Roses & Thorns

Roses & Thorns

Thursday, December 4, 2014

House of Mercy by Alicia Ruggieri


A story of justice, love, and mercy in post-Roman Arthurian Britain. 

When a hailstorm ruins her father's crops, Bethan goes as a kitchen servant to Oxfield. There, she intends to work off her family's debt to Lord Drustan before returning to marry the fervent son of a local priest. Yet, in her first days at the old Roman fortress, Bethan meets two men who are very different from the priest's son, friends who have dark histories... and shrouded futures. 

In his twenty years, Deoradhan has swallowed much of sorrow’s cup and found it bitter. Haunted by his father’s murder at the hands of one he trusted, distanced from the Roman God who betrayed him, burning to obtain his rightful throne in the rugged north, the young exile returns to Logress, where High King Arthur holds together a frail confederacy. 

There at Oxfield, Deoradhan's friend Calum seeks absolution for a deed he committed many years ago... a deed that ended in the death of one dearest to him and drove him from his home. 

Will Deoradhan stop at nothing to gain his rightful position? Is atonement possible for Calum after so many years? And what of those - including Bethan - whose lives have become interwoven with theirs? 

Christian alternative historical fiction, appropriate for young adult/adult readers.

Review by Donna Hechler Porter:

First, let me say, Alicia Ruggieri’s beautiful writing style is poetic and lyrical. I’ve not ready someone’s prose in a long time that quite matches hers.

As for the rest of the book, well, this one has been a hard one to rate.  It doesn't really fit into any niche as far as fiction is concerned. It is historical fiction, and there are “love stories” in the book, even romance of the highest kind as far as sacrificing oneself for love of another.  However, it’s not romance as typically defined in our society. It’s inspirational, but there are bad people who do bad things to good people in this book. The Christians certainly talk the Christian talk, but they have very real problems both internally and externally. And there are multiple viewpoints, not the typical “two” – the hero and the heroine - that publishing houses like to see.  All in all, this means that the book can’t necessarily be judged by the “typical” standards.  It’s just too different.

Dealing strictly with elements of fiction, the plotting didn’t grab my attention at first. It wasn’t boring, but I certainly had no problem putting it down and coming back later. Then, about 60% of the way through, I didn’t want to put it down. 

I was also never really clear on the goals of the characters except for Deoradhan. I think the plotting, at points, appeared thin simply because there were so many point of view characters, and I never really fell into deep point of view with any of them. However, the story elements do come together at the end.  
Now, I usually like suspense and “bite your nails” kind of plotting, which this book was not, but it is written in such a beautiful way, with such a beautiful message, that I came away thinking and rethinking on it for several days after I had finished it. For me, that’s the greatest impact of any book – that the characters are alive long after I have closed the last page.

Now, I will warn you, this is a very  Christian book, so if you don’t like the quoting of scripture, or characters that put God at the center of their lives, then don’t read it. I will say, that the characters’ faith is a natural outflow of their lives and the time they live in. I imagine Christians in the 6th century speaking much like this, and none of it comes across as “preachy” which is often the case in Christian fiction.

All in all, fans of Christian fiction who like books that are not edgy or suspenseful, will enjoy this artful read.  Based on the artsy quality, and the beautiful prose and message, I am giving it four roses. 

Length:   279 Pages
Print:  $7.49
Digital:  $.99
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