Thursday 9 March 2017

Book Review: Saving Grace by Jennifer Westall

Through years of poverty, racial tension, and legal battles, Ruby Graves has suffered the worst the Great Depression could throw at her. But an enemy she couldn’t possibly imagine awaits just over the horizon. After she and her brother, Henry, escape to the tropical paradise of the Philippine Islands, Ruby volunteers as a nurse at a medical clinic in Manila. Although surrounded by beauty, Ruby can’t shake her guilt over leaving Matthew behind, even if it was for his own good. And even worse, God hasn’t spoken to her since the fateful day at Cold Spring.

Meanwhile, Matthew Doyle arrives in the Philippines with the Corps of Engineers, determined to live the life of faith that Ruby would have wanted for him. Despite the rumors of impending war, he’s drawn to the islands’ promise of adventure, and, like many of his fellow soldiers, believes the superior forces of the United States would quickly thwart any attack from Japan. But everything changes on the morning of December 8, 1941.

As the Japanese close in on American forces in the Philippines, Ruby, Matthew and Henry are swept onto the jungle peninsula of Bataan in a desperate attempt to hold out for reinforcements. New enemies emerge, testing their strength beyond anything they could have ever thought possible. Can Ruby and Matthew find their way back to each other, and survive the onslaught of the Japanese assault? 


After having read and enjoyed the two novels preceding this one; Healing Ruby and Breaking Matthew, I was really looking forward to this third story, hopeful of a happy ending for this pair. While I was disappointed to find this was not the end of their story at all, and I now have to wait for another installment, I was very engaged and enthralled by this story. 

Saving Grace is set in the Philippines, so a completely different setting to the first two, which are set in the southern states of USA. While there were some interesting historical aspects in the first two about life in that part of the world, especially around racial issues, this third story takes a deeply moving, tragic and honest journey into WW11. I think Westall has done her research well and has not held back from describing the ravages and terror of war. So this is not a light read. 

Westall's writing is unashamedly Christian. Ruby and Matthew's faith journeys are central to the story, and I found this very real and challenging, more so in this third novel than in the first. Of course, the romance between these two takes many twists and turns and is threatened, not only by the dangers they face, but by their personal inner struggles. As a reader there are times of frustration and annoyance with the path of their love story, but they are both great characters, both heroes in their own right, and believable. There are plenty of villains in the story too, so it's got a good balanced. 

I now look forward to the next installment of this couple's story. As Saving Grace ends in Melbourne, Australia, the next book will have particular appeal. Although I've enjoyed all of these stories, I'm hoping the next will include the happy ending I'm sure all readers would like Ruby and Matthew to have. I'm not used to reading series which take such small chunks of characters' lives and carry it through three or four books, so this is new for me. 

I'd recommend Westall's novels to those who are looking for a thoroughly faith centred, historically focussed, gripping romance. 


Carol writes historical novels based on her family ancestry in Australia from the First Fleet. They include the Turning the Tide series; Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel, Tangled Secrets and Truly Free. Two of her earlier novels, Suzannah’s Gold and Rebecca’s Dream, were re-released by EBP.  Next of Kin was released in 2015 by Rhiza Press and the sequel, Beyond the Fight, was released 2016. You can see more about Carol and her novels on her website, her Amazon author page or FB author page.

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