Miracle in a Dry Season    Dangerous Passage


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Freedom of the Soul
by Tracey Bateman

Reviewed by April Gardner

"A skillful balance of drama, tension, and love, each chapter is better than the last."

The moving sequel in The Penbrook Diaries Series, The Freedom of the Soul is a split plot, jumping smoothly from one century to the next.

Georgia, 1847—Mac Penbrook, sent to the slave quarters to recover from a serious illness, falls in love with the woman, Celeste, who nurses him back to health. As he begins to see past the color of one’s skin, his twisted notions about slavery change. However, not yet the master of the estate, he is not in a position to make changes. This scandalous relationship is a disgrace to the Penbrook family. After all, how can a man possibly love a woman he owns—a black woman? Yet, Mac sees no problem with it. In fact, he’s willing to risk being disinherited.

How could I have ever thought she wasn’t beautiful?

Mac stood in the doorway of the sprawling kitchen of the main house and watched mesmerized, as Celeste moved gracefully from one task to the next, taking his breath away with each step…Deep inside he felt a strong desire to pull her away from the kitchen and walk with her outside in the cool of the evening. Hand in hand.

Marry a black woman in Georgia? Unheard of! If only there was another way…

Oregon, 1949—Shea Penbrook, independent and proud, stands at the grave of her grandfather, the last of her known relatives. Except for a mountain of debt and a sullied family name faithfully by her side, Shea is all alone in the world. Losing hope, she relents and promises the sale of her house and land to an old family rival. However, cleaning out her attic, she comes across some decrepit diaries that enlighten her about her honorable heritage and give her the hope of an inheritance in Georgia—the Penbrook Estate.

“Tell me how you feel about God, and we’ll take it from there.”

This was the last conversation Shea wanted to have. “Look, I truly appreciate that you stuck out your neck for me and brought me home to sleep off my fever. But I honestly don’t think God is very interested in me.”

“…What makes a woman believe in God but not believe that He cares anything about her life?”

The answer came without thought. “Experience.”

God really does care about every detail of Shea’s problematic life, but will she notice?

Georgia, 1949—Jonas Riley, a visiting Yankee with an over-sized protective nature and a temper to match, is in for a lesson in bigotry. Having come south in support of his best friend, Andy, the KKK gives him a full definition of what the word “racism” really means. However, a sound beating and imprisonment aren’t enough to dissuade him from loving his black friend.

Jonas stepped forward. “Watch how you speak to my friend. I don’t care if you’re sheriff or not, I’ll flatten your nose if you call him that vile name again.”

Gabe whipped his attention from Andy to Jonas. He gave Jonas a once-over and sneered. “We don’t like strangers…who hang around with coloreds.”

Jonas clenched his fists and spoke through gritted teeth. “Put down that gun and I’ll teach you all about us Yankees.”

For all of Jonas’ good intentions, can he really make a change in a town hardened by fear and repulsion for those who are different?

As these characters fight for what is rightfully theirs against slavery and a century’s worth of racism, they learn valuable lessons in endurance, compassion, and God’s sovereignty; at last, discovering freedom of the body and soul.

Once again, Bateman has filled each page with characters possessing a depth of emotion rarely seen in fiction. Unafraid to delve into the sensitive issue of racism, she reminds the reader of a person’s true value which is found beyond the skin—the soul. The freedom of which can only be found in Christ. Without mounting a soapbox, Bateman delicately points out that even those possessing a saving knowledge of Christ can find themselves enslaved by pride, guilt, and an ugly past.

An engrossing conclusion to The Color of the Soul, you will not be disappointed and will not want to skim a single paragraph. A skillful balance of drama, tension, and love, each chapter is better than the last.

~excerpts from “Freedom of the Soul” in italics.

April GardnerApril W Gardner writes adult and middle grade historical fiction. Her first novel, Wounded Spirits, releases with Vintage Romance Publishing in November of this year. She is a member of ACFW and reviews for Title Trakk, At Home With Christian Fiction, and FIRST Wild Card Blog Tours. A military spouse, April has performed the art of homemaking all over the world. Currently, she lives in Georgia with her darling Hubby. A homeschool mom, she fills her mornings talking fractions and phonics with her two sweet kiddos. In her free time, April enjoys reading, gardening, and DIY. In no particular order, she dreams of owning a horse, visiting all the national parks, and speaking Italian. Visit April's Website or her blog, A Writer's Journey. You can also get to know April on Facebook and Twitter.