Holy Roman Empire, 1527
In the wake of Martin Luther’s religious reforms, Princess Christyne von Heidelbraum is compelled by her sense of duty to help ease the burden of her people. When she stumbles upon a dying man in the woods, she vows to aid him—even when she discovers the arrow shot in his leg was put there by a heretic hunter. With both her physical and spiritual well-being in danger, she must choose between conscience or adhering to the laws of the Empire.
Doubting her calling to become a hospital chaplain, Amber Carrington takes time off from her theology studies to volunteer with refugees in Germany. Working with children, making a difference, reconnecting with the conviction that once drove her—these were her expectations. An instant attraction to a professional soccer player wasn’t a part of the plan…and she can’t let him distract her from her purpose.
As a new Christian, Seth Marshall is determined to put his popularity as a world-renowned footballer to good use. Unfortunately, old habits and public opinions are hard to overcome. When he falls hard and fast for Amber Carrington, his former life—and her no-dating policy—may block his perfect shot for the woman he loves.
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A Carol award finalist and Selah award winner, Sarah Monzon is a stay-at-home mom who makes up imaginary friends to have adult conversations with (otherwise known as writing novels). As a navy chaplain's wife, she resides wherever the military happens to station her family and enjoys exploring the beauty of the world around her.
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A dual timeline story, Sarah Monzon’s “With You Here” is book four in the Carrington Family series. Not having read any of the previous books, I still had no trouble following along with this one. If I’m being honest, I am not a big fan of contemporary fiction, contemporary romance in particular, but because the second thread of the story is historical, I convinced myself to try it. While I did enjoy the historical aspect better, I was also charmed by the modern-day segments. I was intrigued by the calendar house, an architectural design previously unfamiliar to me. The sports angle didn’t garner my interest, simply because I’ve never been a sports fan of any kind, but I do appreciate the part that it plays in this book.
Indeed, the lives of athletic superstars are not all that they are made up to be. As Seth Marshall’s story reveals, it truly is harder for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24). A new Christian still learning about his faith and struggling to overcome the temptations of his old life, Seth feels tainted by his past. Amber Carrington, on the other hand, wrestles with thinking that she can’t help others as she feels called to do because her life has not been filled with hardship. Nevertheless, “[s]he’d come to volunteer. To serve.” Working with Syrian refugees in Germany brings the unlikely pair together, and as their faith increases, it also becomes challenging at times.
Nearly 500 years earlier, in the Holy Roman Empire, Princess Christyne von Heidelbraum faces her own trials. Her strictly law-driven father, a Catholic, vehemently opposes the Reformation, but Christyne risks her life to fulfill her vow to “improve their people’s lives”. Finding a severely wounded man in the woods, she remains true to her conscience and cares for him, even after discovering that he is “nothing more than a cursed Anabaptist.” Should her father or anyone else find out, her life will be forfeit.
Taking a stand for faith and acting according to moral integrity rather than social mores and peer pressure, both stories speak to the fact that persecution is ongoing but that nothing is impossible with God, and that He has a perfect plan for each of our lives.
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.