I love to request free books to review. In fact I subscribe to two review sites: Book Crash and Book Rooster, but sometimes I have the privilege to review a book by an author I know or one who is brave enough to contact me for a review.
Jacalyn Wilson emailed me recently asking if I’d would review her Christian romance/mystery book Heaven’s Mountain (Heaven’s Mountain Trilogy), part of a trilogy she has self-published through KDP. I was intrigued by the idea of a Christian murder mystery, though I’m not fond of romances. Still, as with In The Aerie of the Wolf by Leonora Pruner, I do my best to read the book in light of what a romance reader might enjoy.
Here is the description of Heaven’s Mountain (Heaven’s Mountain Trilogy):
On the possibility that an innocent man remains imprisoned for a murder committed thirty years ago, newspaper reporter Grace Turner embarks on a dangerous pursuit of the real killer. Her journey to the idyllic setting of Heaven’s Mountain turns out to be a quest not only for the story of a lifetime, but also for the emotional and spiritual healing of old wounds. Though attracted to handsome Ethan MacEwen, Grace subdues her desire for the young preacher, knowing that her animosity for the church precludes the possibility of anything more than friendship. Still, by the caprice of circumstance, when she finds herself obliged to work closely with him to uncover the truth, Grace discovers that her carefully constructed walls of protection cannot withstand the all-encompassing love of God.
If you don’t want to know about anything specific that happens in the book, please skip to The Overall… section.
There were two really good things about this book: 1) a thought-provoking Christian message on living a Christian life of forgiveness, and 2) a smart heroine.
If you’ve read my bio, you know I’m a former minister. Jackie’s message of how and why to forgive the church hit home for me, as I’m sure it can for many others who have left congregations because of things Christians have said or done. I found myself often pausing and considering the questions posed in the book on who is hurt by someone carrying a grudge.
Even through Grace’s unintended spiritual quest, she does a great job keeping her head on straight when faced with questionable circumstances. For instance, when a young friend calls to tell her he’ll give her the murder weapon if she will meet him at an abandoned mine at night, she immediately says no. He manages to change her mind, but she makes sure people know where she’s going. That’s smart. A lot of times in books, movies, and TV shows the heroine doesn’t bother, leaving me yelling at the woman and wanting to quit reading/watching right there.
Writers are always hearing the mantra “show, don’t tell.” While there’s plenty of showing in Heaven’s Mountain, there’s also a lot of telling. At times the reader is left outside the story, watching what’s going on, but not feeling it with the character. An example would be during the characters’ passage across a dangerous old bridge. Although I knew the scene would have been a terrifying experience, nothing in the characters’ actions made it seem so. If anything, it seemed as if this was nothing more than a Sunday picnic to them.
There’s also a bit of head-hopping during scenes. Sometimes a scene will begin with one character’s point of view and then will, within a sentence or two, jump to another’s POV. This can be a bit jarring, but it’s not a deal breaker.
I also felt the romance part took longer than necessary to tie up. There are several chapters after Grace and Ethan are rescued from the mine in which we see them on a date, speaking with family and friends regarding their feelings toward each other, etc. before the book ends with an epilogue. These were unnecessary chapters. I understand the need to show the two characters didn’t just jump into a heavy relationship the next day, but I think readers can figure that out on their own.
If you’re looking for a good, clean romance with a few thrilling scenes and with characters who make reasonably good decisions, I think you will enjoy Heaven’s Mountain (Heaven’s Mountain Trilogy).