|The Thorn Bearer by Pepper Basham|
I first met Pepper at an American Christian Fiction Writers’ conference several years ago. She has such a cheerful disposition and was warm and open as we greeted each other. Since then, I’ve learned her story of finding her agent, Julie Gwinn—such a great story! Soon after she signed with Julie, we (Pepper’s FB friends) learned of her contract for this book: The Thorn Bearer. Then, she kept us up to date on the cover and the release date. I was thrilled to read it for review.
Let’s begin with the summary:
From the decks of the ill-fated Lusitania to the smoke-filled trenches of France, Ashleigh must choose between the forgiveness of her past, life in the present, and a Savior who can rescue her from them all. When her fiancé leaves her eight months before their wedding, the unexpected blow ignites a battalion of insecurities stemming from her father's intimate betrayal. Her worst fears are confirmed—who could ever love a soiled woman? In an attempt to escape the shame and disappointment of her past, Ashleigh boards the ill-fated Lusitania to cross the war-torn waters of Europe. Much to her dismay, she isn't traveling alone. Sam Miller is always making up for his best friend's mistakes. Determined to help Ashleigh, he offers his compassion and protection as she ventures across a perilous sea. With the faint hope of renewing his lost love for Ashleigh's sister, Sam never expects to find the woman of his dreams in his best friend's former fiancé and his own childhood companion. As they travel across the Atlantic, neither is prepared for the life-altering and heart-breaking journey of their friendship. When the truth of Ashleigh’s past explodes in the middle of war and Sam rejects her, Ashleigh must decide if God is enough or if the double weight of her betrayal and past will crush her life forever.
And now, my review:
What a story! Pepper is a fantastic story-teller. I was hooked from the beginning through to near the end of this story.
Sam is a strong character—likable, fallible, heroic. I enjoyed watching him fall for our heroine. Our heroine is strong and resilient. Her childhood was full of trials, but we don’t camp there. In fact, we don’t begin the story there and only visit the past a few times via memory.
One of the themes in this story was forgiveness. For our hero, forgiveness for someone who was alive and who had changed. For our heroine, forgiveness for someone whom she hadn’t watched change before the person left her life. Either way, they each faced the choice to forgive or not. That is a relatable theme, which I felt Pepper handled with wisdom and without trite answers.
There were multiple typos in this story, which distracted me as I read since I’m trained to catch them. But the story was strong despite them. Also, the book made a switch near the last portion where the story turned to too much kissing and dragged out the ending a bit too long. I ended up skimming that part.
Overall, this is a great debut novel from a strong writer! I’m looking forward to more from this author.