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review 2020-06-18 05:15
A River to Cross Review and GIVEAWAY!

About the Book


Book:  A River to Cross

Author: C.L. Smith

Genre:  Biblical Fiction

Release Date: November, 2017

Although human eyes see only a river separating Israel from the Promised Land, primordial powers of darkness are determined to prevent a crossing that will change the world.

In the thrilling sequel to Balaam’s Curse, Acsah, Othniel, Jonathan and their friends sort through the rubble of the Midianite war for pieces of the simple and innocent life they’ve lost. But there is no going back. While nearly drowning in personal rivers of disappointment, grief, and fear, they hardly notice the Jordan River slowly rising to an impassable, raging torrent. By the time they do, Moses is dead. Yahweh has made it clear that Joshua is his chosen replacement, but the people have little faith that this hesitant man can lead them into Canaan.

To bolster confidence, Joshua sends Salmon and another young spy across the river in a reconnaissance mission that plunges them into a world where evil prowls in broad daylight and death waits in the darkness. They escape the depraved city of Jericho only by the quick thinking of a Canaanite girl who risks her life in exchange for a promise of rescue. Now her life and the future of the world depend on crossing that river.

Click HERE to get your copy!

About the Author


C.L. SMITH, former missionary and junior high English/history teacher, has been captivating audiences around the world for years with the timeless thrill of biblical tales. Now in her retirement years she is writing The Stones of Gilgal biblical novels. The books weave her lifetime love of learning and people into the fabric of obscure ancient texts, creating an unforgettable tapestry of rich scenes and colorful characters.

The narrative unfolds from the viewpoint of six minor biblical characters who experienced the miracles and mayhem of the era of Joshua (stories recounted in the last half of Numbers through parts of Judges) bringing this ancient world to life. This deeply-researched telling, of old stories makes them new again and relevant to our world today. She has completed three of six books in the series. The books are chronological, each adding layers to our understanding of the characters and their life situations, but each book can be enjoyed as a story complete within itself.

Learn more at www.stonesofgilgal.com

More from C.L. Smith



  • tried reading Old Testament stories and wondered why such violence is found in the Good Book?
  • heard anyone say, “I like Jesus, but the God of the Old Testament seems so blood-thirsty and vengeful”?
  • wondered how Joshua’s army—slaughtering whole towns because God told them to—was different from ISIS and other militant religious armies today?
Have you ever wished you had good answers for people who ask those questions?

Imagine a story that deals with those questions and reads like the high adventure of an epic fantasy novel. Well, you don’t have to imagine. The Stones of Gilgal novels tackle those tough questions.

 A River to Cross is the second book of The Stones of Gilgal series––but plunge right in! Each book can be read as a story complete within itself.

Background from book one: The children of Israel celebrate their arrival at the border of Canaan, their long-awaited Promised Land. But the evil prophet Balaam has been hired to stop them. His plot turns their joyful celebration into a nightmare. Balaam’s Curse threatens the very existence of God’s people on earth, leads to the death of the last of the Exodus generation, and leaves their children reeling.

Setting for book two: The crisis is past. Acsah, Othniel and friends begin picking up the pieces of their shattered lives. Their parent’s generation is gone, but against all odds, they survived the rebellion, plague, and war initiated by Balaam’s Curse. Like a loving grandfather, Moses gathers his people together for his final words. He reviews the covenant law and appoints Joshua as their new leader. The people grieve the loss of their mountain of strength. But inspired by the passion of his farewell speeches, the people look to the future with fiercely bright hope. They will cross the Jordan and claim their inheritance. What could possibly go wrong?

The Characters

Six of the major characters in this series are minor but real people found in scripture. They all came of age during the era of Joshua, experiencing the transition from the Wilderness Wanderings to finding a home in the Promised Land. They all crossed the Jordan, witnessed the fall of Jericho and the sun standing still at a word from Joshua—life-changing events shaping them for leadership roles as mature adults in the book of Judges.

  • Othniel, who becomes the first hero-Judge of Israel––Judges 3:7-11
  • Acsah, only daughter of the heroic Caleb––Judges 1:12-15
  • Rahab, the courageous Canaanite harlot not only saved by faith but honored with a place in the lineage of King David and Jesus Christ. Joshua 2
  • Salmon, prince of the tribe of Judah, future husband of Rahab––only found in genealogies: Ruth 4:18-22, Matthew 1:5
  • Phinehas, grandson of Aaron, warrior of righteousness and future high priest––Numbers 25, 30, Joshua 22, and Judges 20,
  • Jonathan, grandson of Moses––Judges 17-18
  • Plus Abihail, fictionalized daughter-in-law of the biblical Achan, Joshua 7

    My Review

    “The point I want to make now, however, is that we must wait for God to call us to leadership. Perhaps, my impetuous act delayed the rescue of God’s people by forty years. When we do what makes sense to us without consulting him, we usually deceive ourselves and go contrary to his will. God will use you someday for something great, something worthy of your talents. Wait for him to make the path clear to you.”

    Through The Stones of Gilgal series, C.L. Smith has become another one of my favorite Biblical fiction authors. What I love most about the genre is that, when done well, it provides insight into some of the background of the Bible, illuminating the customs and cultural practices of the era and hopefully leading to further understanding of God’s Word. Sometimes reading the Bible stories that have become so familiar to us in a fictional context can cause us to consider details that we may not have before, and to truly connect with the Biblical figures, considering their emotions and reactions anew. This, in turn, helps us to make connections with others in the world around us, which is increasingly important in these days of division and unrest. Most importantly of all, these fictional works should point us back to and renew our desire for the Bible itself.

    Book two of The Stones of Gilgal, “A River to Cross”, focuses on the Israelites as they prepare to enter Canaan, the land of milk and honey that the Lord has promised them as their inheritance. However, the times are anything but easy. Following “Balaam’s Curse” (see my review HERE), the Midian war has left a scar on the Israelite tribes, and there is foreshadowing of more trouble to come. Author Smith engages readers with Joshua’s promotion to leader and the wicked Canaanite city of Jericho, offering with meticulous detail   her interpretation of how these stories may have transpired. She does so while retaining the historical authenticity of each story, often incorporating Scripture quotations directly into the text, and making each encounter exciting and interesting.

    As with book one, “A River to Cross” consists of multiple viewpoints, which are designated by the character’s name at the beginning of each section. The first three chapters, especially, introduce (or re-introduce) a multitude of figures, and I will admit that I did have difficulty with this initially. I had some difficulty keeping track of the more minor characters and would have benefited from a character list at the beginning of the book or even a genealogy. I am not skilled with remembering names, however, so this may just be my own personal issue, and I do appreciate that Smith employs third-person narration throughout, which helps to prevent confusion. She also skillfully interweaves direct Scripture into the narrative, as with Moses’ farewell speeches. Reading about the emotional reaction that the people had when Moses announced that Joshua would be the one leading them across the Jordan was eye-opening. I do not think that I have ever really considered the emotional impact that this and other situations had. Likewise, my heart went out to Acsah and Jonathan as I read. My favorite part of this book is the story of Joshua’s spies, Salmon and Jathniel, and Rahab, and how God worked in their circumstances to save them from destruction. Of the three, Rahab’s story is especially powerful.

    While this book can be read as a standalone, I would highly recommend reading the series in order, as they are intended to be read in tandem, and the characters and storyline overlap and continue forward. This is a clean book, but I would recommend it for mature readers because it contains adult themes, including allusions to rape, fight scenes, and brutality. Nevertheless, it depicts how God is always working behind the scenes of our lives, just as He was for the children of Israel thousands of years ago, to bring us hope and a future as He promised.

    I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

Blog Stops


Inklings and notions, June 16

Blossoms and Blessings, June 17 (Author Interview)

Batya’s Bits, June 17

For the Love of Literature, June 18

Emily Yager, June 19

Betti Mace, June 20

Older & Smarter?, June 21

Library Lady’s Kid Lit, June 22

Artistic Nobody, June 23 (Author Interview)

Mary Hake, June 23

Texas Book-aholic, June 24

Through the Fire Blogs, June 25 (Author Interview)

She Lives To Read, June 26

deb’s Book Review, June 26

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, June 27

A Baker’s Perspective , June 28 (Author Interview)

For Him and My Family, June 29




To celebrate her tour, C.L. is giving away the grand prize of a $50 Amazon gift card!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.


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review 2020-04-10 07:00
Eden Review and GIVEAWAY!

About the Book


Book:  Eden

Author: Brennan S. McPherson

Genre:  Biblical Fiction

Release Date: April 1, 2020

“You want me to tell of how I broke the world.”

It’s the year 641 since the beginning of the world, and when Eve passes away, she leaves Adam the only man on earth who remembers everything from the beginning of the world.

When Enoch, God’s newly appointed prophet, decides to collect the stories of the faithful from previous generations, he finds Adam in desperate need to confess the dark secrets he’s held onto for too long.

Beside a slowly burning bonfire in the dead of night, Adam tells his story in searing detail. From the beginning of everything, to how he broke the world, shattered Eve’s heart, and watched his family crumble.

Will Enoch uncover what led so many of Adam’s children away from God? And will Adam find the redemption and forgiveness he longs for?

Click HERE for your copy.

About the Author


BRENNAN S. MCPHERSON writes epic, imaginative biblical fiction with heart-pounding plots and lyrical prose, for readers who like to think biblically and feel deeply. He lives with his wife and young daughter in the Midwest, and spends as much of his spare time with them as possible.



Read an Exclusive Excerpt


In my beginning was not darkness, but Light.

As I opened my eyes for the first time, I saw dust motes swirling around five bright points. I reached for them and realized the dust was not blowing past me but instead settling across the complex shapes in my arms.

Distracted, I twisted my wrist, seeing muscle, tendon, bone, and a partial layer of skin. Clenching my fingers one by one, I saw the movement in my joints.

Fascinated, I watched as a swathe of dust poured over me like a sheet of silk and morphed into smooth, brown flesh. I ran my fingers across my new skin, and when the sound of shifting sand settled, noticed what sounded like gentle Music riding on the breath that flowed into me.

I inhaled.


Inhaled again.

“Adam,” I said, for I had heard that name—my name—in the Music.

I realized that my Father was singing over me, and in his singing, he had given me life and form, and had named me Adam.

He smiled at me, with those dark brown eyes, and let soft melodies fall from his tongue as I lay on my back.

He lifted me from the mud and burned the remaining dust from my skin with the heat of his presence. But he did not hurt me as a natural flame might. Instead, he filled and cleansed me. And the joy of him filled me with an insatiable desire to experience everything around me, to understand the world he had sung into existence.

I’ve never since felt so whole as I did with him in Eden. Because inside me was nothing that did not belong. Only him, and the breath he gave, and the Music he sang, and the smells of Eden, and the touch of his Light, and the taste of his name on my lips as I spoke for the second time. “Father.” I smiled and laughed.

He stood magnificent, warm, compassionate. The image of the invisible condensed in a life foreknown before the foundations of the world were formed.

I felt his pride over me and laughed again, only now with tears.

My first moments were not like those of a newborn child come from a womb. Instead, they were of a child gone into the womb. Swaddled in the Light of God. Cocooned in his satisfaction.

I was Adam. Man fully formed. Reflection of perfection.

In joy, I fell to my hands and knees and bowed my forehead to the ground. Tears flowed to the soil I’d been formed from. How great! How wonderful this being was who had made me for himself, and who so unendingly satisfied me. Nothing I’ve experienced in my long years could ever make me forget it. That sense of purpose. Of everything being right.

Ah, yes. I see wonder on your face, Enoch, at how tears could be present in a world yet unbroken by sin.

Have you never wondered why the kiss of a lover can bring tears to our eyes? It is because some goods are so great that they must be given vent. For not all tears spring from sorrow. And not all aches are unwanted.

Yet still, my Father lifted me and wiped my cheeks. Then he led me across hills and valleys, puddles and rivers. He pointed at plants and skittering animals and insects, and it seemed as though I could hear the echo of his melodies in their movements.

My Review


Over the past couple of years, Biblical fiction has become one of my favorite genres—but only when it’s done well. And that is where it becomes thorny, and where it sinks or swims. The key to writing Biblical fiction is twofold: illuminating the Word without adding anything to it or contradicting it, and causing readers to think more about the Bible and to want to study it more deeply. This is especially important when writing about Biblical accounts themselves, as opposed to fictional characters who lived during Biblical times. Suffice it to say, succeeding is very difficult. In spite of this, however, Brennan McPherson excels at crafting Biblical novels that stem from the original Bible stories and that take readers on thought-provoking journeys into the heart of God’s Word.

“Eden,” Brennan McPherson’s latest Biblical fiction novel, approaches the story of the first couple in a unique manner. Told from Adam’s point of view, McPherson employs the mise-en-abyme technique. Thus, instead of a detached third-person account, the story is related by Adam himself to Enoch. This infuses untold emotion and empathy into what is for many a very familiar story. Adam relates, “I was Adam. Man fully formed. Reflection of perfection,” a description that stood out to me because it reminds me that we are all created in God’s image. In the novel, God appears in human form in the Garden, and this is one aspect that I’m not entirely comfortable with; I’m not sure if I can accurately articulate what bothers me about it, but I have issues with how God’s character is portrayed in these passages. I think that what I struggle with is not so much how God appears, because of course He later in history comes to earth as a man to ultimately die for our sins, but some of His actions. Adam notes His reticence as the event of the fall approaches, and how at various times He has expressions of regret or unhappiness on His face. While I agree that He would of course have known that the fall was going to happen, I personally do not think that He would have allowed this foreknowledge to taint the time He spent with Adam and Eve.

While reading, many things caused me to stop and ponder, which is, again, a mark of well-written Biblical fiction. Adam observes in hindsight that God taught him and Eve everything they would need to know in order to survive after being cast out of Eden. There are also some beautiful descriptions of life with God in Eden before the fall, which in my mind prefigure the face-to-face relationship that we will have one day in God’s Kingdom. On the other hand, from the time of her creation, there seems to be tension between Eve and Adam, and this intensifies after they leave Eden. Adam describes fallen human nature by relating that “Everyone strives to blame another for sin, but sin is inside us. Sin is the purposeful twisting of our hearts to anything other than our original Father.” Indeed, this brought up another point; in this novel, Adam is hated and heavily criticized in the story for “breaking the world.” For some reason, this surprised me; I never considered that he would be treated almost as an outcast among his own family, because today I think that most of us acknowledge the fact that we all sin and fall short of God’s glory, but to bear the blame for all of humanity’s fallen-ness would be tortuous. It is another example of God’s great love for us, that Jesus took our blame, our sin upon Himself.

McPherson has added some commentary at the end of the book; it takes readers through Genesis 1-4, upon which “Eden” is based, and explains some of the choices that the author made in writing this story. The note about Cain and Abel is one that I also found interesting, but I will leave that to readers to discover on their own. I will say that I am intrigued by the author’s view that some level of pain may have existed in Eden based on the phrasing of some of the Biblical text. While much of the story itself is somber and forlorn, there is a thread of hope, just as God has placed in the very first chapters of the Bible. Throughout the heartaches and strife that comprise his life after Eden, Adam eventually comes to a peaceful conclusion: “He realized then that the Father’s will had not been broken by his evil, yet was still coming to be.” Because God had a plan from the very beginning and nothing ever takes Him by surprise, we can always rest confidently in Him, knowing that He holds all our yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows, and that when we accept Jesus as our Savior, we have the promise of an eternity with Him, free of pain and suffering, to look forward to, a glorious promise that shines brightly in the darkness.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.


Blog Stops





To celebrate his tour, Brennan is giving away the grand prize package of a “McPherson Publishing bundle”, which includes the following books: a copy of Flood, Babel, the three Psalm Series novellas, and The Simple Gospel book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.


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review 2020-03-27 06:30
Balaam's Curse Review and GIVEAWAY!

About the Book

Book:  Balaam’s Curse

Author: C.L. Smith

Genre:  Biblical fiction

Release Date: 2016

Unfathomable evil grips the ancient homeland of the Children of Israel. When Yahweh, Most High God, led his people out of slavery in Egypt to confront it, they failed miserably and spent the next forty years wandering homeless in the desert. Now they are ready to try again. But before they can cross the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land, the prophet Balaam is summoned from Babylon to stop them. Joining forces with supernatural powers, he unleashes a plot so twisted that the name of Balaam is used as a synonym for seductive evil a thousand years later in the Book of Revelation.

Aided by the ruthlessly ambitious Princess Cozbi, the prophet gathers a coalition of five Midianite kings who will stop at nothing to defeat Israel and prevent a crossing that will change the world. Balaam’s Curse, Book One of The Stones of Gilgal, is an epic telling of the resulting deception, revolt, plague, and war. Familiar biblical characters—Moses, Caleb and Joshua—stride through this tale of mayhem and miracles. But this is the coming-of-age story of the next generation, young people nurtured in a simple wilderness life who suddenly find themselves caught in a vortex of violence and upheaval beyond anything they could have imagined.

Click HERE to get your copy.

About the Author


C.L. Smith, retired junior high school English and history teacher, former missionary, and lifetime student of the Bible, has been captivating audiences around the world for years with the timeless thrill of biblical tales. More than twenty years ago while reading the books of Joshua and Judges, Othniel caught her attention and then his future wife, Acsah. They are only mentioned in a few short verses, but there were a lot of possibilities embedded there. They lived through an exciting era peppered with some other fascinating minor characters of the Bible. The more she thought about them, the more it seemed they were begging her to tell their story. Well, Acsah was. Othniel didn’t say much. He’s pretty quiet. But they convinced her that their impressive and important story had been buried too long among the spectacular events of the time of Joshua. It was about time someone told it. The idea for a biblical novel quickly grew into The Stones of Gilgal series. Balaam’s Curse was published in 2016, A River to Cross in 2017, and Trouble in the Ruins in September, 2019.

More from C.L. Smith


The light of God’s love dispels the darkness obscuring the era of Joshua and the violent conquest of Canaan. Be inspired by this epic series of biblical novels illuminating the murky mists of ancient time with truth applicable to modern life.

Balaam’s Curse

The first book of the series plunges the reader into a nightmarish tale of terror instigated by an evil prophet from Babylonia. If you think you remember the story of Balaam and his talking donkey from Sunday School, think again. When God puts words of blessing in the prophet’s mouth, thwarting his attempt to curse Israel, Balaam joins forces with supernatural powers in a scheme so twisted that his name is used as a synonym for seductive evil a thousand years later in the Book of Revelation.

Forming a coalition with five Midianite kings and the ruthlessly ambitious Princess Cozbi, the evil prophet unleashes a deadly plot against the twelve tribes of Israel. He will stop at nothing to prevent them from crossing into the Promised land to claim their inheritance. This is a gripping tale of the seduction, revolt, plague, and war that traps the Children of Israel in the Valley of Acacias east of the Jordan for months. Well-known Biblical heroes—Moses, Caleb and Joshua—stride through its pages, but the story unfolds primarily through the eyes of the next generation, young people born and nurtured in the simple wilderness life of the forty-year Wanderings. Suddenly, on the brink of their new life in the Promised Land, they find themselves in a life or death struggle that tests their strength and batters their faith before they’ve even crossed the river.

The Story Behind the Story

This series of biblical novels began with a new interest in Othniel, the first of the biblical hero-judges. His love story with Acsah and his heroic adventures are summarized in only a few words of scripture, but I saw a lot of possibilities embedded in those brief verses. Digging deeper, I realized that Othniel and Acsah came of age during the turbulent era of Joshua along with a handful of other fascinating minor biblical characters. The more I thought about Othniel, Acsah, and friends, the more I was convinced that their impressive and important story had been buried too long among the spectacular events of the time of Joshua and it was about time someone told it. The result is the six-part Stones of Gilgal saga showing how the obstacles overcome in their youth shape each character for their ultimate roles in the story of the settlement of Canaan. The series ends with Othniel rising to save Israel from an oppressive enemy as the first and most noble of the hero-judges.

The Dark Side

The Stones of Gilgal saga includes several “tales of terror,” dark episodes standing in juxtaposition to some of the Bible’s most dazzling miracles. I see these stories as dark and light puzzle pieces, making sense only when viewed within the framework of the Great Cosmic War. Whether read as ancient history or truth-teaching myth, these incidents are chapters in the epic story of the entire Bible, a good God working to save humanity from the forces of evil.

The Characters

Six of my characters are minor but real characters found in scripture who lived during the era of Joshua, experiencing the transition from the Wilderness Wanderings to the Promised Land. They all crossed the Jordan, witnessed the fall of Jericho and the sun standing still at a word from Joshua—life-changing events that prepared them for leadership roles in the book of Judges.

  • Othniel, who becomes the first hero-Judge of Israel
  • Acsah, only daughter of the heroic Caleb
  • Phinehas, grandson of Aaron, future high priest
  • Jonathan, grandson of Moses whose story appears in Judges 17-18
  • Salmon, prince of the tribe of Judah, who appears only in genealogies as the husband of Rahab
  • Rahab, the courageous Canaanite harlot not only saved by faith but honored with a place in the lineage of King David and Jesus Christ.
  • Plus Abihail, fictionalized daughter-in-law of the biblical Achan

My Review


Thus far this has been an incredible year for Biblical fiction! Tessa Afshar’s “Daughter of Rome”, Connilyn Cossette’s “Like Flames in the Night”, Brennan McPherson’s “Babel” (2019, but I read it this year) and “Eden”, and now “Balaam’s Curse” by C.L. Smith. It is a blessing to see more and more Christian authors approaching Biblical fiction without compromising God’s Word. When done well, it encourages the reader and reinforces or perhaps even introduces the Biblical text, inspiring deeper study of the Word. Such was the case for me with “Balaam’s Curse.”

This year I am following a YouVersion Bible reading plan that consists of daily readings from both the Old and New Testaments, and therefore the foundation of this novel is one that I’ve recently read, making my reading experience all the more enjoyable. One technique that I recognized Smith employing early on is referencing other Bible stories that would already have occurred prior to the setting of Balaam’s and thereby demonstrating that the ancient Israelites were aware of previous Biblical history. Similarly, the fact that Moses is recording the Israelites’ journey out of Egypt and through the wilderness further displays the accuracy and eternal longevity of God’s Word.

Told through multiple viewpoints, “Balaam’s Curse” chronicles a fictionalized account of the prophet Balaam, whose story appears in the Bible in Numbers 22. In Smith’s fictional account, Balaam has spoken blessing over the Israelites rather than cursing them, and now he pledges himself to Baal in order to get rid of God’s people so that they cannot enter the Promised Land. Othniel, Acsah, and Rahab all have parts in this saga, as do more familiar characters such as Moses, Caleb, and Joshua, offering readers a panoptic view of this seminal point in the history of God’s people. Ephesians 6:12 encompasses the overall theme of this novel, and it repeatedly came to mind as I read: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” As such, while there are certainly some disconcerting scenes in this book, it is important to remember that other gods such as Baal are false gods and are not real, but the evil of our true enemy, the devil, is very real. Despite the power struggles between good and evil in this story and in our lives today, we need to remember that God is good and that He will always prevail; our victory is already secure in Christ’s sacrifice for us.

A few details that I appreciated and would like to call attention to are the simple map at the beginning of the book, which really helps readers to visualize where the events are occurring, and “The Family of Nations descended from Terah” family tree and List of Characters found at the end of the story. These resources are a great help in understanding the story and in making further Biblical connections. Nevertheless, “Balaam’s Curse” is highly readable and, while containing supernatural elements that may be disturbing to more sensitive readers, is an excellent work of Biblical fiction that explores the transition time between Israel’s 40-year wilderness wandering and their entry into the Promised Land.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.



Blog Stops





To celebrate her tour, C.L. is giving away the grand prize of a $50 Amazon gift card!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.


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text 2020-03-14 04:00
Connilyn Cossette Author Interview March 2020


Like Flames in the Night, book 4 in the Cities of Refuge series, released on March 3!


You can order your copy HERE.


Author Connilyn Cossette has graciously provided answers to some reader questions to explain her writing process and talk about the end of the Cities of Refuge series.



How long does it take you to edit a book and how do you begin?


The editing process is fairly complicated because there’s a lot that goes into my editing process from the beginning. I am a bit of a perfectionist, so it’s pretty difficult for me to write a messy copy and then leave it be. So I usually will write a scene and then edit it the next day before I move on to the next chapter. I will also often send my chapters to my writing partners which will usually require another round of editing and then once I’m finished with a manuscript I will do one more full edit before I sent it to my editors. Then there are three rounds of edits before it goes to print, one in which I read the entire book out loud to myself (or in the case of LFITN, my daughter). So all that to say, I can’t really pinpoint how long it takes a book to edit fully but once I turn in my manuscript to Bethany House it is about a year before it lands in your hands.


Who was your favorite character (or the one you most resonate with) and why?


In regards to the entire series, I would have to say Moriyah because I got to know her as a young girl and was able to follow her journey all the way through becoming a great-grandmother. She has been the foundation of all of the stories within the cities of refuge and she will just always be one of my very favorites. Don’t tell the others. For Like Flames in the Night, I’d have to say Liyam because he was just a blast to write, such fun to put through the wringer, and I just loved how his character arc developed!


Did anything surprise you in this story as you were writing?


I have to say that the length of the story was what most surprised me. There were no plans for it to be longer than the others but just due to the nature of the plot and also because I wanted to make sure that all the loose ends from the entire series were tied up in a satisfying way it ended up having a few chapters more. However, I hope that readers will be so absorbed in Tirzah and Liyam that they won’t even notice!


What are you hoping readers will glean from this story?


Tirzah’s story is one of standing up courageously for her people, her family, and her God. My hope is that readers will be inspired to shine their lights boldly for Jesus and to not be afraid of anything—be it human or spirit—because Yahweh is our champion and when we are out of strength and frightened and feeling alone the Word says that He will fight for us! Nothing can stand against our great big God. Also, I want readers to be reminded through Liyam's Journey how truly powerful grace is.


Any fun bits of trivia you want to share with readers?


I guess I would have to say that the first thing is that I never planned on writing this book at all. The original Cities of Refuge was a three-book series but when I got to the end of Until the Mountains Fall I felt like there was more story to be told within the time period and with this family. So I proposed the idea to Bethany House and thankfully they went for it! Also, the book discusses an altar that’s at the top of Mount Ebal in Israel and that altar has actually been found on top of that mountain. It’s most likely a later rebuild of the original altar and from what I read it looks like beneath the altar there are possible remnants of the altar that Joshua built when he and the entire congregation of Israel re-confirmed the covenant before he died. So that’s pretty cool! Someday I would really love to walk up that mountain and see that altar for myself.


What do you have coming up next? Tell us a little bit about it and when we can expect it.


I will be coming out with a new series this winter which is called the Covenant House series. We are skipping forward a few hundred years to First Samuel in a time when Israel was in a fierce struggle against the Philistines, a foreign people that had arrived on the shores of Israel from the island of Crete hundreds of years before. This is a duology, based on the lives of a Philistine sister and brother who are adopted into an Israelite family and begins with the theft of the Ark of the Covenant. The first book is called To Dwell Among Cedars and will be releasing December 1 of this year.


This is your last book in the Cities of Refuge series, was there a specific plot or character you wanted to include before bringing the series to a close?


I think I really was just having a hard time leaving Moriyah and her whole entire family behind when I decided to write this book! But of course, I really wanted to explore Moriyah’s youngest daughter Tirzah’s perspective. I wondered what it would’ve been like to have grown up in the city of refuge, a place of complete safety in most cases, and then be kicked out and have to live somewhere else under the oppression of foreign invaders for eight years. Also, I was just really intrigued by the entire blank space there is in the Bible where Othniel is concerned and what his struggle against the Arameans might have looked like from the inside. And as advance readers already found out, there is a tie to the original Out from Egypt series in this book and I really wanted to explore connections there as well.



What is your favorite children’s book?


I was a prolific reader from the moment I learned how to put letters together and there are so many wonderful books from my childhood that it is really hard to narrow it down to just one. So I will have to say the entire Narnia series are probably my most cherished childhood books. I even have the original set that was given to my parents as a wedding gift in 1971 and those were the books that I read to my kids. But I have very distinct memories of reading them for myself when I was a child and being so enthralled by the way C.S. Lewis lured me into Narnia and built an entire fantastical world inside a wardrobe. And really, is there anything better than Aslan?


Favorite vacations, or a dream trip you’d like to take


My favorite vacation was absolutely Israel in December 2017. I only got to be there for a week but it was life-changing and enormously inspiring and I am really hoping that I can go back very soon. I also have a really deep-seated desire to go to Ireland and Scotland and am hoping that my family can take a trip there in the next couple of years. We do have tentative plans for Norway next year as well, where my husband has family to visit.


Any hobbies you enjoy?


Hobbies? What are those? I write. I read. I sleep, sometimes.


How did you and your husband meet?


We actually met through a mutual friend who was organizing a ski trip with a bunch of her friends from various parts of her life. We met up well in advance of the trip at Red Robin so that we could all get to know each other and my husband, who is very very shy somehow got the courage to ask me out while we were there. And the crazy thing is that in a whirlwind of dating we actually ended up being engaged before we even went on that ski trip! What can I say? We were young and dumb but somehow it worked out, we’ve been married going on 23 years in September! We still go to Red Robin every year on February 15th, the anniversary of the day we met, which also happens to be the day our daughter was born!


What is your favorite genre to read and what are some of your favorite books in that genre?


I love historical fiction and tend to gravitate towards it, even though I’ll read from any time period because I just love words and devour them all with great joy. Instead of telling you favorite books because I am terrible at narrowing that down, I’ll give you favorite historical authors. I love anything by Jocelyn Green, Joanne Bischof, Roseanna White, Laurie Benton, Laura Franz, Liz Curtis Higgs, Mimi Matthews, and about 5000 others.


Has your relationship with God changed at all through writing these stories? If so, could you share an example?


I would say that my faith is so much more real now. All the study of history and culture and archaeology that I have done has given me such confirmation that His hand has worked through history in such an intimate way, tying all the billions of threads together from Genesis to Revelation. The fact that he has led me on such a personal path of discovery just reminds me how much he wants me to love him with my heart, my soul, AND my mind. And the Cities of Refuge series, in particular, has illuminated his grace so clearly in my own life, especially looking backward and seeing how he led me lovingly to himself, even when I was so rebellious and self-centered that I could not look past my own nose, and called me to write stories that glorify his Name.


What was writing the Cities of Refuge series like? Emotionally and intellectually?


Wow, that is a tough question because it really has been a few years since I started and I have been through a lot of life in the meantime. I have been through two cross country moves since then and my kids are now teenagers! I will say that there were times when it was a struggle and I really had to force myself to write because I was fighting against my doubts, fighting against my overwhelming schedule, and fighting my own perfectionism, but it is so cool to look back at these four books and realize that through all those struggles God did something extraordinary with my very human, imperfect efforts. He has led me on an amazing journey that taught me how to be a better writer, how to be a better storyteller, and how to dig deeper into my own wounds in order to make a book connect with readers on a deeper level. And being able to write about how God displayed his perfect balance of grace and justice through the Cities of Refuge has been a privilege.


Why Cities of Refuge? Why not another story?


The easy answer is that because I was just fascinated. Once I started to do some reading about the cities of refuge, which I really didn’t know much about, I saw the beautiful way that they foreshadowed Jesus our Messiah who is the perfect balance of grace and justice for his people and I just wanted to delve into those characteristics of God so I thought that the cities of refuge was a perfect vehicle to do so! Besides, I’d just fallen in love with Moryiah in Wings of the Wind and felt she needed a story too. Who knew what would come of it all when I was struggling over whether to brand that poor girl’s face!


Apart from writing, what is your life like? Family? Fun things you do?


Well writing is a pretty big part of my life, it takes up a good chunk of my day. But I also am a homeschool mom to two teenagers, so in between writing chapters and doing all the other things that I have to do in my author life, I am organizing lessons for my kids and coaching them as they drink from the well of knowledge and learn to be intellectually curious like me. And then, of course, I’m doing lots of driving back-and-forth to play practices because my daughter is heavily involved in theater and chauffeuring kids to youth activities on top of all the other basic things that I do as a wife and mother. Since we’ve just moved back to the DFW area we are still settling into a new church home, but at our church in North Carolina I was also on the worship team because I love to sing. But yeah, that’s pretty much it. Other hobbies have pretty much disappeared because of writing, so I’m kind of boring, but it’s worth it!



What inspired the idea for this story?


When I was in Israel a couple of years ago we went to a place called the Ayalon Institute. It was actually a kibbutz (like a co-op farm) that contained an entire underground bullet factory hidden from the British and the Arabs before the 1948 war. They secretly crawled down ladders beneath a commercial laundry room because it was noisy and could cover up the sound of the bullet making machines and many of the people who lived and worked on the kibbutz had no idea what was going on under their feet! Over a number of years, this group of young people managed to make thousands and thousands of bullets and ship them out through covert means, like in milk trucks. Without their sacrifice and ingenuity, the nation of Israel might have been lost when the Arabs attacked en mass. I was enthralled by the stories of miracles that happened during this time and how these young people, men AND women stood up for their people so courageously. I was inspired by this short visit to the underground bunker to write about brave men and women who put their lives on the line for the nation of Israel, both in ancient times and in modern ones. So as you will see as you read, there are a number of places where I talk about covert operations and secret weapons-making and those were directly inspired by that tour of the Ayalon Institute. Malakhi and Eitan would have loved everything about it. Look it up, it’s fascinating! 


What are your favorite triggers to get in "creative mode," something that gets your imagination going?


I have learned over the years that I have to have a perfect solitude when I write. I cannot listen to music because it distracts my musical mind too much and I want to follow chord changes and lyrics, so I’ve learned that the best thing to keep myself isolated is to listen to brown noise. That way I can just block out everything around me and lose myself in the story. I’ve also found that writing or brainstorming by hand can be a huge jumpstart to my imagination because it uses a different part of my brain. If I get stuck other creative things help too: coloring, singing, drawing, doodling, or just chatting with my writing pals about what might come next! Oh, and coffee always helps.


Do you seek out a spiritual theme for each book before you draft, crafting the plot around it? Or does it come to you later as you edit and weave in a theme?


That really is different with every book. There are times when I know going in exactly what the spiritual theme is going to be; like with Until the Mountains Fall which was about a prodigal daughter. But there are times when it takes me almost the entire writing of the book to really figure out what it is the characters are trying to say and what it is the Lord is weaving into my story. And there are times when I may know the spiritual journey of one of the main characters but not the other and it untangles itself as I learn who the characters are together, what their wounds are, what their goals are, etc. There have actually been times when I thought it was one spiritual theme and then it completely surprised me by turning into another by the time I was done.


 How long did it take to write your first successful book, "Counted With The Stars" ?


It took me five years roughly because I was not only doing a lot of research but I was studying how to write a book and how to get published. So it took me a lot longer than it does to write a book now that I kinda-sorta-hopefully know what I’m doing.


What do you want your readers to know about you?


That I am just a simple girl who loves Jesus and loves to write stories and is absolutely delighted that anyone would want to get to know her imaginary friends. I am beyond blessed to get to hang out in my pajamas and make up stories all day long and somehow people out there want to read them. I am still pinching myself that this is my life!


 What are some of your favorite movies? Or do you prefer reading books when you’re not writing?


I don’t get to watch movies and TV as much as I used to, my writing world is too full and I will always choose a book first. But I have been known to binge Stranger Things and Fauda (an amazing Israeli TV show that gets my imagination revving). My favorite movies, if I have to choose, are probably About Time and the Princess Bride.


How does it feel saying goodbye to characters you’ve been with for so long?


It is really so bittersweet because I feel like these people are part of my family and I know them inside and out. So it kind of feels like I’m abandoning them in some way. But they’re always there waiting for me and maybe someday I’ll have a chance to come back and revisit them. And then again I’m also really excited to find new characters and discover their journeys and now that I’m writing this new series I’m having a great time creating a whole new set of people, discovering what makes them tick, and finding all sorts of disastrous and dangerous situations to put them into peril and complicated situations to mess with their heads. I’m kinda evil like that ;)


Did you think you would one day be a writer, let alone a published author?


I certainly hoped so. I wanted to be a writer since I was a pretty young girl and dreamed of a day when a book of mine would be on a shelf in the library— because to me that was like the ultimate goal. But life took me in some other directions and for many years I thought writing was a pipe dream. So God really surprised me by giving me the long-buried desire of my heart even though I had kind of stopped even hoping, dreaming, or even asking Him for it.


If you could only recommend one fiction book, which would it be and why?


I would have to say for classics, Jane Eyre because it is my favorite book of all time and no matter how many times I read it I find more ways that Charlotte Brontë was genius and a master of her craft. As for a modern fictional book I would have to say Joanne Bischof’s the Lady and the Lionheart because it made me just weep when I realized what the theme of the book was and as soon as I finished reading it I picked it up and read it all over again the next day and I had never done that before in my entire life. Read it, it’s fantastic.


What inspires you to write about the specific biblical characters that you choose to focus your books on?


It’s usually because I want to know more about that character or about that time period for my own personal understanding of the Word and to know God’s character better through those journeys. I just love learning about the Bible and about the people who witnessed those events and revel in darting down historical rabbit trails. And I love to let my imagination run wild and see what kind of fictional people I can tangle up with those who actually did walk this earth and experienced the stories we think we know so well.


If you could travel back in time to personally experience a Bible story, which one would it be and why?


That’s a pretty simple answer for me; other than the resurrection, I would be there for the crossing of the Red Sea because what bigger miracle—other than Jesus rising from the dead in a blaze of pure light—could there be? I sure hope the Lord has that one on video when I get to heaven. Who knows if the way I imagined it was anywhere close to the real thing (because I’m pretty sure Hollywood didn’t get it right) but however it happened it had to have been a mind-blowing thing to witness.


To learn more about Connilyn, get free devotionals based on her books, and join her email list, please visit ConnilynCossette.com and follow her on social media:








Check out the entire Cities of Refuge series HERE.


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review 2020-02-04 05:00
New Release: Daughter of Rome by Tessa Afshar



A woman with a devastating secret. A man bent on proving his worth. A chance encounter that catapults them into the heart of history.

When the daughter of a prominent Roman general meets a disinherited Jewish immigrant, neither one can dream of God’s plan to transform them into the most influential couple of the early church. Nor can they anticipate the mountains that will threaten to bury them. Their courtship unwittingly shadowed by murder and betrayal, Priscilla and Aquila slowly work to build a community of believers, while their lives grow increasingly complicated thanks to a shaggy dog, a mysterious runaway, and a ruthless foe desperate for love. But when they’re banished from their home by a capricious emperor, they must join forces with an unusual rabbi named Paul and fight to turn treachery into redemption.

With impeccable research and vivid detail, Daughter of Rome is both an emotive love story and an immersive journey through first-century Rome and Corinth, reminding readers once again why Debbie Macomber has said that “no one brings the Bible to life like Tessa Afshar.”


Book Purchase Links



Barnes and Noble




Author Bio:


Tessa Afshar is an award-winning author of biblical and historical fiction. Her books have won the Christy and INSPY Awards and been voted by the Library Journal as one of top five Christian fiction titles of the year. Her first Bible Study and DVD, The Way Home, based on the book of Ruth, will be released from Moody Publishers in June 2020. Born in the Middle East, Tessa moved to England in her teens where she attended boarding school for girls before moving to the United States permanently. Her conversion to Christianity in her twenties changed the course of her life forever. Tessa holds a Master of Divinity from Yale University, where she served as co-chair of the Evangelical Fellowship for one year. She worked in women and prayer ministries for twenty years before becoming a full-time writer and speaker.


Author Social Media Links:






My Review:


Have you ever wondered what day-to-day life was like for the early Christian church? What it truly meant to become a follower of The Way in the initial years after Jesus’ resurrection? This is where Biblical fiction, when done well, can seek to take readers into the ancient world alongside the historical figures of old with their customs and etiquette, thereby facilitating a greater understanding of Scripture. Granted, this is no easy task, and although Biblical fiction is one of my favorite genres, there are only a few authors whose work I trust to remain true to God’s Word without adding to or taking away from it. One of these authors is Tessa Afshar.


Afshar’s latest work, “Daughter of Rome,” explores the lives of Aquila and Priscilla, the enigmatic New Testament couple whom the apostle Paul described as “my fellow workers in Christ Jesus” (Romans 16:3). The Bible mentions them six times, and their faith and influence are apparent, but their backstory and the details of their lives are not given. Implementing historical research and drawing from established facts about this period in time, Afshar ignites renewed interest in this husband and wife gospel team by creating a narrative that imagines what their individual lives may have been like before transitioning into their romance and eventual ministry. The beauty of this lies in demonstrating that they are real people with real flaws; as is evidenced over and over again in the Bible, God chooses to work through people who are broken and imperfect.


Priscilla and Aquila’s story diverges somewhat from Afshar’s usual style, effecting a deeper and more somber tone that makes the narrative all the more poignant. Gritty, realistic circumstances impress upon readers the harshness of life in ancient Rome. There is abortion, murder, persecution, and betrayal, but all are handled with grace and sensitivity. And as Rufus tells Priscilla, “It is hard to put to words. Trouble itself can be transformed, you see, in the hands of God. Instead of a place of destruction, pain and heartache can lead to hope.” As Priscilla grows in her faith, Aquila learns spiritual maturity. Far too often we, like Aquila, judge others for being what we consider to be inferior; the marriage of Roman Priscilla and Jewish Aquila truly speaks to the unity and unconditional love that Christ brings. As we struggle with our own burdens, we forget that those around us carry encumbrances of their own. Priscilla later testifies: “I can tell you that my own dreams have been crushed more than once. But when I condemned myself, God extended forgiveness to me. When I felt broken, he gave me strength. When I thought the future held nothing but pain, he gave me joy. Those are the actions of love.”  


“Daughter of Rome” does not shy away from the vicissitudes of life, particularly Christian life, and as such it offers encouragement and inspiration. It is a story of second chances, a poignant and at times heartrending narrative, made all the more so because every reader can identify with it in some way. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24). As Aquila wisely counsels, “The only way to peace is by learning to accept, day by day, the circumstances and tests permitted by God. By the repeated laying down of our own will, and the accepting of his as it is presented in the things which happen to us.” The apostle Paul demonstrates this throughout Scripture, and his role in this novel was one of my favorites because of his witty humor. He has a remarkable attitude toward suffering, but there is also evidence of his humanity, again emphasizing that God can use anyone for His glory. The fervor of the early church is something that, in many ways, I think we need to return to; our faith is dynamic, not static, and we should never lose our joy and awe at the priceless gift of salvation offered to each of us. With Christ as our cornerstone, we can become His instruments of love and peace. Priscilla “had been born a daughter of Rome. But she had become a daughter of the Most High God.” Whose child are you?

I received a complimentary copy of this book to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, part 255 Guidelines, concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in advertising.


Book Launch Celebration



Join us on our author pages on February 4, 2020 from 7-9 p.m. for a special Facebook Live Book Celebration--a chance to ask us questions; win chocolates, gift cards and other giveaways; and short presentations by Tessa and Heidi. Can't wait to see you there!

Tessa's Author Page:

Heidi's Author Page:


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