Friday, March 21, 2014

Echoes of Mercy: Book Review

Being a part of an author's launch team is an incredible blessing for someone who loves to read!  My last review was back in September of What Once Was Lost.  And then there was the short fiction, Just As I Am, which bridges between What Once Was Lost and my newest book, Echoes of Mercy.  So, I was excited to find Kim Vogel Sawyer's newest historical Christian romance novel in my mailbox.  And the only thing I like more than a historical Christian romance novel, is a historical Christian romance novel with a hint of suspense.  And Echoes of Mercy certainly delivers!

Buy it on Amazon HERE.

Echoes of Mercy follows the adventure of Caroline Lang, a young woman driven to uncover the ills and misfortunes of child labor.  I think I am a woman who is passionate about God and that God has called my heart beyond just compassion for the children of the world who lack for love and comfort.  So Echoes of Mercy really spoke to me and pulled on my heart strings.  

I don't often review books here at Harvey Ever After and there are a couple of reasons for that.  The first one is that I simply enjoy reading, and so I like almost all books I read.  But the second reason is that if I were reading a review, I'd like to come up with some objective criteria through which I can compare books.  So, with this review I'm starting a scoring system along with some "vital statistics".  Like anyone trying to find an answer, I googled book review criteria, and there are all kinds of systems out there, but honestly, none of them really worked for me.  My inspirations, however, were from JeriWB, Mother, Daugher & Son Book Reviews (yes, one for children's books), and BookLook Bloggers.  My new book criteria are: organization, voice, word choice, character development, plot, and the faith factor.  (And a short summary!  I almost forgot that.  Oops!)

Vitals Stats 

Genre: Historical Christian Fiction/Romance
Setting: Kansas, 1904

Summary

After a suspicious death at the Dinsmore Chocolate Factory, Caroline Lang takes on an undercover assignment as a factory employee to investigate the working conditions for children as well as the death itself.  Caroline is especially suited for the work through her background, passion, faith, and compassion, and fervently believes that children should be able to go to school instead of working in factories.  

The heir to the Dinsmore Chocolate Factory, Oliver, is also undercover at the factory.  He pretends to be a common laborer and takes a janitor job.  His goal is to fully understand the business before he takes over from is father.  Oliver and Carry hit it off immediately, but their bond is strained because each is trying to keep their identity a secret from the other.  They are brought together to help a destitute family, but discover that they have very different views on a key issue - child labor.  Will their differences keep them apart?  Or will God lead them down a path together?

Organization

Echoes of Mercy flows well throughout the story.  The voices are outlined clearly so that the reader always understands whose perspective we are seeing the world through.  The chapter beginnings and endings work well to move the story along.  And the appearance of the book cover, interior, chapter headings, etc. are pleasing to the eye.  

Voice 

I've noticed that in many of Kim Vogel Sawyer's books, the point-of-view, or voice, changes throughout the story among the primary characters.  The same is true for Echoes of Mercy.  I thoroughly enjoy this type of writing because I enjoy learning about the way each of the characters think.  There is a balance, however, in that the number of viewpoints is limited to two or three, which allows the reader to switch back-and-forth with ease.   

Word Choice 

The language used in the book is appropriate, especially given the historical nature of the book.  It is clear to me that the author has done extensive research and also understands the characters fully so as to maintain an obvious distinction throughout the story.  In Echoes of Mercy, I particularly like that the accents and speech tendencies are pointed out, and that they are consistent from beginning to end.

Character Development 

Caroline Lang - our heroine, who investigates child labor issues through undercover work at the Dinsmore Chocolate Factory
Oliver Dinsmore - heir to the Dinsmore Chocolate Factory, who is doing his own version of undercover work

Letta - a destitute teenager, who is desperately seeking work to support her brothers and father
Kesia - a sassy cafe owner with the biggest heart 
Gordon Hightower - factory manager, who has worked for the Dinsmore Chocolate Factor since he was a child
Noble & Annemarie - Caroline's boss and mentors who display incredible faith

Like so many of Kim Vogel Sawyers books, the characters in Echoes of Mercy are easy to like (and easy to dislike in some cases).  I could easily identify with the main character, Carrie Lang, in that we both are passionate about less fortunate children, though admittedly, our backgrounds are worlds apart.  Nevertheless, I found myself living out an adventure and a love story through Caroline's eyes.  Likewise,the male lead, Oliver, has a character that is endearing and admirable.  And the minor characters in this story are just fantastic - a sassy, compassionate cook/entrepreneur and three penniless, deprived siblings with the most adorable spunk, and determined, loving, and vigorous adoptive parents.  

Plot

As I mentioned above, the plot of this story drew me in at the start and didn't let up until the end.  I'm one of those people are so curious about the characters' lives after the story ends that I make up my own continuations of the story.  The plot builds up slowly enough so that the reader gets to know the characters before jumping into the action, and then the action is suspenseful with just the right climax.  In addition, the plot line and even the romance timeline are believable and probable.  So often characters are just thrown together and fall in love after meet a handful of times, but not here.  Not in Echoes of Mercy. 

Can loved ones keep secrets and still end up together?  In this tale, you will find yourself nervous and anxious for the characters.  Angry at others.  And still in awe at some of the incredible acts of faith and heroism.  Beyond that you'll wonder how the Caroline and Oliver can carry the burden of their secrets and how on earth they'll ever be able to come clean, especially to each other!  

Faith Factor

Since Kim Vogel Sawyer's books are Christian stories of hope and inspiration, the last criteria is the "faith factor".  I have read books in the past that claim to be stories of faith, but that seemed to pull a few verses in here and there all willy nilly at the last minute, almost as if the story wasn't written as a Christian novel, but that the author thought they'd have a better chance at getting published if they went that route.  I've never experienced that with a Kim Vogel Sawyer book.  And Echoes of Mercy was no different.  The faith of the characters and the stories of redemption and conversion were interwoven into the story as an integral thread.  Love it.  


Echoes of Mercy is truly an inspirational tale of love, adventure, redemption, trust and faith.  It now sits on with the books that I've read dozens of times because I plan to read Echoes of Mercy dozens of times.  The historical setting was believable and fascinating.  The characters were lovable and hateable.  The plot line kept me intrigued throughout the book.  I couldn't wait to get to the ending and yet I dreaded that the ending would be the end of the story.  And what an amazing message of God's mercy and grace.  Loved it!

You should also check out some of my other Kim Vogel Sawyer favorites - My Heart Remembers, Sweet Sanctuary, and A Promise for Spring!


Going forward, I'd like to start some sort of point system for each criterion above and an overall score.  Something like stars, but related to books.  What do you think?  Do have any ideas?  I'm thinking chapters, apples, fan mail . . .   




*I received this book from the author/publisher for my honest review, which is above. This post may contain affiliate links.