About the Book
Title: A Love to Behold
Author: Sharlene MacLaren
Genre: Christian romance, historical
Release date: January 8, 2019
Publisher: Whitaker House
Two years after the Civil War, Lydia Albright, 27, is an established teacher in Boston when she senses God’s call to leave the comfort and security of her job and go south. She accepts a position to teach in a school for former slaves in Charleston, South Carolina. A church there that’s affiliated with the American Missionary Association offers support, along with room and board at the parsonage.
The Ku Klux men are hell-bent on seeing that the new school fails. Lydia’s life is threatened, and the parsonage, church, and school are vandalized.
But they haven’t contended with a strong, determined woman like Lydia before. It also helps that she has a couple potential suitors on her side.
A Love to Behold is a tale of people who grow strong in the face of adversity and a church that learns love, compassion, and acceptance, even in the face of cruelty and hatred.
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About the Author
Born and raised in west Michigan, Sharlene MacLaren attended Spring Arbor University. Upon graduating in 1971 with an education degree, she taught second grade for two years, then accepted an invitation to travel internationally with a singing ensemble for one year. In 1975, she came home, returned to her teaching job, and married her childhood sweetheart. Together, they raised two lovely daughters, both of whom are now happily married and enjoying families of their own. Retired in 2003 after thirty-one years of teaching, “Shar” loves to read, sing, travel, and spend time with her family—in particular, her adorable grandchildren!
A Christian for over fifty years, and a lover of the English language, Shar always enjoyed dabbling in writing. She remembers well the short stories she wrote in high school, and watching them circulate from girl to girl during government and civics classes. “Psst,” someone would whisper from two rows over, always when the teacher’s back was turned, “pass me the next page.”
In the early 2000s, Shar felt God’s call upon her heart to take her writing pleasures a step further, and in 2006, she signed a contract for her first faith-based novel, Through Every Storm, thereby launching her writing career. With eighteen published novels now gracing store shelves and being sold online, she daily gives God all the glory. She dedicated her last novel, Their Daring Hearts, to Jesus.
Shar has done numerous countrywide book signings and made several television appearances and radio interviews. She loves speaking for community organizations, libraries, church groups, and women’s conferences. In her church, she is active in women’s ministries, regularly facilitating Bible studies and other events. She and her husband, Cecil, live in Spring Lake, Michigan, with their beautiful white collie, Peyton, and their ragdoll cat, Blue.
Shar loves hearing from her readers. If you wish to contact her as a potential speaker for a church function or would simply like to chat with her, please feel free to send her an e-mail at email@example.com. She will do her best to answer in a timely manner. You may also find her on Facebook.
Guest Post from Sharlene
My dear readers,
It has indeed been my great privilege and pleasure to write this series set in Civil War times. What a thought-provoking, amazing, and heart-wrenching era in American history.
If you read all three books in the “Forever Freedom” series—Summer on Sunset Ridge, Their Daring Hearts, and A Love to Behold—you will have gotten some history lessons regarding the Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers; Abolition; the Underground Railroad, which the Quakers were instrumental in launching; life as a Union soldier in the Civil War; the Freedmen’s Bureau; and Reconstruction, that period following the war when the south had fallen into great dis-repair. Also prevalent in this third book is a bit of history regarding the origin of the Ku Klux Klan, a hate group that formed during the Reconstruction period.
Although I did not appreciate history as a young girl, as an older adult, I’m quite fascinated by it. History itself is a great teacher. Learning about it can be everything from exhilarating to depressing, challenging and yet exciting. It is my prayer that as you read my books, you’ll not only find them entertaining, but also inspiring and uplifting. I aim to encourage, not discourage. Much of history—if we dwell on it—can be disheartening, but focusing our hearts and minds on Christ gives us courage and confidence. Let us learn from history, but let us look to the future with hope in our hearts.
With love and a prayer for God’s best blessings,
Perhaps it’s from my early love of Janette Oke books, but I have to say I tend to really enjoy reading stories that involve a new schoolteacher in town. A Love to Behold is a bit more unique because the young woman travelling to be the schoolteacher has been sent by the Freedman’s Bureau to teach the newly-freed slave children. Her heart and the heart of many in town were refreshing to read. There were the “bad guys” but for once it didn’t appear like they were the majority. I’m not sure how accurate some of it would be, but I would be hopeful that more people would be like that.
The story-line itself was well paced and easily held my attention. I loved Reese and his children, particularly Owen, and really enjoyed reading about how their relationship with Lydia developed. I wasn’t a fan of John Forrester for a few reasons but mostly because I couldn’t figure out if he was supposed to be painted as a “good guy” or “bad guy.” I really resonated with Lydia’s spunk and tenacity, and felt myself cheering her on for the good cause.
It’s highly possible that I’m wrong, but I kept having to remind myself of the times while reading because some of the details didn’t feel like they fit historically. It was enough that I stopped reading a few times to do some googling about it. One thing I will say is that the children went to different schools. I’m not talking about the obvious racial segregation, but each of Reese’s young children. It just didn’t ring historically accurate to me. I wouldn’t think schools would be big enough back then to separate the lower grades especially at a time of horse and buggy. As I said though, it’s highly possible that I’m the one that’s wrong here. It was just that some of the details felt a little more modern than the time period.
So while there were a few quirks to the story that had me thinking, overall I enjoyed the story and found it highly engaging. I’d love if the author were to share more from their story in the future. One thing of note that I noticed is that currently on Goodreads this story is listed as a standalone but the author lists it as book 3 in the Forever Freedom series. Upon reading the blurbs it’s quite clear they belong together in the series. I haven’t read the others yet, but I’d be interested in checking them out. This was an engaging read and one I’m glad I took the time to read.
*I received a copy of this book from the author through Celebrate Lit. Thoughts and opinions expressed are mine alone.
Age Appropriateness/Content Warnings:
*PLEASE NOTE: This section may contain mild spoilers but I do my best to reveal the difficult and/or triggering content without giving away the story
While written for adults, this is one I’d be more likely to allow younger readers to enjoy as well should they express interest. There are a few scenes that cause property damage and threaten violence, but only one event with violence towards people. Nothing that occurs is overly graphic and is content they would already have learned about in school but it does however occur at the school while it’s in session. I almost didn’t share the last piece because I didn’t want to spoil anything but I also know that school violence is a major issue currently so wanted to make readers aware.
Reading Is My SuperPower, January 22
Maureen’s Musings, January 22
Jeanette’s Thoughts, January 23
Genesis 5020, January 23
Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, January 24
Splashes of Joy, January 25
Blossoms and Blessings, January 25
Happily Managing a Household of Boys, January 26
Mary Hake, January 26
Godly Book Reviews, January 27
Daysong Reflections, January 27
Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, January 28
Robin is Bookish, January 28
My Devotional Thoughts, January 29
Locks, Hooks and Books, January 29
The Becca Files, January 30
For the Love of Literature, January 30
Texas Book-aholic, January 31
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, January 31
Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, February 1
Janices book reviews, February 1
A Baker’s Perspective, February 2
Bibliophile Reviews, February 3
Carpe Diem, February 4
Bigreadersite, February 4
To celebrate her tour, Sharlene is giving away a grand prize of a $20 Starbucks gift card!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.