A smooth and ultimately redemptive Christian historical tale.

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THE SOUL OF A STRANGER

An injured English nobleman assumes a new identity under the care of a ministering angel.

Celich’s richly atmospheric debut novel opens in the early 1800s with a funeral: The third earl of Hartwell has suddenly died, and one of those standing in the rain as he’s installed in the family vault is his heir, William Devreaux. William’s sadness is compounded by two things: First, he seethes with the knowledge that his father scorned his wastrel gambler’s life in London. And second, he’s tense with guilt because his father almost certainly caught his fatal illness from his visiting son. The combination makes inheriting Ashbourne Park a nightmare that the young fourth earl is desperate to escape. But when he and his horse are caught in a storm and accidentally ride off a cliff, William is badly injured. He wakes up in a strange place, being watched over by a group of concerned, kindly strangers in a Staffordshire village. The band is led by a compassionate young woman named Charissa Armitage, who initially infuriates William by praying devoutly for his full recovery. His leg injury is severe enough to keep him bedridden for weeks as the unexpected guest of the religious woman, her aunt, and Sir Godfrey Scrivener, the owner of the estate, who has every intention of making Charissa his wife. Confronted with this world so different from both the one back at Ashbourne and the one he left behind in London, William suddenly yearns for a new start, deciding to concoct a false name and background. Celich skillfully draws out the story of William’s coming to a new understanding of himself—and his growing attraction to Charissa’s simple faith. The novel’s Christian undertones are subtly done, and the author does a wonderfully accomplished job of incorporating her research about the Regency era without ever making it heavy-handed. Her concentration is far more weighted toward the sparring personalities of her main characters, who are very convincingly sketched. Readers of Regency romances should find a welcoming world in these pages and hope Celich writes another novel soon.

A smooth and ultimately redemptive Christian historical tale.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-973600-82-4

Page Count: 282

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS

These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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