These four novels are set in the 19th century United States and include themes of families, faith, love and politics. Longer reviews are online at www.deseretnews.com/faith/mormontimes.
"A NATION DIVIDED, Vol. 1: Storms Gather," by Robert Marcum, Covenant Communications, $24.99, 406 pages (f)
Robert Marcum is no newcomer to the realm of historical fiction, but his newest work, "Storms Gather," strides into an era he has never engaged before. Set in the 1860s, this newest tale follows a fledgling nation into the throes of civil war circling the subject of slavery.
After their mother's death, Randolf and Elizabeth Hudson are left to manage the family steamship business in St. Louis. Although weighed with grief at the loss of their second parent, Mrs. Hudson's passing allows Lizzy and Rand to openly return to their Mormon beliefs, which had been forbidden after the family fled Nauvoo.
As the siblings plunge into new spheres in life, each comes face to face with the evils of the slave trade.
As the new head of the family business, Rand is confronted by a malevolent group looking to use his ships to further their secessionist cause. His work to promote freedom and protect lives is assaulted on every side by evil men desperate to silence him.
While visiting Virginia, Lizzy is confronted with the realities of slavery as well. Lizzy is torn between the feelings she has for Andrew, the plantation owner's son, and standing up for what she knows is right.
This book, the first in Marcum's "A Nation Divided" series, is a finely crafted work. But while the characters are moral and honorable, they are also beautifully flawed, leaving the story with an aching reality.
While Marcum painstakingly researched the time period, he did not let his characters override the history surrounding the story.
— Melissa DeMoux
"A BANNER IS UNFURLED, Vol. 5: No Greater Love," by Marcie Gallacher and Kerri Robinson, Covenant Communications, $24.99, 308 pages (f)
For Marcie Gallacher and Kerri Robinson, creating their "A Banner is Unfurled" series has been a labor of love. As the final installment, "No Greater Love," is presented to audiences, the authors' devotion to this project is very apparent.
"No Greater Love" continues the Johnson family's saga as each branch of the family moves independently to settle with the early Saints of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
As a ragged band of weary Mormons begins to colonize the malarial swamps of Nauvoo, Ill., sickness and despair grip the Saints. Members of the LDS Church succumb to illness and pain and the Johnson family is no different. Threatened with disease, anger, chastisement and apostasy the brothers and sisters of this devoted family are forced to make difficult decisions.
With faith pushed to the limit, each member must choose whether to continue in conviction with the church they have helped to build or whether to turn aside and fall away from the Lord.
With more than 20 people just in the immediate Johnson family — many with duplicate names — the story sometimes becomes muddled. However, because the book follows the lives of real people, there isn't a feasible way around that issue.
That said, Gallacher and Robinson have woven a dynamic story that melds the early history of the church with the lives of their beloved ancestors in a creative and entertaining way.
— Melissa DeMoux
"BEYOND THE WHITE RIVER," by Kristen McKendry, Covenant Communications, $14.99, 197 pages (f)
Kristen McKendry's latest novel, "Beyond the White River," is set in late 19th century Mustang, Wyo.
Seven years ago, Faith Frisbee left Mustang, running from a situation she didn't know how to face. But her father's death and a determination to confront her fear bring her back to claim the family farm. Even though she comes accompanied by eight young boys who were placed in her care, the single men line up to help the attractive young woman work her farm. But when their romantic intentions are spurned, they all suddenly have better things to do on their own farms — that is until Joe Condie comes to town.
Joe's first attempts to strike up a friendship with Faith at their Mormon ward meetings or activities are met with icy politeness. But he persists in offering his friendship and assistance. In spite of herself, Faith eventually acknowledges his sincerity and warms up to his courteous and persistent advances. However, before she consents to marriage, there is a secret she must share.
Although it is a fairly predictable romance with a murder mystery thrown in, the author tells a good story with likable characters that keeps the reader turning the pages.
— Rosemarie Howard
"THE HEIRS OF SOUTHBRIDGE," by Jennie Hansen, Covenant Communications, $15.99, 200 pages (f)
In a place that should have been a refuge, Southbridge plantation holds some painful moments and secrets, for young Clayton and his brother Travis. On a day that should have been filled with family love and support at the loss of Kathryn, mother of the two boys, a family feud erupted instead.
But the bad blood will not be stilled, and now two boys and their father must try to survive as fugitives while living as cowboys.
Clayton has an unfulfilled desire for a strong and stable family. His father is now dead, and Travis has left his life to follow his own path. The loneliness is more than he can bear, so he seeks out his roots.
On a visit to Southbridge, a now-adult Clayton is greeted with a loaded gun and a family who will stop at nothing to own Southbridge as Clayton finds another obstacle in claiming his heritage and finding peace in his weary heart.
Jennie Hansen's "The Heirs of Southbridge" will transport readers right into the past and stir powerful emotions through the tragedies and triumphs of the family. Hansen does briefly introduce a character who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
— Becky Robinette Wright