Monday, October 17, 2011

Review: Highland Sanctuary by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Highland Sanctuary by Jennifer Hudson Taylor
(Highland Series #2)
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
Pages: 336
Publication Date: October 2011
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Source: I received an e-galley for review through NetGalley.
Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Book Description (from the author's website):
Gavin MacKenzie, a chieftain heir who is hired to restore the ancient Castle of Braigh, discovers a hidden village of outcasts who have created their own private sanctuary from the world. Among them is Serena Boyd, a mysterious and
comely lass, who captures Gavin’s heart in spite of harboring a deadly past that could destroy her future.

The villagers happen to be keeping an intriguing secret as well. When a fierce enemy launches an attack against them, greed leads to bitter betrayal. As Gavin prepares a defense, the villagers unite in a bold act of faith, showing how God’s love is more powerful than any human force on earth.
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Ever since enjoying Jennifer Hudson Taylor's first book in the Highland Series, Highland Blessings, I have been looking forward to continuing the series. When I saw book two available for review through NetGalley, I jumped at the chance, and I can report that I liked this book even more than I liked the first book in the series!

Serena is a girl with a secret. She suffers from seizures that threaten her life directly, but also could threaten her life if her condition is discovered. It is 1477, and most people believed her malady was a sign of demon possession. Serena could be burned at the stake for her affliction. When Serena was a baby, her mother sacrificed her former life to keep her daughter safe, and they live in a village of outcasts where everyone has oddities that cause them to not fit in with the general population. This village was one of my favorite things about the story--it truly represented the way a Christian community should work, with people caring for each other regardless of their differences. They helped to keep Serena's secret safe until strangers arrived to help rebuild the nearby castle.

In the midst of the castle's reconstruction, two men end up competing for Serena's affections, though neither is aware of her secret until later in the story. Her potential suitors are both kind and worthy of her love, though only one of them gives her goosebumps and seems utterly devoted to her despite her lower status in society. Who can really blame her for falling for Gavin, though she tries to fight her attraction to him tooth and nail because she is convinced that she should not have a family with her health condition.

Highland Sanctuary is an interesting story filled with romance and suspense, especially when people from a neighboring village witness Serena having a seizure and are convinced that she is possessed. When church officials take her into custody, she learns about the father she never met--and why her mother took her so far away from him. The final chapters are full of twists and turns that kept me quickly turning the pages. The faith aspects of the novel are heartwarming and serious as well, with the more fanatic and superstitious elements of the church coming into conflict with those who recognize a medical condition as just that, and not as demon possession. I highly recommend this to fans of Christian Historical Fiction, especially if you like stories set in Scotland or in the Middle Ages.

**Please join me here tomorrow for an interview with the author, Jennifer Hudson Taylor!
  • Related reading: This book reminded me a little bit of Watermark, a general market historical novel I read last year set in Medieval France, because the characters are in similar situations. In Highland Sanctuary, the main character suffers from a medical condition that could result in being burned at the stake. In Watermark, the main character is albino, and she faces similar superstitions that could also result in her being burned at the stake (albinos were suspected of being witches). So in both stories, the main character goes to great lengths to try to hide her condition, but is eventually discovered and seized by church authorities. Just thought I'd throw this related book out there for those who might be interested. The storylines are very different, but the characters share a common bond. Click here to read my review of Watermark.

Related Linkage:
Reading Challenges: 2nds Challenge, Historical Fiction Challenge

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