020)

Release date: February 4, 2020

Author: Morgan L. Busse

Plot summary: Lady Selene Ravenwood has come into her full power as a dreamwalker just as the war with the Dominia Empire begins. Working with the other Great Houses, Selene and Damien use their gifts to secure the borders and save those devastated by the war. But conflict, betrayal, and hatred begin to spread between the Great Houses, destroying their unity as the empire burns a path across their lands. At the same time, Damien Maris starts to lose his ability to raise the waters, leaving the lands vulnerable to the empire’s attacks. The only one who can unite the houses and restore her husband’s power is Selene Ravenwood. But it will require that she open her heart to those who have hurt her and let go of her past, despite the one who hunts her and will do anything to stop her power. Will Selene survive? Or is she destined to fall like the dream-walkers before her?

Star of Persia by Jill Eileen Smith (March 3, 2020)

Release date: March 3, 2020

Author: Jill Eileen Smith

Plot summary: In an effort to complete a war his father had planned to win, King Xerxes calls every governor, satrap, and official in his vast kingdom to his palace in Susa to strategize and feast. When they finally leave, he decides on one more week of frivolity, which ends in the banishment of his favorite wife, something he never intended to do. But when he discovers Esther, Xerxes is sure he has a second chance at happiness. In her wildest dreams, Esther could never have imagined that she would end up as queen of Persia. Yet she knows better than to become complacent. Another of Xerxes’s wives is vying for position, and his closest advisor has a deep and dangerous grudge against Esther’s adoptive father. Caught in the middle of palace politics, Esther will find herself in an impossible position: risk her life or consign her people to annihilation.

Author’s note: This post will be updated as more information is released.

Stars of Alabama by Sean Dietrich (July 9, 2019)

Stars of Alabama  -     By: Sean Dietrich

Release date: July 9, 2019

Author: Sean Dietrich

Plot summary: Depression-era migrant workers Paul and Vern find a baby in the woods and decide to care for it. Teen mother Marigold is fraught with despair until she discovers miraculous power within her. Child preacher Coot escapes the Kansas outfit that’s been handling him—and takes the offering plate. Together, they prove ugly circumstances can produce beautiful people. 

A Murder of Innocence (June 2019)

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Coming to DVD June 17 and select streaming services June 18

Writer(s): Shawn Justice, Aimee Anderson

Director(s): Shawn Justice

Producer(s): Aimee Anderson

Starring: Frank Chiesurin, Rachel MacMillan, Xander Steel, Katie O’Grady, Marc Steele

Plot summary: A community is rocked by the double-homicide of a prominent couple, and the local police struggle to find the killer. As darkness settles over the town, Albert, the new resident pastor, must help his church and family overcome the aftershocks by providing stability, healing and hope while his wife, Aimee, must come to grips with her own fear through her faith.

The Enlightenment of Bees by Rachel Linden (July 9, 2019)

The Enlightenment of Bees  -     By: Rachel Linden

Release date: July 9, 2019

Author: Rachel Linden

Plot summary: Mia’s life is planned out and on schedule—until her boyfriend leaves her! Adrift and in search of meaning, she joins vivacious pal Rosie on an around-the-world humanitarian trip funded by a billionaire recluse. With eclectic travel mates, they trek from the slums of Mumbai to a Hungarian border camp. Will Mia embrace this new vision she has encountered?

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

Image result for becoming mrs. lewis

Plot & Storyline Quality (3 points)

Becoming Mrs. Lewis has a great storyline that holds the attention all the way through. Callahan takes the time to develop deep, relatable characters that leave a lasting impression on the reader. Furthermore, each person is shown as a multi-dimensional figure who weaknesses are covered by God’s grace and whose strengths are a gift from Him. These are the strongest points of the novel. Joy Davidman is an aspiring author who is married to an alcoholic. Bill’s constant emotional swings and verbal abuse keep her on her toes, along with the responsibility of raising two sons. Joy and Bill are both atheists – until the day Joy has an unmistakable encounter with the Holy Spirit. Joy becomes a Christian, but still has many questions about life. After reading a few books by C.S. Lewis, she and Bill agree to write and ask him some of their questions. Lewis’ answers surprise Joy, and as they send letters back and forth, an unlikely friendship develops. Joy comes to depend on Lewis’ wisdom and advice as her home life becomes increasingly chaotic. When poor health sends her to London for better medical care, Joy decides to meet her pen-pal once and for all. Will their friendship develop into something more? As previously mentioned, storytelling is Callahan’s strength. However, the presence of some mild language, alcohol consumption, and sensuality keep this section from a perfect score. In contrast, because these factors aid in giving each character depth, they are not all bad. Callahan understands that imperfect characters and real-life elements are vital to the strength of a story. Her candid and effective depiction of two real people who impacted literature in big ways adds up to an above average score in this section.

Character Development (3.5 points)

Callahan employs a great first-person narrative from Joy throughout the novel. Her comedic and poignant uses of famous literature in conversation and life happenings also add much to the development of C.S. and Joy’s characters. In the same vein, her accurate portrayal of Lewis as an eccentric genius who is afraid of romantic relationships, and of Davidman as someone who struggles with seeking the temporal over the eternal is what makes her characters great. Warnie and J.R.R. Tolkien are also good minor characters that add much to the story. Additionally, all the characters have excellent, steady arcs and realistic relationship development – or detriment – that happens over the course of several years. The main weakness here, as previously mentioned, is found in some unnecessarily sensual thought processes from the characters. Despite this flaw, Callahan earns a nearly perfect score in character development.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Finally, Callahan earns a half point in originality for giving Joy Davidman a voice and defining her personality. She also earns a half point in creativity for portraying Lewis as more than an author – he was also a friend to many and a devoted husband and stepfather. For these reasons, we believe this novel would make a great Christian drama film based on the content of this book. This would be a great film to add to the roster that Douglas Gresham is currently compiling with Netflix. Good job Ms. Callahan! We look forward to your future novels with interest.

Wish List Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

Midnight on the River Grey by Abigail Wilson (July 2, 2019)

Midnight on the River Grey  -     By: Abigail Wilson

Release date: July 2, 2019

Author: Abigail Wilson

Plot summary: After her brother’s death, Rebecca Hunter vows to expose the man responsible—Lewis Browning! But when she’s summoned to his country estate, her feelings become more confused. Strange occurrences seem to incriminate Browning, yet he’s not who she once imagined. Is Rebecca developing feelings for Lewis—or beginning the same heartbreaking descent into madness as her mother?

Discarded Things (Fall 2019?)

Currently in post-production from Earth Mother Entertainment

Writer(s): Karen Abercrombie, Tara Lynn Marcelle

Director(s): Tara Lynn Marcelle, Joanne Hock

Producer(s): Karen Abercrombie

Starring: Sharonne Lanier, Ian Grey, Alexandria Benford, Silvia Dionicio, Madison Bailey, Jemarcus Kilgore, Thomas Ford, Karen Abercrombie, Cameron Arnett

Plot summary: A faith-based film that is not afraid to expose and deal with some extremely tough subject matter – rape, teen pregnancy, alcohol abuse, physical abuse, and opioid addiction.

Where Dandelions Bloom by Tara Johnson (July 1, 2019)

Where Dandelions Bloom  -     By: Tara Johnson

Release date: July 1, 2019

Author: Tara Johnson

Plot summary: On the run from her abusive father and arranged marriage, Cassie Kendrick disguises herself and joins the Union army as Thomas Turner! Then she meets Gabriel Avery, a photographer’s assistant who is anxious to erase the darkness and guilt of his own past. Can this unlikely pair forgive themselves and trust the future to God? 

Redeemed (coming in 2019)

Currently in post-production

Writer: Ty Manns, Monice Mitchell, Jacqueline D. Moore

Director: Ty Manns

Producer: Vickie Adams, Joel M. Gonzales, Bishop Charles Mackie, Ty Manns, Jackie Moore, Kevan Otto, Pejman Partiyeli, Brandon Riley, Tim Warren

Starring: Keshia Knight Pulliam, Jeff Rose, T.C. Stallings, Eaddy Mays, Roshawn Franklin, Shannen Fields, Karen Valero, Cameron Arnett, Ty Manns, Nereida Velazquez, Johann Mikaiel, Shari Dyon Perry, Deetta West, Joel M. Gonzales, Thom Scott II, Jef Holbrook, Mayra Nuñez, Ole Goode, Bishop Charles Mackie, N’dia-Marrie Farr-Cannon, Sara Lynn Herman, Will Oliver, Sam Beman

Plot Summary: After becoming the youngest female, minority judge elevated to the bench in her state, Angela Sylvester quickly finds herself trapped into a ‘Kids for Pay’ prison scam orchestrated by her boss, Judge Cynthia Paulino. Fearing her legal career and dream of becoming a federal judge is over, she struggles and her career spirals out of control. Afraid, she takes the advice of a close friend and turns to her faith to find the strength needed to redeem herself of the crimes committed.

Wooing Cadie McCaffrey by Bethany Turner

Image result for cadie mccaffrey

Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Bethany Turner’s latest rom-com has interesting storyline that contains a lot of mixed messaging. While the novel holds the attention from cover to cover, when all is said and done the reader is left wanting depth. Cadie McCafferey is a thirty-something redhead whose life is built around her sports reporter career – its just too bad she doesn’t like sports. Most of her friends double as her co-workers, and she even met her current boyfriend – Will Whitaker – at work. After four years of dating Cadie feels the the spark is dying between her and Will and decides that maybe its best for them to break up. Will Whitaker’s life revolves around Cadie, at the end of every long work day he looks forward to spending time with her. When he misses a planned dinner with Cadie one night she takes his slip-up as confirmation that their relationship is over. Shortly after this, in an attempt to revive the spark between them, Cadie and Will make a big mistake that alters the course of their relationship forever. Cadie is left confused and hurt, so Will decides to do anything he can to win her back. Will their love survive? One of the strongest points of this novel is Turner’s portrayal of the realistic fallout that occurs after a couple makes a desparate attempt to stay together. Additionally, there are many humorous moments and an accurate, relatable perspective on a legalistic upbringing. On the downside, there are a few instances of forced humor that could have been better – sometimes the author seems to be trying a bit too hard to use ‘young-people’ dialogue. Furthermore, the story-line’s pace is inconsistent as the central message is sometimes overshadowed by too much filler dialogue. Overall, the novel has a good central point that is downplayed by the weak ending.

Character Development (1.5 points)

Cadie is the strongest character in the novel for multiple reasons. One, her struggle against social expectations adds much to the novel. Secondly, her character arc is steady throughout the storyline, and it is obvious that her fictional life was based on reality to some extent. Will is two-dimensional rather than multi-dimensional because his character has no foundation. His sudden appearance in the story actually works, but the reader knows neither his family background nor who he is outside of his love for Cadie. In short, his past is only hinted at, rather than woven into his present. Furthermore, the minor characters are forgettable and need further development. On the whole, character development – which should be the forefront of a rom-com – is the weakest area of this novel.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Lastly, Turner earns a half point in originality for her realistic portrayal of someone whose legalistic church upbringing has influenced many of their poor choices, and a half point in creativity for creating a rom-com that has an atypical central message – true love is not based on fantasy. This is the strongest area of the novel for Turner because it is here that the central message is found. Through this story, Turner seeks to show the necessity of asking God’s forgiveness, and forgiving oneself. We feel that this the message could be more clearly communicated in a Christian rom-com film. The screenwriter would have to add depth to the characters and ensure the presence of an exceptional cast, however, it can be done. Good job Ms. Turner, I see much promise for future novels!

Wish List Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Not For Sale (July 2019)

Coming to select theaters July 2019

Writer(s): Jason Campbell?

Director(s): Jason Campbell

Producer(s): Jason Campbell

Starring: TBA

Plot Synopsis: A new feature film made exclusively by law enforcement depicting multiple true stories of underage victims of sex trafficking in America.

20 Minutes (February 2020)

20 Minutes

Coming to select theaters February 2020

Writer(s): Timothy Chey

Director(s): Timothy Chey

Producer(s): Timothy Chey, S. Marc Clooney, Todd Kim, V. Carol Rosenthal

Starring: Dia Frampton, Michael Camp, Hitomi Miller, Jake Red, Lehi Makisi Falepapalangi, Teuira Shanti Napa, Aaron Braxton
Bernard Aderhold-Lindsey, Mihara India, Dean Testerman, Kaz Maruta, Mia V. Pattison, Ricky Sua’ava. Jordan Marzan, Mark J. Bush

Plot Synopsis: An incoming ballistic missile to Hawaii changes twelve people’s lives when they discover they have 20 minutes to live.

Isaiah’s Legacy by Mesu Andrews (February 2020)

Image result for isaiah's daughter mesu andrews

Release date: February 2020

Author: Mesu Andrews

Plot summary: Zibah’s son Manasseh becomes king of Israel and goes against the ways of his father by worshiping false gods and committing every kind of evil under the sun.

My Dearest Dietrich by Amanda Barratt

My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Lost Love  -     By: Amanda Barratt

Author’s Note: We received a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (3 points)

Barratt’s latest historical has engaging characters and a down-to-earth storyline that give the reader an in-depth look at Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s personal life. My Dearest Dietrich goes a step further than other Bonhoeffer depictions by giving his fiance – Maria von Wedemeyer – a voice. Maria is a confident young woman who loves her father dearly and is devoted to her grandmother. While she is staying at her grandmother’s house one day, as she often does, Maria has an unexpected run-in with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, her grandmother’s friend. Despite the significant difference in their ages, she is surprised to find that they have much in common. When Providence continues to bring them together in the most unlikely of places, Maria realizes that a chance encounter has changed her life forever. Dietrich is a scholarly, thirty-something bachelor who lives with his parents and is part of a secret resistance that hopes to assassinate Hitler. His days usually consist of writing, conversing with family members and old friends, and resistance work. This pattern is broken the day he meets Maria. He suddenly realizes what it means to love another person, but fears that a romantic relationship will further complicate his secret life. Despite all that tries to drive them apart, Maria and Dietrich cling to God and their love for each other throughout one of the darkest periods of history. Will Dietrich be found out? Will Maria survive the tragedies that befall her? To answer these questions, read the book!;) A major strength of this novel is Barratt’s portrayal of both Dietrich and Maria as ordinary people who are passionate in their beliefs and in their love for one another. This is a true romance based not on physical attractiveness, but on heart and depth. Additionally, Maria and Dietrich’s realistic defiance against the status quo and gender molds for the era is much appreciated. The only flaws to point out here are minor. First, at times the pace of the storyline is inconsistent, while at other times it flows smoothly. Finally, while the dialogue between characters is quite good, a reader without background knowledge of Dietrich and Maria’s lives may become lost at times. Likewise, because the strengths in this novel outweigh the weaknesses, Barratt earns an almost perfect score in this section.

Character Development (3 points)

Barratt has crafted relatable, real characters with a deeper purpose than falling in love with each other. This is evidenced through the fact that Maria and Dietrich have clearly defined personalities and tendencies that remain constant throughout the storyline. Maria’s unique personality and beliefs that go against social expectation drive the plot. Additionally, Dietrich is seen not as a saint, but as an ordinary, somewhat eccentric man who loved Jesus and believed that a better world could be accomplished through ethical reform. Furthermore, most of Barratt’s minor characters are memorable and add much to the plot. The main flaw to point out here is that the high-ranking members of the Gestapo are basically painted as strawman villains. However, Barratt counteracts this to a degree by including Nazi soldiers who are portrayed as ordinary people. Therefore, Barratt earns just short of a perfect score in character development.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

This novel is a creative take on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but it’s greatest strength is found is bringing Maria to life. (spoiler) Because of this, it earns a full point in originality for displaying how Dietrich’s beliefs changed as time went on, and for giving Maria a voice. The author shows great insight into the non-fictional lives of her characters by remaining as true as possible to who they were. For these reasons, we here at BOR feel that My Dearest Dietrich would make a great Christian multi-part series that draws on the content in the same. Good job Ms. Barratt!:)

Wish List Rating: 7 out of 10 points

The Healer’s Touch by Connilyn Cossette (December 2019)

Release date: December 2019

Author: Connilyn Cossette

Plot summary: Tikva has been suffering from blood loss for years and no physician has provided relief or a cure. Tikva’s encounter with The Healer will change her life forever. This novel is a fictional depiction of the woman with the issue of blood in the Gospels. More info to come.

When Calls the Heart, Season 7 (coming in 2020)

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Coming to the Hallmark Channel in 2020

Writer(s): Brian Bird, Michael Landon Jr., Kevan Smith, Jack Wagner

Director(s): Brian Bird, Michael Landon Jr.

Producer(s): Brad Krevoy, Brian Bird, Michael Landon Jr., Alfonso H. Moreno, Neill Fearnley, Eric Jarboe, Susie Belzberg, Michael Shepard, Jimmy Townsend, Annie Brunner, Derek Thompson, Elizabeth Stewart, Lori Loughlin, Erin Krakow, Amanda Phillips Atkins, Vicki Sotheran, Greg Malcolm

Starring: Erin Krakow, Lori Loughlin, Lori Loughlin’s replacement/memory (Kellie Martin?), Pascale Hutton, Jack Wagner, Kavan Smith, Mark Humphrey, Erica Carroll, Carter Ryan Evancic, Eva Bourne, Chris McNally, Kevin McGarry, Rob Estes, Jocelyn Hudon, Morgan Kohan, Aren Bucholz, Martin Cummins

Plot Synopsis: From the ashes of Jack’s death and Lori Loughlin’s Abigail’s departure comes new blossoms of romance – for literally every character. Elizabeth struggles to choose a new husband from the two lookalike bachelors in town…oops, three, I forgot about Gowan. Gowan is pursuing his on-again off-again relationship with his alter ego Mr. Nice Guy. Abigail’s daughter-in-law will likely be planning her wedding to that generic doofus whose name escapes me. Doctor White and Nurse Blonde are finally ‘secretly’ engaged because plot and are planning their ‘secret’ wedding. Rosemary and Elizabeth’s friendship is on tenterhooks as Elizabeth juggles being a MOM, a TEACHER, and the heart of the show. Lllllllllleeeee is trying his hardest to fill Jack’s large shoes by having important conversations with Bill, but he struggles with being everyone’s confidant. Will petty fantasy love and friendship survive all these first-world problems? Most importantly, will Elizabeth get married again, and who is the new Abigail?

On a Summer Tide by Suzanne Woods Fisher

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Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (2 points)

Fisher’s first book in her new Three Sisters Island series is a dramedy of sorts masquerading under the guise of a contemporary romance. The storyline is a mixed bag, but it contains many funny sequences and well-placed moments of subtle wordplay that make for an enjoyable read. Cam, Blaine, and Maddie are three sisters who have been trying to survive ever since their family crisis. Each has dealt with the trauma in their own way. Cam by charging doggedly ahead, Blaine by concealing her true feelings under a belligerent attitude, and Maddie by over-analyzing the emotions and actions of others as a distraction from her own. When their estranged father wants to meet with them as a matter of urgency, they all assume that his health is failing. However, the sisters are surprised to discover that Paul Grayson is not dying, but has embarked on his latest adventure – buying a far-off island on Maine’s coastline. At first they all think he’s crazy, but the sisters may discover that their father’s seemingly crazy decision is the best thing that ever happened to them. On a Summer Tide’s main strength is the eccentric humor therein and the subtle parody of commonly known wordplay sprinkled throughout the storyline. In contrast, it’s biggest weakness is the inclusion of overused plot devices – the attractive bachelor who is good with kids, the single overachiever who’s afraid to give her heart away, and the troubled child character, to name a few. However, if these elements are supposed to be viewed in a parody context, then they are the novel’s greatest strength. Overall, Fisher has turned out a nice read for her fans. Still, this novel’s biggest struggle will be standing out in it’s overcrowded genre. Thus, Fisher receives an average score for her storyline.

Character Development (2 points)

Cam, Maggie, and Blaine all have a defined personality and tendencies, yet, each one feels unfinished. Seth is an interesting take on the typical handsome bachelor character, but his late entrance nearly halfway through the story makes it hard for the reader to understand who he is. Paul is an interesting eccentric father character, especially if his character is meant to be comedic. However, if not, then his character is very one-dimensional. Fisher’s greatest strength in character development is her use of flashbacks with Cam. Of all the characters in the story, Cam is the most believable and the most well-developed. In comparison, Fisher has room for improvement with her minor characters. While many of them contribute humorous dialogue, they barely exist outside of these moments. Therefore, Fisher earns an average score in character development for her good ideas.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Lastly, the great paradox of this novel is whether or not it is intended to be a parody of all the characters and scenarios found therein. If so, then Fisher earns a full point in originality for her subtle comedy and a bravo from us here at BOR. If not, then she earns a half point in creativity for her use of flashbacks with Cam, and a half point in originality for her unique sense of humor. Either way, Fisher earns an average score in this section as well. However, if our former theory is true, then we believe this novel would make a great Christian dramedy series that emphasized the eccentric humor already in the storyline and parodied contemporary romance stereotypes.

Wish List Rating: 5 out of 10 points

The Encounter Season 2 (October 2019)

Coming to Pureflix.com Fall 2019

Writer(s): Timothy Katajczak, Keith Ray Putman

Director(s): TBA

Producer(s): Andrea Logan White, David A. R. White, Bradley Dorsey? Bruce Marchiano?

Starring: Brooke Becker, Gina Simms, Bruce Marchiano, Shari Rigby, Michele Gomez, Ashley Bratcher, Bradley Dorsey, Brooke Becker, Ty Anaya, Josh Tipis, more TBA

Plot Synopsis: What would you do if you had an encounter with Jesus? In the first episode, Lily is devastated when her idea of a perfect wedding doesn’t go so perfect. She and the other characters will discover what happens when Bruce Marchiano Jesus steps in.

Like Flames in the Night by Connilyn Cossette (March 2020)

Release date: March 3, 2020

Author: Connilyn Cossette

Plot summary: Strong-willed Tirzah wants to join her people in driving the enemy from the land of Israel and undergoes training for a secret mission inside the stronghold of Shechem. But soon after she has infiltrated the ruthless Aramean commander’s kitchen, she makes a reckless decision that puts her and her allies in grave danger. Fresh off the battlefield, Liyam returns home to discover his beloved daughter is dead. After his vow to hunt down her killer leads to months of fruitless pursuit, his last hope is in a family connection that comes with strings attached. Strings that force him to pose as a mercenary and rescue an infuriating woman who refuses to leave her mission uncompleted. When an opportunity to pave a path to a Hebrew victory arises, can Tirzah convince Liyam to fight alongside her in the refuge city of her birth? Or will Liyam’s thirst for vengeance outweigh his duty to his people, his God, and the woman he’s come to love?

POST UPDATED 6/4/19

Summer Guests by Mary Alice Monroe (June 11, 2019)

Summer Guests  -     By: Mary Alice Monroe

Release date: June 11, 2019

Author: Mary Alice Monroe

Plot summary: When a hurricane threatens the coasts of Florida and South Carolina, an eclectic group of evacuees flees for the farm of their friends Grace and Charles Phillips in North Carolina: the Phillips’s daughter Moira and her rescue dogs, famed equestrian Javier Angel de la Cruz, makeup artist Hannah McLain, horse breeder Gerda Klug and her daughter Elise, and island resident Cara Rutledge. They bring with them only the few treasured possessions they can fit in their vehicles. Strangers to all but the Phillips, they must ride out the storm together. During the course of one of the most challenging weeks of their lives, relationships are put to the test as the evacuees are forced to confront the unresolved issues they have with themselves and with each other. But as the storm passes, they realize that what really matters isn’t what they brought with them to the mountains. Rather, it’s what they’ll take with them once they leave.

Lessons Learned From Two Mainstream Romantic Comedies

Select mainstream romantic comedies have much to teach Christian filmmakers. The truth is that the Christian romantic comedy and or comedy genre(s) are sadly sparse. The movies that do exist in these genres are usually awkward and or obnoxious. While there are a few diamonds in the rough, such as Heaven Bound, Altar Egos, and The Matchbreaker, the norm is….well….if you don’t know, then I won’t torture you with the knowledge. Today we’re going to take a look at two mainstream romantic comedies that got it right, and the lessons Christian filmmakers can learn from the same.

Leap Year (2010)

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Screenwriters Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan gave this rom-com their all – a fact that is evidenced through many truly funny sequences and the time spent on developing a relationship between the main characters. The main characters are a purpose-driven, successful apartment stager engaged to a ‘cardiologist’, and an equally sarcastic and broody owner of a failing Irish pub. These two eccentric people drive the plot and have realistic dialogue and responses to life’s curve-balls. While the film received mixed reviews from critics, it is our belief that it is mostly misunderstood. While it cannot be classified as a Christian film – due to some language and a few scenes where characters are partially clothed – the screenplay contains some important lessons that many Christian screenwriters have yet to learn.

A true comedy is built on authenticity –real people

Audiences want authenticity. The most important step towards authenticity is creating real characters. A real character is someone who is neither an emotionless Hallmark clone nor a saintly, persecuted believer in a message-pushing Christian film. A real character is found in the messy in-between because real people are imperfect in a beautiful way. They mess up and say and do things they regret, but they are also capable of great love and good. Once this concept is implemented, the second branch of authenticity is real relationships. Real relationships don’t follow a spreadsheet – but they’re worth it. This movie establishes authenticity by paralleling an obligatory partnership and a real romantic relationship with the goal of showing the audience why the former is never worth it. As a screenwriter, whether you write the story or the screenplay, make the time to craft real people who have real relationships, the end results will be lasting.

Romantic comedies must have exceptional dialogue

This movie doesn’t waste time on ‘filler’ dialogue. Every conversation is both humorous and meaningful to the plot. The main characters go through the perils and joys of each day, reflect on their past and present, and learn to accept each other’s imperfections. What can a screenwriter learn from this? That real relationships are established through relatable dialogue. In this genre, conversations between characters should be neither high-brow nor punctuated with slang and cliches. Regular, average communication is what is needed – and a little sarcasm never hurt either. Overall, a screenwriter must remember that exceptional dialogue is paramount to building great characters.

My Fake Fiance (2009)

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Howard March’s romantic comedy/parody stands out from many other mainstream RC’s because it contains truly comedic sequences. What is a truly comedic sequence? Something that is still funny the second time you watch the film. Additionally, his portrayal of self-loving opportunists and parody of dysfunctional parenting is nearly unmatched. The two main characters – a down-on-his-luck gambler on the run from the town thug and a cynical, single woman who has never quite lived up to her family’s standards – drive the simple storyline and have many truly funny conversations. March uses authenticity and exceptional dialogue to build his characters, but his screenplay contains further lessons for screenwriters in the romantic comedy genre.

Self-awareness is the key to parody

A true parody is one in which the characters are self-aware of unbelievable, ironic, or unrealistic scenarios or situations. March’s The Monkey character and his subtle trolling of Joey Lawrence through his corresponding character are examples of how to do this. Real people are self-aware, whether they admit it or not, and yes, when push comes to shove people are always looking for a way to benefit themselves. As a screenwriter, if you characters do not meet this criteria, then they can never be meaningful to the audience – they will never be real. I know that sounds like a quote from The Velveteen Rabbit, but its true.

Insecurity is the lifeblood of romance

A romantic comedy should be built around the insecurity of the characters. This may sound a little strange, so let me explain.

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When two people love each other, they are forced to decide if they will open their hearts and break down walls that they have always held on to, or turn away in fear and remain in solitude. When someone is truly in love with another they are both afraid of and in awe of the sensation. They long for what they feel they cannot have or do not deserve. In the words of Emmett from the Lego Movie 2, “its easy to harden your heart, the hardest thing you can do is open it”. This is a simple, but profound truth that a screenwriter should keep in mind when writing a romantic comedy. It is the center of everything that matters. It should be the underlying message in every romantic comedy. Ok, you get it.

In light of all this, what can we conclude? Simply this: select mainstream romantic comedies are more far-reaching and influential than most Christian films in the same genre because mainstream screenwriters understand real people. If Christian movie-makers start respecting their audiences by using real people and portraying real relationships in their storylines, then they will be following Jesus’ command to, “in humility, value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3, New International Version).

Faith Based (coming in 2019)

Currently being filmed

Writer(s): Luke Barnett 

Director(s): Vincent Masciale

Producer(s): Tim Kerigan, Tanner Thomason, Giles Daoust, Catherine Dumonceaux, Matthew Emerson, Lance Reddick

Starring: Tanner Thomason, Luke Barnett, Margaret Cho, David Koechner, Jason Alexander, Lance Reddick, Danielle Nicolet, Carly Craig, Danny Woodburn, Christoph Sanders

Plot Synopsis: Two idiot friends who realize that all faith-based films make ‘buckets of cash’, set out to make one such movie of their own. According to the creators: “This is not a movie making fun of people who have faith, it’s a commentary on supporting something blindly”.

Acquitted by Faith (coming in 2019)

Currently in post-production

Writer(s): Brad Allen, Chuck Howard, Lauren Damrich

Director(s): TBA

Producer(s): Brad Allen, Jeremy Boz, Chuck Howard, Martin Michael, Kevan Otto, Tom Sanders, Tim Warren

Starring: Casper Van Dien, Catherine Oxenberg, Tom Schanley, Jaci Velasquez, Monte Markham, Angela Kerecz, Callie Brook McClincy, Kelsey Sanders, Rusty Martin Sr., Austin Craig, Michael Joiner, Torry Martin

Plot Synopsis: Attorney Benjamin Stills is nearly sentenced to prison and finds faith in God after killing a teenage girl in an accidental car crash from texting while driving.

Forgiven (coming in 2019)

Currently in post-production

Writer(s): Kevan Otto, Lloyd S. Wagner

Director(s): Kevan Otto

Producer(s): Brad Allen, Michael Criscione, Spenser Fritz, Ben Graham, Chuck Howard, Martin Michael, Lamont Roberts, Tom Sanders

Starring: Kevin Sorbo, Jenn Gotzon Chandler, Casey Fuller, Kelsey Sanders, Reegus Flenory, Allee Sutton Hethcoat, Glenn Cartwright, Marie A. Garton

Plot Synopsis: James Carter (has never amounted to anything. Stuck equally in a both a “go nowhere” job and “meaningless” relationship, he is a rudderless ship that is truly adrift, a man with no focus or purpose. The nightmare that is his life takes an even more downward spiral, when during an argument with his girlfriend a firearm is accidentally discharged striking her. James panics and goes on the run. Police eventually catch up with him and a pursuit ensues. With nowhere to go and the law hot on his trail James seeks refuge in a small church, where unknown to him, a Pastor and his two daughters, Elizabeth Jand her sister are cleaning up after the evening recital. A standoff with the pursing officers quickly escalates into a hostage situation.

The King’s Mercy by Lori Benton (June 4, 2019)

The King's Mercy: A Novel  -     By: Lori Benton

Release date: June 4, 2019

Author: Lori Benton

Plot summary: When captured rebel Alex MacKinnon is granted the king’s mercy – exile to the Colony of North Carolina – he’s indentured to Edmund Carey as a blacksmith. Against his will, Alex is drawn into the struggles of Carey’s slaves and those of his stepdaughter, Joanna Carey. Joanna is expected to wed her father’s overseer, Phineas Reeves, but finds herself drawn instead to the new blacksmith. As their unlikely relationship deepens, successive tragedies strike the Careys. When blame falls unfairly upon Alex he flees to the distant mountains where he encounters Reverend Pauling, a preacher and prisoner of the Cherokees. Haunted by his abandonment of Joanna, Alex tries to settle into life with the Cherokees, until circumstances thwart yet another attempt to forge his freedom and he’s faced with the choice that’s long hounded him: continue down his current path or embrace the faith of a man like Pauling, whose freedom in Christ no man can steal. But the price of such mercy is total surrender, and perhaps Alex’s very life.

The Farmer and the Belle (summer 2020)

The Farmer and The Belle Poster

Currently being filmed

More Info

Writer(s): James M. De Vince, Reuben Evans, Billy Falcon, Betty Sullivan,
Bob Sáenz

Director(s): Wes Llewellyn

Producer(s): Joel Bunkowske, Jenn Gotzon Chandler, Jim E. Chandler Terry Chase Chenowith, George D. Escobar, Isaac Hernandez, Chip Lane

Starring: Corbin Bernsen, John Schneider, Amy Sutherland, Jenn Gotzon Chandler, Natasha Bure, Jeff Rose, Delilah, Henry Cho, Jim E. Chandler
Roxzane T. Mims, Livi Birch, Beckah Shae

Plot Synopsis: This film seeks to show young girls that their worth is not based on their appearance, fame, social followers or money, but is instead found when you treat one another with love, honor, and respect. Told through a hilarious Christmas story inspired by real events.

As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

Plot & Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Susan Meissner’s recent novel shows a deep understanding of how people of different personalities think and act, along with an accurate and touching portrayal of familial interaction. As Bright as Heaven is not a typical historical novel, nor does it fall into the usual pitfalls of illness-based storylines. In short, it is a refreshing look at how people in history were not all that different from people today. Pauline and Thomas Bright are a happily married couple living in Quaker-town who have just suffered the loss of their youngest child Henry – a heart donor could not be found. His death has in turn made Pauline open to Thomas taking up his Uncle Fred’s offer to learn to take his place as the owner of his mortuary. The remaining Bright children – Maggie, Evelyn (Evie), and Willa, have mixed feelings about the move, but eventually decide to go along for the ride. When the Brights arrive in Philadelphia they quickly settle into their new roles to fill the void Henry left behind. Thomas works directly with Fred to prepare dead bodies for burial, Pauline does hair and makeup to make the deceased presentable at funerals, and the girls balance school and their social lives. Pauline deals with Henry’s absence by becoming rather obsessed with “Death”. In her mind she has continual debates with this figure and questions many aspects of life. Maggie quickly becomes interested in Jamie – the boy next door – and plans on following her mother’s footsteps in caring for the dead. Evelyn is quiet, reflective, and always tries to find a way to serve others – she is the most responsible of the sisters. Willa is very self-absorbed and cares more about her social life than succeeding in school. On the whole, things are going well for the Brights…until war threatens to tear them apart. The Spanish flu, the Great war, and extraordinary circumstances will change their family forever. Meissner’s creative plot integrates many psychological and philosophical elements that make for a very unique read. While at some time the plot seems morbidly realistic, it is based off of true historical events. Overall, it has a very good character-driven storyline reminiscent of The Book Thief. One critic pointed out that the novel’s biggest weaknesses are “stark realism offset by unreasonable optimism,” and the “denouement” that ties up all loose ends. I must say that I agree with this assessment. A novel such as this needs an ending that leaves much to the imagination. (spoiler) Furthermore, the questionable relationship between Evie and Conrad drags down the plot quality. However, the errors here could be fixed on the big screen, so Meissner rounds out with slightly below an average score in this section.

Character Development (3 points)

The strongest part of this novel is the extremely well-done first-person perspectives on crisis events and other happenings. Pauline, Maggie, Evie, Willa, and Uncle Fred have clearly defined personalities and tendencies – a fact which adds much to an otherwise melancholy storyline. While Thomas and Jamie are somewhat two-dimensional because they comes in and out of the plot, they are also good characters. Meissner did well to focus most of her attention on her main characters, a fact that is evidenced through the way one forgets that this is a book and not the story of a real family. The minor characters are also better than usual for a historical novel and have clear personalities. The only error to note here is that towards the end of the novel it feels like things happen to the characters for the sake of extending the plot. In spite of this, Meissner earns just short of a perfect score in this section because the errors therein could be easily fixed in movie/series form.

Creativity & Originality (1 points)

Finally, Meissner has managed to craft a creative historical novel that is neither boring nor commonplace. Therefore, she earns a full point in originality for her attention to character development. As Bright as Heaven would make a great TV miniseries similar to the famed Anne of Green Gables miniseries. If the screenwriter (hopefully Ms. Meissner) changed the ending so that it left more to the imagination, and tidied up the unnecessary parts of the story to fit into concise episode form, this book could change the face of Christian historical film.

Wish List Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Mystery 101 Movie (coming in 2019/2020)

mystery 101 wcth crossover

Coming in 2020 from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

Writer(s): Robin Bernheim, Lee Goldberg, John Christian Plummer

Director(s): Blair Hayes

Producer(s): Jamie Goehring, Kristofer McNeeley, Marybeth Sprows Robyn Wiener, Shawn Williamson

Starring: Kristoffer Polaha, Jill Wagner, Erin Krakow? Pascal Hutton? Kevan Smith?

Plot summary: This film follows detective Travis Burke and college professor Amy Winslow as they travel through time to solve crimes. This, the second movie in the series, is rumored to feature crossover scenes with the When Calls the Heart franchise.

What Mainstream Period Dramas Got Right

Many Christian audiences love period dramas, so why hasn’t a Christian filmmaker made one yet? In the past decade, budding and established screenwriters have proven that a a period drama doesn’t need sensationalism to be good. In other words, a tasteful storyline with superior character development is the name of the game. Instead of only creating movies for niche audiences or confining stories to certain genres, Christian filmmakers need to branch out and dare to be different. Here at BOR, it is our opinion that this is the only way Christian movies can breach the secular/inspirational divide and be just as good as the competition – while promoting an important message. To start off, let’s take a look at a few exceptional period dramas that got it right.

Little Dorrit (2008)

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Andrew Davies’ depiction of Charles Dickens’ little known story, Little Dorrit, is a nearly perfect series on all counts. Davies brought the semi-boring original storyline to life by writing character-driven story that held the audience’s attention. From the first episode to the last, the story holds the viewer’s attention and causes the audience to fall in love with – or dislike – each character as they are, for neither group is all good or bad. Arthur and Amy’s complexly interwoven story is well-established through the use of flashbacks and engaging dialogue. Finally, while the ending is somewhat predictable, it is done in the best way through a healthy serving of ironic humor. Therefore, there are two main things Christian filmmakers can learn from this series.

Make your characters the first priority!

As a screenwriter, your characters should come alive on the page or they will never be engaging on-screen. From here, the screenplay should add further depth to already well-crafted characters. Throughout the remainder of the work, casting, filming, editing, etc., the characters should be give the first priority at all time. If your characters are good, then in this case, a pre-established storyline will follow their lead.

Please, don’t waste time on ‘filler’ dialogue.

Every conversation between the characters needs to be meaningful. Audiences are smart and will become easily bored with generic dialogue between characters. Make your dialogue count – the audience will recognize the difference.

Emma (2009)

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Sandy Welch’s depiction of Jane Austen’s posthumous work, Emma, is unsurpassed. Welch brings the characters to life by crafting excellent dialogue and clear personalities. Additionally, her humorous characters drive the plot and make this adaption stand out from it’s counterparts. There are not many good British comedies, but this is one of them. While Emma has many lessons for filmmakers everywhere, there is one big statement that Welch and company make in this series:

Devote ample time to discerning/crafting the personality of each character.
Each character in a story needs a clearly defined personality, even down to the minor characters. There should be no such thing as a one-dimensional character. Emma proves that developing a character’s personality brings a new level of depth and meaning to everything that happens in a story. There is much that goes into developing multi-dimensional characters, but developing a clear personality is a good start for any filmmaker.

Commit to finding a cast member that is perfect for each role

For every well-written story, there are actors out there who are perfect for the corresponding roles. In Emma, it is clear that time was devoted to finding cast members who were perfect for each role. Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller are strong leads because their portrayals of Emma and Mr. Knightley drive the plot. Because of the strong cast, this depiction of Austen’s novel is the best to date. In Christian film, there is a need for stronger casting. If your cast is bad, your movie will not be successful and will reach no one. If Christian filmmakers ever hope to one-up their competition, they must be devoted to their characters from start to finish.

Doctor Thorne (2016)

Julian Fellowes’ depiction of Anthony Trollope’s little-known book Doctor Thorne is both brilliant and engaging. Fellowes’ combination of excellent character development and witty dialogue makes for a clean, enjoyable comedy/drama that is palatable for all ages. Additionally, his subtle parody of social politics in high society adds much to the simple storyline. While there are many lessons to be learned from Fellowes’ screenwriting, he makes two main statements in this series.

Self-awareness is the key.

Fellowes demonstrates through this series that a simple storyline does not limit a film’s potential. Today’s audiences appreciate subtle parody and self-aware humor, both of which are found here. Gone are the days of stiff and awkward theatrical acting and vanilla storylines – so please, stop using them. Recent Christian films have raised the bar higher than ever on acting skills and dialogue expectations. A perfect story has both joy and sadness, pain and peace, humor and lasting lessons – and a really good ending.:)

Respect the intelligence of your audience.

Audiences do not need obvious cues and product placements to understand the message of your story. Once again, subtlety is the name of the game. However, subtlety and loss of meaning should not go hand in hand, rather, subtlety should be used to establish meaning. For instance, in Doctor Thorne, much of the run-time is devoted to developing a real romance between Mary and Frank. Additionally, there is no Pureflix-style message-pushing. Preachy dialogue and a forced agenda disrespects your audience and isolates people that could have been reached by the heart of your message (if it had one). The Erwin brothers have proven that a real message reaches everyone instead of a select group.

In light of all this, what can we conclude? Simply this: mainstream content is more far-reaching and influential than most Christian films because, for the most part, good mainstream screenwriters adhere to these guidelines and others. If Christian movies start respecting their audiences and portraying real people in their storylines, then their love for others will prove to the world that they are Jesus’ disciples (John 13:35, New Living Translation).

M.B.F. (coming in 2020)

Coming in 2020 from Collective Development Incorporated

Writer(s): DJ Perry

Director(s): Anthony Hornus

Producer(s): Melissa Anschutz, Debbie Thomey Bennett, Deborah Bennett
David Gries, Shane Hagedorn, Anthony Hornus, Rebecca Lawlor, John Mashni, DJ Perry, Nathan K. Robertson, Dean Teaster

Starring: Don Most, Tim Abell, DJ Perry, Melissa Anschutz, Christine Marie Dean Teaster, Garry Nation, Kimberly Harsch, Shane Hagedorn, Sammy A. Publes, Robert Henline, John DeMarco, David Gries, Lauren LaStrada
David Michael Reardon, Austin Two Feathers, Walker Fairbanks
Robert Bradley, Greg Mason, Anthony Hornus

Plot summary: An engaging tale that shows the parallels between the treatment of wounded military veterans and ‘last chance’ shelter dogs.

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay (May 14, 2019)

The Printed Letter Bookshop  -     By: Katherine Reay

Release date: May 14, 2019

Author: Katherine Reay

Plot summary: One of Madeline Cullen’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened Madeline’s heart toward her once-treasured aunt-and the now struggling bookshop left in her care.While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. Reeling from a recent divorce, Janet finds sanctuary within the books and within the decadent window displays she creates. Claire, though quieter than the acerbic Janet, feels equally drawn to the daily rhythms of the shop and its loyal clientele, finding a renewed purpose within its walls. When Madeline’s professional life takes an unexpected turn, and when a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. She begins to envision a new path for herself and for her aunt’s beloved shop-provided the women’s best combined efforts are not too little, too late. This will be Reay’s latest romantic standalone novel. I hope it turns out to be more than a save-the-bookshop-and-fall-in-love-with-the-local-gardener tale.

Lost Heart (coming in 2020)

Coming in 2020 from Collective Development Incorporated

Writer(s): DJ Perry

Director(s): Jesse Low

Producer(s): DJ Perry

Starring: Melissa Anschutz, more TBA

Plot summary: Hannah, a burnt out, mega-music star, returns to her small Northern Michigan hometown of Lost Heart, for her estranged father’s funeral. There she will confront the ghosts of her past and perhaps find her peace and balance once again.

Then Sings my Soul by Amy K. Sorrells

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Author’s Note: We were provided with a review copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Sorrell’s recent novel, Then Sings My Soul, is a mixed bag with a lot of potential. The novel has a parallel storyline that features the Ukrainian genocide of 1904 and the American culture of the 90’s. This plot device is very effective because it shows the effects that past events have had on the characters’ present condition(s). Jakob, a recent widower in his nineties, is forced to reexamine his life when his wife dies suddenly. His lifelong avoidance of God and traumatic past are brought to the forefront as death becomes a present reality instead of a distant idea. However, he continues to fight the demons that have plagued him for so long. Nel, Jakob’s daughter, is a middle-aged hippie who has never married. Nel has been mostly estranged from her parents for many years – she followed her dreams at the expense of her relationships. When she arrives back home for her mother’s funeral, she is shocked to find her father much aged and in poor health. She soon discovers that his ‘forgetfulness’ is actually dementia, and that he is haunted by memories of the past. Jakob lives in denial of his failing health – until an accident lands him in a nursing home. Nel’s visit at home becomes an extended stay, during which she will have to face her past decisions. Will Jakob let God heal his brokenness and give him peace? Will Nel discover the love and acceptance she’s always been searching for? To answer these questions, read the book!:) Sorrell’s plot and storyline are the strongest parts of her novel because they hold the attention and share an important message of healing. Furthermore, her character’s experiences draw attention to some important social issues. However, the plot is imperfect because it contains two errors. First, Jakob’s past is explained quite well, but is sometimes choppy and hard to follow. Second, the social issues therein sometimes feel alarmist or sensational. This is because more attention is given to shock and awe than character development. Additionally, it is my opinion that Jakob’s nursing home experience could have been portrayed in a more tasteful way (see Francine Rivers’ Leota’s Garden). Therefore, as this novel has both pluses and minuses, Sorrells earns an average score in this section.

Character Development (1.5 points)

The character development in this novel leaves room for improvement. Jakob is the best character because his arc is consistent, meaningful, and portrays the healing power of Jesus Christ. However, the reader has little to no emotional connection because his story is told in third person. First person is what was needed here. This is because third person storytelling in this genre isolates the audience to a black and white perspective – there is no room for gray. First person leaves more room for independent reader decisions, not to mention more than one perspective on an issue/issues. Nel shows much potential as a character, but she is one-dimensional and her part of the story is choppy. Finally, the minor characters add little to the story and needed more development. However, there is much to work with here, which is why I believe this story would come across better on the big screen.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Finally, Sorrells earns a half point in originality for her unique use of a parallel storyline and a half point in creativity for her realistic portrayal of post-war trauma through a child’s eyes. For these reasons, I believe that this novel could make an interesting historical miniseries that focused on Jakob’s lifelong trauma that resulted from his childhood experiences. The screenwriter could fix the character development issues by making the screenplay first person from Jakob’s perspective. Additionally, a miniseries structure would leave more room for the further exploration and development of Nel’s character. We here at BOR continue to hope that Christian filmmakers will recognize the potential found in Christian novels such as these. Good job Ms. Sorrells, I think you have a lot of good ideas that would translate well to the big screen.:)

Wish List Rating: 5 out of 10 points

How to Lose Someone in 60 Seconds: Hallmark-Style

It’s that time again…Witty Wednesday!

This edition’s scenario:Let’s say that you’re a big business guru in the inspirational card-making, trinket-selling, and all around entertainment industry. Let’s say that someone who works for you is suddenly caught in the midst of a massive scandal. Someone…..someone….like this:

Who did something like this:

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As a big public figure, you can’t very well condone their actions, even though you may agree with some or all of them. So, what is one to do? Oh, I don’t know, the first thing that comes to mind is to put them in a box, then put that box inside of another box, and mail it to yourself. And when it arrives:

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You’re right! We must consider other options…I know! You could BANISH them from the face of the earth!

A third option, just for the sake of variety, would involve you stripping away all social/personal/any remote connections you had with said person and exposing their personal life to public criticism! HAHAHAHAHAHA….

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NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
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Her reaction: ^

However, if none of these options are appealing, you could start them on the path through a knock-down, drag-out, long, over-complicated, and never-ending court case!

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But wait, I know! The best thing to do here is combine all of these ideas into one for the ultimate showdown/elimination of said person from the face of the earth.

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Well, that pretty much sums up how to lose someone in 60 seconds…Hallmark-style.;)

Disclaimer: Please consult your lawyer or another legal authority before trying any of the above suggestions, we are not a legal representative and the above strategies are not to be considered as legal counsel.

The Heart of a King by Jill Eileen Smith

Image result for the heart of a king jill eileen smith

Author’s Note: We were provided with a review copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Jill Eileen Smith’s newest novel is unique in many ways and is overall a great portrayal of the life of King Solomon. While the novel is imperfect, it stands out among many works of Biblical fiction for being both honest and relatable. The opening chapters introduce the reader to Solomon, a young man who lives in his father’s shadow and longs to be named co-regent. In the midst of his struggle to climb the political ladder, he runs into a young woman named Naamah who he has not seen in five years. Naamah is a somewhat spoiled and willful Ammonite woman whose one desire is marriage to Solomon. Despite her flaws, Naamah worships Yahweh rather than the gods of Ammon, and believes that love can overcome all obstacles. Solomon and Naamah are wed and soon have a child together – Rehoboam. However, Solomon’s increasing desire for political alliances leads him away from his first love and in many different directions. Abishag is a young virgin who cared for King David until his death. She is devout in her worship of Yahweh and seeks peaceful relationships with others. Now a king, Solomon marries her for reasons both of love and political advantage. Following this marriage, he goes on to wed Siti, princess of Egypt, the queen of Sheba, and many other women. Will Solomon’s wisdom prove to be a blessing or a curse? To answer this question, read the book!;) This plot holds the attention quite well from beginning to end, and is punctuated with creative musings of The Teacher that became the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes (King Solomon). Smith tastefully weaves passages from Song of Solomon into the story and uses them to shape Solomon’s personality and relationship choices. Furthermore, Solomon’s chaotic personal life and wrong choices are portrayed in a realistic manner. The main flaw here is that the five main characters – each with their own story – make for a bit of a choppy read, especially in the second half of the novel. Additionally, the ending, although well done, feels a bit rushed. However, this remains the best fictional work of King Solomon’s life that I have read to date, therefore earning the storyline an above average rating.

Character Development (3 points)

Smith’s character development is the strongest part of her novel because it demonstrates her clear understanding of different personalities and tendencies among people. Solomon is the best character because his arc slowly develops throughout the novel and is punctuated with a creative look at poetry and philosophical musings he actually wrote. Additionally, his rationalization of disobedience and distrust of God’s promises are relatable and add much to the storyline. Naamah’s character is quite good at first, as is Abishag’s, however, both women feel left unfinished. In contrast, Siti has a clearly defined personality, and Smith’s queen of Sheba is unique and realistic. The only other flaw to mention here is that Naamah and Abishag have a somewhat choppy arc. In spite of these flaws, Smith’s portrayal of court politics and royals using one another is quite good and would make a great Bible miniseries. Therefore, Smith earns an above average score in this section.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Finally, Smith earns a full point in creativity for weaving Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon into her story in such a way that the Biblical accounts and her fictional story are interdependent upon one another. The flaws that exist in this novel are mainly a result of it being a standalone work. It is my opinion that these errors could be corrected on the big screen by breaking the novel up into a miniseries. This series should focus on one character at a time and eventually tie their stories together to make for better continuity. It is our hope that Christian filmmakers will recognize unique Christian novels such as these for their potential, and act on this realization soon. Good job Ms. Smith! Your creativity is much appreciated!

Wish List Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

VeggieTales: God With Us (October 2019)

Coming to TBN and DVD release October 2019 from
TBN and Big Idea Content Group 

Writer(s): Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki,

Director(s): Todd Waterman

Producer(s): Tom Newman

Starring: Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki, Lisa Vischer, Dan Anderson, Kristin Blegen, more TBA

Plot summary: Bob and Larry and the entire VeggieTales crew bring a fresh and new story of the promise of Christmas. This is the first in a line of all new and original VeggieTales episodes that will be released on the TBN channel and DVD through 2021. These include a nine-episode series on the fruits of the Spirit, as well as new adventures starring LarryBoy and the League of Incredible Vegetables. 

Fearless Faith (coming in 2019)

Currently in post-production

Writer(s): Mark E. McCann, Kevin Rushing

Director(s): Kevin Rushing

Producer(s): Chuck Howard, Kevan Otto, Brandon Riley, Keith Rushing, Tim Warren

Starring: Erin Bethea, Ben Davies, Jason Burkey, Deborah Tucker, Benjy Gaither, Todd Terry, Chance Gibbs, Keith Rushing, Scott Fulmer, Chris Alan Evans, James R. Frey, Sean Morehead, Ben Graham

Plot Synopsis: Haunted by the death of his partner and tormented by the horrors he sees every day, a sheriff’s deputy begins to question his faith and ask how God could allow such tragedies to happen.

When Calls the Heart, Season 6 (May 2019)

erin krakow, kavan smith, jack wagner

New episodes of WCTH are returning May 5 and 6, 2019, season 6 will continue to air on Sundays

Season 6 Revision Info

Writer(s): Brian Bird, Michael Landon Jr., Kevan Smith, Jack Wagner

Director(s): Brian Bird, Michael Landon Jr.

Producer(s): Brad Krevoy, Brian Bird, Michael Landon Jr., Alfonso H. Moreno, Neill Fearnley, Eric Jarboe, Susie Belzberg, Michael Shepard, Jimmy Townsend, Annie Brunner, Derek Thompson, Elizabeth Stewart, Lori Loughlin, Erin Krakow, Amanda Phillips Atkins, Vicki Sotheran, Greg Malcolm

Starring: Erin Krakow, Lori Loughlin, Pascale Hutton, Jack Wagner, Kavan Smith, Mark Humphrey, Erica Carroll, Carter Ryan Evancic, Eva Bourne, Chris McNally, Kevin McGarry, Rob Estes, Jocelyn Hudon, Morgan Kohan, Aren Bucholz, Martin Cummins

Plot Synopsis: Following Jack’s tragic, yet heroic death, Elizabeth finds comfort in her good friends Abigail, Rosemary, and the rest of those air-headed females whose names escape me at the moment. Michael Landon Jr. has finally filled his father’s large shoes by creating a romance-ending-in-husband’s-death-and-wife’s-convenient-pregnancy plot. As if this isn’t enough, the characters will find a way to inject each and every episode with feel-good platitudes, without forgetting to emphasize at every possible occasion that Elizabeth is a single MOM. Plus, there is the exciting and totally unexpected news that Elizabeth has not one, but two new love interests! Sigh, which one will she pick!?!?!?!

Our prediction:

Marcus Rosner Picture

Dedicated Hearties are looking forward to more of the same old thing, non-Hearties are looking forward to more mindless humor, and critics everywhere can’t wait for the many opportunities this season will bring for Hallmark parodies.