If I Were You by Lynn Austin (June 6, 2020)

If I Were You: A Novel  -     By: Lynn Austin

Release date: June 6, 2020

Author: Lynn Austin

Plot summary: In the wake of the war, Audrey Clarkson leaves her manor house in England for a fresh start in America with her young son. As a widowed war bride, Audrey needs the support of her American in-laws, whom she has never met. But she arrives to find that her longtime friend Eve Dawson has been impersonating her for the past four years. Unraveling this deception will force Audrey and Eve’s secrets―and the complicated history of their friendship―to the surface.

Legacy of Mercy by Lynn Austin

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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 (3.5 points)

Lynn Austin has caught her second wind in this second installment of her Waves of Mercy series. Reminiscent of great novels like her own A Proper Pursuit, this plotline brings back warm, familiar memories of stories gone by, and builds upon the foundation she has set for herself as an author. In the first novel of the series, Waves of Mercy, I was afraid her talent was waning. However, I am pleased to say that Austin is back and better than ever. Legacy of Mercy tells the continued story of Anna (Anneke), Geesje, and Derk, along with some new characters that add much to the story. Anna has returned home from visiting her fiery and deeply spiritual grandmother – whose existence she has only just become aware of – and returned to a busy social schedule full of meaningless obligations and events. Now that she has discovered the true meaning of life, to love, serve, and worship her loving Savior, everything else seems inconsequential. Anna feels uneasy about her impending wedding to William, a young man from a rich family whose fortune will save her parents from bankruptcy, and is unsure if this action is worth the cost. However, she resolves herself to marry him despite the whispers of her conscience – for her parents sake. In the mean time, she has hired the Pinkerton detectives to search for records of her deceased mother’s life. (spoiler) This decision, however, soon opens a Pandora’s box of painful information and buried memories, and may cost her everything she knows. Geesje, Anna’s grandmother, feels like she has been parted forever from a granddaughter she only just met, because she has no idea when or if Anna will return. She is not left alone for long, for almost at that very moment someone shows up at her door to request that she take in a needy young woman who has recently emigrated from the Netherlands. Geesje agrees to do it, mostly because she remembers her own experience as a young woman in a new land. Cornelia, her new companion, is in poor health, reclusive, and equally angry and sad. Geesje struggles to reach the hurting young woman, and wonders if her cause is hopeless. Meanwhile, Derk is secretly in love with Anna and doesn’t know what to do because she is engaged. He feels unworthy of her love because he is only a seminary student and cannot give her the wealthy lifestyle she is used to. All of these people are, in some way, hurting. They must each allow God to direct their steps in order to find healing and help. The plot and storyline quality of this novel is phenomenal. There are no major errors, and the story is very engaging and poignant. Austin covers many difficult topics well and displays a deep understanding of people who are hurt by the church. The only flaw I could find was that the ending of the novel is a bit predictable. However, this experienced author has proven that her star-studded career is not ending anytime soon.

Character Development (4 points)

As per usual, Austin’s characters are flawless. Those in this novel seem to have been developed with special care, as each character has extremely relevant flashbacks and real emotions. Austin avoids the information dump style of writing by giving even the secondary characters first person flashbacks. Additionally, her unique style of first person keeps the reader in the know without being overly wordy. Anna, Geesje, and Derk are all perfect. Furthermore, Cornelia is masterfully crafted. In short, this story will touch the lives of many people. Austin earns a well done from this author for adapting her trusty writing style to reach younger generations and hurting people. 

Creativity & Originality (1.5 points)

Finally, Legacy of Mercy is a rare sequel that is better than the prequel. Where Waves of Mercy was wordy at times and a bit too depressing, this novel jumps on to the scene with a good mix of laugh-and-cry moments that will touch the hearts of many readers. For this reason, Austin’s newest novel earns a full point for creativity, and a half of an x-factor point in originality for building upon the character models and plot devices found in A Proper Pursuit. This is why I believe this book series would make a great Christian TV series. Step aside WCTH, here’s a real historical romance that will minister to real people and influence the culture for the better! If more Christian authors would write like Austin, we would soon see a blessed change. 

Wish List Rating: 9 out of 10 points

The Refiner’s Fire Series by Lynn Austin: A Light to My Path

A Light to My Path (Refiner's Fire, #3)

A Light to My Path is the third and final installment in Lynn Austin’s landmark Refiner’s Fire Series. Where in the previous novels Austin showed the perspective of two women involved in the Confederate and Union sides of the Civil War, in this novel she tells the story from the perspective of a man and a woman who are bound in the abominable trade of slavery. The novel deals with subjects such as slavery, discrimination, cruelty, adultery, the Civil war, the results of this same war, freedom, captivity, bravery, hope, grief, pain, joy, and more. The opening chapters introduce the reader to the two main characters, Grady and Anna. Anna was born into slavery, yet she always tries to find the joy in life. Grady was born out of wedlock as a result of the pleasure the master finds in Grady’s mother, who is a slave. As a child Anna was spared from working in the fields when Missy Claire, whose parents own the plantation, took a fancy to her personality. Anna is called Kitty by the white people who live in the big house, and is trained to be house slave. On the whole, Anna does not hate the white race, but also does not enjoy her life of servitude. Grady spent his childhood playing with young Caroline (a character in Candle in the Darkness), and is technically not a slave…until his own father, the plantation owner, sells him into slavery. This act leads Grady to his hatred of and bitterness against the white race. Grady is forced to serve a cruel slave trader until Providence smiles upon him and he is gambled away to a kind master. When his new master begins to court Anna’s mistress, Missy Claire, Anna and Grady meet. Grady notices right off the bat that Anna’s mistress treats her like a pet; an animal that can be trained to serve. This fact enrages him…and yet…he is drawn to Anna’s gentle nature. Following the marriage of their owners, Kitty and Grady fall in love. However, they will find that the upcoming war will set the stage for the rebuilding of their broken lives. This is my favorite novel of the series, and I think that if a filmmaker had to pick between the three books, they could make a standalone film out of this novel only. However, I still think that the three books together could make a compelling Christian miniseries. We here at Box Office Revolution continue to long for the day when filmmakers will recognize novels such as these for the potential that they have to be great.

Where We Belong by Lynn Austin

Lynn Austin’s latest novel, titled Where we Belong, is a historical romance that tells the tale of the lives of two sisters and their struggle to stand out in a culture that favored men over women. The novel discusses subjects such as life struggles, love, Christianity, world religions, evolution, theology, world travel, wealthy families, death, grief, tragedy, natural disasters, troubled teens, poor families, and much more. The opening chapters of the book introduce the reader to the two main characters, Rebecca, who likes to be called Becky, and Flora Hawes. Becky and Flora are partners in crime, so to speak, wherever Becky goes, Flora follows eagerly. Becky has always been fascinated with world cultures and world travel, while Flora enjoys both the experience of travel and the quiet tranquility of staying at home. The sisters lost their mother at a young age, and have since been raised by their patient and caring father, who also happens to be wealthy. After a misadventure in their hometown, Becky and Flora convince their father to take them on a trip to France. Their experiences there will only fuel their desire to see the world. However, this desire is brought to a screeching halt when, on the journey home from France, their father falls for the desperate, destitute widow named Mrs. Worthington. Becky sees right through her false pleasantries in the beginning, but Flora is inclined to give her a chance….much to Becky’s dismay. It is not long before the widow takes over nearly every aspect of their lives…at least, that’s how Becky sees it. From suitors who care more about money than love to endless etiquette lessons, Becky feels stifled and enslaved to the widow’s demands. She longs to travel the world, but is held back by commitments at home. It takes the death of their beloved father, and her new fiance’s sudden desperation to marry sooner than planned, for Flora to agree to Becky’s urging to tour the Middle East. The trip proves to be an eye-opening experience in many ways, and the outcome will determine the future of Flora’s love life and the realization of Becky’s dreams. From here the book, in my opinion, spirals downward as it tries to cover a huge portion of the sister’s lives, including the backstories and current lives of two young people who are impacted by the sister’s influence, another international trip that the sisters take with these same young people, the perils therein, and more. Herein lies the main issue that I have with this book; the sheer vastness of the content that Austin tries to cover in one novel. This story should have been divided into a book and a sequel, or even a trilogy, for there is ample content to support either option. I found the weak points of this novel to be unusual for Austin as a writer. In the past she has always taken the time to develop the characters and the heart of the story, even if some plot elements had to be sacrificed. However, in this novel she sacrificed the heart of the story for the sake of covering content and tying up every loose end. At the very least, she could have left some endings to the imagination, but no, every story was brought to a close. Nevertheless, this novel would make a great Christian miniseries, as it would give the writer the opportunity to split up the content and make each plot point more meaningful. This may seem astonishing to some, but it is my opinion that this book would have been better portrayed on the big screen in the first place. Therefore, even though this is not Austin’s best book, it can still be a great Christian miniseries or film series. Maybe a filmmaker will recognize this and other novels for the potential they have….or maybe not…

The Refiner’s Fire Series by Lynn Austin: Fire by Night

Fire by Night (Refiner's Fire, #2)

Lynn Austin’s talent as a writer shines in this second installment of the Refiner’s Fire series. The book is aptly titled Fire by Night, and can be considered as a historical epic, as it weaves true events together with fiction to create an engaging read. The novel deals with subjects such as the civil war, socialites, average Americans, respect, conflict, grief, perseverance, nurses, soldiers, turmoil, and how two people’s lives can be intertwined by Providence to influence the world for the better. The opening chapters of Fire by Night introduce the reader to the two main characters, a wealthy young socialite named Julia, and a young woman from a rural community named Phoebe. Julia is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Her parents want her to marry well and raise a family, and while Julia does not want to hurt them, she has dreams of her own. Julia wants to be a nurse, something unheard of in women of her social standing. Her family is completely against this dream, and tries all the harder to persuade Julia otherwise. Eventually Julia strikes out on her own and, through a few well-placed alterations of the truth, becomes a nurse. She finds that caring for wounded soldiers is both fulfilling and exhausting, but in the end, Julia is certain that nursing is what God has called her to do. There’s just one problem, Julia is unintentionally falling in love with a cantankerous doctor who does not return her affections…or does he? Similar to Julia, Phoebe is also faced with a difficult decision. All of Phoebe’s brothers are going off to war, and, being a tomboy herself, she feels that she should be allowed to go. Her strong will at last drives her to a decision, she will disguise herself as a man and join the ranks of those fighting for freedom. The disguise proves effective, and it does not take long for Phoebe to earn her place among her comrades. However, Phoebe will soon learn that concealing her identity is nearly impossible, especially when one finds themselves on the firing end of a rifle…..Will Phoebe be discovered? Will Julia be able to come to terms with her true feelings…and continue to fulfill her calling? To answer these questions, read the book! This book would make an excellent part two of an Inspirational/Christian miniseries. However, as the characters in this novel are unrelated to those in the first, it could also make an excellent standalone historical epic film. Maybe Christian filmmakers will discover this series……and maybe they will continue to make simplistic films with little meaning……I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

The Refiner’s Fire Series by Lynn Austin: Candle in the Darkness

Candle in the Darkness (Refiner's Fire, #1)

Lynn Austin has always been a talented Christian author, but in the Refiner’s Fire series her talent and passion really shines, captivating the reader and attaching them to her novels forever. All dramatic descriptions aside, this series is likely her best, matched only by her Chronicles of the Kings series. In this trilogy, Austin takes a gritty and honest look at slavery, and includes enough historical content to make the tales believable. The first novel, titled a Candle in the Darkness, deals with subjects such as slave owners, upper class white families in the civil war era, abolitionists, political pressure, duty, honor, war, grief, total surrender to God’s will, broken families, broken relationships, maltreatment of individuals, and more. The opening chapters of the novel introduce the reader to Caroline Fletcher, a shy and somewhat awkward young girl who is meeting the expectations of her family by taking classes at a prestigious school for white Southern girls with rich families who usually own slaves. Caroline has never been very good at making friends her own age, instead preferring the company of her family’s slaves. She finds comfort in and learns Biblical truths from a elderly man named Eli who lives in her family’s slave quarters. His friendship helps her through school and other childhood milestones. Caroline is continually torn between family duty and her own beliefs throughout her entire life. As a child, she witnesses the heart-wrenching pain of her nursemaid, Tessie, when her father sells Tessie’s son Grady to new owners. She cannot help but feel that selling and mistreating individuals is wrong, but does not know how to help the situation. Caroline’s cousin Jonathan is the only person with whom she can speak openly about slavery. By the time Caroline becomes a woman, she is able to see flaws on both sides of the argument about slavery. Her comrades in Philadelphia preach abolition, but seem to personally know few, if any, people of African descent. Her relatives in the South are entirely for slavery, and refuse to hear anyone else’s opinion on the matter. These factors, among others, lead to the Civil war. During this time, Caroline will find that she must fight to put God before those that she loves. Her entire world will be torn apart, and she must decide to follow God no matter the cost, or follow the crowd. To find out what happens to Caroline, read the book! I think that the Refiner’s Fire series would be a prime candidate for a Christian miniseries, as it has the depth and heart to be as good or better than the famous Anne of Green Gables miniseries. Ah, someday Christian filmmakers will recognize the potential found in Christian novels such as these.

Lynn Austin’s Waves of Mercy

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Waves of Mercy is the latest installment by the renowned Christian author Lynn Austin. While certainly not her best novel, it does bring a new element to Christian fiction that is not usually seen. This novel explores the deep corners of one’s mind, the memories that we cannot explain, nor forget. Keeping with her traditional historical romance genre, Austin attempts to add a few twists and turns to her per-usual plot-line, and partially succeeds. Other reviews of this book disliked the amount of tragedy that one of the main characters experienced, alluding that Austin was a bit melodramatic in this novel. Yet another reviewer commented that he thought this book was similar to another of her books, indicating that she reused a past plotline, except with new characters. I don’t think that Austin was melodramatic in this novel, I think that she provided a realistic depiction of how hard life was for early American settlers. While she could have been a bit more original with her plotline, I appreciated that she was trying to draw in younger audiences by using a slightly different writing style in this book. Waves of Mercy deals with subjects such a hardship, death, tragic occurrences, grief, loss, bitterness, lost souls, secrets, anger, forgiveness, salvation, and adoptive families. The opening chapters of the novel introduce the reader to the three main characters, a young woman named Anna Nicholson, an old woman named Geesje de Jonge, and Geesje’s “nephew” Derk Vander Veen. Anna Nicholson is a young woman haunted by nightmares and suppressed memories. For as long as she can remember the same nightmare has haunted her dreams, especially during times of stress and anxiety. When she was a child her parents could explain it away, but now Anna is an adult, and she still suffers at the hands of her own mind. Anna has perfect life on the surface, rich parents, a pampered lifestyle, the perfect fiance, and an upcoming wedding that many girls can only dream of. However, there is a pesky little voice whispering in her ear that all is not right. Anna wonders why she feels so empty and alone, and goes searching for the answer. She finds love and acceptance at what she calls the “castle church”, a place very different from the cold, indifferent walls of her family’s church. However, her fiance does not approve of the Jesus that this church preaches, and forbids her to return if she expects to marry him. Confused and hurt, Anna journeys with her mother to Michigan for a time of rest and regrouping. Geesje de Jonge is an old woman who has seen and been through more in her lifetime that any human being should be expected to endure. Through it all, the mistakes, the wrong choices, and the insurmountable grief, Geesje has managed to hold onto the one thing that is stable in her unstable life, her faith in Jesus Christ. Derk Vander Veen is a young, aspiring minister who has just broken up with his fiance because she disapproved of his chosen profession. He finds comfort and encouragement in the loving arms and endless cookies supplied by his beloved Aunt Geesje. Learning of her own difficult experience with life and love, he encourages Geesje to write down her experiences so that he can read them and learn from her mistakes. Reluctant at first, Geesje begins to write, and finds both release and healing in letting go of the weight of the past. The end of the novel draws these three characters together in an unexpected way, making the novel as a whole more interesting. To find out the exciting conclusion….read the book!;) I think that Waves of Mercy would make a great Christian film in the right hands. With a little editing and some creativity, this novel could go places as a film. Then again, all the books that I have reviewed thus far would be great Christian movies….if someone would recognize them…..:)

Lynn Austin’s: Wonderland Creek

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In the past I have mentioned that Lynn Austin is an excellent and widely-read author of superb Christian fiction. However, I have not mentioned that she has many little-known books that would make excellent Christian films. While not much can beat her landmark novel, A Proper Pursuit, she has many selections that come close. One of these is the book Wonderland Creek, Austin takes on a different setting with this book that you will not find in her others. This book has always been one of my favorites, partly because of it’s eccentric charm, and partly because of it’s well-developed characters. Wonderland Creek deals with subjects such as backward mountain communities, librarians, truth, lies, life lessons, romance, action, mystery, and everyday adventure. The opening chapter introduces the reader to a young woman named Alice Grace Ripley. Alice has loved books for as long as she can remember, and while reading fiction is hardly a crime, Alice has begun to unknowingly believe that her beloved stories are the guidelines for real life decisions. Alice has it all, the storybook boyfriend, a loving family, and a comfortable job as (what else?) a city librarian. However, that is all about to change. Alice’s boyfriend becomes increasingly frustrated with her obsession with fiction and accuses her of living in a fictional world. They argue, and eventually decide to part ways. Confused and hurt, Alice turns to her books for comfort, only to discover that they make her more unhappy. She makes a last-minute decision to take a trip to the mountains of Kentucky to deliver donated books to a small community there. While there Alice will discover that the real world is a far cry from what one can find in a storybook, and that life, love, and commitment are concepts that she has never fully understood. Will Alice ever find her Prince Charming? Will she gain a correct perspective on the world of non-fiction? Most importantly, will she discover the Creator of every good and perfect thing? To answer these questions, read the book!:-) Wonderland Creek would make an excellent romantic comedy in the hands of a good writer/director. It would require an excellent casting job, strict adherence to the original plot, and superb production quality. Once again I will say that there are many Christian novels, like Wonderland Creek, that can and should be on the big screen. I can’t wait for the day when filmmakers realize the potential found in Christian novels such as these.

Hidden Places [2006] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Eliza Wyatt, a young frontier widow, is still trying to pick up the pieces after her husband died and left her and her two children with an apple farm to run.  She has no one to turn to except her wise friend Aunt Batty, that is, until a mysterious hobo named Gabe Harper suddenly appears on her land.  Thanks to Aunt Batty, Gabe begins working on the tree farm despite Eliza’s suspicions of him.  But little by little, she begins to open up her heart to both Gabe and God as time starts to run out for her farm.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Hallmark has rarely shirked their responsibility to craft quality productions, but Hidden Places is a step above the norm for them.  Video quality and camera work are flawless.  Audio quality is great, although the soundtrack is stock.  Most importantly, outdoor scenes are filmed well in authentically historical sets and locations.  Props are also authentic.  Really the only complaint to raise here pertains to editing, as there are too many useless scenes while some seems are cut too short.  Otherwise, this is a respectable production that should be the norm in Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Lynn Austin is clearly one of the best Christian authors in the field, yet Hidden Places is not her best book.  While this film correctly captures her undeniable character development and great dialogue it’s still a stereotypical save-the-farm plot combined with a frontier romance story involving a young widow.  However, the viewer can appreciate the struggles of the characters and their deep back stories, as well as this film’s strong Christian message.  Yet the plot is still based on too many coincidences.  There is some missing off-screen content as the story rushes through some parts while lagging at others.  Finally, the end is too predictable and simplistic compared to the rest of the plot.  In short, while this is a mostly enjoyable movie, it seems like it could have been more.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This is a professional cast compared to other Hallmark frontier casts, mostly because costuming is kept realistic and low-key.  Emotions are believable and line delivery is on point.  The child actors and actresses are better than usual.  However, this cast is held back from being all that it could be by too much mediocrity.  In the end, it is a great effort, but once again, it seems like there could have been more.

Conclusion

Cramming the depth of Lynn Austin characters and storylines into ninety minutes for the sake of a TV movie simply does not work.  Though she is clearly a talented writer, she needs to be unleashed from the confines of Hallmark and her plots need to be allowed to unfold progressively rather than forcefully to stay within the allotted runtime.  However, there’s no denying that Hidden Places is an enjoyable film and many will find it so.  But next time, please please please choose a different Lynn Austin novel (see our Box Office Wish List column 😉 to bring to the big screen and let it be all that it’s meant to be without confining it.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points